The last few months of 2009 have felt like Rupunzel rapidly lowering her hair so 2010 could climb up. Early last week, we decided to slow the decent of her hair by spending a few days in the wilderness, away from television, telephones, newspapers, and other distractions.

On Wednesday afternoon, we cobbled together a menu and sprinted to the grocery store. Having caught Rich’s cold, and in no mood to cook, Rich took over menu planning and settled on making his “famous” macaroni and cheese with eggs, milk, two types of cheese, and elbow macaroni. He also made stewed tomatoes with onions and lots of garlic.

I focused my energies on making popcorn balls for birds (see blog below) and chocolate cupcakes with homemade pink peppermint icing that contained ground up candy canes. For lunches, we opted for wraps with rosemary-flavored tortillas, chicken, tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, red onions, and chipotle sauce.

Thursday morning, we gathered up our warm clothes, packed enough food for a few days, grabbed a stack of magazines, and loaded two cats into the car. It took less than an hour to load the motor home, which we keep in Mount Vernon, and then drive north to Birch Bay State Park, about fifty miles from the Canadian border. Because it was Christmas eve and very cold outside, we had our pick of spots. During the two days we were there, we saw only four other trailers/RVs and a young, brave couple who were towing their camping gear behind their bikes.

The solitude was welcome.

Normally, Birch Bay is packed with people during the warmer months. Along with receiving 25% less rain than neighboring Bellingham, the large bay buffers the waves from the Puget Sound, making it more like a lake than an inlet with strong currents and breaking waves. The calm waters and extensive shoreline makes it ideal for beachcombing, fishing, kayaking, sailing, and swimming, along with crabbing and clamming.

After picking a spot to camp and plugging in the electric, we made a quick lunch then hit the beach. I felt like Randy in “A Christmas Story” with leather hiking boots, long-sleeve tee-shirt, heavy wool sweater, jacket, scarf, gloves, and a double-layer hat with ear flaps. Rich was dressed similarly.

Even with heavy clothing, I wasn’t particularly warm. It was so cold! Nevertheless, there were quite a few people on the beach, taking group pictures, chatting with relatives that arrived for the holiday, and enjoying the snow-capped mountains and setting sun.

People were also amused by an obstinate blue heron that was ankle deep in a little lagoon that formed when the tide receded. We saw the heron from a distance. As we walked closer, he didn’t move an inch. We then walked past it, dawdled on the beach then turned around and went back. The heron had hardly moved. Rich tried to coax it closer to the shore by tempting him with one of my popcorn balls, but the heron remained indifferent.

Using our binoculars, we could see the cascade of thin, blue gray feathers on his chest and ends of his wings. I suspect he was an older bird who’d seen its share of humans and wasn’t concerned by their presence. Of course, we forgot to bring a camera. The tranquil heron against the orange sunset would have made a spectacular picture.

We walked along the beach, collecting shells and rocks until the light started to fade then scurried back to the motor home to read and make dinner. The cats were happy to see us, elaborating on the hardships of being in the motor home. Both of them had hid under the blankets on the bed during the drive to Birch Bay.

Christmas morning, we once again donned layers of clothes and set out to explore the area. The temperatures had dipped overnight and everything was covered with frost. It felt strange to see the beach covered with frost and feel the ice crunch under our feet. The sun occasionally peaked out from under a layer of gray clouds, but barely melted the frost.

In the morning, we walked towards the town, passed quaint beachfront cottages and multi-story vacation homes and condominiums. I was expecting to see people in their living rooms celebrating Christmas, but we scarcely saw anyone. It reaffirmed my original conclusion that Birch Bay doesn’t energized until the weather turns warm.

After lunch, we walked the opposite direction, ending up in a neighborhood with huge houses – most were locked up with no cars or people in sight.

Having walked around ten miles on Christmas day, we were happy to get back to the motor home for a festive dinner of mixed greens with pear, pomegranate seeds, and black pepper cheese along with macaroni ‘n cheese, stewed tomatoes, and chocolate cupcakes with peppermint icing.

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