Sunday, January 18, 2009

San Juan Islands Trip, Part 1: San Juan Island

(To all of you whom we neglected to tell where we were last week, apologies.) Originally we’d planned to go to a tropical destination for this January vacation (the first extended vacation by ourselves since our honeymoon in 2005). But it just didn’t feel right given the economy and the fact that we wanted a truly laid back and restful vacation. Ken orchestrated all the research and booking for this San Juan adventure. We had wanted to get to Victoria but the ferry service to there from Anacortes shuts down in winter (and now we hear they may discontinue it permanently.) So began our trip to San Juan and Orcas Islands. On a physical level, a “vacation” is basically the opportunity to sleep in a different bed. For better or for worse, I find that as I’ve gotten older my accommodations have become more and more important to me. Gone are the days when I could sleep on the floor, a couch or squeaky, motion-transferring, saggy bed and awake rested. But that is part of traveling and expanding one’s horizons, right? So that said, you can imagine that the beds we slept on were less than optimal but we managed. The first day of “sight” seeing was more about us imagining what we would see if it wasn’t so foggy. All bundled up and virtually alone at every place we went, we wandered around the American Camp, Whale-watching point (no whales this time of year though), Lime Kiln Lighthouse and other various places along the water. We did see an elephant seal in the water and that actually was pretty exciting. San Juan Island definitely has a rustic, down-to-earth charm that the entire island shares—except for Roche Harbor. Re-imagined to be a yacht stop for the rich and famous, it is attempting to build-up with million dollar condos and high end shops. It’s currently serviced by one restaurant with overpriced, badly cooked food with terrible service. Needless to say, we were not impressed. But Roche Harbor did have this chiming clock tower that would play “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at Noon and 6pm. That became the theme song for this trip. Roche Harbor is also home to an eclectic and prolific sculpture park and the gaudy, unfinished mausoleum of the town’s founder John McMillan. Visiting in the off-season, we risked missing the most notable restaurants because they shut down for a few months. But the trade off of not having to deal with other tourists and always having a place to park made it worth the sacrifice. The only other time I had been to San Juan Island was with Austin, Angela & others about 6 years ago. Austin and I had stayed in a cabin while the others camped behind it. It was in a place called Snug Harbor. It took 2 days of driving by it several times to realize that this place was located just up the road from the B&B Ken and I were staying in. The B&B was a replica of a native people’s long house. It had been remodeled by the current owners to accommodate guests downstairs and be their residence upstairs. It faces a tiny inlet and is owned by delightful and knowledgeable island dwellers, Patty and Jerry Rasmussen. She is a former caterer and made us unbelievable gourmet breakfasts. On top of that, the first moment we arrived at the long house, Patty took out a map and marked all the notable things on the island worth seeing—this was extremely helpful. One of our most favorite things to do is to see/interact with animals. There are a few alpaca farms here on the island. Krystal Acres was nearby and had a store full of Alpaca products. I bought some gloves and socks but as we got to talking with one of the owners, I asked who their vet is. They indicated it was a woman named Jackie in Mt. Vernon who happens to be Shannon’s oldest sister, who also went to WSU and was my roommate (with Shannon) for a year. She is a renown Alpaca vet and they adore her. With this connection established, they offered for us to come have a look at the baby alpacas that they were weaning for subsequent halter training. One of the owners asked since I went to “school” with Jackie, if I too was a vet because they had some questions. Sorry to disappoint--but if you want to know how to download a game to your mobile phone, I’m your gal. Patty also told us about a lone resident camel named Mona who lived on a farm by the winery. She said we could take a carrot to Mona and feed her through the fence—everyone did it. She warned us to be careful because sometimes she spits. So on the last day on the island we found her and Ken became instant friends because he had the nice juicy carrot. While she looked so friendly and sweet, I’ve never been that close to a camel and I was envisioning that she would spit on us at any moment. But she didn’t. Up next, Orcas Island…

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