Edison - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

July 5, 2020

Edison

It’s a near-perfect day today: sunny, blue skies, comfortably warm, balmy.  All you could ask for.  It’s still the Fourth of July weekend, so we’ve picked another hopefully quiet route to avoid the crowds: we’re heading south down the east side of Chuckanut Mountain to tiny Edison, a bayside village on the northern edge of the Skagit Flats.  We’re intentionally scattering our rides across the map in these first days of our stay here, to test out different areas.  We’d like to avoid our error in Corvallis, when we didn’t discover some of the best riding until late in our stay.

Bellingham is bordered to the south by Chuckanut Mountain, a rugged formation that is an extension of the Cascade Range - the only point in the country where that range meets the sea.  The classic route south from Bellingham is on Chuckanut Drive, a narrow, winding road that hugs the bay along the base of the mountains.  A bit precarious at the best of times, it feels too dangerous for a holiday weekend.  Maybe we’ll pick a quiet midweek morning to ride it while we’re here, but not today.

Instead, we’re taking one of the roads that skirt the eastern edge of the formation.  There’s a low corridor that includes several routing options, including the freeway - this is by far the easiest terrain to make your way north, by car or by bike.  With more than one choice available, today we head south on Samish Way and after a gradual 700 foot climb we cross a low divide and drop to Samish Lake.  It’s a bit busy, but there’s a generous shoulder all the way to the summit.

A photo from yesterday I forgot to include. No, we’re not talking you to go jump in a lake. Rachael is grilling us up an Independence Day feast: salmon, eggplant and yams, with a slice of raspberry-rhubarb pie for dessert.
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Leaving home on a gorgeous morning, Rachael sports her only red, white and blue shirt to celebrate the weekend (but it’s from Croatia, which share our color scheme). The beaded drapes, by the way, are to deter wandering deer from entering the back yard.
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After a several mile gradual climb we cross the saddle between Lake Padden and Lake Samish with Lookout Mountain rising ahead.
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About three miles in length and with a reasonably quiet road encircling it, Lake Samish makes a nice cycling destination.  A ride from town that crossed the ridge, circled the lake and doubled back to town again is just about long and challenging enough to make a decent after work ride.  

We’re not stopping here today though, of course.  From the end of the lake we continue south along Samish a Road, generally following the course of Friday Creek, the outlet for Lake Samish.  After three or four miles we come to the end of the Chuckanut formation and turn southwest on Colony Road, skirting the base of the formation.  Soon we break out of the hills and enter the broad, absolutely flat Skagit floodplain.  In a few miles we pass through tiny Bow, and then come to Edison, an idyllic little community that surprises you for the concentration of its attractions.

Lake Samish, a recreational playground, is buried in the hills south of Bellingham behind the Chuckanut Mountains.
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The shores of Lake Samish are lined with beach houses, docks, and lilly pads.
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The land skirting the south end of the Chuckanut formation is very attractive - a transition zone between the mountains and the flat Skagit Delta a few miles to the south.
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Rows of drooping foxgloves line the roadside, a characteristic sight in this part of the state.
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Foxgloves are even more striking close up than from a distance.
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Looking north to the Chuckanut Mountains. A part of the Cascade Range, the Chuckanut are the only point in the country where the Cascades reach the sea.
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Nearing Bow, we find a welcoming roadside LFL That’s a cut above - it comes with a reading room.
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In Bow, a pretty little rural community that blends in with neighboring Edison.
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In Bow. Where else can you get oysters with your espresso?
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Still in Bow. I was pleased with this lineup, but it’s not the one I was expecting to see. On one of these small roads near here is the only Burma Shave array I’ve seen for years. We’ll have to check out some of the other roads here on our next time through.
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We’re in an interesting zone of contrasts, looking across the northern margin of Skagit Flats at the Chuckanut Mountains.
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I don’t know what we’re looking at here in the distance. Maybe Lummi Island? I was attracted mostly by the colorful crop and didn’t pay attention to my bearings. I’ll have to pay more attention next time.
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Video sound track: Air, by Jesse Cook

Edison, population 133, looks now like it exists primarily as a quaint foodie destination.  There are at least four diners, cafes and bars in this tiny place, as well as a very tempting bakery.  It’s obviously a well loved place, and today there’s a constant flow of foot traffic in town, largely consisting of masked folks walking up to the bakery to place an order at one window and then walk around the corner to pick it up outside the front door.

It’s an interesting place now, but it’s history is even more interesting.  Named for the inventor, it was settled in 1897 as a planned socialist utopian community, the Equality Colony (hence the name of Colony Road that we’ve been riding on for the last several miles).  The vision for this community was that it would serve as a model and a socialist toehold, with the aim of expanding and eventually converting first the state of Washington and then the entire continent to socialism.

For better or worse, that didn’t happen.  Equality Colony collapsed only six years later, though it did spin off to form Freeland, a different utopian community on Whidbey Island that continued on for two more years before it too folded.

So, no socialist utopia; but Edison today does have that utopian feel about it.  Today we contented ourselves with sitting on a bench opposite the bakery to eat our lunch and watch the world go by, but I’m sure we’ll be back.

In Edison, a lovely little village and a bit of a tourist trap. It’s busy today, but we plan to use it as a base for a weekday ride soon and grab a meal at the end.
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In Edison. Cute!
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In Edison.
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Just west of Edison, Edison Slough empties into Samish Bay.
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And just beyond, the Samish River also empties into the bay. This is really a rich environment, one well worth a repeat visit.
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California poppies of course, but what is that incredible red blossom?
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like cosmos, but not native.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmos_bipinnatus
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4 weeks ago
Back at Lake Samish again, we enjoy a relaxed spin along its shore and rest up for the climb back over the ridge.
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Ride stats today: Scott: 46 miles, 2,200’; Rachael: 49 miles.

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Jen GrumbyOh, my! It certainly is beautiful there.

Do you think you'd ever choose Bellingham as a home base?

If so, we would visit!
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyStranger things have happened, alright. I think we’d have to test it out in the winter, which as I recall is definitely cold and damp - but at this time of year it’s pretty great. Unless of course you want to be in a city, which looks less attractive by the day.
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4 weeks ago