and I are headed out… to the San Juan Islands for two nights.
Kris is lending us her car for the drive, and we have a ferry
ride ahead of us. It’s going to be a busy run over forty-eight
or so hours from the time we leave Kris until we return (about
forty on the island).
first… some breakfast…
Three – Monday, August 19, 2013
stop into 5 Spot for breakfast with Kris, and this is a fantastic
Spot is a great diner, and one that never
fails to provide a unique experience. Kris explains that the place
takes a theme—usually based on something like a city or region—and
reinvents itself accordingly. New pictures on the walls. New menu.
this visit, Tigg embraces the vacation experience and goes with
a sundae creation offering toffee whiskey base. Kris goes for
gingerbread waffles, which I immediately regret not ordering.
But I’m focused on an omelet with hash browns that ends up being
are off pretty quickly following our meal to catch a ferry. The
boat running from Anacortes to Friday Harbor that we’re shooting
to board leaves at 2pm. We arrive at 1:45pm, drive onto the ferry,
and we are barely in seats before the ferry is off on the route
that ultimately arrives about an hour later at the dock on the
San Juan Island of the San Juan Islands.
our ride, I’m finding myself fascinated by the currents in the
water. I’ve been around boats before… not with an amazing frequency,
but I’ve seen several different bodies of water and settings…
but the clarity here of where different flows and tides and such
are meeting is almost staggering.
arrive and immediately head over to The Orca Inn, our home during
the stay on the island. And, I get treated to something that I
would have placed been quite literally next to impossible.
ago… literally decades, as in the 1970s… my parents set out with
me to replace the bed in my room, and we moved on to a complete
overhaul that involved new furniture. It was part of a set that
for me included a bed frame, dresser, desk with a shelf and chair.
we walk into our room at The Orca Inn, the furniture inside is
from that very set. In fact, one pairing of pieces is the desk
and chair. It is a striking feeling of nostalgia for me.
have the rest of the day free. The reservation we have for a charter
boat cruise is tomorrow afternoon. So, we decide to drive around
the island a bit and get some familiarity with where things are
located and the overall size.
day on the water is based out of Snug Harbor. So, we plan this
excursion to check out the route we’ll need tomorrow, and head
off to explore a bit of the areas around Snug Harbor and Roche
we drive around, the map we’re using is showing the Krystal Acres
Alpaca Farm is going to be virtually in the middle of our journey.
It’s on West Valley Road, more or less just outside of Snug Harbor,
and we’ve heard some tremendous things about it. We stop in, and
it really is a fun place.
meander around the grounds a bit, see some of the alpacas in their
pens, and we’re having some goofy fun. I’ll say it… they’re both
fascinating and funny. Plus, it just so happens that no one else
is really around, so we get to stop and look at our own pace.
Incredibly hard to stop watching them, even though the alpacas
are just milling about and doing nothing much special other than
is a country store on the farm, and it is neat and different.
Obviously, it’s alpaca focused… with sweaters and socks and shawls
and throws. More or less exactly what you probably would have
come up with had I asked. But would you have been prepared for
a wide selection of yarns? Ok… maybe… so, how about alpaca fur
drive a bit around the Snug Harbor section, and feel good about
getting back here for our whale watching trip. For now, we find
we’re getting hungry, so instead of heading further in an attempt
to loop around the entire island, we turn back toward Friday Harbor,
which we are finding is the central spot of overall activity on
San Juan Island.
need to hit pause here for a moment. Just called Friday Harbor
the center of activity. And I want to expand on that a bit.
we’ll cover in our travels, there is A LOT on San Juan Island.
Heck, given the orcas and charter boats, there is a ton of stuff
in the water surrounding this island and even more throughout
the San Juan Islands.
Harbor though… if you should ever have the pleasure of visiting,
you will likely understand what I am trying to say. The ferry
landing… most of the restaurants… a movie theater… bars and entertainment
and shopping… Friday Harbor has a bit of everything. It is the
center of activity. And yet….
are very good that if you did come to San Juan Island, any of
the attractions that brought you here are based in another part
of the island.
not an overly big island or that imposing. It’s not difficult
to navigate. If you’re here for more than day… if you brought
your own car… grab a map, hit the road, and things will begin
to connect fairly quickly. (I’m exaggerating when I say this next
part, but not by much. There are five major roads on the island.
Four that lead you around the edges—sure, again an exaggeration,
but take the right, take the next right, take the next right,
and when you take the fourth right you’ll have gone around San
Juan Island and be back where you started. The exaggerations?
There are actually a few offshoot roads in Friday Harbor, as well
as some in a other gathering spots. And, there is a road (a combination
of West Valley Road and Beaverton Valley Road) that runs across
the middle. Plus, it’s not four turns to complete a loop. But
with some twists and turns tossed in, this road connects to that,
and some of those offshoots become the major streets. It is honestly
so straightforward and basic that it will have you doubting yourself
because it couldn’t possibly be that straightforward and basic.
