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We went to Washington to tour the Cascade mountains and see some of the famous volcanoes. The Cascade Loop is a well publicised driving route for tourists, and as well as circling through the Cascades it passes through Whidbey Island. We didn’t plan to follow the loop exactly, but were inspired enough to start our trip by heading from Seattle to the ferry at Mukilteo and crossing over to Whidbey.
Getting there from Seattle was a matter of “take Interstate 5 north and hang-left at Boeing”. My aeronautical background has left me somewhat in awe of the scale of Boeing’s presence in the Seattle region; the map seems full of Boeing’s factory-airfields. Paine Field is the location of the Boeing Everett factory which is probably the source of much of the employment around Mukilteo, and likely much of the leisure traffic over the ferry we were about to take.
Mukilteo features a Lighthouse Park which seemed like a good place to aim for, to take a break and admire the view after a drive along Seattle’s freeways. But driving into Mukilteo you get guided into the ferry lines unless you know your way around (which we didn’t) and getting from there to the lighthouse involved a lot U-turns. And once we’d arrived, the rain, now heavy, destroyed what was probably a great view across to the island. So in the end the only benefit was the use of the toilets!
The ferry itself was another standard issue Washington State vessel, with its very efficient service. With the poor visibility the short crossing was in itself a bit of a non-event, but the drive through Whidbey Island was well worth the detour.
The drive north through Whidbey was mainly through pleasant mixed forest and farmland. We avoided the main road and ended up at West Beach at a point where the soft clay bluffs ended. With the tide favourable this was a great beach for wandering along, with a constant supply of enormous tree trunks and interesting rocks washed onto the shore. By then the rain had tapered off and we could see across Puget Sound to the tiny flat Smith Island, and beyond to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island on the horizon.
We tried following the coast as we drove on north, but the Naval Air Station at Ault Field pushed us inland and back onto the main road. We were soon to leave Whidbey Island and knew we’d be crossing on a bridge not a ferry. But that bridge and its setting came as a spectacular surprise to us.
Deception Pass and Canoe Pass bridges are two narrow steel-arch bridges that take the road high above the water with spectacular views on each side. We had not been expecting these and were surprised to drive round the bend and be confronted with great views, a narrow road and plenty of foot traffic. We scrambled to find somewhere to park, walked back and soaked up the views, made even better by some patches of mist left over from the day’s rain. These bridges are another product of Roosevelt's CCC in the 1930s, and contributed greatly to the economic development of the area. Somehow it seems I have Roosevelt to thank for so many of the most scenic drives I’ve enjoyed in the States.
Our day finished not much further on in Anacortes at the northern tip of Fidalgo Island. As the sun came out for the evening we drove up to Cap Sante and clambered over the rocks for a great view out over Anancortes, the bayand an oil refinery! But the evening sun made everything look beautiful, and a final bonus on the way back to get supper was a Washington ferry being serviced on dry land. All in all starting the Cascades trip via Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands was well worthwhile, even with a miserable rainy ferry trip.


The crossing
Runs about every 30 from 5 to midnight year-round
Crossing distance 5, in 18
The boats

These were the boats operating when we crossed; other boats from the WSF fleet also operate on this route as needed. We crossed on the Tokitae.

US$8:50 for a car and driver, US$6:00for a passenger. (Passenger is free in the direction Clinton to Mukilteo) (2024)
Washington State Ferries
When I used the ferry
June 2023

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