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July 4th dawned sunny and beautiful, and we prepared to do battle with the raccoons of Jones Island.  It being Independence Day, the Americans in the group were ready to celebrate!  I wore my stars and stripes headband under my hat, and a fellow kayaker tied an American flag bandana to her bow – and we pushed back from Point Doughty ready to do battle for Old Glory against the raccoons.

The views of Turtleback Mountain were beautiful from the water.  I shouted over my shoulder to Steve, “It’s Te Fiti!”

The paddle from Point Doughty to Jones Island was relatively short, but as we glided by the shorelines on the way we counted a total of seven bald eagles!  We saw eagles almost every day, but the sightings never got old, and it felt especially appropriate to see so many of them on Independence Day.  It reminded me of the first time I ever saw an eagle – Steve and I were visiting Mount Vernon, and as we walked behind the Mansion to look at the sweeping views of the Potomac, an eagle soared low overhead.  It was as if the spirit of George Washington was looking down on us.  So what I’m saying is – these eagles really seem to know how to choose their moments.

We stopped for a long lunch on a private island that allowed for public access to its bluffs.  Most of the group spread out across the shoreline, looking out at the expansive views – always on dorsal watch.

After lunch, back in the boats, we cruised on over to Jones Island.  As we hugged the shoreline preparing to land, we saw two large raccoons scamper over the rocks in the 2:00 p.m. sun, prompting yelps from several boats: “I thought they were nocturnal!”  Clearly, these were no ordinary raccoons.

We landed on Jones Island, which was clearly a popular spot for Independence Day camping and cookouts, and quickly claimed a campsite near the water.  We unpacked our gear and Ben solicited a vote from the group – would we rather go for a hike, or get back in the kayaks and explore the surrounding islands?  We had one vote for a hike, but the rest of the gang (including Steve and me) cast our votes for the kayaks: still hoping we might see some Biggs killer whales in their prime hunting waters.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the islands surrounding Jones – didn’t see any orcas, but there was plenty of other beautiful sights to keep us busy, and we hardly noticed that we’d paddled 17.5 nautical miles over the course of the day.  Everyone was hungry when we got back to camp, so Ben quickly fired up the camp stove and started an “appetizer course” of grilled cheese sandwiches before moving on to our regularly planned dinner.

Side of sautéed bull kelp with soy sauce and a dash of sriracha.  I tried some – pretty darn good.  I balked at trying the rockweed, though.

Although we didn’t see orcas, the other wildlife on Jones was not so shy.  No confirmed raccoon sightings after dark – there was some rustling near the tent, but no visual so I’m pretending it didn’t happen – but a black-tailed deer came into our campsite and stood within feet of us for several minutes.  (We think it was the same deer that one of our group caught some fellow campers petting in a different campsite.  Later in the evening I encountered a teenaged girl in line for the restrooms, who proudly recounted that the deer had followed her family around and they had pet and fed it.  I read her the riot act.  Don’t pet the wildlife, and definitely don’t feed them!  They’re unpredictable wild animals and it’s dangerous for them to get too comfortable with humans.)

Home sweet home.  Last night in the tent!  I was already starting to miss this simple life.

As the sun went down on the Fourth of July, I think we were all feeling a bit nostalgic and sad about parting ways the next day.  Our group really worked, and we are already feeling like old friends.

Next week: The Biggs say goodbye (sniff).

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Mabon and the autumnal equinox is approaching, which means: fall is upon us.  As we bid summer goodbye until next year, I’m looking back at a season full of sandy shoes, sunscreen smeared on faces, waves jumped, pool moves perfected, sunshine soaked up, popsicles slurped and so. much. joy.  I am always a little conflicted at this turn of the seasons, because while I love all things fall, I’m never quite ready to see the end of summer, either.  But it helps when I’ve had a long, bright, full season and built up a trove of memories to see me through the dark days of winter ahead – and I definitely did that this year.

  • The BIG one: spend five days on a kayaking eco-tour around the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.  I can’t wait!  Done!  Steve and I had an incredible trip to Washington – the experience of a lifetime.  We spent five days paddling blissfully alongside new friends, saw tons of wildlife (orcas, porpoises, seals, bald eagles and more!) and got to really unplug and disconnect from the hectic everyday life.  It was wonderful.

