Our ferry, the Wenatchee pulls out of the Seattle dock headed for Bainbridge Island. Soon we can see the downtown Seattle skyline in the distance. It’s a glorious day, this May Day, and we seem to be sailing on crystal waters.
Bainbridge Island is located in the Puget Sound Basin, east of the Kitsap Peninsula and west of Seattle. With 53 miles of shoreline, the island is about 5 miles wide and 10 miles long, making it one of the larger islands in Puget Sound.
We approach the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal, and soon we’ll start our visit to this beautiful island.
We start our visit to Bainbridge Island at the Bloedel Reserve, a 150 acre estate garden created by Prentice Bloedel and his wife Virginia in 1950.
The main entry house echoes the French chateau style of the main residence.
In the west meadow, where the Bloedels once kept a flock of sheep, a trail leads away from the entry towards the woods. Suddenly a deer leaps across our path and into the forest looking for lunch.
The bird refuge features a large pond that provides a year-round home for ducks, geese and a beaver. Migratory ducks spend winters here, and kingfishers and great blue herons feast on insects, frogs and fish. The shoreline is ringed with azaleas, viburnums, dogwoods, and alders.
In the woods, the trestle bridge gives you a bird’s eye view of the forest floor and stream. A boardwalk across the forest wetlands allows you to enter a bog filled with chorusing frogs and carnivorous plants.
Designed by Seattle landscape designer Fujitaro Kubota, the elegant landscape of the Japanese Garden offers subtly shifting views along its meandering paths. The Zen Garden was designed by Koichi Kawana, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of California. The coniferous trees surrounding the garden provide a dark backdrop for the bold colors of Japanese maples and meticulously-pruned pines and flowering trees.
We go from the deep woods into a formal European landscape accented by lakes, towering English elms and a stately weeping willow, with a dramatic view of the Bloedel’s former residence. This French country-style home was the Bloedel’s former residence. It’s now the Visitor Center for the reserve. The central room with portraits of the Bloedel’s hanging prominently on the walls, houses a cozy Library with a collection of 1,400 horticultural and botanical books. The dining room with the grand table and chandelier has a small 1950’s era kitchen off the side. The living room features a grand piano, and we’re treated to an impromptu concert by a young traveler and his friends. The back of the home commands a view of Puget Sound’s Port Madison Bay near Agate Pass. The panoramic view to the Northeast encompasses Puget Sound, Jefferson Point, and the Cascade Mountains.
At the north side of the Visitor Center, down a large stone stairway, there’s a beautiful Waterfall Overlook that yields views across a small canyon painted with enormous rhododendrons and spring-flowering shrubs. A trail to the right leads back into the deep woods of the Glen and the Birch Garden.
In moss garden, with its dense living carpet, wiry huckleberries spring from decaying stumps and huge skunk cabbages crowd the dampest places under a canopy of lacy angelica trees. A brightly colored woodpecker is fast at work on one of the old fallen trees. There are old fallen trees everywhere covered with the dense carpet of moss and lichens.
The path from the moss garden leads into the Reflection Pool. Earth, sky, trees and water combine in simple harmony to create the Reflection Pool, a place of quiet contemplation. The pool and hedge tame the forest with geometric precision, and the mirror-like pool invites you to sit and rest for a while.
The new permanent exhibit at the museum is titled ‘An Island Story: A Voyage through Bainbridge History.’ which opened in 2007. The exhibit includes images and information about Native Americans, Explorers, Mill Towns, Early Shipbuilding, Steamer Transportation, Farming, WWII, the internment of Japanese Americans, and Schools.
There’s also another exhibit entitled “For the Sake of the Children: Kodomo No Tame Ni” showcases photographs which trace the experience of Americans of Japanese Ancestry on Bainbridge Island from 1883 to 1983. Reid Hansen, one of the museum directors, interprets the display for us. Barbara Hansen runs the gift shop.
In the museum front courtyard sits a large steel tank from the former Wyckoff creosote plant used to treat lumber for railway ties.