Yesterday my husband and I decided to go north to the Skagit Flats to see the snow geese migrating north. In the past when we have done this, there have literally been several million resting for the night before finishing their migration to points further north than Washington.
It was a cold, blustery, late February Sunday. The fourteenth day of the new lunar new year. Today is Lantern Day in the Chinese calendar celebrated with the full moon as the lantern. Last night the almost full moon guided us home well after dark with a few clouds to add interest to the night sky.
Well there were a few geese, but nothing as spectacular as the last time we saw them. We also saw the trumpeter swans, but the lazy ones spend the winter here instead of going to northern California.
We had planned a picnic lunch for the trip and were trying to decide where to eat it that had a nice view. Hart Lake at the foot of Mt. Erie on Fidalgo Island was our final choice. We sat in the car at the water’s edge and ate our chicken and wild rice soup with cornbread and watched small fish jump and only a couple of waterfowl. By then the sun was peeking through the clouds and the car was warm and cozy. It was too cold to sit outside. There was not a soul around and we had the park to ourselves.
If you have not visited this park system which is part of the City of Anacortes, you should take the opportunity. Mount Erie is a great vantage point to see the surrounding area including the San Juan Islands. You can hike it, ride a horse up the trail, take a mountain bike or, for the faint hearted, you can drive. We can see the mountain from Freeland here on South Whidbey. It is a popular hang gliding location as well.
While we were picnicking, my husband reminded me of an event we experienced many years ago in the lake down the road. When we were young and adventuresome, we enjoyed eating at a fancy restaurant in LaConner, Washington called the Black Swan (it is no longer there). We would indulge in extravagant cuisine and spend the whole evening eating it. Since the restaurant was more than an hour and a half from home, we were not too inclined to want to drive all the way home after eating. Since we had spent our stash on food, we had little left for a normal accommodation for the night.
We owned a Chevy paneled van at the time. Since our bones were younger then, we would sleep for the night in the van with our dogs and drive home in the morning.
The Skagit Flats are just that—flat. We slept in farmer’s accesses to fields, behind freestanding barns, next to drainage ditches. One night when we were sound asleep a hail storm came through. Wow! Is that loud when you are sleeping in a metal box.
So on one trip we decided to scout out a place to sleep after dinner before going to dinner. We went to the fishing access for Lake Erie and put our canoe in the water. We had brought our pup tent with us too. It was summer and the weather was clear and warm. At the time, the north side of the lake had no residences as it does today. We paddled across looking for a suitable place to pitch the small tent. A nice little space of dry, flat beach was on the opposite shore about a quarter mile away. We set up the tent, rolled out our sleeping bags and took a general look around to be sure that we were not infringing on anyone’s space. There was nothing but woods around us. When we returned to the fishing access, we sighted across the lake to establish the specific direction we must paddle to find our campsite as the lake isn’t small and we didn’t want to have to circumnavigate the entire lake to locate our patch.
Off we went to an evening of a wonderful dinner. It was late, and well after dark when we returned, probably after eleven. There were no lights in the few houses at one end of the lake. Folks living in this area did not feel the need for yard lights to light up the countryside. It was black as could be with a sky full of wonderful stars. It was a spectacularly beautiful, starry night. We pulled the canoe out and got our paddles, changed into more appropriate shoes and hopped into the canoe with one flashlight to try to spot the tent when we got to the opposite shore.