  • The other BIG one: take a family vacation to a new-to-us spot on the Outer Banks.  Done!  We usually visit Frisco, down on Hatteras Island, but since it was just our immediate family this time, we decided that returning to our usual haunts would cause us to spend the whole time missing the extended family.  So we checked out Duck, one of the northern OBX towns, instead, and had a wonderful week of family bonding.  The kids still think they were in Antigua, but what they don’t know won’t kill them.

  • Build up my running base, and sign up for a fall 5K.  Done…ish.  I didn’t get as much running in as I’d hoped, but I got more than nothing, and that’s better than I had been doing.  I haven’t signed up for a local race, but I am planning to do the Wonder Woman virtual 5K again, just as soon as back to school excitement calms down.

  • Take the family to a Washington Nationals game.  #natitude  Done!  I gave Steve the tickets for Father’s Day and we went to see the Nats play the Braves in late June.  We made it five innings and ate way too much ballpark food, so it was a success (even if the Nats lost, like pretty much the only game they’ve lost all summer).
  • Make mini pizzas on the grill.  Didn’t happen… maybe this fall?  I really want to do this!

  • Read from my own shelves.  I feel like that Daniel Radcliffe meme (I think it’s from How to Succeed in Business Without Trying, maybe?) – “I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me!”  Okay, I really tried.  And I did read a few, including knocking off a couple of Classics Club reads.  But the library addiction continues strong.

  • Celebrate Litha by candlelight in the garden.  Done!  It was peaceful and lovely, except for when a woman started screaming at her boyfriend because of his terrible parking job.  Ah, city life.
  • Go back to Shenandoah National Park and hike a new trail.  Didn’t happen – hopefully this fall.  It would be lovely to make it there when the leaves are turning.
  • Make homemade popsicles.  (This is basically mandatory if you’ve seen Nugget’s popsicle dance.)  Didn’t happen – booooo!  The kids did eat a lot of popsicles, though.  Does that count?

  • Help Peanut host her girlfriends for a “reading party” in a neighborhood park.  Done!  She’d been asking for this for months and I was so glad we made it happen.  We tossed down a woven blanket, ate cookies and cake and drank lemonade, and read our books.  Now I’m thinking that making a kids’ book club with the girls in Peanut’s class would be a fun thing to do.  We’ve been talking about finally getting a Girl Scout troop off the ground, which I still would like to do, but a book club strikes me as an easier endeavor.  We’ll see…

Not too shabby!  I’m always ridiculously ambitious with my summer and fall lists (much more than winter and spring) but I feel like we had a good season.  We got a lot done from this list, and we have hours of sunshine, splashing, and family fun to look back on when the cold settles in.  As a bonus – I spent the summer recording short videos to mash into a “One Second Everyday” video documenting the season – and now that it’s done, I can’t stop watching it.  What a happy, peaceful three months we had!

How was your summer?

I could really have used another day this weekend.  It just went way too fast, and Sunday Scaries hit way too hard.  I’m slammed with work for the next couple of months, with some stressful projects and no break in sight, and the weekends just aren’t long enough to compensate.  We did have a nice one.  On Saturday, we were out the door early for a “Fall for Sunflowers” event at Burnside Farms, which is becoming one of our favorite spots.  We missed the summer sunflowers, but this year – for the first time – the farm did a fall sunflower maze, and it was so much fun.  We let Peanut lead us through the maze and – I’m glad to report – we made it out and do not live in a sunflower field now.  We filled up the rest of the morning with fall fun – I picked sunflowers from what was left of the summer crop, and got a good armful of gladiolas too.  (The gladiolas were especially gorgeous.)  The kids enjoyed the play area – they bumped between the playhouse, the miniature tractors, and the jumping pad and inflatable slides.  Nugget and I went down the slides together a few times and it’s quite a rush.  I can see why they like it.  On Sunday, we mostly bummed around the house in the morning, then welcomed our good friends Zandria and Paul for an afternoon of catching up (for the ladies) and watching football (for the men).  Zan and I took the kids over to the fall family social and blessing of the new turf field at the kids’ school, and I am glad to report that the turf has been appropriately imbued with the Holy Spirit and Jesus is smiling upon the soccer.  Ended the weekend with a family movie night – the first half of the first Harry Potter movie.  The kids were duly impressed.  And now I have to perk myself up for a week of fighting for the cause of justice.  Here we go.

Reading.  Had a busy reading week, mostly because I filled my time with short-n-sweet books.  After I finished How to be a Woman – quick read – I breezed through A Poetry Handbook and English Country Houses in one day each, before digging into the doorstopper Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen (first in a series of six enormous novels about the wives of Henry VIII).  I’m about 450 pages in and enjoying it, but also sort of over it at the same time?

