Wednesday, September 23, 2015

San Juan Islands

Perhaps this should be qualified as Orcas and San Juan since not all the islands were visited only these two.  The kitchen remodel project was due for the foundation concrete pouring and we wanted to get out of the way during that process.  Also the season has definitely moved into autumn and if we wanted that last little bit of summer this was the time to grab it.  The forecast suggested clouds and rain but we were lucky and had mostly sun, blue skies and puffy white clouds. 

It is an hour and a half drive to Anacortes to catch the ferry and another hour plus on the ferry with a brief stop at Shaw Island before continuing on to Orcas Island.  When we did this two years ago we had to arrive extra early at the terminal and hope that we could get on the ferry and not have to wait for the next one.  The ferries to the islands run about 4 hours apart so it is not a trivial wait time.  This year the ferry system started a reserve ticket option, which we took advantage of and therefore knew we would get on the 10:30 am ferry for sure.  

Orcas Island Pottery 

Seven potters sell their wares at Orcas Island Pottery.  The grounds and buildings are in full display as are several small buildings on the grounds.  We climbed up into the wonderful tree house seen below to take this photo above of the main gallery building.  

The overall plans included stops at pottery and art galleries, a hike around Mountain Lake, another look at Mt. Constitution, a visit to the Whale Museum at Friday Harbor, a stop at the English Camp National Historic site near Roche Harbor with some nice meals thrown in and lots of quiet down time added in between.   

My tears over a favorite hand made bowl that slipped in the sink and broke a few days before our trip were somewhat tempered by finding two new beautiful hand made bowls and a few postcards.

Views from the Mountain Lake trail.  The trail is a 4 mile loop around the lake.  A nice trail through pretty woods, lovely views all along the way with only about 200 feet of vertical gain.

Usually when hiking we keep track of things like the plants and animals we see and the general conditions of the trails and weather.  Although we knew there were deer on the island we had not seen so many of them last time.  This time we counted a total of 14 deer, one was a tiny little spotted fawn.  The other young deer we saw had lost their spots long ago.  We saw a couple of eagles and heard more. The innkeeper explained that the fish were plentiful at the moment and the eagles were less likely to be seen since they were away feeding.  We did see a Great Blue Heron in the same bay as before and Canada geese and gulls.  There were plenty of ravens too and it was amazing to hear all the different sounds they make.  The flowers were mostly gone but there were bright white snowberries and deep orange-red rose hips here and there to catch the eye.  Many of the trees, mostly maples, had already turned color.

Views from the top of the tower at Mount Constitution 

Seen below are a couple of pictures from the English Camp on San Juan Island.  The British had a military camp here from 1860 to 1872 during the dispute over the ownership of these islands.  It was called the "Pig War" but no shots were fired.  Some of the buildings including the block house on the parade grounds and the formal garden have been preserved.  There are informational placards and old photographs at different locations to show what it was like during that period of time.

This broad leaf maple tree was already 227 years old when the English Camp was established.  Part of the tree was damaged by a lightning strike and today all the oldest trees at the camp have protective fences around them.  This might be the oldest big leaf maple tree in the state.

Roche Harbor is a charming town with a few older buildings such as the hotel and general store buildings that have been preserved as well as newer resort buildings that were built in the same general style.  Three large lime kilns are the remains from what was the largest lime and cement company west of the Mississippi River.  Lots of pleasure boats can be seen docked in the harbor.  Some people travel by small float planes such as the one seen taking off in the photo below.

The Whale Museum is at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  This smallish museum has an amazing amount of material in it.  Videos as well as displays allow the visitor to hear and see the whales.  Each visitor is given a small card with the name of one of the Orca whales from local pods.  There is a genealogical chart for the whales posted on one wall and biographical information about the more famous whales that have lived in Puget Sound.  My whale was "Granny" born in 1911 and a member of the J pod.  She is still alive and doing well.  Bob's much younger whale was "Wave Maker" from the L pod. The museum is the center for research on the Orcas of the Salish Sea. 

The islands have a little bit of lots of things including charm, they are beautiful, wild and scenic too.  The weather was perfect making a delightful few days.  As always we enjoyed the ferry rides between the islands.

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