Exploring the Familiar

How many times have we said we wanted to explore the landscapes close to home? And how many times have we done it? Not Many. But today we changed that and set out to explore the wonder and beauty of the San Juan Islands. Particularly, Orcas Island, located only about 80 miles from home and an hour’s ferry ride away.

Leaving home early on a Monday morning was a challenge. But we managed to do it! We were in the car by 8:30 and stopped for gas at the 7/11  before hitting the road.

As we drove north out of town the thick clouds parted and we could see puffy clouds and spots of blue sky. Eventually the sun joined us in the Skagit Valley and the scenery was lovely. We arrived at the ferry dock in Anacortes at 10:30, purchased our ticket for $55 for car and one passenger and awaited our sailing at noon. Cars lined up behind us.

The wait necessitated a morning bagel accompaniment. It helped the time pass faster and kept the stomach from growling. By 11:45 the cars were loading on the ferry and at noon sharp we were sailing. The fog was whipping over the waters and among the islands and it was beautiful. The winds were almost non-existent, which made for a very smooth ride. At times the clouds separated and blue skies peeked through.

At 1:10 we were docking at Orcas Island and made our way off the ferry . The island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, but still only takes less than an hour to drive from tip to tip. We went exploring. Our first stop was all the way to Olga and an artist’s co-op. The items were beautiful and far too costly to take one home, but they were lovely to look at. The island pace seemed slower, the pastoral fields calming, and the abundant deer enchanting. The sun made multiple appearances throughout the afternoon.

We drove into Moran State Park and went up Mount Constitution, all 2398 feet of elevation. Then we climbed the stone tower at the top which allowed 53 additional feet of height and a 360 degree view. Gazing into the thick fog it was hard to believe there was anything to see. But, like magic, while we waited and chatted with fellow visitors, the fog danced and eddied, revealing islands and cities across the waters of the Strait. I only wish we could have seen Mount Baker and the Cascade Range, which were certainly there and would have been visible on a clearer day. Still, what we could see was magnificent; a testament to the Wonder of Creation.

Due to the chilly nature of the fog and the lower temps at higher altitudes, we descended long before we were full of the stunning views. Stopping along the way down, we found the sun and views to the South to take the breath away.

Nearing 4:00, we were very glad we opted for those bagels at the ferry dock in Anacortes. Now it was certainly time for dinner. Just when we realized that leaving the city behind from time to time is a blessed thing, we actually longed for the city’s amenities while searching for some dinner. Most of the island establishments are closed for the season. We actually went to four different places before we found one that was open and ready to serve us. The White Horse Pub fit the bill – by this point in time we were no longer picky. Yet, it was surprisingly good. It was an Irish Pub with good Pub fare and we filled ourselves with steamy, hot corn chowder; Shepherd’s Pie; and chicken pot pie. The meals not only took care of our hunger, but warmed us up considerably. It was comfort food in the best sense of the word – comfort for the body and the soul. Not only that, but the view of the water was breathtaking – right from our table!

Filled and satisfied, we went on to our timeshare cabin in Deer Harbor, a half an island away. The sun was setting and the clouds turned pink and golden. We checked in, turned up the heat and began to unpack and unwind. The evening was spent in relaxation – reading, writing, and knitting. There is no phone service nor internet; but there is a fireplace. Perfect for such an evening.