Ok… we’ve arrived back in Friday Harbor and it’s time for dinner…)
stop in a place called Rumor Mill to eat. Good food, and evidently
the place also features a variety of entertainment. Given our
desire to skip around a bit and enjoy different things during
a really too short stay on San Juan Island, even with a fun night
here we don’t end up returning.
Street is one of the main roads for getting through Friday Harbor.
In fact… honestly… if you had never set foot on San Juan Island
previously, were getting off the ferry and moved into town, you
would identify Spring Street as THE main road. There
would be no second choice.
this route that I’ve appropriated to work as Main Street Friday
Harbor sits the Palace Theater. And it is… well… small and brilliant
and… it is a perfect little theater for this perfect little island.
You will never mistake it for the gargantuan megascreen gonzogulp
concession places the usually offer up first-run films. Here on
San Juan Island though, you wouldn’t want to be one.
Palace Theater is a quiet, relaxed place to catch a movie. It
is located on an island filled with friends and neighbors and
businesses and tourists that are all looking for quiet and relaxed.
It hangs its marque on Spring Street, turns over the titles being
shown somewhat frequently, and actually seems to do a very respectable
job at balancing its presentations to cater both to island residents
and visiting vacationers. (Think about that for a few moments.
It’s not an easy trick.)
a drive from Seattle, a ferry ride, a basic ride around the island
and a nice meal, we’re looking for a quiet and relaxing end to
the day. We’ve selected Elysium, and it’s… well… it’s
ok. Because we went in not knowing what to expect from it, there
were some surprises and decent performances, though I don’t think
well-balanced-do-not-miss would be a worthy description of it.
leave the theater and head back to The Orca Inn.
Four – Tuesday, August 20, 2013
summer, my parents went out to Seattle to visit Kris. Like we
are doing now, they made a trip to San Juan Island. And, as we
have planned for later today, they headed out on the water with
Legacy Charters. It’s our big event for the day… but it’s in the
afternoon… and we’ve got some places to see and things to do along
the way to Snug Harbor.
day begins with a drive out to the Cattle Point Lighthouse. The
area is a really interesting part of the island, in a section
known as the San Juan Island National Historical Park. Turns out
to be a fantastic starting point for us. The views are outstanding,
and the location is actually a branch and slight bit of a ride
outside of that connection of roads I mentioned yesterday.
Juan Island has some remarkable history. Roughly one-hundred and
fifty years ago, the governments of Great Britain and America
agreed to jointly occupy the island while some boundary disputes
and issues were dealt with. As a result, on opposite sides of
the island are locations that are still designated as “English
Camp” and “American Camp” areas. Our morning drive here has brought
us to the southern end of the island, and near the American Camp.
here we move a bit closer to the center of the island and visit
the Pelindaba Lavender Farm on Hawthorne Lane. In a strange way,
it’s much like Krystal Acres and the alpacas yesterday. A unique
theme we haven’t encountered over the years, gift store featuring
a really great variety of products built on that theme, and grounds
surrounding the primary building.
the way in and out of Pelindaba, we spot an amazing house. The
only way to describe it would be to make a comment about Luna
Lovegood from the Harry Potter world. Striking.
visited one lighthouse in the morning, we’ve set off for another.
This time, it’s the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, which is located on
the western coast of the island. It oversees the Haro Strait,
along with looking out toward an interesting twist in the separation
between the United States and Canada.
this point, we’ve arrived at midday hours and begin thinking about
lunch. We head back in to Friday Harbor and pull on to Spring
Street. We had spotted a place called Haley’s Sports Bar during
our travels around, and decide to check it out.
tried the New England clam chowder and their crab tater tots.
For our meals, Terry went with a shrimp and chips platter, and
I tried their sriracha chicken bites. Here’s what I can tell you
about our meal…
chowder was ok. Nothing spectacular, nothing amazing or even
truly memorable, but definitely better than some “New England
clam chowder” recipes we’ve had. One thing I can absolutely
tell you about New England clam chowders… if you’re not physically
in New England, never never NEVER order the dish
with expectations of getting anything even remotely resembling
a great and authentic New England clam chowder. Just doesn’t
happen. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes very good. But you
really need to keep in mind that you aren’t getting the legendary
dish. We knew this… wanted a soup… and were drawn in by the
description on the menu of it being their own traditional
recipe and the recommendation of our waitress. Again… it was
- The crab tater
tots were the star of the meal. Different and not truly the
pure crab cake they describe it as being, with a different
take of saucing that really worked.
and chip platter? Another fine.
chicken bites? Pretty good. Menu mentions a sriracha coating,
and that was where I found the spice in the dish. The sauce
was good, but not really hot (which was fine with me).
