Close to Nature's Heart
“Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen
New to Seattle, it was now time to leave. Not for good, but for the day. This glorious past May, the warmest in recorded history, was reason for an excursion. The kids, wife, and I took the bait hook, line, and sinker from the sunny weather. We packed our bags and decided to head for the hills.
Here in Washington State, when it comes to spoils, anyone willing to wander out of the metropolitan area of Seattle can be richly rewarded. While the spoils are abundant, a trip to the countryside may have you feeling rich with experience regardless of monetary wealth. Your choices are plentiful, the rewards multiple, and the desire to continue to explore this vastly diverse region of the United States is no less than bountiful. Take a ferry west and you discover the San Juan Islands. Go farther west, the Olympic Peninsula and its resplendent Hoh Rainforest. Farther west still, the Pacific Ocean. Head east, the Cascade Mountains offer adventures to sift through. Anywhere you go, as you peel layer and layer off the landscape, a new vista reveals itself. The abundance goes on. So much so that I feel no longer qualified to write about what I have yet to see, and only with a meek ability to relate to you what I have experienced.
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I now realize upon returning, after so many years away, how little I know about the region and how much more there is to unearth. So, on a beautiful Saturday early in May it was time to captain an expedition east! No, we wouldn’t be so bold as to push into the mountains. We were looking for something more lush and spontaneous. Less distant and daring, but something ripe for discovery. You know, something we could sink our teeth into but be back home in time for dinner. After all we have a baby and a toddler. “Berry picking!” we thought. But nothing was in season. Yet, the farmland east still beckoned. We decided to answer the call.
The choppy waters of Lake Washington nearly flush with the floating 520 bridge, we glided into the sunlight. Mt. Rainier loomed in the distant mist, an omnipotent monolith. We had not far to go physically, but this was an instance when distance is not measured in miles. Though we were not far from the city, once we crossed the bridge, you could taste the change on your tongue. You could feel it when you breathed. As the multitudes of vegetation created a canopy over the road, you could see it in the kaleidoscope of splendorous sunshine sprinkling through the arms and leaves of the outstretched trees. The light was green as if we were underwater, and the road was slow and had the curves of a rolling hill. This was the Woodinville-Duvall Road. If you ever travel this road, you will notice the branches of ancient trees being weighed down by moss and the fronds of ferns waving along the side of the roads. Then as you come down and enter the Snoqualmie River Valley, you then see how every hill and every valley is the beginning of one ecosystem and the end of another.
We headed around the bright green fertile valley on the Snoqualmie River Road, the river snaking and twisting next to us. While our aim was true, it wasn’t explicit. We wanted to find a farm, but which one and which kind? We knew that would reveal itself at some point. It was still early in the day, and we were patient with how the outcome would present itself. With no map, and little reliance on Google Maps, we took some wild turns, crossed the river on a bridge, and winded back around. A few times we came to a crossroad...left or right? We decided to take a left and came to a farm with a grand sign! Remlinger Farms. Too bad it hadn’t opened for the season. That would have to wait. Not sure where to go, we headed north into the town of Carnation. We took a right off the main road and stumbled into Nick Loutsis Park in which the the Snoqualmie Valley Trail runs. Hidden amongst a grove of trees, the children were given free reign to explore around the trunks of towering evergreens, and run through fields of grass. We took the trail to the Tolt River, a subsidiary of the Snoqualmie, and we dipped our feet in the frigid river, which felt good because we were hot from playing in the fields. The shore of the river was rocky and there were fast black spiders scaling sides of rocks. In this region during summer time, I am told, there are an abundance of wildflower: elderberry, buttercup, daisy, and wild rose. In this bucolic setting, it was hard to imagine what could make a day more pleasant. Perhaps the blossoming of these flowers would be reason enough to return once spring turns to summer.
After returning back to the car, we continued up the Carnation-Duvall road. The road wound through the valley and it seemed we had reached the days conclusion with little more that a frolic in a trail. That is until a sign poked out from the side of the road at us: Misty Valley Farms. We took a right and headed up a long gravel road inclining up to a grange. On the left and right side was open pasture with small stables housing animals unseen. This Misty Valley was a little mysterious but more enchanting than anything else.
We parked the car at the top of the hill and the view made you hold your breath. The tumbling hills falling down to the river were gradual but no less sublime. For a moment I imagined what it would be like to wake up every morning and step out on the porch and look west down into the valley. How many mornings would I see fog draped on the floor of the valley looking like a fluffy cotton rug or see alert deer nibbling at the grass in the pasture? Living in New York City, every morning going into Manhattan you can see the sheer vertical incline of skyscrapers everywhere you turn. But to see this panorama of ever changing scenes epochs in the making... how precious and humble. How grand and divine.
We walked into the grange which housed a gift shop. The interior was bonny in its rustic charm. Greeting us was one of the owners, Warren, who ran the small ranch with his wife. Quickly we learned that all of the products in the shop were made on the premises. It turned out we were on a lavender farm, with lavender being grown which was shipped from the south of France. Not only that, the owner had goats which she raised for the milk and made different products out of. We bought some soaps, candles, and lotions all made from what was grown on the farm and then after being shown a tour of the grounds, goats included, we relaxed with a generous complimentary wine tasting of local vineyards. Sitting on the porch, Amara and Lennox roaming around and inspecting the farm, a sweet sense of awareness came over me. An awareness of happiness and of wanting to explore the world of people who are not depending on modern industry, though not rejecting it either, to dictate their existence. The early history of civilization depended on artisans and agriculture to support the growth of society. Yet, as we humans grew our ambitions grew and most of the world left the land and went to the city. But, it seems some people are reconciling that part of our past by still living off the earth. These were some of the sleepy thoughts I was thinking as I drove us down through the valley, and into the forest, over the lake on the bridge, and back home. Perhaps I was tired, but I was also excited about exploring these farms and to connect with people who had a real relationship with the earth. This relationship was their ingenuity and it fueled their creativity while also being their means of livelihood. As I pulled into our parking spot I realized that people like this is what fueled my creativity, too. It was also a fun way to spend a day. What was most exciting is that we were just scratching the surface.
Two weeks later, we would head out into the farmland again. This time our experience would be much more adventurous, but no less memorable. Read next week to find out!