Last Days on San Juan

As promised in my post yesterday, here’s a short and sweet synopsis of what we did on our last full day on San Juan Island. Mainly we drove around. I had woken up at 2:30 am (couldn’t shut my brain off) so I got up and wrote, addressed, stamped and sealed our Christmas cards. Kathleen got up at a normal time and we had breakfast. When we were done with breakfast (see I told you this was short and sweet) we went out to see the rest of the island we hadn’t seen yesterday.

Many of our drives and my walks/hikes are just about finding things to take pictures of so we headed out to find some subjects. First stop, an old resort named Roche Harbor. It’s on the far side of the island from Friday Harbor but it only took about 20 minutes to get there. Has an old photogenic hotel and a nice marina but nothing photographically that made me jump for joy.

Then it was off to English Camp. This is a national historic park that has two locations, this and American Camp at the opposite end of the island. We have been there before but it is a really pretty place and this was the first time we had ever been there when we were totally alone. Above are pics of Roche Harbor and below one of English Camp.

There was only one other place I wanted to see (plus I was scouting for a place to take an afternoon hike) and that was American Camp, the other half of the National Historic Park. It is at the completely other end of the island and is almost a different ecosystem. Where most of the island is heavily wooded, the American Camp section is pretty much a wind-swept plain and nothing but grass. Sadly, when we got to the park, it was closed. They were doing some kind of construction.

Since we had driven all that way, we decided to continue on to the very southern tip of the island, a place I had never driven down to before. We always used to stop at American Camp and then head back. We are very glad we did as the views were amazing.

But even better than the views were the three wildlife shots I was able to get. First, after I took the panoramic photo above, we drove all the way to the end of the island where there was a turn around and found ourselves surrounded on two sides by deer. As if that wasn’t enough as we drove back (not more than three minutes later) we saw what we thought was a dog running through a field. But it was an interesting dog. And as it got closer we could see that it was not a dog at all but a fox. Strangely enough, the fox came right at our car (we think someone in a red car must be feeding it), nonchalantly walked in front of the car and then calmly crossed the road. All the way it was as if he was posing for pictures. Kathleen identified it as a red fox.

Once we left our foxy friend behind and headed into some trees, we saw what we thought was a hawk fly down and land on the side of a tree. I slowed down as we passed the bird and it wasn’t a hawk (we see hawks in the NW all the time) but an owl. Kathleen later identified it as a Barred Owl. As you can see from the photo, if the owl had not flown in just as we were passing, we never would have seen it because it blends in so well with the tree. In my opinion, the owl is one of the best animal pics I have taken.

The next morning (yesterday) we had a 10:30 am ferry to catch back to Anacortes and we struck gold. If you remember, I mentioned yesterday that on our way to the island we had been stuck on the car deck between two large trucks so we could see nothing. This time we got the very front of the boat so we had a totally clear view of everything on our way back. I have two photos from that morning I want to share. The first I took while waiting for the ferry. The sun was so perfect over the marina, I couldn’t pass it up. The second I took through the windshield of our car of another ferry approaching us (it was too damn cold to get out of the car) but it came out just fine for me.

Off to the Islands…we go traveling again

Yes, we are traveling. Not far and certainly as safely as possible, we promise. We had planned a trip to the San Juan Islands with my brother Steve and his wonderful bride Jamie back in October to celebrate Kathleen’s birthday. Then Jamie had her unfortunate trip and fall and instead of spending four nights on San Juan Island, she ended up spending 10 nights in Evergreen Hospital (she is doing much better now).

But we had paid for the nights at the AirBnB-type suite we had reserved and it was non-refundable. My brother was able to get his money back from his credit card/travel insurer but since we had rented two separate suites and neither Kathleen nor I was an injured party, we could not. So it was either go when we had planned (and leave Steve alone at our place visiting Jamie during the days—we weren’t going to do that) or ask the owners of the suites to let us move our dates, which they did. So that’s why I find myself sitting here in front of the fireplace in Friday Harbor in one of the Web Suites, writing this post.

For those not familiar with the San Juan Islands, they are a beautiful archipelago of more than 100 islands located in the northern end of Puget Sound. Saying that there are more than 100 is kind of pushing it. In actuality I think there are less than 30 that are inhabitable, many that are just large rocks sticking out of the water, some only at low tide. There are only four large islands that have ferry service. For the rest you need a private boat.

I have been coming here since the mid-1980s (my first life) when the family used to drive up from Eugene and rent a place on Lopez Island, the most rural of the four with ferry service. Later the islands were part of my yearbook sales territory so I would come out on a regular basis. But when I started cutting back that part of my yearbook job, the islands were the first schools to go. Just too much time and expense (round trip ferry for two seniors and a car is more than $60) to get out here on a regular basis. Since I met Kathleen we have only been up here a couple of times and we can’t even remember when we were here last.

Getting to the San Juans from our place entails a drive of a little more than an hour and half and then a ferry ride of about the same amount of time. We drove up Tuesday and it just poured rain most of the way. The ferry leaves from a cute little town called Anacortes. We have a favorite deli in town where we have stopped for lunch before, so we thought we would grab take-out sandwiches and eat them in the ferry line.

Usually I love the ferry ride through the islands but with Covid, the ferry system is asking those who are driving to stay in their cars and not go up to the passenger deck except to use the restrooms. Sadly we were also stuck into a space on the car deck right between two big trucks so from our car we could not see out in any direction. Hopefully we will have a better view on the way home Friday.

We got in here around 3:30 and headed to our rental. It’s really nice with a few faults that I won’t mention here. We like it just fine, but it would not be our first choice on a return trip. Just little things.

As usual on our first morning I was out and about doing my pre-dawn walking with camera in hand. Here’s some of the pics I got on that walk. Don’t forget that clicking them in a web browser lets you see them enlarged. They look a lot better that way.

After my walk it was back for breakfast and then Kathleen and I headed out to tour some of the island we had not seen before. One of the things we wanted to see first was the Lime Kiln Lighthouse on the west side of the island. I had been by the state park where it is located but never stopped. This time we had a reason to go. Just last week we finished our 18th jigsaw puzzle since this all started in March. This one was a bunch of posters of lighthouses around the USA. One of them was Lime Kiln so we wanted to see it. 

We got really lucky that the weather had cleared and we had wonderful sunshine for most of the day. This led to pics of the lighthouse and the area around it that I am very happy with. 

After our visit to the lighthouse, we headed back to the suite for a quick bite of lunch and then I went back to Lime Kiln State Park to hike some of the more challenging trails that Kathleen would have had a problem with. I had a really great time and met lots of locals out for a hike on an unusually gorgeous late autumn day. I got to see the lime kiln and climb to the top of the highest hill and get an awesome view. A few pics so you can see what I mean.

That was it for the first full day. The weather was awesome. After my hike I headed back to the suite where we ordered takeout (I think we tried every decent place that had takeout that were open mid-week) and ate in. It is sad to see so many restaurants closed or operating on takeout only. We hope to come back soon after the pandemic is over to eat inside these places. One more post on Saturday after we get home will wind up this short trip.

I feel we are all islands – in a common sea. —Anne Morrow Lindbergh