We've found that life comes pounding with such force that we have to purposefully carve out time to have fun. This is difficult for me (Rachel) because I like to have fun without pressure, without having to be anywhere or only having a few hours until my next obligation. Sean and I are both learning how to manage our time better (it's like we're becoming adults or some nonsense) and more importantly how to empty our minds of stress when we have a short period of time for fun. We practiced this last Friday - I got off work at 10:30 in the morning, he was out of school at 11:00 and we booked it up to the Mukilteo ferry and headed our way to Whidbey Island to go biking in Fort Ebey State Park. We played hard and caught the last ferry back home at 10:30 at night. We got just enough sleep to wake up in time for me to go to work on Saturday. We never stop moving, we grab every moment we can, and we force ourselves to get out and be active no matter how tired we are. We've never been happier. I don't say this as a "yay look at us, we're so cool!" but more to encourage you to do the same. It can be anything from going to a park, hanging out with your kids in your back yard, going on an evening walk with your family - anything, but it's the little moments that happen in between everything else that are yours. Make them yours. John Muir said once, "One can make a day of any size, and regulate the rising and setting of his own sun and the brightness of its shining."I know this isn't easy, it certainly isn't easy for us either, but nature has a way of making it worth it, I promise.
Before we left home I was scrambling around looking for all of our rain gear because we'd heard that it was supposed to pour on Whidbey that day, but thankfully we were completely wrong. It was a glorious day: hot sun, cool breezes and all of the clouds stayed far away. We made our way to the beach first to eat our lunch on the driftwood and enjoy the soft, rolling waves.
(little starfish dude)
We had a fair amount of trouble finding the correct trails for biking on, as the Fort Ebey is a much larger park than we had expected. There are extensive hiking and walking trails, some of which allow bikes and some of which don't, which is a fantastic idea. The trail system in the park hooks up with the Kettles trail system that is on county land and apparently they both have some of the best trails on the island!
(Princess run was no princess...)
We started out on the one of the trails and I quickly came to the realization that I haven't the faintest idea how to mountain bike. I stood, straddling my bike with one foot on the peddle, looking down the first hill and said to Sean, "I'm going to run into a tree at some point...this should be fun." We skidded our way around corners, launched ourselves over tree roots and huffed our way up steep hills. It must be the fear of killing yourself at any moment that makes mountain biking fun, right?...right guys?? Yea, we'll go with that. :)
(Had to take a photo...it's just a coincidence that it was after climbing a big hill)
We thought that the trails were decent for biking on, but were definitely better suited for hiking. They were pretty narrow, with a lot of hairpin turns and drastic elevation changes so it was difficult to gain momentum to get up the big hills. But hey, we ("maybe you", says Sean) may just be out of shape and inexperienced!
When the sun started to leave the forested trails, we decided to give our bikes a chance to rest their wheels and we made our way to the bluff. The sun was making its way to bed, so the light was warm and golden over the sloping hills. We sat for a bit on a picnic table and watched the breeze ripple through the grasses while letting the beauty of this place seep into our bones. We walked through the dark, coldness of the concrete barracks and then up over the top for a sweeping view of the picnic area.
(Expansive picnic area at Fort Ebey)
The light was perfect, the air was warm; no speaking was necessary to share this experience with each other. I followed Sean down the front of the hill and we ended up at the edge of the bluff, looking over the edge to the crashing waves below.
(Following the path on top of the barracks)
Just as we were looking down, a sweeping shadow passed over us and paraglider was catching the breeze out to sea. He climbed higher and higher until he disappeared in to the sun and made his way over to dance with his friends.
(Preparing to jump)
We had heard that this bluff was a popular launching place for paragliders, but we didn't know we would be so lucky to experience them flying over us with such graceful silence. I sat on my knees on the trail and looked directly up, waiting for them to sweep over me just before their shadow crossed my own. It was somehow a magnificently peaceful and exhilarating experience at the same time.
(On the bluff trail, looking up)
Our visit here was more than what we had expected and this is what gives us the energy to keep visiting new parks. We take care not to research too deeply before going to a certain park because we like to be awed by first impressions and what the park looks like through our own eyes and lenses. Our state parks are diverse and the more we visit, the more we understand why they need to be preserved for future generations. This kind of unique environment exists only here and we are blessed that we will get to experience the fullness of its beauty over the next few years.
(Preparing to fold his wings for the night)
Never stop exploring.
-Rachel and Sean
For more information on Fort Ebey State Park, please visit the official Washington State Parks website here: Complete Information for Fort Ebey State Park
Adventure Awaits features Paragliding and Hangliding in state parks.
Washington Trails Association's guide and reviews for Fort Ebey State Park.