Island Bliss for Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Island Bliss for Your Mind, Body and Spirit

By Gayle Picken

October is the month we run the annual NW Mind Body Spirit Connection on Camano Island. How fitting to take a journey to an island for a day of learning and connecting about all things health and wellness.

The island personifies everything the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection is about. It’s about slowing down and being mindful of your surroundings, from the shells and rocks on the beach to the eagles sitting high in the trees. It’s about taking in nature and feeling the cleansing breath and meditative environment that the sea and forests provide.

It’s about nourishing your body with fresh-cooked meals made from local and organic ingredients. Cama Beach State Park features an award-winning brunch at Cama Beach Cafe and a Friday evening “Dinner in the Park” with chef Kristopher Gerlach’s island-inspired meals.

It’s about taking time for self-care. Movement Arts yoga studio at Camano Commons offers a variety of yoga and pilates classes for all levels. The new Camano Island Day Spa is a wonderful place for a massage or facial. (Be sure to book well in advance!)

Camano Island is also about feeding your spirit with a walk on the beach or a view of the sunset. It’s a constant reminder of life’s blessings.

Whether you come for the day or stay for the weekend, be sure to take the time to savor what Camano Island has to offer. Its beauty, its people and its pace all add to your experience as you explore your path to a healthier and happier life.

The NW Mind Body Spirit Connection runs Saturday, October 14th 2017 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Camano Center, located at 606 Arrowhead Rd, Camano Island, WA 98282. The event is open to the public and admission is free. More info: NWMindBodySpirit.com.

Posted with permission from Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine, October 2017 issue, page 11.

Reflections in Stillness

Reflections in Stillness


By Gayle Picken

Paddling a kayak is one of my favorite ways to experience nature: you get the chance to see things from a different perspective, at water level, like a duck, gliding with the current and bobbing with the waves. And when the air is still, the glassy surface of the water pulls you even closer to nature’s mesmerizing beauty.

On a recent trip over the North Cascades to the Methow Valley, we decided to take our kayaks to Davis Lake and look for turtles. It was a warm afternoon and the air was clear … smoke from the wildfires was visible in the distance, but we enjoyed blue skies in the hills above the Old West town of Winthrop.

The water level was high and we launched with ease. A slight wind cooled the air as we paddled to the end of the lake and came back along the western edge. Then, the wind stopped completely, and I became aware of the stillness of the lake and the silence of the vast hills.

I stopped paddling and let myself sink into a meditation, soaking in the rich beauty of the reflections in the water, allowing the blue dragonflies to land on my arm and listening to the sound of the bees buzzing around the flowering lake weeds. I became fascinated watching the underwater grasses and plants swaying below the surface. The clarity of the water was magnified by the calmness in the air.

Carried slowly by the current, my kayak and I had become part of the scenery reflected on the water. The serenity was blissful and I absorbed every ounce of quietude.

“Turtle!” my husband shouted, breaking the silence and bringing me back into reality.

When I spotted the small dot about 50 yards ahead of his kayak, it quickly disappeared below, and then the search was on! One by one, turtles stuck their heads up and disappeared when I got too close (or took out my camera). It was like playing a game of hide and seek, such excitement spotting a turtle–and then with the blink of an eye, it was gone.

At the end of our paddle, the turtles seemed to have accepted us as part of the landscape. I glided past one sunning himself on a log and I kayaked around a group of them floating together, barely visible among the grasses and reeds at the shallow end of the pond.

Rejuvenated and refreshed, I felt a deep gratitude for my time on the lake, and being one with nature. On this trip, the exercise of being still gave me as much physical and mental benefit as the exercise of paddling. Wishing you many adventures in stillness!

Posted with permission from Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine, September 2017 issue, page 11.

Unplugged and Offline – 5 Days Without Cell Service

Unplugged and Offline – 5 Days Without Cell Service


By Gayle Picken

We weren’t expecting it. In fact, before we left, my husband and I had both agreed that we’d probably spend a couple of hours each day working–checking in with clients and reading emails. But when we found our perfect camp spot up in the mountains in Oregon along the east fork of Hood River, our phones had zero bars and became nothing more than fancy cameras with built in clocks.