Watching.  Family movie nights on Friday and Sunday brought two episodes of the new Netflix Carmen Sandiego series, plus Potter as mentioned above.  Now I finally know Carmen Sandiego’s backstory, you guys!  I know you were concerned.

Listening.  Just the usual – podcasts.  I had one drive last week – up to Annapolis to interview a witness – and I made my way through a few.  I’m in a bookish podcasting mood at the moment, so I’m mostly digging through my back catalog of reading-related podcasts.  (It goes in waves – I’ll be on book podcasts for awhile, then switch to parenting, then back again – and at the moment, it’s all books, all the time.  Not a bad stretch of listening at all.)

Making.  I didn’t set out to do lots of food prep, but I ended up that way.  Made a big batch of veggie pho on Saturday for dinner, and now have plenty of leftovers – yum.  I did a bean soup for Zan and Paul on Sunday and have lots of leftovers of that, too.  And in my spare time (ha!) I simmered a pot of homemade vegetable broth, slapped together some cornbread (from a mix, and Nugget mostly made it, so don’t get too excited) and prepped cut veggies for this week’s lunches.  Not a bad hour or so of kitchen work.

Blogging.  I have to admit that summer’s on its way out (Mabon this coming weekend!), and that means tallying up my summer list.  Spoiler: I didn’t check every item off, but I actually got to most of them.  It was a good summer.  And then on Friday, I’m sharing day four of our kayaking adventure.  Check back then!

Loving.  I have to share two things with you this week, because they are both delighting me.  First, did you see that Reese Witherspoon and Ellen DeGeneres are having a hilarious (fake) feud over which one of them is better friends with Jennifer Aniston?  It seems to be mostly playing out on Reese’s Instagram feed and honestly has given me so much joy over the past several days. Also:

This beer.  Why is it so good?  It tastes like a beer margarita and I love everything about it.  Steve thinks it’s disgusting.  More for me!

Asking.   What are you reading this week?

The third day of our kayaking adventure dawned grey and cool, but dry – a definite improvement from the previous day’s paddle.  We had a slow morning – Ben was planning the shortest paddle of the trip, a mere 5.5 nautical mile “blue water” crossing from Patos to Point Doughty on the back of Orcas Island.  So the gang slept in while a few of us got in an early morning hike, then we all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast around the picnic table before breaking camp and pushing off for Orcas.

Fortified with toad-in-the-hole and a lighthouse hike, ready for a short day of paddling!  Let’s do this!

The water was calm and gorgeous, almost like a mirror at times.  There was very little wind and very little current – just smooth sailing across the Salish Sea.

It almost felt like we’d just hopped into the boats, and before we knew it, we were navigating a treacherous passage of whirlpools and boulders to land on the beach at Point Doughty.

The landing was so narrow that only three boats could pull in at any given time; the rest had to idle out on the water while we unloaded a few at a time.  Steve and I went in with the first batch, and I promptly took a knee on the slippery bull kelp.  It’s not a vacation until someone is gushing blood, right?

Eventually, we got all the boats in and Ben announced to the entire group that I had “an owie situation.”  Thanks, man.  I cleaned my knee, verified that it wasn’t a barnacle cut (which tend to get infected) and then we turned our attention to the problem of how to get all of our gear – including the tents and the camp stove – up a narrow and slippery path to the campsite on the bluff.  No one was keen to scramble up and down, so (cementing our place as the most cooperative and cohesive kayaking group ever) we formed a human chain and passed everyone’s gear from paddler to paddler until we had the beach cleared.

Set up camp, then wandered off to explore.  It was a fairly small campground, so we covered the scenery quickly, then Ben called the group together to review options for the next day’s paddling.  He told us we had a few options: we could return to Stuart Island and do a bioluminescence paddle (tempting), set up camp near civilization and pick up some beer (pass) or hit Jones Island, which would take us through prime Biggs killer whale hunting waters and be the best chance of seeing orcas from the water.

The group unanimously voted for Jones Island.  Ben frowned and cautioned us that the island was home to a brigade of aggressive raccoons who were known to pillage campsites and rip hatches right off of kayaks, and orcas were no guarantee.  One of our fellow paddlers assured Ben, “We know there’s no guarantee of wildlife.”  Ben shook his head.  “No, orcas are not guaranteed.  Raccoons are guaranteed.”  We decided to risk it, and came up with a plan to sleep in shifts and use our kayak paddles to slapshot the raccoons into the water, ideally into the mouths of the waiting orcas.  What could go wrong?

