It was a two-pod day

We were scheduled to leave at 11, so had time for a leisurely walk with our coffee cups to the bluff and little beach. Such a quiet peaceful moment.

As we started cooking breakfast, the campground woke up. It was Sunday so most folks were packing to leave. By the time we did dishes and gathered our binocs, camera, and layers, the campground was nearly empty.

Maya’s called asking if we could leave from Snug Harbor rather than Friday Harbor. This was perfect for us. A better chance of seeing whales and a a shorter drive from camp.

Snug Harbor is seriously cute! It’s now on my list of Thanksgiving possibles.

We warmed up in the coffee shop, bought a skirt from the gift shop, and chatted about the different accommodation layouts, before heading uphill to meet Maya’s staff at the picnic table flying the (slightly tattered) whale windsock.

Our boat, crew, and group

Our group of nine included three women who bonded during college and met up periodically, and two other couples. I loved hearing the college friends banter.

There were three staff on the boat (Jeff, Sara, and Alissa) and all were really friendly and knowledgeable. Sara, one of the two captains, is our daughter’s friend, so it was especially nice to spend some time with her.

Sara has followed the Orca population for years and is adept at identifying individuals. She also has an amazing knowledge of their family trees. Her photographs are outstanding.

Sara has Patreon account and Facebook page. Both so worth visiting!

Looking back at our wake

Bill and I like to be outside on boats and these offered both comfy inside seats and ready access to the outside at both bow and stern. Also, the inside windows flipped up and totally out of the way, which was great.

Spieden Island

The mouflon sheep and fallow and sika deer and were all active on Spieden Island. We got nice close views of these imported species.

Fallow buck

I especially liked the line of mouflon edging down the steep bank to get at the salt on the rocks.

There were also seal, otter, eagles and a smallish blue heron surfing on a pile of kelp.

Pod 1: the T35s

Orca are the largest member of the dolphin family. Look at them and it’s obvious. Such cute rounded heads. I was surprised by how small they look in the wild. I’d only ever seen them in captivity and was captivated by their command of their world.

We were looking for a big male when we spotted the T35s. They were travelling south partway up the west side of Galliano Island. We watched them cover quite a distance. They seemed to be following the male we never saw out into the Strait of Georgia. Other boats let us know that there was a “white wall” out there. We didn’t venture out.

Pod 2: the T37s

A radio call from the whale watch network alerted Jeff to a new pod of whales and we headed north (off the map near the end of this post).

We spotted other tours (including the Vancouver to Seattle ferry, Prince of Whales) before we saw the second pod. I was impressed with how carefully all the tour boats respected the distance limits and the whales’ line of travel. They kept a close eye on private boats making sure that those boats were aware of whales in the vicinity. Everyone was respectful.

These whales, the T37s weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. We watched them hunt seals, including a lot of vertical tail wiggling. They spyhopped and cuddled. I didn’t realize that water beings without arms could hug and snuggle. They can and they did for 15 or 20 minutes, sliding over and under each other in a marvelous cuddle ballet.

The T37s were at the north end of Salt Spring Island. We could clearly see Crofton. After a good long visit with the T37s, Sara headed our boat home through the Sansum Narrows–beautiful.

About “our” whales

Both pods are transient Biggs Orca. They are doing much better than the Salish Sea residents. The Biggs Orca hunt sea mammals and live in small matriarchal pods (3-8). There about 400 of them off the Pacific Northwest coast and their population is growing. They don’t interbreed with our salmon-eating residents. The residents travel in much larger pods (20-30+) and there are far fewer of them (73, I think). These pods are also matriarchal. Residents have lost several calves and some adults in the last few years and their numbers are declining.

Sara kept track of our whales using a dry-erase marker on the head-door map. Our route went off the map up the east side of Salt Spring Island and back down the west side between Salt Spring and Vancouver Island .

Back at the dock we debriefed our trip with an excited little girl. She’d gone out with Maya’s Legacy the day before and saw both Orca and Humpback. I enjoyed her energetic excitement and her victorious grin as she realized she’d seen more whale species than we had.

We finished this excellent day with dinner and the most fantastic sunset. Love this campground.

Brave Horatio’s first ferry ride!

Sarah and Erik gave us a gift certificate for whale watching–not last Christmas, but the one before. I was in school, we wanted to upgrade to an all day adventure, and I consistently forget to check my email. So almost two years went by and we opted for the more easily scheduled half- day trip.

We were excited to get it all figured out.

Maya’s Legacy is on San Juan Island. They leave from either Friday Harbor or Snug Harbor, depending on the tour,  the weather,  and the whales.

The people at Maya’s were wonderful. First they scheduled a second trip for the Sunday we wanted. Then they quickly called back letting us know they could make it into an all day trip. Perfect!

We started planning.

Bill scheduled our ferry and I reserved our campsite.

Bill had a Pinniped show at the Olympia Farmer’s Market on Friday, so we left earlyish on Saturday, lattes in hand.

I continue to be pleased with our habit of getting Brave Horatio ready for the next trip each time we return. I also like my decision to designate some clothes as teardrop clothes and keep them ready to go in my little cabinet. This time I swapped out some shorts and swapped in more tights and some rain gear. Quick and easy.

Bill continues to pack his side for each trip. Works for him.

Coffee and Anacortes exploration

Traffic was light and we got to Anacortes with time to spare. We’d never looked around before so we got another coffee and cruised.

Nothing like Penguin Coffee on your way to watch whales!

