Cruising the San Juan Islands in any kind of marine conveyance is fun. Gunkholing around on a nice sized, comfortable powerboat can be particularly fun. We chartered a boat from Anacortes, cruised through the islands to end up at Jones Island, then on to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, cruised around some more before going to Stuart Island, and ended up at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Plenty of beautiful sites, wildlife, on-island hiking, and off-island hanging out.

Jones Island consists entirely of a 188 acre state marine camping park, including floating dock, moorage buoys, and marine-accessible campsites with drinking water and pit toilets. A hiking trail goes across the lower middle “saddle” of the island and around its west side for great San Juan Island views.

San Juan Island is the most populated and developed of the San Juan Islands. Roche Harbor has a picturesque resort, gardens, historical lime kilns, restaurants, and a terrific 19 acre outdoor sculpture park run by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art. Friday Harbor is more developed and commercialized, but with good amenities and the state ferry dock.

Stuart Island also includes a state park accessible via docks on two bays, but most of the island is privately owned. Walking around the single main dirt road of Stuart Island reveals the school house that educated children for many decades but just recently closed (only two children in the entire final school across all grades). You can walk right into the open doors of the unattended small library. Venturing further will go to a historic cemetery that includes short biographies of all the people in the cemetery, including their connection to the island. A few farms and residences are sprinkled further along the roads, ending up at the bluff of Lover’s Leap and the open grounds of Turn Point Lighthouse.

Get on up to the San Juans!

Charter powerboat from Anacortes heading into San Juan Islands

Heading into the San Juan Islands from Anacortes



Jones Island State Park boat mooring dock San Juan Islands

At Jones Island State Park mooring dock



Jones Island State Park boat mooring dock beach San Juan Islands

Beach and forest of Jones Island



Sunset tree trail around Jones Island San Juan Islands

Sunset from waterfront trail around Jones Island



Jones Island trail around shoreline in San Juan Islands

Hanging out to watch the sunset from Jones Island



Jones Island State Park sunset view from shoreline trail in San Juan Islands

Sunset from Jones Island in San Juan Islands



San Juan Island Roche Harbor Resort marina McMillin's Dining Room garden

Roche Harbor Resort, McMillin’s Dining Room, and garden on San Juan Island



Roche Harbor Resort marina San Juan Island

Roche Harbor Resort marina on San Juan Island



Roche Harbor Sculpture Park San Juan Islands Museum of Art metal tree

Roche Harbor Sculpture Park metal tree



Roche Harbor Sculpture Park San Juan Islands mirror on easel

Roche Harbor Sculpture Park mirror on easel



Stuart Island Turn Point Lighthouse port-a-potty interior

Stuart Island port-a-potty with flowers, hat rack, drapes, and artwork



Turn Point Lightouse walkway Stuart Island San Juan Islands

Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island, view from lightkeeper’s house



Turn Point Lightouse keeper's house porch view Stuart Island San Juan Islands

Turn Point Lighthouse keeper’s porch view on Stuart Island



Turn Point Lightouse view from Lover's Leap Stuart Island San Juan Islands

View from Lover’s Leap to sunset and Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island



Links:
Crown Yacht Charters
Jones Island State Park
San Juan Island
Roche Harbor Resort
Stuart Island
San Juan Islands

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What a fun way to explore Seattle’s urban Lake Union: by renting a comfortable electric power boat and cruising around. The Electric Boat Company rents 21 foot Duffy boats in 2-4 hour time blocks. The boats accommodate up to 10 people, have a center table for food and drinks, storage, and roll-up side flap windows to keep out weather if needed. Since they are electric, the boats are quiet and easy to handle. We explored the many floating home communities of Lake Union, checked out marinas with yachts, and cruised by the businesses and parks that also line the lake. Afterwards, a tasty meal at lakeside Duke’s Chowder House rounded out the experience. Recommended!

Seattle Lake Union electric boat rental cruise

Electric boat rental cruise on Seattle’s Lake Union



Links:
The Electric Boat Company
Lake Union
Electric Boats: The Handbook of Clean, Quiet Boating

Directions

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Cloud Mountain Retreat Center is a non-sectarian Buddhist meditation getaway located in rural Washington between Seattle and Portland. The center encompasses 15 forested acres and extends its walking meditation into surrounding state owned lands plus a hike onto land owned by a collaborative neighbor. There are many different styles and levels of retreats available, all supported by a small permanent staff plus invited teachers. Participants come from all over.

The grounds are very peaceful and quiet, providing a terrific match for the center’s intent. Dirt paths meander through the forest, connecting the main lodge, meditation hall, and various styles of lodging. Exploring around yields small but interesting finds: a reflection pond, shrines with offerings, semi-formal gardens, forest vistas, observant wildlife, covered bridge over a running stream, and more.

This particular silent meditation retreat was focused on relaxing the mind and learning basic Buddhist meditation principles, as a personal follow-up to my earlier silent meditation retreat (non-Buddhist) where I focused more on general relaxation and life priorities. I found this one more challenging since I like to relax but think ahead, while “active thinking” effectively is not encouraged in a Buddhist meditation context. It is instead about not thinking and not planning, and instead just being nothing more than present.

