Paths and the ever present Mount Baker

The title page reads ‘random musing of a couple of newbie retirees’ or something similar.  I have been musing a bit on life’s paths.  These thoughts have been inspired by some beautiful walks we’ve been enjoying.  We don’t have a car, just a boat – so we walk.

The seldom traveled county road on Stuart Island
A more narrow path going from one side of Hope Island to the other…
A very faint trail on Stuart Island
I sometimes wonder, ‘how did I get here?’  We sometimes ask each other this because the wonder or beauty of the moment causes us to be more present and thankful.  Part of this feeling comes from the contrast from my working life and this new life with Beth.  We are very glad to be together, but also out of the office.  It was a quick transition.  So far, retirement is more like a vacation.  I hope it continues…

There’s the boat, but how do I get there?
What if the way is not clear?  You want to get somewhere, but there isn’t a road.  (Here’s where it gets philosophical.  Just look at the pictures if I get too wordy…)  Just two words: Mount Baker

Seemingly Ever Present: Mt. Baker
Everywhere we turn, there he is… Beth: ‘What mountain is that?’  Mike: ‘Mount Baker’

The guy we met here said: ‘Great, I don’t have to die, I already made it to heaven.  This place is heaven!’
Watmough Bay is really nice.  There is only room for the three boats in the harbor, so we rode real bikes (not the circus bikes) about 15 miles to be here.  There wasn’t room for Voyager to anchor, but maybe next time.  That looks like Mt. Baker in the distance.  Yes, it is…  Here is Baker again…

Obstruction Pass with Mt. Baker presiding
The ancient book of Proverbs says it this way:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”

Our path really hasn’t been ours to choose.  The work journey, the retirement journey, and even the day-to-day paths that stretch out before us, are not our own.  That may sound ridiculous since our culture seems to say that we are ‘captains of our own ships’ – that our choice determines our journey.  Beth and I simply have not found this to be the case.  We have placed our ‘trust’ in Jesus and like the Ever Present Mount Baker, He is the guide.  Sometimes Mount Baker is not visible while cruising the San Juan Islands, but just around the corner, or over the ridge, it is always there.  This is what I have found with the paths that have made up my life: God may not always be visible, but He is always there. 

Yep, Mt. Baker – from the top of Mt. Constitution – Orcas Island
If you look to the west, you probably won’t see Mt. Baker but you might get to see a really nice sunset…

Deception Pass State Park
Be sure to check out the new Boat Page…





We’ve received several responses to Mike’s last post, referencing his comment about us laughing more.  It’s true, we are a couple of laughing fools lately!  We’ve been finding that laughing is like a tonic.  We feel better, our outlook is more positive, and we share those “you had to be there” understandings.  So, what’s so funny?  Anything and everything, it seems.  But here are a few things that have sent us over the edge:

-There are these birds, you see, whose antics reduce us to hysterics every time.  They are the humble Guillemot, part of the Auk family.   Auk, Auk!  Funny right off the bat, as is our butchered pronunciation of Guillemot.  They are a spiffy looking bird, mostly black with some white on the wing.  They are a bit duck-like in that they have appeared floating behind our boat in nearly every remote location we’ve visited.  What makes them funny is their rather undignified feet.  They are bright red, webbed, and very functional, I’m sure.  These guys can fly ok, usually just inches above the water.  Perhaps the reason for low flight is that they seem to be still perfecting the art of landing.  Here’s their method:  From a full flight, pull up, flap wings wildly, put red feet out in front and turn them this way and that, bracing for impact.  “Wham!  I’m down!”  Now you just can’t watch that without laughing.  The cares of life pale in comparison.


Red Footed Landings
Watch out, here we come!

-After our recent restocking stop in Friday Harbor, we felt ready to expand our horizons.  We thought we’d head over to Canada for a few days.  Just before we left, I thought I’d check online to see if we were carrying any restricted items.  Here is an imaginary conversation with the Customs Agent:

“Welcome to Canada!  What items do you have to declare, eh?”

“Oh, nothing.  We just have basic food and supplies for our own use.”

“I see.  So, no eggs or poultry, eh?”

“Uh, two dozen eggs.  But the chicken is frozen.  About 2 pounds of it.”

“Not allowed.  Got potatoes on board, eh?”

“Just a few.  Some of those nice little mini potatoes, and some frozen hash browns.”

“Not allowed.  Got any dairy:  Milk, cheese, butter, eh?”


“Well?  Eh?  EH?”

“Um, some of each, but more cheese than anything.  You know, cheese for crackers, string cheese for hiking, cheese for fondue, cheese for…”

Not allowed!  Any alcohol on board, eh?”

“Well, our friends sent us off with bottles of wine and champagne.  We have about 6 bottles.”

“NOT ALLOWED!!!  Go back to America, and plan to buy your groceries here next time, eh?”

We will try Canada again later.


Check out the size of that maple leaf!

-Mike loves cycling.  Those of you who know him are familiar with the beautiful burgundy road bike he refurbished and loves to ride.  And yes, he brought the thing along.  Many times, I’ve given it the term “Albatross” as we move it from place to place on the boat, because face it, it’s a large item.  Our boat actually came equipped with bicycles.  They fold up for storage, and they offer us one more form of entertainment and transportation when we are on land.  Mike of course, prefers his big red bike.  But one day it had a flat tire, so we decided to both ride the fold-ups.  These bikes have 14-inch tires.  They have to go around lots of times to get very far down the road.  Even though the tires are small, we are average sized people, so we extend the seat and handle bars up to a height that is comfortable.  The overall look is a little silly.  I can’t help but hum the Winged Monkeys theme from the Wizard of Oz as my legs pedal their little hearts out to take me one block down the road.  We’ve had some fun on these bikes, but the best fun is laughing at each other.  We showed pictures of our bikes to our daughter-in-law and her comment was, “Have you guys joined the circus?”  What do you think?  Do we have a future under the big top?