After lunch, we begin
to head toward Snug Harbor. Legacy Charters is based here, and
we have an afternoon excursion booked. (Officially, the group
is known as Maya’s
Legacy Whale Watching now.) We’re a bit early,
and we grab some lemonade and cookies as we sit down to wait for
everyone to gather.
have a note telling me to let you know that you should order
the sweet chili sauce. What I don’t have is a note as to whether
I used it on the chicken bites, or, if it was for the tater
tots. So… yeah.
hitting the water with Spencer as our captain for the day, along
with three other people (including Anne and Sarah Ann).
spoil the whole thing now… no orcas.
parents saw what they described as hundreds of them. I know it
wasn’t hundreds… and you know it wasn’t hundreds… but… I saw their
pictures, and I’m going to pilfer the foundation of an old joke
and say it sure looked like they could have walked along the backs,
orca to orca, from San Juan Island to the Canadian coast and their
feet wouldn’t have been wet when they arrived.
did we see?
Lots of seagulls. A bald eagle, sea lions, minke whales and porpoises.
In passing a rock formation, we were introduced to Steller sea
lions, and they are huge.
some of the fun sightings, we were treated to rhinoceros auklets.
going to be honest with you, our trip on the water was a bit of
a mixed bag. I think a portion of the problem resides with my
parents… meaning their experience and amazing day really elevated
our hopes for seeing some of the orca pods. So, emotionally we
felt a letdown when we didn’t see any orcas.
Spencer and our companions on the trip were great, and we did
enjoy ourselves overall. I would encourage anyone heading to the
area not only to get out on the water, but also to contact Legacy.
been an eventful day, especially when you toss in the travel yesterday
and a decent two days of go-go-go. We decide to stop in Kings
Market to pick up a few items and then head back to our room for
Five – Wednesday, August 21, 2013
was designed to be a fairly quick trip… drive in… whale watching…
drive out. And while that obviously isn’t true of what we expected
or what we did, as a basic framework it does cover it. Today we’re
checking out of The Orca Inn and heading toward the docks to catch
the ferry around 11am.
park our car in line just before 9:30 and head to a general store
to grab breakfast sandwiches. After that, it’s on to the Hyak
and over to Anacortes. Then, the drive back to Seattle and meeting
up with Kris.
Juan Island was incredible. An amazing time, and it’s mind-boggling
to think about the places we saw considering we were really only
on the island for about forty hours. It is absolutely one of those
places where you can get lost and overwhelmed by how interesting
it is and unlike any other place you have ever been. It is beautiful
and friendly and paced just right. It feels wonderfully familiar
and excitingly new.
has a relaxed sight-seeing approach planned for our evening, and
honestly it is a night that can never be repeated. We start things
out by heading to Paseo for sandwiches. These sandwiches are the
stuff of legend, and turn out to be even more delicious than anyone
it is here that the foundation of never repeated is built. About
two months after our visit, Paseo closed. There are incredible
swirling stories involved in this… from Paseo reopening under
new management, and although the new ownership group got the name
they didn’t get the recipes, but they hired several former employees
and recreated the menu in a way many say is fantastic and possibly
even better… to the sons of the original owner opening a restaurant
of their own, using their experiences with their father supposedly
off to the side and not involved.
you do some research, you’ll find both places easily enough just
by looking for a combination of “Seattle Paseo sandwich” in your
favorite search engine. You’ll also see plenty of superlatives
for the old start of this sandwich craze as well as both of the
current restaurants. But, folks I reached out to say it’s fine
but not quite the same, even though the exact reasons might not
be easy to describe.
next stop is dessert, and that becomes another fantastic treat
as we stop at Hot Cakes.
now we’re getting our feet beneath us as far as the Seattle experience,
and a few things about how different the northwest can be are
coming in to focus. Part of it started for us with 5 Spot the
other morning, and Hot Cakes is continuing it. I really haven’t
experienced a quick dessert shop like this elsewhere, where fresh
bakery delicacies are mixed in on the menu with cocktails, wines,
and items like shakes with whiskey.
a fun twist? Terry and I don’t usually drink much, but Kris asks
if I think Terry would like a port with her dessert and orders
two. As we are paying our tab, the bill for desserts and two ports
is more than $20 higher than our full dinner bill at Paseo. So…
yeah… that generates some perspective for you, and honestly captures
a lot of the Seattle we’re finding. Fun… delicious… different…
and wallet breaking when you aren’t expecting it.
our dinner stops, we begin driving to see a few places of interest.
We head toward Fremont and the Waiting for the Interurban
statue. Then it’s around a couple of corners, a nice effort to
park the car, and over to The Fremont Troll. We even
see the Statue of Lenin.
jumping in and out and in and out of the car repeatedly and getting
plenty of pictures, Kris navigates toward an overlook location.
Here, we have a gorgeous view of the main Seattle skyline, at
sunset, and it is stunning.
funny thing we notice is the lawns. There aren’t any. At least
not grass. In many places it’s all shrubs and plants. Interesting.
got a lot coming up, but a long day for us is at an end.