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.

A few more words about wine…and Walla Walla

No cruising or complaining today. Just a quick update to finish up our trip to Walla Walla.

When last we spoke (or when last I wrote) we were with our friends Jayesh and Lisa setting out to taste wine all around Walla Walla, Washington. And taste wine we did. We spent the entire day on Thursday trying new wines and eating. Shame on us, but it was so good and so much fun. We started out at Castillo de Feliciana Vineyard and Winery which was actually in Oregon and not Washington (by about 100 yards). What a beautiful place (see my pics below) in its own way. Kathleen and I spent a wonderful hour or so trying their wine while Jayesh and Lisa had their “morning juice.”

Then after grabbing a couple of bottles of a wine that Feliciana had “found” in the cellar (a wonderful 2008 red blend) we headed back to Washington to taste some more. For those who are not wine tasting types, a note about how wine tasting works (I always wanted to know,…maybe you do too) the wineries charge to taste about five or six wines (somewhere between $8 and $15) and they waive the tasting charge if you buy any bottle or if you are a member of their wine club (more about that later). They pour you about an ounce of each of their wines, usually starting with the lightest white through the deepest red. You can split (as we did) a tasting. If you are the designated driver (as I was) you can sip the wine and spit it out (they have buckets for that) or you can pick and choose which wines to actually taste (which is what I did) and sip a tiny mouthful. I want to say that at no time during our three days of wine tasting did I ever feel impaired. The last thing the father-in-law of a WSP sergeant ever wants is a DUI. And many of you know my attitude about DUIs. Tougher laws are needed.

Getting down off my DUI soapbox, we were on to the next place, Dusted Valley Winery where we met a very nice young lady who told us all about the wine. One of the best benefits of doing this on a weekday was having very few other people doing tastings so we got to hear all about the wines, where they were grown, how they were blended. Totally boring if you aren’t into wine and but great if you are. It’s amazing to learn how and where the grapes were grown affects the taste and scent of the wine. As much as we liked the young lady we weren’t that impressed with the wine and moved on to our next place—Tranche Cellars. We had shared an amazing bottle of their wine the night before at dinner and I was really looking forward to trying others.

I was not disappointed and we left with both another two bottles and a membership in their wine club. What this means is that we joined a club at no charge and we will receive two shipments of wine every year until we tell them to stop. There is no charge to join, but we are charged (at a reduced rate from retail) for the wine. Since we loved their wine, we thought why not give the club a try. If we don’t end up liking what we get the first time, we can cancel it. This particular vineyard was just as beautiful as Feliciana in an entirely different way. After our tasting and our buying, we were off to one more before we called it quits for the day.

rocksOur last stop was Saviah Cellars where we got quite the education about a particular growing area called a terroir or AVA (An American Viticultural Area—AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States, providing an official appellation for the mutual benefit of wineries and consumers) known as The Rocks where grapes are literally grown in a pile of the rockiest soil you have ever seen. It produces (as Lisa says) a wine with a kind of a “funk” in the taste. It might be funky but I like it. Some really great Syrahs, (my favorite varietal of wine) so we had to buy two more bottles plus join their club as well. The woman doing the tasting turned out to be the mother of the very nice young lady we had met that morning at Dusted Valley. She was very knowledgable and we enjoyed talking to her and learning all about “The Rocks.”

There was another nearby winery we almost stopped in but we decided that at that point we were tasted out and needed both food and rest so it was back into Walla Walla for a quick bite. Before we had left I had read in an Eater.com post about a really cool restaurant inside a gas station convenience store and I really wanted to stop and try their food. It seemed like a really good place to catch a light (we were only 4 hours away from our dinner reservation) lunch. It’s called Andrae’s and it is really amazing food inside a Cenex station. Seriously! Check out their menu on their website here. We were trying to eat light so we each split a gyro but it came with fries…lots of fries. And really good fries too.

Lunch done, it was back to the AirBnB to rest, relax and download photos. Then dinner at Passtempo Restaurant (which while adequate, I can’t recommend as highly as I did Saffron the night before) and rest for the trip home.

That trip home was preceded by another early morning photo walk where I got some shots I really liked that are below, a great breakfast at the Maple Counter Cafe (known for their GIANT Dutch Baby pancakes) and a short drive to show Kathleen some of the old mansions I had found on my walks.

It’s about a five hour drive back to Redmond. On the way we made a stop in a town called Prosser for…what else? A wine tasting at 14 Hands Vineyards. We were home by 3:30. If you have not been, it’s worth a trip, especially if you love wine, which you now know we do.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. —M. F. K. Fisher

On the road again…to wine

You know how we hate to sleep in our own beds so with that in mind we grabbed our next door neighbors and good friends Jayesh and Lisa and took off on a quick three day jaunt to the Walla Walla wine country. We left early Wednesday morning for what is usually a 4+ hour drive that due to my choice of route (through Leavenworth, Cashmere and Wenatchee) and typical Washington summer road construction, plus a stop for some great barbecue for lunch turned into a seven-hour trip.

We arrived in Walla Walla around 4:00 and since this is Washington’s  wine country and we like wine, the first stop was the first wine tasting place we saw on the highway. After trying some really great reds and a superb white (we ended up buying the white—I know our friends who drink wine are shocked) we were off…to the winery next door. This one was in a historic school house. I thought their wines were just fine but we didn’t buy any here because nothing screamed...I AM WONDERFUL! BUY ME! 

That was enough tasting to start the trip so we made our way into the downtown core of Walla Walla to the AirBnB we had rented. This may be the nicest AirBnB we have stayed in (Click here to see the listing). Just gorgeous. Tons of rooms for all four of us (actually room for eight). A great kitchen (not that we are cooking) and close to everything. We have never been here before but Jayesh and Lisa come on a regular basis so they know all the good wineries and more importantly, the great restaurants. Last night we started with dinner at a superb Mediterranean restaurant called Saffron. If you come here—go there. Excellent food and great service. Plus when you are with good friends, you always have a good time.

This morning I was up and shooting photos around 5:30 on my five mile walk to try and wear off some of dinner and what turned out to be an amazing breakfast of chilaquiles. No matter where I go, if they have chilaquiles, I have to try them. Today’s were about a 7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the ones I had in Santa Fe and the ones in Las Vegas being a 9.5.

At any rate, I am writing this while we are killing time waiting for the wineries to open up so I will add some photos from yesterday and my pre-dawn walk and see you tomorrow.

Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there. —Judith Viorst