As promised, here are a few scenes from this weekend’s San Juan Island visit. It begins, as all things island related, with a ferry ride. Now I must caveat this by saying the first 18 years of my life revolved around ferry boats. As a young child, I assumed that everyone had to ride a ferry to get home. True story. But “my” ferry ride from Whidbey Island to Seattle, and vice versa, takes all of 20 minutes. “Jacob’s” ferry takes 1 hour and 15 minutes if you’re lucky, 2 hours if you’re not. You see, the San Juan Islands are flung along the northern most part of the Washington coast in a haphazard jumble, making a straight shot from the mainland to San Juan Island itself impossible. Thankfully, if you’re local.
The long ride is beautiful even to my jaded eye. Once I’ve forgiven the 2 hour wait in line, and the inevitably tardy arrival of the ferry itself, that is. Ahem. But that morning the islands were in fine form, a passing cloud bank painting a pale ribbon just over the water.
San Juan is without question one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. It boasts rocky knolls, golden-barked madrona trees, sighing oaks, towering evergreens, rolling fields, and craggy coastline. And that’s not to mention the whales, seals, eagles, deer, and foxes. Oh and the seafood, let’s not forget about the seafood. It’s not difficult to understand the island’s idyllic pull for outsiders, nor the attitude of the locals who guard it like a jealous lover.
Though as a fellow islander, I am no stranger to the ways of the summertime tourist crush, it was staggering to see the streets of Friday Harbor stuffed to bursting with all manner of sightseers. Thankfully, we were able to beat a hasty retreat to the calm sanctuary of Jacob’s familial abode. There, we wasted little time before floating about on their lovely little pond, sipping margaritas and trying to avoid toe nibbles from the schools of resident goldfish.
Though I could easily have spent the entire weekend thus engaged, we decided to venture out for a walk in Lime Kiln State Park. One of my favorites, this beautiful park offers a series of wooded trails, descending down to the old lime kiln itself as well as the rocky shore and a picturesque lighthouse.
Most of the forest is wooded by ancient madronas whose leaves, as the fall, turn the most delicious gold.
I was fascinated by the textures of the forest, the bark, the moss, the soft little succulents.
And where the path skirted the shore, gorgeous water views peeked out from between the trees, showing off kelp forests and rocks covered with close-packed mussels.
For most of the trip I had my camera glued to my face, but decided to leave it at home for our crabbing adventure. Though the idea of saltwater contact wasn’t far from my mind, the real reason is that I wanted to enjoy this experience without the filter of the single camera eye. Thus, with both eyes drinking in the details, we set off in the skiff from Roche Harbor, motoring round the headlands to Westcott Bay (know for its oysters) where the crab pots were waiting. With careful measurements and judicious notation, we collected no less than 6 large (male) Dungeness crabs, their shells glistening wetly blue and pink.
These were boiled in clean water from the bay and enjoyed at the following evening’s family barbeque along with no less than 12 of their brethren, 1 large salmon (line-caught by a family friend just off the coast), stuffed squash blossom, roast veggies, and beat salad all from the garden. Life is good.
Our last evening, we made our customary pilgrimage out to “The Westside” for sunset. Here, the island curves obliging around, offering a generous 180 degree panorama. As the sun slips downward, the grassy slopes of The Westside sprout dozens of voyeurs, scattered in happy groups ready for the show.
The lichen-covered rocks and soft grasses, set-off by the deep green of the occasional tree or bramble, are a photographer’s dream.
Jacob, his sister and I melted into the golden light, breathing in the smell of sun-baked grass and blackberries.
Though we were cheated by an incoming cloud bank of the truly glorious display so often enjoyed, it was a beautiful close to a wonderful weekend.