Friday, September 6, 2013

Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Arched gateway to Moran State Park

In 1921 Robert Moran donated over 5,000 acres of land on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington for use as a State Park.  The highest point in the park and on the island is Mount Constitution at 2,407 ft or 734 meters.  Charles Wilkes named the mount after the USS Constitution during his expedition of 1838-1842.  The panoramic view from the top is one of the finest to be found anywhere.  On clear days it is possible to see Mount Baker and Mount Rainier, many of the other San Juan Islands as well as several Canadian and American cities. 

In 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built many of the trails, roads, bridges and buildings that are still being used in the park today.  Wood and stone found on the island were used as building materials.  The CCC also constructed an observation tower at the top of Mt. Constitution.  The tower was patterned after 12th-century towers and has views from all angles.  Inside the tower there are pictorial information displays telling about the building of the tower and about Robert Moran.  It is possible to climb all the way up to the top, which we did.  It is so solidly built that even I managed to get up to the top and look out without too much difficultly despite my aversion to heights. 

Looking out from the observation tower

 Two views of the observation tower on Mt. Constitution

Part of the forest as we climbed up 

 The forested park contains many old growth trees and about 30 miles of hiking trails through the woods.  The park also has areas for boating, biking, horse riding, and camping.   It is possible to drive almost to the top of Mt. Constitution.  There is a wide, short trail that winds from the parking area up the hillside to the observation tower. 


Although we did not see the variety of wild flowers we have seen on regular hikes, almost everywhere we looked there were these wild Foxglove flowers in full bloom.

This pretty white flower is called Fool’s Onion

We think this one is a Grass Widow.  It grew in patches and was small, only about 6 inches tall.

Hooker’s Onion


 Stopping to let a deer cross the road

Bald eagle on tree top

While on the island we also saw deer, geese, herons and eagles.  The eagles would fly overhead in the morning and late afternoon calling to one another and swooping down to feed.  We would occasionally see five flying together, some were young and others were mature birds with bright white heads.  One eagle would sit on the top branch of a tree not far from our window.

Geese in the early evening
Perhaps at least 50 geese swam in formation in the early evening.  The the sun was just beginning to go down, the light fading and reflections of the trees were in the bay.

Deer Harbor
One small community, Deer Harbor, was an ideal place to stop, enjoy a harbor view, and get an ice cream cone.

There were lots of sailboats too, both large and small.

The seagulls and cormorants waiting patiently with us for the ferry

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