We found a Farmer’s Market and a parking spot by city hall. There are full body portraits of past mayors on the wall by the sidewalk. I’ve never seen that before. A little history right in your face. Kind of neat.

Note the portraits of Anacortes Mayors painted on the building wall. Maybe that’s a judge above the entryway?

We walked through the market. I recommend it if you’re up that way. Looked like lots of good prepared food, veg, cider and art.

Bill spotted a boat. It was a BIG boat and pretty well hidden behind a building. Of course he knew it. (Bill is really interested in boats, particularly work boats). The WT Preston is a steam powered paddle-wheel snagboat. She pulled snags and other debris from the Puget Sound (Olympia to Blaine) from 1929-1981. She’s enjoying a land based retirement as part of the Anacortes Maritime Heritage Center.

We spent an enjoyable few minutes in this small-but-nice museum and I left with a new book–Bijaboji is Betty Lowman Carey’s account of her solo trip from Anacortes to Ketchican rowing her dugout canoe. Betty was 22 when she made this trip in 1937. Perfect for this trip.

On the ferry

Brave Horatio on his first ferry ride. Windy, windy, windy…but once on island, the weather turned kind.

Spot 10 is one of the few at San Juan County Park that is not strictly tent only. It turned out to be a beautiful spot, to one side of the big meadow that overlooks the water. There’s a path from the meadow to a sweet little beach. (The larger, but still small kayak-launch cove is down the hill and around the corner. It’s a small park.)

I found out later that my niece and grand-niblings camp here every August with a couple other families. They love this park and I understand why.

The only new gear we had were a couple collapsible canvas buckets we thought might make nice reusable trash and recycle bins and help reduce our reliance on plastic.

San Juan Island has so much art!

On the way to San Juan Park we passed by Kevin Roth’s sculptures. These little houses made from cement mixers are too marvelous. I wanted to be six again and move in.

Kevin Roth Sculptures
Fine art in a cement mixer turned goldfish house!

San Juan Sculpture Garden

We drove to Roche Harbor and walked around the San Juan Sculpture garden. Another wonderful surprise on this beautiful island. The sculptures ranged from joyous to whimsical to contemplatively beautiful. Slowly spinning the five prayer wheels after adding our hopes to each brought us to a peaceful meditative frame of mind. Perfect for this short vacation.

Our home for the next few days

Food from the forest

Shakedown Cruise, day 5

Q-Creek Forest Service Campground

Beautiful sunny day. After another granola breakfast (and more awful coffee). I learned to hook Brave Horatio up to LuluBelle and we headed north to say goodbye to dad before turning south down the coast to the Rogue River and Quosatana Creek (Ka-saint-nee).

Dad walked downstairs and had a quick teardrop tour. He’s walking much less gingerly. We stopped to see mom at work and were on our way.

We stopped for great coffee at Floras Creek Coffee Company in Langlois and enjoyed the residual gossip. The library board had just fired some friends of the library. Small towns-big doings.

We poked into Cape Blanco to look at the lighthouse. I love the Sixes River and the view of the mouth you get on the road to the lighthouse. The farm on the north side of the river near the mouth is one of my favorites.

We stopped at Humbug Mountain and took photos of a big clump of trillium. I thought about all the people who’d been up the trail to the top of Humbug and once again resolved to do that hike—another day. We thought we’d have a picnic a little farther down the coast, but the wind made us decide to push on and eat lunch in camp.

More whale right in Port Orford. Tails, fins, and spouts. Cool!

We headed up the Rogue River. About half-way to Agnes, we found a great spot at Quosatana Creek (that’s Ka-saint-nee). Q-creek campground is in the middle of a Myrtlewood forest.

I grew up around Myrtle trees, but didn’t know they came in forests. Near Bandon, our Myrtles are usually proudly single or part of a small family. This was a whole, amazingly-wonderful smelling forest. Myrtles are broad-leaved, evergreen and almost nothing grows under them. Pretty interesting.

We set up and took sandwiches down to the river for a sunny and lovely lunch on the gravel bar.

The rest of the afternoon we napped and read in the hammock, watched the BIG tom turkey strut around the meadow, took solo walks to the creek, and lazed in the sunny warm.

This Tom was proud of doubling his harem. The camp host said he had one hen last year. This year he has two.

We added the fennel from the riverbank to foil packets of potatoes and roasted them in the coals. The grill from Gerald and Carol worked great for steaks topped with Myrtle leaves, and we enjoyed the quiet dark. There were only three or four other people in the entire campground so we had a loop to ourselves.

Potatoes roasted with wild fennel and Steak grilled with Myrtle leaves

Brave Horatio continues to make a comfortable nighttime nest.

Whale penises

Shakedown Cruise, day 2, Bullards Beach State park

I woke up as Bill wiggled into his clothes—a sequence of moves we now call teardrop yoga. I snuggled back to sleep into my warm nest and woke again to the sound of cooking—one of my favorite parts of camping.

The new stove worked well. Extra btu is a marvelous thing and I’m glad we spent time researching and reading reviews. Eggs, bacon and really bad percolator coffee. Camping!

We visited the lighthouse and drove around Beach Loop. The Whale Watching Spoken Here sign was out by Face Rock Viewpoint so we stopped in.

Whale penises

Amazing, marvelous, unmistakeable.


Such vibrant pinkness on the gray ocean.

The whales were just behind the Cat and Kittens (to the right of Face Rock)

We made mom and dad scallops for dinner that night and they were tasty but couldn’t dislodge thoughts of “oh my, oh wow!” “whale penises!” from my brain.

We slept cozy in Brave Horatio again.