Diane de Mere, a successful corporate trainer and motivator, embarked on a mission to gain control of her own stress, while helping others follow in her path. In her new book, “Happy Tales: How to Manage Stress and Find Peace and Joy,” De Mere documents her journey, peppered with stories of her rescued dogs, cats and the wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. Here she shares anecdotes from her delightful journey to finding true joy:
Two mating bald eagles we’ve named Abby and Abe are in the eighty foot tall Sitka spruce in our backyard, overlooking Admiralty Inlet and the Olympic Peninsula. A small herd of blacktail deer are strutting along the trails winding through our property. The surrounding forests are home to pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, great horned owls, toads, and frogs. At night, the owls softly hoot back and forth to each other, while a chorus of frogs from a nearby pond provides a background symphony that fills the air. This is Whidbey Island.
Eagles screech territorial challenges to others invading their home base as they fly sorties over the forests and water in search of food to feed themselves and their young. The haunting distant call of a loon floats through the air with occasional sightings of sea lions, harbor seals, otters, humpback whales, and orcas. This blissful haven, this heaven on earth, is the perfect remedy for those wanting to escape the fast pace of everyday life. Visit here and live like a local by staying at any one of the many enchanting accommodations for rent. Views from the east side of Whidbey include spectacular sunrises over the Cascade Mountains, while the west side showcases stunning sunsets over the Olympic Mountains and the San Juan Islands.
On a daily basis, my husband and I, and our trusty Alaskan malamute, Sabre, hike any one of the following:
South Whidbey State Park
South Whidbey State Park is a microcosm of a national park with trails through old growth hemlock, Douglas fir, cedar and Sitka spruce. Although the trail down to the water washed out last year, and the park isn’t open to camping right now, several trails are open, one featuring an enchanting bridge crossing a little stream as it gurgles and descends toward the water about a half mile away. Trails wind up and down slopes with visitors frequently hearing the slow, loud Chop-Chop-Chop of wood high above, then seeing chunks flying through the air—the signature of the pileated woodpecker. Its loud cackle can be heard echoing through the forest and its black and white chiseled head with red crown are a show stopper as it circles around tree trunks. This park is home to ospreys and their loud call of Scree-Scree-Scree shreds the forest’s silence. The island is heavily forested and trees within the park are astonishing in their tremendous height, even to locals who live here.
Meerkerk Rhododendron Park
Meerkerk Rhododendron Park is a wonderland of color with towering shrubs, ornamental trees, and evergreen trees throughout. Mid-April through May are peak bloom season and a must for all plant lovers and photographers.
Greenbank Farm, located in the narrowest neck of the island, is a favorite for residents to exercise their dogs off leash along the many trails. (Only well behaved, social dogs are allowed off-leash.) As one ascends the trails toward the ridge, the Cascades rise above Saratoga Passage, their peaks covered most of the year in the snow. To the far south, the old matriarch, Mt. Rainier anchors this panorama. Sunset begins by lighting up the mountain peaks in fuchsia, reflecting pink and lavender onto the water, then moving south to Rainier. The whole scene glows in mauve. On lookers watch as the pastel show of colors traverse to the west side and illuminate the skies over the Olympics, Port Townsend, and north to the San Juans, intensifying to vermilion and deep violet. This is truly a 360-degree view! A picnic area, Whidbey Pies Café, a winery, cheese shop, and several art galleries provide eating and shopping venues as you stroll along the sidewalk.
Fort Casey Sate Park
Fort Casey Sate Park features the Coupeville Ferry out of Keystone and the Keystone Café. Engle Road north to Hill Road is a breathtaking drive through pastoral farmlands, high up through an old secluded forest with eagle eye views of the Olympic Peninsula, and ending at Ebey’s Landing State Park, where miles of sand beach sprawl before you.
The city of Coupeville is charming with its pier featuring a café, gift shop, kayak rentals, and sea charters (gray whale watching April & May), and shops and restaurants lining Front Street.
Oak Harbor is Whidbey’s largest city with many dining and shopping options. Take a left on Swantown Road for a scenic ride that ends at Joseph Whidbey State Park, a real gem with 3,100 feet of beach, views of the San Juan Islands to the north, and the Olympics to the south.
Deception Pass State Park
Deception Pass State Park is at the northern tip of Whidbey with its high, narrow bridge connecting Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. Rushing waves shoot through the narrows below with fabulous lookout scenery on each side of the bridge. Book a boat tour or drive through the park along three lakes—photo opportunities abound. Passing over the bridge and into Anacortes, you can catch the ferry to the San Juan Islands.
Orcas Island and San Juan Island are the largest of the islands. On Orcas Island, climb Mt. Constitution for glorious photographic views overlooking all the San Juans. The Rosario Resort is known for its great accommodations, food, and spa. San Juan Island is famous for Lime Kiln Point State Park where the J, K, and L pods of orcas spend most of their time. If you miss them in the morning, stay for a picnic and you might catch them in the afternoon, or take a kayak tour around the island. They winter in the southern Puget Sound waters around Vashon and Maury Islands.
One of our favorite trips took us across Admiralty Inlet via the Coupeville Ferry out of Keystone, to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. It is an eclectic town combining charm and trendy restaurants and shops. Taking the highway west along the northern coast of the peninsula, we arrived at Port Angeles and began our 17-mile ascent along winding roads that took us thousands of feet skyward to Hurricane Ridge, in the heart of the Olympic National Forest. The view from the lodge looked out across the mountain summits emanating a blue haze—an ethereal atmosphere. The road closes during snow season because there are no guard rails! As the narrow two-lane road zigzags downward, the drive is not for the faint of heart even during the dry season.
About the Author:
Diane de Mere is a semi-retired corporate trainer, whose first book, “Happy Tales, How to Manage Stress and Find Peace and Joy”, is now available. Living with her husband and Alaskan malamute in the Pacific Northwest, she writes a blog on stress management and supports the environment and animal rescue. Visit Diane’s website or follow her on Facebook for more.