Though it was an on again/off again sunny/cloudy, chilly and windy February day, Sarah and I decided to take off on a daytrip to Whidbey Island. We had been there once before, but it rained most of the time. With little rain predicted (and none encountered), we headed off on our first trip of 2012.
To get to Whidbey, you can can a ferry from Mukilteo, a quaint town about ten miles south of Everett. The ride is relatively inexpensive and quick. This way, you start at the southern end of the island and work your way up.
This is Sarah and her new best friend hanging out, making faces in the little village of Langley, which has a puzzling seven bookstores (none of which we visited – shame!). We walked around the town a bit, checked out a thrift store and spied an old movie theater we hope to see again.
As an early lunch (but way too late for brunch), we stopped by the Living Green healthfood store and cafe, which houses what is quite possibly the most amazing sectional couch known to man. They also had some great tofu wraps. But seriously, check out this couch. It’s heavenly!
For me, the centerpiece of the trip was Fort Casey. Though first garrisoned in 1890 (which is a long time ago by west coast standards), most of the structures weren’t finished until 1900. When completed, the fort boasted no less than thirty-five pieces of artillery spread over its 123 acres of land.
Though well-preserved (or rather, not well-deteriorated), only one of the fort’s ten batteries is anything resembling restored.
The newly-repainted Battery William Worth contains two 10″ M1895 Disappearing guns. These pieces could lob a shell upwards of fifteen miles.
One of the displayed guns is in the firing position, while the other, pictured above, is shown as “disappeared.” This was to hide from enemy ships, but was rendered pointless by the use of aircraft in World War II.
Unlike several other forts in the Puget Sound area, Fort Casey keeps most of its doors locked and welded shut, allowing visitors only small, dark glimpses of its wet and dripping innards.
And while the grounds are pretty and the view across the Sound spectacular, the desire to grab a couple of good flashlights and explore the caverns beneath can only be partially realized.
Some of the more mysterious hallways are actually above ground and you don’t even need a flash on your camera to capture them.
Most, however, require a flash. When used, it really doesn’t convey how very dark it is.
This was taken with only my tiny Mag Light as guide. With a better flashlight, it wouldn’t be so treacherous, but this is all we had.
There are maps available online that can tell you which room is which, but at the sight, very little exists to explain the specific use of each small, cement cell.
Battery John Trevor, located at the opposite end of the fort from Battery Worth, contains two Barbette Pedestal guns.
None of the remaining guns at Fort Casey are original. The two disappearing guns are actually from Fort Wint in the Philippines. Both breech blocks on the disappearing guns are missing because they were thrown into the Pacific Ocean to prevent enemy use when Fort Wint was abandoned at the beginning of World War II.
On a rise behind the main fort sets a group of bunkers that probably contained some sort of later, perhaps WW2 guns. I can’t find anything about this, though.
Also on the fort’s grounds is the Admiralty Head Light House, built in 1861, and then rebuilt (as it appears today) in 1903.
Fort Casey garrisoned up to 200 men during World War II. This is that commanding officer’s quarters.
Leaving Fort Casey, we paid a visit to the old Crockett Homestead. In 1855, an outbreak of Indian attacks near Seattle and Bellingham convinced the folks at Whidbey that they needed defenses. A few blockhouses and a stockade or two were built, but never used.
Moving north, up the island, we visited the most important defense of the mid-1800s. But first, we stopped by Sunnyside Cemetery, whose Sherman addition is… well… weird.
Many of the graves in the Sherman addition seem newish and DIY. Either the headstones are very personalized an fun, or they’ve tossed out the idea of headstones completely and just did it themselves.
This 24 year old gal died on her birthday. After Sarah did a bit of research, she discovered that Stacie traveled through Europe, backpacked in the Himalayas, traveled to New Zealand and biked through Australia. She took a job in Harpers Ferry, WV as a river guide and was hit by a car while riding bike.
I know a lot of people bitch about bicyclists on the roads, but seriously, watch out for them. They’ve got the right to be there and, honestly, these are real people with real lives that ought not to be snuffed out just because you want to drive like an asshat.
Tucked behind the cemetery is the house of Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey. He was among the first of the permanent settlers to the island. Upon the advice of his friend Samuel Crockett (whose homestead we had just visited), Ebey came west in 1851 from his home in Missouri in search of land.
He built four blockhouses and a stockade (two of the blockhouses remain).
Near the Ebey farm is Fort Ebey, a WW2 fort that, like most of the other Puget Sound forts, saw no action. It had four M1 90mm guns for defense against fast enemy motor torpedo boats and enemy aircraft. Each of the pieces could fire about 4.5 miles.
Fort Ebey also has some underground rooms, most of which are open (though incredibly dark).
We stumbled (almost literally) into this room, which may have been a boiler or power room. Like Fort Casey, nothing is marked. But both forts have tours in the summer and I’m betting I’ll catch them when they happen.
Our trip winding down, Sarah wanted to visit two places in Oak Harbor. The first was this large and seemingly pointless (but nifty) windmill.
While looking for the second thing, I noticed a sad looking bench surrounded by much driftwood.
And this was the second thing. Oak Harbor has a Flintstone Park, which is just your typical waterfront park with a Flintstone family car in the corner. It was pretty cold by this point.
On the north end of the island is Deception Pass, spanned by 180 foot high, 1487 foot long, two-lane bridge build in 1935. Though on a fairly remote island, an average of 20,000 cars cross over it each day.
And that was that. Our first trip of the year at an end, we drove north and then east, across Fidalgo Island to the mainland, and then home. It was a cold and not especially pretty day, but we had a great time, learned a little bit, and got even more motivated for our spring, summer and fall treks around Cascadia!
To see all of the photos from the trip, CLICK HERE.