Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Weekend on San Juan Island

My Dears,

We just returned from a weekend - sans Benjamin - in the San Juan Islands.

It was luxuriously relaxing.

Here is a quick map:

Early Sunday morning we dropped the Bambino off at his grandparent's house and drove a few minutes north to Kenmore.

There we had a cup of coffee and hung out for a few minutes on the dock. Then this guy showed up:

How's that for the start of a grand adventure?!

Peeps, have you ever flown on a floatplane before? I never had.  I was so excited (and a little nervous). But the ride was so smooth - you couldn't even tell when the plane left the water or when we touched down again. 

 I've spent a good portion of my childhood growing up on Lake Washington and that included seeing the Kenmore planes take off every morning and zip by the house. So the thought of actually going in one of the planes, after so many years as solely an observer,  had me tickled pink. 
 Chris sat up front with the pilot. Ya know, in case he needed to take over or something.
My parents paddled out in their boat to see us off. 
 And then we flew right past their house! Hello childhood home!
 We unintentionally picked the single most beautiful day in Seattle this year. It was stunningly gorgeous. 
 Looks like it's crew practice time on Greenlake:

The deal with Kenmore Air is that they're based in South Lake Union. But if you get on at their storage base in Kenmore (which is only ten minutes from our house), then you get a free ride down to Lake Union before heading north to the islands. Not too shabby, considering that it includes a gorgeous ride down Lake Washington and over the university.

[Another quick note: the ride isn't cheap. Roundtrip it was $250 but this is an activity that is all about the experience. Flying at 2,500 feet is a great way to see the city, boats, islands, harbor seals, or, say, your house! I had my eyes glued to the window the entire trip. It was an amazing experience and definitely the highlight of our trip. I still can't get over how fun it was. It is so worth the money. Plus, in the summer they go to some cool little harbors in Canada. Hello Canada!]

After a quick stop at Lake Union to pick up a few more passengers, we headed north towards the islands. We landed first in the harbor at Lopez:

And then Orcas. We almost stayed on Orcas - I've heard wonderful things about it. But in the end we kept going and landed in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island.

We arrived around 10 am and walked a few blocks to our hotel. After a lot of research and back-and-forth hemming and hawing, I eventually booked us at the Island Inn - 123 West. The inn bills itself as a european guest house. The location is killer (steps from the harbor and lots of restaurants) and the bottle of champagne in our room was great. They also serve coffee/tea/granola in the morning and were happy to store our bags for the afternoon after we checked out. The service was excellent and I'd be happy to go back. 

We got checked in and then turned our attention to island activities. First up: we drove to the nearby San Juan Vineyard where we bought a few glasses of wine and broke out a picnic lunch. We also met Mona the Camel (who lives across the street):

 It looks like Mona is shedding her winter coat:

 Next we drove farther north and hit up the sculpture park near Roche Harbor. We saw a nutria and I almost stepped on a garter snake. 
 We also trundled around Roche Harbor. And ogled the yachts. 
 Then it was time to head south. We spotted a bit of local fauna:
 And then found ourselves at the alpaca farm. I love alpacas!!! 
 They look so happy. 
 And friendly. 
 But one can only stare at an alpaca for so long before needing to do something else. So once again we hopped in the car and ended up at Lime Kiln State park. If you go, don't forget your Discover Pass (or buy a day pass in the parking lot)
 This is the best place to see orcas from the island, if you find yourselves without a boat. We took a quick hike around the old lime kilns, admired the light house, and then parked ourselves seaside, on a bench, with magazines. 
 This bench:
 We saw nary an orca, however, we did spot a few other marine mammals, including harbor seals and (what we think was) an elephant seal. Whatever it was, it was giant and had an equally giant snout. 
 Another pic of the lighthouse. 
And then it was time to head back to the hotel for a bit of downtime and dinner. 

The next morning we got up early and headed south to the "American Camp" park where we went on a spectacular hike along the bluff. 
 It was great weather. True to form, I got sunburned.
 They also have a few historic structures and good reader boards. Plus the view can't be beat. 

We took a picnic lunch along the water and ended up at a lighthouse on the very southern tip of the island. 
 Life is good, my dears. 

You can see the lighthouse (a white dot) right at the southern-most headlands. It was a stunning spot for a bite of lunch as there was a constant parade of seals, gulls, and wood ducks paddling by. 
 Then it was back to town for a mosey around the harbor (Friday Harbor):

 And a bit of reading in the park. We also went for an early dinner of fish 'n chips and ice cream to wrap things up. 
 And then we walked out onto the dock and met our plane:

 Time to go home:
 Why on earth did they paint the space needle such an obnoxious shade of orange?

 Chris took the best picture of the trip:

 Downtown Seattle:

 Look who got to sit up front for the ride home:

 The boathouse where I rowed in high school:
 Portage bay, looking through the Montlake Cut into Lake Washington (with husky stadium to the left)
 And our favorite park: St Edwards State Park
 Looking north down the lake. 

And that, my dears, was our trip. It was so nice to get away for a bit, without the baby. And of course it was great to come home. We missed him!! Thanks for looking after him, grandma and grandpa!