Silent retreats are unusual for most people. After initial introductions, communal dinner, and instructions, everyone shuts off their mobile phones and is not supposed to speak at all for the next few days (except the instructor speaks). Communication and questions to the instructor can be written on paper and left in a box. Not speaking is surprisingly freeing. There are no “pressures” to be sociable, think outwardly, or think about what other people think. Instead, participants are given shared permission to ignore everyone else and just move inward in a simple way.

Meals are silent, which some people have difficulty with. Sitting across the table from someone for a half hour and not being able to talk is foreign to most. Even passing by others on a path is more of a heads-down experience than an acknowledgement of the other person.

This retreat was a bit less formal than most Buddhist silent meditation retreats. In the instructor’s words, she wanted everyone to feel comfortable and not be bound by the “rules” that more advanced retreats generally assume. That was a good thing. She would provide class sessions throughout the day at pre-scheduled times, with every session preceded by the sound of a loud gong-like bell reverberating through the forest. Some sessions focused on concepts and how-to, while others were more oriented to application of the practice.

Time between sessions in the meditation hall were open-ended for all students. Participants scattered, depending upon interest and what moved them. Some went back to their rooms, though journaling was not encouraged. Others stayed in the meditation hall, while most went for walking meditations through the forested trails and gardens.

At the end of the retreat, a closing ceremony occurred and participants were gradually brought back into their more normal pace and interaction with life. The instructor said that some people even need time for re-adjusting to the relatively faster pace of driving and talking. Otherwise the outside regular world can briefly be disorienting or overwhelming to them.

A Buddhist silent meditation retreat is both relaxing and challenging, if done right and depending upon your personality. It is a unique experience that most people never come close to experiencing since it is so far removed from rat race culture.

Cloud Mountain Retreat pond reflection Buddhist silent meditation retreat

Reflection pond at Cloud Mountain Retreat



Cloud Mountain Retreat shrine offerings Buddhist silent meditation retreat

Shrine with offerings at Cloud Mountain Retreat



Cloud Mountain Retreat forest pond Buddhist silent meditation retreat

Forest pond at Cloud Mountain Retreat



Cloud Mountain Retreat water fountains gardens Buddhist silent meditation retreat

Fountains among the gardens



Cloud Mountain Retreat forest hiking walking trails Buddhist silent meditation retreat

Forest walking paths



Cloud Mountain Retreat forest hiking walking trails covered bridge stream Buddhist silent meditation retreat

Hiking to a privately owned covered bridge over a stream



Links:
Cloud Mountain Retreat Center
Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat

Directions

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In downtown Asheville North Carolina, appropriately positioned directly across the street from the historic Flatiron Building is a large metal sculpture of a… flat iron. Perhaps you can rub your clothes up against it to get out wrinkles. The sculpture was created by local Asheville sculptor Reed Todd, and is based on old clothing irons used in the Asheville Laundry a hundred years ago. It is frequently used as a picture posing location or a place for street singers to use as an acoustic backdrop.

Laundry clothes flat iron sculpture Asheville North Carolina

Flat Iron sculpture in Asheville



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The Biltmore Estate is a monument to over the top opulence. Interesting from a historical perspective, grand in its scope, beautiful in environment, and the product of a son who was given a lot of money and wanted to outdo his siblings and everyone else with that money. The extensive grounds are open for wandering by foot or car, and different areas of the main home are accessible via different types of specialized tours. Wandering the walking paths around the home reveal ornate formal gardens, open pastures, forest, and a man made pond. The grounds extend much further still, going to a more recently developed winery, inn, restaurants, and more.

Biltmore Estate lawn

Entry lawn of Biltmore Estate



Biltmore Estate gargoyles and stonework

Gargoyles and stonework at Biltmore Estate



Biltmore Estate Italian Garden

Italian Garden at Biltmore Estate



Biltmore Estate Bass Pond Boat House

The Boat House on Bass Pond at Biltmore Estate



Biltmore Estate Bass Pond outflow waterfall

Outflow waterfall from Bass Pond


Links:
Biltmore Estate
Asheville North Carolina area things to do
A Guide to Biltmore Estate

Directions

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There are a large number and variety of waterfalls in 10,400 acre DuPont State Forest, located in the rural countryside between Hendersonville and Brevard, North Carolina. All of the falls shown here are accessible within a relatively short and easy hike. Get a map of the intersecting trails from the park visitor center and you’ll be all set.

Grassy Creek Falls DuPont State Forest park

Grassy Creek Falls at DuPont State Forest



High Falls DuPont State Forest park

High Falls at DuPont State Forest



High Falls Dupont State Forest park person at base

At the base of High Falls



Hooker Falls DuPont State Forest park

Hooker Falls at DuPont State Forest



Triple Falls DuPont State Forest park

Triple Falls at DuPont State Forest



Triple Falls DuPont State Forest park close

Triple Falls closer

Links:
DuPont State Recreational Forest (government site)
DuPont State Forest (tourism and things to do site)
Maps
Trail Guide
North Carolina Waterfalls: A Hiking and Photography Guide

Directions

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Just west of the Summit at Snoqualmie Pass and surprisingly located between the separated east and west bound sides of I-90 is the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Nearby is the Denny Creek Campground and miles of walking trails. A good place for a little variety, river scenery, car camping, and day jaunts into the Snoqualmie Pass area.

South Fork Snoqualmie River steel bridge near Denny Creek Campground

Steel bridge over South Fork of Snoqualmie River near Denny Creek Campground



Links:
Snoqualmie River
Denny Creek Campground

Directions

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