Over the Mountains and to the Ocean – Anacortes, WA

After a week of playing in the mountains near Winthrop, it was time for Betsy to hit the North Cascades Scenic Highway.  We headed west over the highest elevation at Washington Pass (5,477′) all the way down to 26′ in Anacortes.  Our ears were definitely popping on this drive!

State Highway 20, aka North Cascades Scenic Highway
Liberty Group mountains
A quick break on the way down

Driving on mountain roads is always challenging in a large rig, but we caught a break this time as we came upon a road crew repainting the lane markers.  They kept us at a nice slow speed for many miles going down the mountain, and all of the drivers behind us could focus their frustration on the workers and not on us!

Colonial Peak, dubbed a classic North Cascade mountain, continues to be sculpted by glaciers
Passing by beautiful Diablo Lake

After driving up and down the North Cascades we made it to Anacortes.  This is our second visit; the first happened in 2012 as we prepared for our first-ever foray into Canada and onward to Alaska.

This time Betsy would take a ferry ride to Vancouver Island for her last visit to Canada.  We took care of a few things before crossing the border, including replacing the car’s cracked windshield and failed power door lock on the passenger-side door.  We also ate up all of our fruits and vegetables, and wrote an inventory of food and alcohol we were bringing into Canada.

For several days, Steve made me knock on the window before saying, “Come in!” and opening the door for me.  He really enjoyed it and considered not fixing it after all!

We fell in love with Pioneer Trails RV Park right away as we settled in, even though getting into our site was a bit challenging.  The site was level and spacious, the facilities were decent, it was very quiet and we were actually in a forest!  We were happy to give up our satellite TV reception to stay under all those trees:

Site# B4 was a winner!

Between car repair appointments we visited our friends Ben and Leizel, who had moved from the Bay Area in California to Bellingham a while back.  Ben happens to be our financial advisor, and over the years we’ve forged a friendship with him and his family.  They love their new hometown, and didn’t at all mind trading an hours-long Bay Area commute for a short bike ride to the office.  And they just happen to have a million-dollar view of a beautiful bay and marina from their back yard!

Steve with Leizel and Ben
Waking up to this view each morning would make my day!

After completing our to-do list we had one day remaining to attack a trail, and we decided on the Sugarloaf Mountain and Mount Erie Loop Trail.  The two highest mountains on Fidalgo Island are Sugarloaf at 1,044′ and Mt. Erie at 1,273′, and they provide spectacular views from their summits.  We combined two trails that connected to both mountains, clocking a moderate 5-mile roundtrip trek.

The scenery was in stark contrast to the most recent hike we took at North Cascades.  Here the color theme is green moss-covered trees and lush ferns in a great forest setting, classic Pacific Northwest terrain:

Love it!
A subtle reminder to all visitors
The Olympic Mountains are hiding behind those clouds
North Puget Sound in the distance, and Lake Campbell below

We left the campground super-early the next morning, filled both vehicles with the last “cheap” fuel we would get for a while, and fell in line for our ferry ride.  The fee for this ferry was based on the total length of Betsy with the car attached, 59′.  The trip back to Port Angeles will be based on the size of each vehicle separately, so the ferry companies here have their own way of charging.  This was Betsy’s 6th ferry ride, so she’s familiar with this mode of transportation and being in tight quarters with other vehicles big and small:

We were #4 in line for Sidney
It’s a tight fit but manageable

It was a smooth 2.5-hour cruise over calm waters, as we passed the fog-covered San Juan Islands.  We went by Lopez Island, where our adventurous friends Eric and Laurel had spent their summers for the past seven years.  They prompted us to visit Vancouver Island, after having spent five weeks there last fall.  Their description and pictures enticed us to see and experience for ourselves what the island has to offer, and in fact we copied most of their itinerary!

A foggy morning
Lopez Island
Beautiful homes on San Juan Island
The ferry picked up a few passengers at Friday Harbor before continuing on to Sidney
The Friday Harbor cars crowded in next to Betsy
The Port of Sidney, Vancouver Island finally came into view

We watched the motorhomes ahead of us being questioned by the Canadian Border Patrol Officers, and after a few minutes they were on their merry way.  We were fourth in line and our turn came up next…

Welcome to Canada, eh!

…and that’s when things got ugly!




  1. Our motorhome has never been on a ferry. I really want to visit Vancouver Island after following Eric and Laurel’s blog post, as well. So we’ll see how it goes for you two and Betsy and discuss it with you this fall. We may be adding it to our travels soon! We aren’t forest hikers at all, but I must say we really enjoy the rain forest type woods. All those ferns and moss are so beautiful.

  2. Hmm, can’t wait to hear about your border crossing. You guys are pros at it! And if I had your friend’s views, I’d give up the RV.

  3. I think Steve and Dave share their sense of humor….I can see Dave doing the same thing to me with the locked car doors….gotta love them. I loved the picture of Steve on the trail surrounded by such lush and beautiful ferns. Beluga has not been on a ferry before but was glad to hear that Betsy didn’t get claustrophobic on her trip.

  4. Haha, your face in the Jeep window…I have the same scowl when I’m knocking on the truck window! Every time Eric starts the truck without me in it, the damn door automatically locks and I have to knock to get his attention. I think he enjoys it although he denies it. 😦

    I’m so excited for your Vancouver Island adventure! As you know, that has been one of the highlights of all of our RV travels so far. It looks like things were off to a good start in Anacortes with your beautiful campsite, hike (what a gorgeous view!), and time with friends. I know you’ve had some challenges since then, but I’m hoping that all is well now.

    Thanks for including the photo of our beloved Lopez Island from the ferry! 🙂

  5. We just got to our new campground in Michigan and we are in a heavily wooded site. Aren’t they just awesome? We love sites like the one you had at Pioneer Trails. So much better than a big, open field. It seems everywhere you’ve been recently, the views have been just magnificent. Not a bad one in the bunch! Laurel’s write ups about those islands have peaked our interest as well. I am looking forward to hearing more about your experiences…. and hope whatever aggravation you ran into was fleeting.

  6. That skinny mountain road looked like a white knuckler. Gorgeous photos from your hike. The cloudy skies and the expanse of water surrounded and dotted by green hills increased my hunger to be back on the road. Maybe in a few weeks. Then, dang. You left me hanging.

  7. WOW!! What a beautiful area we hope to one day explore at length. Glad Steve got the door fixed so you weren’t dependent on him to get in.

  8. We hike Mt. Erie last year! As far as Washington hikes go, it’s not as stellar as some, but it’s still a nice leg-stretcher with a view. We also visited Friday Harbor in our pre-full-time days. Those islands…ahhhhhhhh. There is not much ground left for us to cover in WA, except for North Cascades NP and the San Juan Islands — you should have waited for us! 😀

    Why do boys think stuff like locking us out of the car is so damn funny? This and other mysteries to be discussed in future campfire circles!

    • You have lots of reason now to revisit your home state 🙂 I know we should have drag you along with us this year and we can enjoy all the trails in WA.
      At the beginning the knocking was fun and then it got old 🙂

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