Mid-October Island Idyll

Olympia to San Juan Island

We planned on a Friday–Tuesday long weekend, but the federal case Bill testified for last month ended in a hung jury so he needed to testify at the new trial. Not much we could do about the court schedule, so we’ll head back on Monday. I’ll miss our extra day on the island, but having a whole day to unpack, do laundry, and dry out the batwing will be nice.

We got up at 3am in order to get kayaks on Freya, do some final food packing, and make our 9:30 ferry reservation.

There was a surprising amount of traffic, but it mostly moved right along. We got to Anacortes in time to board the 8:30 boat. Nice!

Freya starting her swim to Friday Harbor

Such an empty ferry

I’ve never been on a less crowded ferry. Tomorrow the ferry system is going to remove some boats because of lack of riders (and maybe labor shortages). We were between a dump truck bringing gravel to the island and a state patrol car. Most of the other lanes were empty.

I love ferries!

One interesting thing about Covid is walking around on the car deck while the ferry is underway. They usually discourage this—it’s a little Covid perk. I like the interesting new perspective on the water and islands.

We drove through Friday Harbor in a gray drizzle—not cold, just gray.

San Juan is one of the larger of the San Juan Islands, but it’s not very big. There are lots of routes that get you to the County Park. We arrived via Beaverton Valley, West Valley, and Mitchell Roads.

Preparing for a gale

We camped at this park in August a couple years ago and enjoyed great weather and an even better Maya’s Legacy whale watch excursion. The weather forecast for this trip was quite different. We were expecting rain every day and gale-force winds starting at about 5:30 this first evening and lasting for 24 hours.

We spend some time deploying the purple batwing to accommodate our evening cooking and figuring out how to batten it down for the night.

Friday Harbor

Then we left for a lunch of shepherd’s pie in Friday Harbor. It was reasonable, but not great. We poked around Friday Harbor for a bit. Wandering the docks and buying Christmas gifts as the excellent Griffin Bay Bookstore.

Cask & Schooner in Friday Harbor

Our last trip to San Juan County Campground was a hurried weekend centered around a marvelous whale watch excursion with Maya’s Legacy. (They’re great! If you can afford it, take one of their tours. The boats are perfect and the people knowledgeable and friendly.)

Maya’s Legacy at the dock in Friday Harbor

On this trip we planned to explore the island more.

Off on a ramble

We drove to American Camp on the South end of the island. The exposed headland prairie was beautiful and standing on the redoubt echoes with shadows of indigenous people gathering camas and the early American soldiers who pushed them out.

I spotted a fox and we watched it for awhile as searched for dinner on a grassy hill. Gorgeous. San Juan Island foxes are all Vulpus vulpus (red fox) though they come in many colors).

San Juan Island red fox come in all colors

We drove back to camp via False Bay and stops at several viewpoints. This island is full of beautiful spaces.

So many birds

A kingfisher was perched on a twig on the beach near the park store. Great blue herons were on the hunt, and a red tail hung pretty close to our camp site. As we were starting our campfire, we heard an almighty racket and followed it to the meadow overlooking Haro Straight. A large group of seagulls, loons, and grebes were feasting on something right below our feet. We never spotted it as it was wedged into a rock crevice, but we could smell it. We sat on the bank and watched them enjoy themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many loons in one place. There must have been a couple dozen of them.

So many boats

San Juan County Park is on Haro Straight, a busy shipping channel. The hour and a half long ferry ride also winds among boat traffic. There were plenty of opportunities for Bill take pictures. Here are some of my favorites.

Island evening

The gale hadn’t yet materialized, but we expected it at any minute. We changed our dinner plan from campfire grilled steak to warmed up white beans. In the end the gale held off long enough for us to warm the beans over our campfire.

There were difficulties with both beans and fire. The beans were still frozen and, since I froze them in a jar with a smallish top, they were pretty hard to transfer to the dutch oven. The firewood was a bit wet, it took considerable kindling and acting as human bellows to get and keep it going. We persevered and prevailed with both. Eating piping hot beans with warm French bread next to a cheerful campfire was worth the effort.

The wind picked up as we washed dishes and brushed our teeth. We lowered the batwing, tied it taut and retreated into Brave Horatio.

Parking with the big boys

We squashed this trip in between Pinniped gigs and work commitments. It was great, but too, too short. Monday morning we opted to skip breakfast in camp. We made coffee, packed, and hooked up for a driving tour of the island on our way back to the ferry. Sipping coffee and munching energy bars.

I enjoyed the farmland at the center of the island and the surprising number of lakes. Didn’t find a honey stand though. So sad.

We putzed around a cooking store and a gift shop while Brave Horatio waited patiently in line for the boat.

Lulubelle, Brave Horatio, and a much bigger mate.

We found a bakery/restaurant near the ferry dock that almost made this Celiac weep. I can’t eat wheat, but I do love the aromas.

The Cheesecake Cafe and Bakery has baked goods I’d pay just to smell, some yummy gluten-free treats, and my custom next time I’m on island. (Their breakfast menu looked good, but we were full of energy bars.)

We enjoyed their gluten free cheesecake later in the day.

The ride back to Anacortes was gorgeous. Sunny and warm. We didn’t see much wildlife, but Mt. Baker really popped.

Mt. Baker from the ferry

Back in Anacortes we found Dad’s Diner, a fun lunch spot with friendly staff and great food. And bonus, very knowledgeable about the needs of celiac dining!

South we went on I-5, eating cheesecake, talking about the people we’d met and the things we’d seen, writing postcards to niblings, and discussing future plans. We’ll definitely watch whales with Maya’s Legacy again and use San Juan County Park as our base.