SEATTLE - There may be plenty to see in the San Juans, but if you're after an island escape a little closer to home, Blake Island in Puget Sound may be the destination you're looking for.
"There's two ways to get here. If you have your own boat or if you come with us, Argosy Cruises," said Amy Wallsmith with Argosy Cruises.
When you arrive, the first thing you see is the iconic long-house.
Frank Mather first came here on a field trip in elementary school. Now he's an important part of the Tillicum Excursion.
"As you're coming in you're greeted with hot steamed clams," said Mather.
After consuming the clams, it's a tradition to stomp the shells into the ground.
"It what we like to call a little clam dance."
After the dance, diners are treated to a huge buffet. The centerpiece of the feast? Steelhead cooked over an open alder wood fire.
"They've been doing this style of cooking here in the northwest for over 500 years," said Joe Barnhart, a chef at Tillicum. "When we cook it on this side, the flesh side first, it actually helps solidify the outside so it keeps a lot of the moisture and the juices on the inside."
The cultural exposure continues after you eat with traditional tribal dancing.
"It represents coastal natives. We're trying to share the story here of the Pacific Northwest," said Mather.
Mather hopes visitors will walk away with a better understanding of the people who first called the Northwest home.
"An expression I like to share is you may forget my name, but you will always remember this moment that you have with you friends, family."
But your Blake Island moment doesn't have to end there.
"You can come out and you can camp on Blake Island and then we'll bring you back the next day or if you want to stay for the full weekend then we'll take you back on Sunday." said Wallsmith.
"Blake Island has some great wildlife that's out here. There's also eight miles of hiking and biking trails," said Wallsmith. "So many people come out here and are just amazed at the views you can see. You see a peek-a-boo of downtown Seattle. Sometime Mount Baker is out as well."
So if you don't have a boat to take you to Blake Island, it's good to know there's always one close by.
"Hop on board and go explore." said Wallsmith.
For scheduling information visit www.argosycruises.com.
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