-We have reached the age where our hearing isn’t what it used to be.  We have had lots of rip-roaring laughs over, “I thought you said…”  I would share some of those funny things, but unfortunately, we’ve also reached the age of short term memory misplacement.  It’s not lost forever, just temporarily unavailable.

-What do you think of this spit wad plant?  There was a whole field of them, ripe for the harvest.  You know all those wads on the ceiling at your grammar school?  We can confirm that they originated in the great Pacific Northwest.  We’ve seen it with our own eyes, and we believe it.


The little known, and less appreciated Spit Wad Plant

I could go on, and keep you in stitches, I’m sure.  But I am aware that these things lose some of their whimsy in the telling.  You really do have to be there to appreciate that these things are just really funny.

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  He was a witty man, and he had a saying about people who didn’t appreciate his jokes.  He said, “They just have no sense of the ridiculous.”  I guess we’re developing a sense of the ridiculous.  Life in the workaday world, it seems, had become pretty serious for us.  In getting away, we are learning to be more child-like, enjoying simple things and enjoying each other.  And you know what?  It’s fun to laugh!  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

The other day, Mike called to me from somewhere on the boat.  “What?” I called back. “Oh, just your basic eagle flying around.”  Now that’s funny…

Happy Birthday, Dad!



Parades and Community Spirit

Last week we found ourselves in need of restocking the boat.  Getting groceries, filling the water tanks, emptying the waste tanks and the trash, all these housekeeping tasks need to be done every week or 10 days.  We hadn’t ventured far from Friday Harbor, and we knew that the marina had all the services we were needing, so we returned for a two night stay.  Why two nights?  Because we had heard that the Fourth of July parade in Friday Harbor ranks among the top ten on someone’s list of small town parades.  We decided that we should enter in to the local celebration while we were there.

Sleeping peacefully in the Marina on the morning of the 4th, we were awoken at 6:00 am by cannon shots.  Nearby.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars building overlooks the marina, and their tradition is to start the day right by firing off a few.  I can tell you, it made us come to attention!

Having done our homework, we knew the parade didn’t start until 10:30 am, so we headed out to our favorite bakery to grab a pastry and coffee.  On the way, we shook our heads as we saw people setting up chairs along the parade route to stake out their spots.  After all, this wasn’t the Rose Parade.  There was plenty of time to have a leisurely pastry and go back to the boat to put on shorts and get our sunscreen on.  As we left the bakery at about 9:00, it became clear that going back to the boat was out of the question.  The borders of the streets were filled with chairs and people.  We were very fortunate to find someone who shared her bench with us, and we stayed put, making conversation and wishing we had on sunscreen and shorts as the sun had come out.  A marimba band played across the street, which made the waiting pleasant.  The atmosphere was celebratory, and I think we were the only ones not fully decked out in the colors of the flag.  (Except for our red, sweaty faces and our long, heavy blue jeans).

Parade street
Pre parade anticipation – Friday Harbor

The parade began with the singing of the National Anthem.  As the singer began, a hush fell.  I could feel the air of anticipation and respect that was present.  Children and adults stood with hands on hearts.  A cheer erupted afterward, and the parade began.

First down the street were the Veterans, bearing flags.  Behind them came other Veterans, followed by a couple who were unable to walk the whole distance, but participated by being driven.  This was the most moving moment of the parade for me.  Parade goers were yelling at these Vets.  They were yelling, “Thank you!”  This was no polite handshake and solemn “Thank you for your service.”  This was a heartfelt and yelled with gusto, “Thank you!”  I still tear up remembering it, because it was so very appropriate.

The rest of the parade was filled with variety.  Some highlights were:  A group of dogs dressed in orca costumes, named the Dog Pod; a pirate float which apparently is a regular entry, and which gets further embellishments each year (this year there were 3  bubble blowing machines attached, which blew masses of bubbles into the street); a womens’ boxing class boxing, punching and growling their way fiercely down the street.  It was a slice of American pie, and we enjoyed it immensely.

Stanley Steamer
Stanley Steamer

The parade was followed by the Pig War Picnic, put on by the Historical Society.  No that’s not a typo: Pig War.  America and England very nearly went to war over a pig.  I won’t go into it now, but if you’re interested, look it up.  It’s a fascinating bit of history.  The picnic commemorates the meal shared by British and American troops after the dispute was finally settled.  There was live music and games for kids and adults, such as a cake walk, egg toss and “pennies in the hay.”

In the evening, there was a “Rock the Dock” street dance, followed by fireworks in the bay.  We sat on top of Voyager as the fireworks burst loud and colorful above us.  Cheering and ooooohs could be heard from people in the surrounding boats, and whenever there was a pause in the action, the boaters all honked their boat horns and emergency air horns.  There may or may not have even been a little noise coming from our boat – I’ll let you decide.

All in all, it was a wonderful day.  It served to restore my hope in the character and general good will of people.  It was a great antidote for the cloud of generally bad news that is regularly disseminated over the airwaves.  Yes, this 4th of July was a breath of fresh air.

Today is Saturday, and we are at the quaint town of East Sound on Orcas Island.  Earlier today, we took our dinghy to the dock and set out to explore the town and guess what?  They were having a Fourth of July parade!      -Beth

Sunset blind bay
Every day is a gift