Ben left the rest of the group to continue planning for day four, which was now officially named “the Battle of Camp Raccoon,” and he and I headed up to the top of the bluff to do some birding.

We discovered that the hilltop at Point Doughty is the best birding spot ever – a perfect confluence of shore birds, cliff-dwellers, and woodland birds.  We probably saw a dozen different species.

The view was also on point.  I made sure to keep an eye out for dorsal fins while Ben and I did our bird nerd thing.

Stayed up on the bluff for hours and took in a truly spectacular sunset.  Oh, Washington, why do you have to be so fabulous?

(My mom saw this picture and said, “Oh, finally, you got some booze!”  Ha – if only.  This was chamomile tea.  I was still warming up after the previous day’s rain.)

We passed a slightly restless night – unbeknownst to us at the time we pitched our tent, we were sleeping on a slight incline, and I kept slipping into the downhill corner of the tent.  I woke up several times with the distinct sensation that I was going over the bluff – I wasn’t, but it didn’t make for the best sleep of the trip.  Once the sun finally rose, Steve and I got our campsite broken down quickly, and after I’d helped pack up the kitchen, I wandered down to the beach to do some tidepooling before it was time to go.  On our way from Stuart to Patos, we’d passed gorgeous purple ochre sea stars, and I wanted to see one up close.

The rocks down on the beach at Point Doughty were dotted with them, and I spent a blissful few minutes going from sea star to sea star, getting acquainted.  It was a peaceful way to begin the day on the water – and then I joined the group, armed myself with my paddle and got ready to fight for the Stars and Stripes in the Battle of Camp Raccoon.

Next week: Indepedence Day, and the Battle of Camp Raccoon!

Gone to Carolina In My Mind

When Steve and I sat down to discuss summer vacation plans, we knew that in addition to our planned parents trip to the San Juan Islands, we wanted to do something with the kids.  We kicked around a few ideas and ultimately decided that a trip back to our beloved Outer Banks was in order – after all, we hadn’t been down that way since Nugget was a baby.  But knowing that it was just going to be our family – no grandparents, aunt and uncle, or family friends along for the ride this time – we decided to mix it up and go somewhere different; we figured if we went back to our regular stomping grounds, we’d spend the whole week missing the rest of the family.  I’d heard good things about Duck – one of the northern OBX towns – and we decided to give it a try.

Our first stop upon rolling into town was the iconic Duck Donuts.  I know it’s not that big of a deal anymore – there’s a Duck Donuts in the shopping plaza where my kids get their haircuts, for goodness sake – but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Duck Donuts in Duck.  Peanut got cinnamon sugar with frosting and sprinkles, Steve had a glazed with salted caramel drizzle, and I got chocolate with graham cracker crumbs.  Nugget insisted that he didn’t want a donut, then proceeded to eat three quarters of mine.  Oof.

After fortifying ourselves with donuts (or a quarter of a donut, in my case) we headed to our beach house – home for the week.  I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect house – tried Airbnb, VRBO, and the traditional realtors.  The main requirements were: not too exorbitantly priced, soundfront, and with a deck.  I finally found a house that fit the bill, right on Currituck Sound and about a half mile’s walk from the ocean beach.

Little people loved the screen porch, and spent quite a few hours playing out here (while Mom relaxed with a book and a La Croix – the life).

Down the stairs from the deck, we had a beautiful boardwalk right down to a little private beach on Currituck Sound.

The kids spent a decent amount of time splashing in the warm, shallow sound waters, while Mom took in the views (and picked up trash from the beach, because I have to be me).

Of course, while we loved our sound mornings, the real highlight came in the afternoon each day – the ocean beach!

Duck Beach was a long, beautiful strip of pristine white sand, dotted with colorful umbrellas.  The one downside to vacationing in Duck, we found, was that there was no public access to the beach – if you couldn’t walk to an access point for your neighborhood, you were pretty much out of luck.  Unlike in Frisco, where we stay with my parents, there is no public parking or beach access.  But we had a beach access point for our neighborhood about a half mile’s walk from the house, which was very easy – and the upside to the beach not being as accessible as some others was that it was a lot cleaner.  I barely saw a speck of trash on the ocean beach all week, and the water was clean and fresh.  I’ll take that bargain!

Wave jumping was the activity of choice.

And dancing, too.

