Coming back from the San Juan Islands Monday evening was
relatively painless, though that may only be because we went far out of our way to avoid potential backups around the fallen Interstate 5 bridge.
Friday, my wife and I and the two cats left Seattle at 3 p.m. bound for Anacortes and a weekend in the islands. Worries about the collapsed bridge over the Skagit River prompted us to leave earlier than originally planned (see my tweets, @NWTravelers). That day, the worst delays were a 10-minute backup getting on to Fir Island Road at Conway and a two-mile, 40-minute backup getting on to westbound Highway 20 from La Conner-Whitney Road.
The worst traffic we saw Friday was going in the opposite (southbound) direction across Fir Island, with about a 5-mile backup heading toward Conway.
Highway officials subsequently dropped that route from their recommended detours, so theoretically it wouldn’t have been so busy Monday. But we were spooked and chose not to take the Fir Island route on our homeward trip.
Instead, we took Highway 20 east to Sedro Woolley, then followed Highway 9 southbound, thinking we might even continue on it all the way to Woodinville.
Well, once you get south of the river, Highway 9 slows down a lot as it goes through the communities of Clear Lake and Big Lake. Some hairpin, 20-mph curves south of Big Lake convinced us to peel off when we saw a sign pointing west to I-5 and Conway.
When we got to the Conway interchange around 6 p.m., there was no backup in any direction, and no evidence of a lineup of cars coming from Fir Island. Maybe we could have come that way and saved ourselves the 18-mile detour.
The good news: We were never stopped in traffic, and we were home by 7:15.
Got tips for getting around the fallen bridge? Please click on “comments” and share your experience.