I arrived home from Washington today, hung my favorite summer hat on its peg, shed a few tears about coming home, and took a nap on the couch in my blazing hot apartment not one mile from LAX. For me, it is always bittersweet to return home. Though it may be surprising to read it, I have a tortured relationship with Los Angeles, one that causes me a lot of grief and, on occasion, some small joys.
I spent the majority of my twenties running away from L.A., dramatically referring to its particular brand of life as "soul crushing" and "intellectually stifling." Budding little literature nerd that I was, I read a lot of transcendentalists and felt that Los Angeles was the epicenter of Thoreau's "quiet desperation." (I still feel that way, BTW, though I've realized it's not all that quiet.) I always said, from my apartment in Paris or my tent in Petaluma, that I should move back to LA to be with my family before anyone was sick or dying, while everyone was healthy. But, I didn't. And then one day my stepmom- who I loved dearly- was sick and dying, and I moved home immediately. I haven't left since, and it becomes increasingly harder to go. I have three nephews now, two sisters-in-law, my parents....
Still, other places call to me. When I was younger, I discovered that there is inestimable value in feeling uncomfortable and alone in a new place because that space is where we learn the most about ourselves. Now that I'm a little older, I've learned that we can achieve that kind of self-understanding without jumping from place to place every few months. Nonetheless, I still feel drawn to other places, especially the mountains and rivers, tall trees, vast canyons, and a life outside the violent energy of this city. Someday, I may need to breakup with LA but, for now, I just cheat on it with other taller, more rugged cities.
When I wrote the rest of this post, I was sitting in a coffeehouse in Northern Washington. It's called Woods and it looks like a log cabin married a hipster campground general store, and decided to serve coffee. The baristas there gave me hiking recommendations. They have a faux fire burning in a faux stone-lined fireplace. There are some indie-rock-emotional-ballads playing in the background- of course- and the coffee comes in four sizes: spruce, cedar, redwood, and giant redwood. Best of all, the coffee shop is right on Bellingham Bay. Like, literally on it. Waterfront views to die for. Why do you have to be so Washington, Washington?
Here's a list of the places I loved in Bellingham and surrounding areas, with notes and some hastily shot iphone photos. Sorry about that. I'm still working on the whole photography thing.
5766 Cains Court
Open since 2003, BreadFarm is in the teeny, tiny town of Edison. Everything is made from scratch and locally/organically sourced, where possible. They have several items on the shelf that you can grab and go, like graham crackers, rye crisps, and shortbread cookies of all kinds. They also make an impressive selection of breads, varying from an in-house sourdough baguette to a 100% rye loaf. Note: they only accept cash or check.
5800 Cains Court
Owned by a darling gay man who told me he doesn't like the word "regular" when I asked about "regular coffee," Tweets serves the kind of food you want to be eating on the weekend. Giant brioche buns topped with fresh, local peaches and whipped cream, shrimp and grits, and crispy pork belly. The menu changes daily based on seasonality, and ingredients are high-quality and carefully sourced. Note: they're only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (which is, by the way, testament to how good the place is) AND they only accept CASH OR CHECK. Also, they don't serve "regular coffee" so ask for an Americano if you don't want to get several funny looks pointed your way.
Bow Hill Blueberries
15628 Bow Hill Road
From approximately mid July through September, you can show up at Bow Hill, pay five dollars, grab your little bucket, and head out into the fields to pick your own berries. This farm was established in 1947, and the original bushes were the first blueberries planted in the Skagit Valley. One of the more exciting parts of the experience (aside from the whole picking unlimited amounts of berries and shoving them into your mouth by the handful), is that there are different varieties of blueberries to try, and you can really taste the differences in between. Bonus: they serve blueberry ice cream. If you're feeling lazy, you can just buy a flat of blueberries already picked.
Taylor Shellfish Farms
2182 Chuckanut Drive
Taylor's website has the adorable logo "from tide to table," and claims they've been farming high-quality, sustainable shellfish since 1890. Taylor has a couple different locations. I visited the Samish Farm Shellfish Market. I loved this particular location for it's waterside BBQs and picnic areas, where you can shuck and eat your own oysters, throwing the shells onto the ground. They also carry cooked crabs and raw crabs (in season), along with clams, mussels, and geoduck. If you're not into shucking your own oysters, there's an oyster bar on Chuckanut Drive that does the work for you.
Mallard Ice Cream
1323 Railroad Ave
Mallard is a loveably tacky ice cream shop, the kind of place that wouldn't thrive in Los Angeles because it doesn't look hip enough. But, the ice cream is serious! Get this: they churn it five gallons at a time, in salt and ice bins! By HAND. It's pretty creamy, I have to say. They have lots of cool flavors, in addition to the classics, like sesame tahini, root beer, cardamom, and- on occasion, a local favorite- black licorice.
The Oyster Dome Hike
Blanchard Hill Trail System
For infor, see the Washington Trails Association Website
This is a breathtaking hike on a really well-maintained trail; it's super easy to follow, and well-trafficked by other hikers. It's only 5 miles roundtrip, but it's not what I would call an easy hike so, if you're new to hiking or you don't hike often, bring water and snacks, maybe a lunch to have at the top. I only brought water with me, and I was pretty hungry by the time I got back down.
If you type "oyster dome" into your GPS, the map may have you start on Chuckanut Drive. This is a longer hike with more elevation gain, and a less secure parking spot. If you take it, just be careful where you park your car, since cars can be towed when parked on the highway. The best place to start is from the Samish Overlook and, if you type that into google maps, it should be able to take you right there. A good part of the road is gravel and it feels a little bit like you shouldn't be driving on it but, you're headed the right way. Be aware, that you need a Discover Pass, which you can buy online before your hike, or even from the parking lot. Just be sure to write the correct info on a slip of paper and display it on your dashboard. If you plan on going on more than one hike in this area, it's best to buy a yearly Discover Pass.
1200 10th St
Fairhaven is Bellingham's cute little sister. There's a wood-fired pizza restaurant, and a great little pub, both on a street with views of the bay. But, before you eat dinner at either of those places, have a drink at Daphne's. The cocktail list has something for everyone- well-made classics, talented bartenders who make good, strong drinks and, my personal favorites, a few tiki inspired drinks and a real aperol spritz. The atmosphere is a combination I previously viewed as a mix impossible as oil with water: it's classy as hell and super friendly, too.