We went about our plans hiking to beautiful waterfalls, kayaking around alpine lakes, enjoying breathtaking views of mountain peaks and relaxing to the soothing sounds of the flowing river.

What we didn’t anticipate was the deeper level of connection we’d find in nature when we didn’t have the constant companionship of our phones demanding our attention.

We noticed things like the subtle changes in the river each day. New rocks became visible and new channels and pools formed as the water level rose and fell.

In the evenings, hundreds of long-legged flies hovered together over the river. We watched them dart around each other in a complex dance and then in the blink of an eye, the entire group disappeared right before dusk. They returned again each evening as the sun was going down behind the mountains.

A baby duck swam past us each day … practicing swimming and diving and slowly making its way up the river and around the bend.

Yellow finches darted in and out of trees on both sides of the river. We watched them in the morning and again in the evening, getting to know their flight patterns and resting spots.

Our conversations brought us closer as we experienced the wonder of nature together and left the rest of the news and happenings at home behind.

The richness and depth of our camping experience couldn’t have happened if we were checking our phones and looking to see how many “likes” we could get by posting our photos each day.

We learned that being fully present is a gift indeed. Wishing you many mindful experiences this summer away from your phone.

Posted with permission from Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine, August 2017 issue, page 11.

Adventure Abounds in Anacortes

Adventure Abounds in Anacortes

Long known as the gateway to the San Juans, Anacortes is a place many people pass through to take the ferry to the islands. But this historic city on Fidalgo Island, midway between Seattle and Vancouver B.C., is a magical destination all its own–with breathtaking natural beauty, world-class water adventures and a combination of art and history that catches your eye on every corner.

On a recent day trip, I got the opportunity to play tourist in Anacortes and fell in love with this island gem!

I started out on the west end, less than a mile past the ferry terminal, at a little slice of heaven called Washington Park. This 220-acre park has spectacular views overlooking Guemes Channel, Rosario Straights, Burrows Pass and the San Juan Islands. I watched porpoises playing in the water and a patient eagle sitting in a tree waiting for just the right moment to swoop down and steal a fish that one porpoise brought to the surface.

The 2.2-mile Loop Road in Washington Park is a perfect walk, drive or bike ride that leads you through a thick forest with tall cedars and madronas to several beautiful beaches and viewpoints. For a longer hike, take one of the myriad of trails that crisscross the park. Tip: bring binoculars—you might see whales!

The historic downtown area in Anacortes is filled with boutiques, galleries, antique shops and restaurants. This part of town is known for its vibrant art scene with monthly art walks and the annual Anacortes Arts Festival in August that draws crowds upwards of 90,000 people for a weekend of art and music.

As you wander through town, you can’t help but notice the Historical Murals on buildings throughout the city. These are the result of the 30-year Anacortes Mural Project lead by local artist and historian Bill Mitchell. There are over 150 murals to explore depicting the characters and scenes of Anacortes. You can pick up a map of the murals at the Anacortes Visitor’s Center.

There are so many great coffee shops, restaurants and bars to choose from. Try local and fresh cuisine at Adrift restaurant or catch some live music at Rock Fish Grill. For waterfront dining, there is Anthony’s at Cap Sante Marina.

To top off my amazing day in Anacortes, I took the short drive to Cap Sante View Point. For stunning 360-degree views and an incredible sunset over the city… this park is a must-see! Whether you are looking for scenic parks, kayaking, whale watching or a romantic small-town getaway, a trip to Anacortes provides an island adventure for the soul – no ferry required.

By Gayle Picken
Posted with permission from Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine, May 2017 issue, page 13.

Walking on Sunshine

Walking on Sunshine

The first few sunny days in Seattle bring out the smiles, shorts and t-shirts and mysteriously finds many locals taking the day off work to soak up some long overdue vitamin D. I took a short drive to the Skagit Valley to check out the daffodils … these flowers personify sunshine! Enjoy!

