Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day Weekend in the San Juan Islands

I hope everyone had a good, long Labor Day weekend here in the U.S.

September 3 is my wife Diane's birthday, and this year to celebrate we headed for the San Juan Islands of our home state of Washington. With pastoral country roads to bike, wineries to visit, coastlines to kayak, wildlife to see, great restaurants and all around natural beauty, the San Juans are hard to beat - especially on a beautiful late summer weekend.

Getting There
We started our mini-vacation by catching the Friday morning ferry from Anacortes to Lopez Island. Once there, we drove directly to Lopez Village where we had wonderful fresh baked pastries on the front porch of the Holly B's Bakery. Next we popped into the Islehaven Books & Borzoi book store and then over to an art galley featuring local artists. Pondering what we saw, we moved on to another gallery or two, took in the seaside view and then looped back to indeed buy a painting. Then, it was back to the ferry dock to catch the boat over to San Juan Island and our primary destination for the weekend.

Knowing that our primary destination of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island still required us to take a ferry to get there, we packed up happy and cruised back to the ferry dock where we sat in the early afternoon sun and watched boats go by as we waited for our ferry to arrive. Next stop was Friday Harbor. We drove off the ferry, parked in Friday Harbor town and went straight for a Mexican birthday lunch at Dos Diablos.

Our B&B
From there we drove to our bed and breakfast called The Trumpeter Inn. About 1.5 miles outside of the main town, the Trumpeter is situated off the main road amongst cow and horse pastures and a couple residences.

Proprietor Shaun met us and showed us around this quaint property and then escorted us to our room where the birthday cake I had arranged for - and that Shaun had baked fresh - awaited.

Basically, this place is wonderful. It's a well appointed country (but not TOO country) home with good sized rooms with nice beds, clean bathrooms and great services. Oh, and the breakfasts are excellent as well. One morning we had quiche, sausage and fruit and the next we had French toast with fresh island berries. Mmm, mmm. Good fuel for our activities.

A Birthday Dinner
After a nice rest in our comfortable room that first afternoon, we went back into town for a delicious birthday dinner at The Backdoor Kitchen. Now, this place is not easy to find, but worth trying to. Set off one of the Friday Harbor side streets, to get to this place you need to go across what looks like a gravel parking lot for farm equipment. The reason it looks like that do indeed have to trudge through a gravel covered parking lot for industrial vehicles to get to the restaurant. At the back corner of the lot there is a sign that says the name of the place and then a little farther still, right beside a non desrcript looking building with no other markings, is a sign that says "enter." Once you pass by the sign and swing around the corner of the building, however, everything changes. All of a sudden you're not in parking lot land. No, you are now in the middle of a soft lit, bamboo tree lined deck oasis. Striding to the back of this lush enclave, you see the indoor portion of the restaurant. When making the reservations for my wife's birthday dinner, they gave me the option of sitting outside "if the weather is nice." It was and so we did.

After sharing a plate of fresh Thai style fried tofu, yam and cucumber lettuce cups (with peanut dipping sauce), Diane had the Vietnamese style salmon and poached prawn platter and I savored a locally grown pork chop topped with roasted poblano chili, goat cheese and caramelized onions. Suffice it to say we were satisfied!

Biking, Shopping and a Sunset
It took us the evening to digest that feast, but by 10 a.m. Saturday we were ready to head out on a bike ride. We chose to do the 21 mile loop from our B&B out to Cattle Point and back. Here are a few pictures from that jaunt:

Later that afternoon, we strolled the sunny streets of Friday Harbor, popped into art galleries and picked up some books and other fun stuff. Oh, and we felt pretty entitled to sample some Lopez Island-made ice cream. A 21 mile bike ride and an afternoon walking around is tiring, so we went back to our B&B and spent the rest of the afternoon resting and relaxing.

Rising at about 7 p.m., we decided it would be nice to drive back out towards Cattle Point to see the sun set. Arriving just in time to pick our way across the driftwood of South Beach, we found a windy spot to watch the sun go down as it reflected orange, pink and silvery hues off the clouds in its decent.

We finished our day back in Friday Harbor at a restaurant called The Place. We'd heard that this was "the place" go get great clams, so we ordered a batch. Sure enough, these local beauties were delicious.

Kayaking and Home
Sunday morning we had breakfast at the B&B and then took off for Snug Harbor and our appointment for a three hour sea kayak tour. Orca wales, porpoise and seal all ply the waters off the west coast of San Juan Island during the summer and we were hopeful we'd see some of them. Heading out in two-person kayaks, Diane and I were joined by three other couples and our guide Sara from Crystal Seas.

We exited the bay and headed south along the rocky coastline. Within 10 minutes we got a great, up close and personal view of a bald eagle. We've seen these before, but never this close up. Unfortunately, I only had my little camera with me so the pictures I took did not come out too well in the rocking and boat. A bit blurry.

Later we came upon a rock out in the water where several seals were sunning themselves. And later we saw many purple and orange star fish, as well as red and clear color jellyfish. We never did see any whales porpoises or, so that was a little disappointing. However, overall, just being out on the water and seeing what we did proved an invigorating and enjoyable experience. As we paddled back in after our time was up, we saw one last seal playing in the waters near the dock.

After this we drove back to Friday Harbor and caught the 1:50 p.m. ferry back to Anacortes and then drove home from there.

Thinking back on this little get away, both Diane and I think that this was an idyllic mini-break right in our own state. If you have not been to the islands, I would highly recommend it as the combination of physical activities, natural beauty, wildlife, food and great accommodations make it a great way to spend a weekend.

NOTE: All pictures in this blog post were taken by me, Marc Osborn, and are copy written in my name. No use of them is permitted without prior written permission from me.

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