Orcas Island Rest Day – PNW Road Trip

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 28, 2011      

Riding a ferry out to the San Juan Islands might be a yawner to PNW locals, but for landlocked Coloradans like myself, doing so is like taking a ride on the space shuttle. I’m even fascinated by what kind of rope they use to tie the thing to the dock.

Ferry dock at Orcas Island.

So we loaded up as bicycle passengers in the afternoon for a short cycle tour on Orcas Island, dinner on West Sound, and a late ride back in a nearly empty ship. This was a recon for a bigger trip we’ve got on our bucket list for some later date. Nice break from backcountry skiing.

Orcas Island sailboats.

We ate fish&chips at a nice shoreline establishment and watched Orcas Island sailboats doing what looked like some kind of regatta. West Sound looked like a nice protected place to kick around in a small sailboat. Click to enlarge.

Ever since I learned about the San Juans years ago, I’ve been fascinated by this archipelago of 172 named islands. Some are larger with well developed communities supplied with electric power via undersea cables. Other islands are uninhabited, some even nature preserves. Would be cool to have a boat and a list of all 172, and visit every one.

Orcas was probably a good example of how the inhabited San Juans are a haven for well off folks who like to at least summer away from the hustle and bustle of on-shore life. Along with the obviously more deluxe dwellings, it’s amusing to see the occasional pirate enclave replete with a trailer house or storage shed made from an overturned boat.

We smugly superior foot and bicycle travelers prepare to debark.

We smugly superior foot and bicycle travelers prepare to debark.

Ferry hawser.

You wonder if this line can hold several thousand tons when the current pushes. The sailor standing by looked at me funny when I took this photo. Tourist alert! I said 'nice knot, man.'

On the front deck, checking out the view.

On the front deck, checking out the view. Bring your storm layers if you want the full experience.

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8 Responses to “Orcas Island Rest Day – PNW Road Trip”

  1. Eric Steig June 28th, 2011 10:37 am

    Lou.. nice to run into you here in B’ham. Enjoy the rest of your visit, and do check out Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver if you get up to my homeland. I’m off to Mass. for family obligatory visit so won’t likely run into you.

    Next time you’re in town, look me up (email works best).

    P.S. Check out Tom DeBari’s “Milanos” restaurant in Glacier if you head up that way away. Milanos is great italian food, and Tom and his family are (as you’d expect for where they live) serious backcountry folks.

  2. Lou June 28th, 2011 10:46 am

    Thanks Eric, we met Tom on top of Baker, and yeah we ate at Milanos a few years ago when we first started getting to know this place. Classic! Good to meet you and thanks for all your visiting and participation with WildSnow.com! We’ll be back…

  3. Andy June 28th, 2011 1:03 pm

    Since moving to Seattle for grad school at UW, bc skiing, climbing, and kayaking have been the main money holes for my discretionary income. Did a kayak trip with my girlfriend covering ~85 miles roundtrip from Anacortes through the San Juans last summer, and it was absolutely fantastic. Kayak camping has a lot to recommend it… the diff in speed between an empty ‘yak and one with 150lbs of camping luxuries is minimal compared to the diff in ski touring with a light daypack and going expedition style with 65lbs+ on your back.

  4. Lou June 28th, 2011 1:17 pm

    Andy, yeah, I can’t wait to explore more over there. Really great for a variety of styles, from boat to bicycle, or even haul our truck/camper around from island to island and stay in cool places.

  5. Chris June 28th, 2011 2:46 pm

    What a solid community Bellingham is. Eric’s wife taught many of my geology classes at WWU, and guessing Tom’s wife is Sue DeBari another WWU Geology Faculty.

  6. Greg Louie June 28th, 2011 3:57 pm

    Don’t miss the gelato place in East Sound. If your biking, two stops a day isn’t unreasonable.

  7. Mark June 30th, 2011 9:26 am

    Thanks for the Orcas Island TR. I’d love to have a small summer house on the sound one day with a boat close by…retirement dreaming I guess.

  8. Adam Olson July 3rd, 2011 4:43 pm

    Orcas Island is beautiful!

    In the late 90’s I followed the Pacific Crest Trail from Lake Tahoe north all the way to Banff. One of the highlights of that summer was a small detour to Orcas Island. The trails are open to mountain bikes in the Park late in Sept. We stayed off the roads the majority of the time. The Island was so quiet that late in the season. The ferries were virtually empty as were the campgrounds. I remember the trails being smooth and fast!

    What great memories of Orcas Island.

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