We did have some weird weather roll in during the week, so I filled up the non-beach hours with a few mandatory OBX activities.  Nugget and I stopped by Kitty Hawk Kites (just the Duck outpost, not the huge flagship in Kitty Hawk) and picked out kites for both of the kids.  And whenever you’re in the Outer Banks, you have to visit a lighthouse, right?

We had one dreary morning that wasn’t sound material, and I needed to get the kids out of Steve’s hair so he could work, so I loaded them in the car and drove them about half an hour to Corolla, to check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.  Although I’ve been to the Hatteras and Ocracoke Lights many times, I’d never seen Currituck’s version – this lighthouse connoisseur was suitably impressed.  Nugget wanted to climb, so I bought a ticket, and we made it about halfway up – a success, I think.

Saturday dawned drizzly and dreary, too, so we pulled out our other rainy-day plan – a drive to Roanoke Island, to visit the North Carolina Aquarium.  (Making it a two-aquarium trip… we stopped at the Virginia Aquarium, in Virginia Beach, on the way down to Duck, to break up the trip.)

Peanut almost touched one of the stingrays in the touch tank.  Almost!  She put her hand in the water – nowhere near a stingray, but in the water.  Which, I have to tell you, is a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever gotten to touching any of the animals in any touch tank, anywhere, ever.  I prefer to stay at least twenty-four inches from the edge.  So I was fist-pumping her bravery.

Sharks were a major highlight – there was a huge shark tank, which was super cool.  The whole aquarium had a shipwreck theme, and the animals swam in tanks that were decorated with sunken wrecks – very on point for the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

The highlight of this aquarium, though, was seeing the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center.  I had no idea this was a thing the North Carolina Aquarium operates, so it was a total surprise and delight to walk through the doors and watch the wildlife rehabilitators at work.

Each turtle was floating in its own little tank, with enrichment toys and a carefully controlled environment.  Nugget raised his hand and asked the volunteer interpreter what the turtles’ names were and what parts of their bodies were sick.  (Good question for a four-year-old, right?)  The interpreter explained that the turtles have a variety of health issues that they are working through, and showed us one that had a chunk of its shell missing from a boat strike.  (SOB.)  She also explained that the rehabilitators work through themed names and that the current group all had names from Harry Potter.  Not having read the books or seen the movies, she had a hard time remembering the names, but she pointed out Longbottom, in tank number 7, and Bertie Bott, in tank 2.  (The rehabilitators haven’t named any turtle after Harry himself, yet.  As it was explained to us, they have to be really sure that they will be successful with that turtle.  After all, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived.)

We just loved seeing the turtles, hearing about the rehabilitators’ work to heal them and return them to the wild, and reading about the aquarium’s efforts at sea turtle conservation.  Second only to cetaceans, sea turtles are my favorite ocean creatures.  What a delightful surprise to find this work going on at the North Carolina Aquarium.

It was a lovely week.  Not restful, exactly, but the change of scenery was much needed – and it was good to get some time away as a foursome.  I had no idea how much we’d been missing that until we made it happen.

The perk of staying soundside, of course – evenings on the deck watching the sun set over the water, a rare sight on the East Coast.  The sunsets weren’t especially spectacular while we were there, thanks to some weather systems that always seemed to roll in at dinnertime.  But we caught a few light shows.  The best, by far, was the first night of our trip:

Such a gorgeous spot!  I wish I was back there right now.  Thanks for the memories, Duck!  I’m sure we will be back – maybe not for a full week, but at least en route to and from Hatteras.  We have such a long history with the Outer Banks, I always know we’re going to return.

 

Happy first-full-week-of-school to us!  (To those of you who have been back at school for several weeks now – I’m jealous.)  Last week my two went back, and not a minute too soon; the end of summer had become a stressed-out whirlwind of cobbled-together childcare.  It seriously felt like angels were singing on Wednesday, when we pulled out the shiny new uniforms and sneakers and shuffled them off to junior kindergarten and first grade, respectively.  So this is the first five-day week of the school year, and the Metro reopens today!  Hallelujah!  The return to regularly scheduled life couldn’t come at a better time, because I have a super-busy week at the office.  Not worrying about where the kids are going to be or how to keep them out of Steve’s hair and somehow also manage to work – it’s such a relief.  Anyway – the weekend!  We had a pretty low-key couple of days.  After the first week of school (well, three days, anyway) the kids were wiped out and mostly wanted to hang around the house and relax, so that’s basically what we did.  Peanut had a birthday party to attend on Saturday at a local rec center (the boys stayed home and played some baseball), and on Sunday we spent an hour hanging out and drinking coffee on the neighbors’ patio, then went for a short walk and longer playground stint at Jones Point.  But that’s about all.  Spent the rest of the weekend chilling, reading, baking, and stressing about the week ahead.  The usual.

