The weather in Wyoming this week is down-right frightful and has me daydreaming of summer vacation. San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington state, is my favorite vacation spot. If I could plan a vacation for my friends, I would send them there.
We went in early June three years ago. The island was quiet with hardly any tourists. Public school was still in session in Washington which worked in our favor. We drove the 19 hours to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Well, we drove most of the way and ferried the rest. The island is more pricey than our vacation budget allows, so we decided to camp for a week at Lakedale Campground. The campground was quiet and had a quaint store with friendly staff and showers. Our site was across from a pond which made for a great view with water fowl eating their breakfast while we dined at the picnic table on ours.
San Juan Island is the second largest island (55 square miles) in the San Juan Islands chain but has the most people. The British and American camps from the 1859 Pig War make up San Juan Island National Historic Park which is actually two locations on opposite ends of the island. Hiking trails in the park may lead you through yellowed, tall prairie grass to rugged beaches where you can look in tide pools and marvel at the mounds of driftwood accumulating or through the woods to the highest points of the island where you can see the coast of Washington and the Olympic Mountains or Vancouver Island, B.C. in the distance.
There were no crowds on the San Juan Island beaches. Mind you, we weren’t sunning ourselves on the sand. Shorts and sweatshirts were needed in early June. The beaches are varied and offer different things to enjoy. Eagle Cove was my favorite spot on the island. It’s located on the southern side of the island. You walk through an alley of trees to get to the flat expanse of protected beach. Our first look at the beach had a bald eagle regally standing alone on the sand. The waves were gentle, and we had the run of the cove.
We visited Fourth of July Beach when the tide was out which lent itself to yards of muddy sand for the kids to frolic in. Craig and I sat on driftwood logs and watched as the boys used smaller driftwood for swords and defended their adopted land. The beach was littered with seaweed and smelled like it.
Our second favorite beach, really land covered in heaping piles of driftwood, was Jackson’s Beach which is the closest public beach to Friday Harbor. We looked for shells and built a driftwood cabin with a setting sun as the backdrop. Memories of this vacation are littered with waves crashing, children laughing and leisurely moving from one location to the next. That sound you just heard was a deep sigh of longing to head back.
The highlight of the trip was watching orca whales swimming just off the rocky coast at Lime Kiln State Park. I’ve never witnessed anything like seeing and hearing those majestic animals jump out of the water and smash their tails on the waves. I’m honored that pod of orcas allowed us to witness them and were kind enough to provide us with a close-up, impressive show. The lighthouse at the state park is squat, yet a majestic sentinel in its muted, sun and salt-faded colors. *sigh*
The island is also home to the 20-acre San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. Think of this park as an outdoor art show. The sculptures are constructed from metal to glass to wood and everything in between. The park is self-guided. It was interesting to see what sculptures the kids were drawn to and to view exquisite artwork in a natural setting.
If there was room in the budget, I would own a vacation home on this island. I dream of heading back one summer when the kids or older or possibly with just Craig and I. I felt truly calm and centered on San Juan Island, at peace with just being there.