Saturday, December 1, 2018

Welcome to My New Favorite Place on Earth: San Juan Island

For months we dreamed of water, the ocean, and temperate rainforests. I hunted for jobs, rewrote my resume and cover letter repeatedly, prayed to the gods of good fortune and good timing, and flew to Washington twice for interviews. And then we moved to the Pacific Northwest.

I'm from Carson, Washington on the Columbia River along the border between Washington and Oregon. Moving back to Washington was going home for me, but it was also the start of a new adventure. When I was a child, we went to the mountains in our backyard and to Longbeach for the 4th of July. We went to Portland, OR for big city life and to Murdock to visit our grandparents. There were one or two trips to Seattle and I moved to Seattle for university. We didn't venture further north very often. It was only when my younger sister moved to Bellingham that we started heading in that direction. Little did I know that I would soon (fifteen years soon) join her in this magical coastal city.

My partner, Brian, is from Chicago and has been longing to move to the Pacific Northwest for some time now. We enjoyed our time in the high plains desert of Colorado. The rock formations and bright blue skies were incredible and awe-inspiring. We drove up one of the highest paved roads in America and discovered the tundra of Colorado for ourselves. We saw mountain goats gnawing on truck tires and drove down the mountain in a hailstorm. The city itself always had tons to do. Denver was a very good place to live. But the climate didn't quite agree with us and we craved the water. We wanted creeks, rivers, bays, and oceans. The sun was so very hot and I was bad at remembering my sunscreen. I prefer the grey skies and mists of autumn that you'll find on any given day in Bellingham.

I moved across the world to a different country where I knew absolutely nobody when I was 23 years old. A little over a decade later, moving to a city in my home state where my sister lives was much, much more difficult. It's easy to be portable when the entirety of your earthly possessions fit into two suitcases and a backpack. This time we had to pack up what we have acquired so far. We didn't really think it would be that much, but even with my dad taking two loads in the cab of his semi-truck, we had to leave some things behind. If we ever move again, we'll have to be a little more careful about how we do it.

But we moved and we live here now. We are happy and proud Washingtonians. When Brian arrived, a month behind me, we took the ferry to Lummi Island and had a picnic on a beach that was covered with pebbles. The move, the money, and everything else it took to get here was worth it. We sat on that beach and stared out into the water. We walked in awe through the forest. Kiki run up to the water, ran away again, and ran back. The island was quiet and we were the only ones on the beach. We were home and we knew it.

A month and a half after Brian arrived, we went to San Juan Island with my sister and her fiance. She has some friends from college who own and operate a small farm on the island. She has other friends who run an art center.

We hopped on the ferry in Anacortes and got ready for a beautiful ride through the islands. Ashlee, my sister, pointed out an island they sailed to and a hike they took. We had an amazing view of the mountains. Everyone was very chill about us having a small dog. It seems as though they are unofficially allowed everywhere as long as they're not creating a ruckus.

The small town of Friday Harbor (Don't you just love that name?) lived up to seaside dreams and expectations. We left Kiki in the car with the lasagna and went to brunch with the friends we were meeting at Cynthia's Bistro. It turns out that the greens we were having with our meal were supplied from their farm. More on those later.

We went all around the island visiting different places of interest. We stopped by the art collective in the forest, a beach with lots of bull kelp, Grandma's Cove, the American Camp, and the farm at night to start a bonfire and have dinner with friends of the farmers. That night Brian, Kiki, and I slept in the van. It was so much fun to be "camping" in November. Kiki did seem a little skeptical, though. What are we doing here and why am I cold?

The next morning we took a walk down to the farm. The horses were getting in their morning jaunt in the mist-covered fields. Everything was magical--especially the moment when our host was greeted noisily by her pet donkey. He was so excited to see her that the moment he spotted her he started in on the exuberant braying. After a delicious breakfast of tomatoes (from the farm) and eggs in the yurt, we went on a tour of the land. We stopped by our host's parents' place next door and took a look at her father's amazing sculpture work. It seemed that many people on the island who we met were creatively inclined (or thoroughly established) in some way.

We also drove up to a viewpoint with a very good view of Mount Baker and the rest of the island. Kiki seemed at home there and we thought we heard raccoons in the trees. Did you know they sound like pigs? After taking in the view for a bit, we went down to Lime Kiln State Park. We took a short and easy trail to the lighthouse and had a small picnic.

By that time, my camera had died. I have a feeling that we'll be back again soon, though. And we will be back again as many times as we can.

The ferry ride back to Anacortes was just as magical as the ride out to the islands. We had great views and stood in awe of everything once again, but spent a little more time indoors since we had just seen it all the day before. I love the idea of going to the island and from the island in the daylight to get as much visibility as possible from the ferry.

Spending a night on San Juan Island was the perfect day trip from Bellingham. After months of dreaming of water, what better way to start our lives in Washington than to be surrounded by it?


  1. I was debating whether to read this post or not because it makes me so homesick to look at these photos (which are lovely, of course) but it was nice catching up with you here. I would always come here at least every year with school (I have seen that dang Whale Museum so many times but it always was so cool!) or by sailboat, but haven't been in recent years (being here kind of throws that off, haha). I had no idea there was a restaurant called Cynthia's though, so I really gotta go try it :) Glad you had so much fun there! Looked like great weather.

    1. I totally get that. But thank you for reading anyway! Yes, we got so lucky with the weather. Especially considering that we slept in a van and hung out around a campfire outside of a yurt! Well, next time you come back for a visit, let me know and I'll go to Cynthia's with you. :)

    2. Deal! I've taken Alex to Orcas & Lopez in the past few years but he hasn't been to San Juan yet.


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