Reading.  Pretty productive reading week.  I finally finished Garden Poems on Monday, after picking at it all summer, then spent most of the workweek over Leia, Princess of Alderaan – which was a lot of fun.  Finished that up on Friday evening and – beckoning library stack notwithstanding – the most enticing thing on my shelves was Anne of the Island – a perennial favorite for back-to-school season.  Read through in less than twenty-four hours, then laid Anne aside with a sigh and picked up How to be a Woman, which my book club is reading this month for our first meeting after being on hiatus since May.  I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up on my own, but it’s pretty good.

Watching.  Figured I should be plugged into the candidates’ actual policy positions, not just their polling numbers (hello, my name is Jaclyn and I’m addicted to FiveThirtyEight) so on Tuesday I watched a chunk of the CNN town hall on the climate crisis.  I haven’t decided who I’m supporting in the primary, so I wanted to get a good sense of the different viewpoints on climate policy, which is my top issue.  I really wanted to hear what Biden had to say, but I ended up missing most of his session because my brother called just as Uncle Joe was walking onto the stage.  But I tuned in for Bernie Sanders (please note that by “tuned in for Bernie” I mean “ate popcorn and shouted SIT DOWN! at the screen while texting Minions memes to my BFF”), Elizabeth Warren, and half of Mayor Pete before falling asleep.

Listening.  Lots of podcasts this week.  Highlights were the fall book preview on Book Riot, and the Mom Hour ladies on procrastination.

Making.  What I should have made this weekend: progress on a few work projects that I have due this week.  What I made instead: this spiced tea bread with fresh plums.  YUM.  Light, airy, and not too sweet – with a kick from the ginger, cardamom and allspice and a lovely crunch from the almonds.  10/10 would make again.

Blogging.  Travel-heavy week coming atcha: on Wednesday, I’m recapping our late-summer getaway to the Outer Banks (OMG, take me back right now!) and then the Pacific Northwest kayaking recaps continue on Friday.  Check in with me then!

Loving.  Really loved this article – Please Stop Buying Plastic Crap for Kids – when it popped up in my Facebook feed.  I try to either donate the kids’ toys or to gift them to neighbors through BuyNothing, so that they don’t end up in landfills – but it’s a good reminder that if the stuff doesn’t come into the house in the first place, there’s no need to worry about what to do with it when the kids inevitably get bored.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

Having passed on the sunset hike the first night of our trip, Steve and I definitely didn’t want to miss the next hiking opportunity – which came on the morning of our third day in the kayaks.  The night before, Ben suggested an early morning hike to a remote lighthouse out on the tip of Patos Island.  Always up for adding another lighthouse to my life list, I was especially gung-ho.

Early morning view!  The sunrise wakeup call was no hardship for Steve and me – we’re used to kids who wake up with the sunrise.  Ben was just a slightly bigger version of Nugget.  Also, when you unzip your tent flap and see this, who can complain?

We set off into the woods, and after a very short, very gentle incline, it was all level ground and smooth sailing.

Our group was small – just Ben, Steve and me, and the grandfather/grandson duo from our paddling group.  The rest of the gang decided to stay back at camp and sleep in.  Ben pointed out tree and plant varietals as we walked along this gorgeous red trail.

Before I knew it, we’d broken out from the trees and could see the top of the lighthouse, perched on a little bluff.

Ben brought his first aid kit.  I decided to believe that he brings that on every hike, and it wasn’t just because I am accident-prone.

The long approach to the lighthouse – so beautiful.

Gotta love a moody sky, amirite?

We finally made it to the lighthouse.  Most of our little band occupied themselves with exploring around the building.

Meanwhile, always on dorsal watch, I wandered over to the bluff.

The view over the rocks was gorgeous.  I sat for awhile, watching violet-green swallows swoop through the sky and harbor seals and porpoises play in the waves off the point.

It was a perfect way to start the day!  We had a short paddle ahead of us – just 5.5 nautical miles straight across from Patos to Point Doughty on Orcas Island, a far cry from the 12.5 and 13.5 of our first two paddling days – and I can’t think of a better place to spend a morning relaxing and exploring.

Next week: up close and personal with a sea star.