Even the shadows make you smile!

Feathers, Flowers & Fields — Day Trip to La Conner

Feathers, Flowers & Fields — Day Trip to La Conner

La Conner is one of my favorite day trips. It’s a charming and picturesque waterfront town located along the Swinomish Channel in the Skagit Valley. The streets are lined with boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants and inns–and the newly completed boardwalk provides stunning views of the channel and bridge.

Traveling through the fertile farmlands of the Skagit Valley makes the journey to La Conner a truly magical experience any time of year.

I visited La Conner last month in search of the snow geese – each year tens of thousands of snow geese migrate to the Skagit Valley from Russia’s arctic Wrangel Island. Seeing the massive display of birds feeding in the fields or swirling in the sky overhead is a sight you won’t soon forget.

These Skagit Valley fields that nourish the birds also provide a wide range of crops from berries to barley and everything in between. In fact, the area has an “Ale Trail” with the tagline “Great Beer is in our Dirt.” You can pick up a passport to breweries in the Skagit Valley at the La Conner Visitor’s Center.

For an amazing farm-to-table meal, check out the Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro & Bar. I met owner and chef Casey Schanen who said he and his wife started the restaurant 16 years ago “with a mission to bring the foods of the immediate surrounding area to the table and to close the loop between the community and farmers by creating a place to gather and enjoy what our region produces.”

The fields surrounding La Conner will soon become a patchwork of brilliant color as the annual tulip festival runs April 1st-30th. Word is that the blooms will be a week or two late this year due to the long and cold winter. But you can check the Bloom Map online for updates on which fields are in blooming. You can find the Bloom Map on www.LoveLaConner.com.

Whether you are looking for birds or tulips or a relaxing waterfront meal, a trip to La Conner and the Skagit Valley is an experience that can rejuvenate the spirit and nourish the soul. I’m already planning my next visit!

By Gayle Picken
Posted with permission from Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine, April 2017 issue, page 13.

History and Mystery: An Island Tour

History and Mystery: An Island Tour

I love walking on the beach at Utsalady Bay on the north end of Camano Island. Watching eagles, great blue herons and enjoying the quiet and slow pace of island life. It’s hard to imagine that 150 years ago, this bay was a bustling port with tall ships, a mill and giant logs being shipped all over the world.

In fact, Utsalady Bay was the largest port north of San Francisco before the city of Seattle was founded. There was a hotel and blacksmith shop, masonic hall and residences for the mill workers and families. In the early 1900’s, there were 10 to 20 active logging camps at various locations on the island.

Though I’ve lived in this area for over 20 years, I wouldn’t know any of its history if it weren’t for the dedication of a few community members who have worked to keep memories alive. Their efforts have resulted in the purchase of land for preservation, the creation of county and state parks, and the restoration of historical buildings that otherwise would have been lost to another housing development.

On March 24-26, 2017, these passionate volunteers are inviting you to step back in time and experience Camano Island’s history for yourself.

The Camano Island Historic Sites Tour promises a weekend of activities and events for the whole family. Over a dozen historic sites will be open to the public.

Visitors can learn how the Camano Island State Park was built in one day by 500 community volunteers. Watch demonstrations of Utsalady Ladies Aid members wrapping bandages like they did during the war. Listen to vintage pump organ music then watch a live play in a one-room schoolhouse. Tour an old dairy barn that has been in the family for over 100 years and find out about the return of a 1906 schoolhouse bell that had been missing for over 60 years.

Kick up your heels and swing your partner at an old-fashioned square dance with live music and calling. And put your creativity to the test with a History Mystery Writing Contest.

For me, hearing the old family stories and discovering the hidden artifacts has added a new dimension to my walks on the beach and enjoyment of the island. I invite you to add the history layer to your travels as well.

Info: CamanoHistoricSites.com

By Gayle Picken
Posted with permission from Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine, March 2017 issue, page 13.