The Travelogues of Diane and Dave
Travelogue Index
D & D Home


Washington state ferry

Orcas Island

San Juan Islands, Washington state

Summer 2001



This is Part 1 of our 2 week summer vacation in Washington state. We were looking for a location that the whole family could enjoy and which was near Seattle, which is where Diane’s over-worked sister lives. After some research and interrogation of friends, we decided on the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, The San Juan Islands are a small archipelago located between the Washington coast and Vancouver Island. Access is via air or ferry. For ferry access check out the Washington State Ferry system website. We rented a small, 5 bedroom, 6 bath mansion on a hillside overlooking Eastsound on Orcas Island. We found the house via ReMax San Juan Realty. [ Note: the property is no longer available for rent, 2/2006]

Day 1 (Saturday):

Upon arrival at SeaTac airport in Seattle, we drove to Kathy’s apartment (Diane’s sister). Her Seattle apartment is on the western shore of Lake Washington. On a clear day, you can stand on her expansive balcony/patio and look eastward over the lake and easily see Mt. Rainier majestically rising above the horizon down to the south.

Day 2 (Sunday):

We got up leisurely in the morning and drove about 1 hours north to Anacortes to catch the 12:00 Washington state ferry for Orcas Island. The 1 hour ferry ride to Orcas took us past several of the other small scenic islands. The islands reminded Dave of the Maine coast, rocky and forested with tall pine trees. Spotted here and there along the coastline were some very nice homes tucked into the woods with views out over the water. Looking back over the ferry wake we could see majestic Mt. Baker rising above the flat horizon.

ferry-baker.jpg (12348 bytes)
Looking back from the ferry, we could see the faint outline of Mt. Baker rising above the horizon.

When we got to Orcas Island in the early afternoon, it was too early to check into our rental house, so we stopped off at the village of Eastsound, ate lunch, and shopped.

Later in the afternoon we checked into our rental house, and man, what a place it was! It had 4 large bedrooms upstairs and 1 downstairs with 5 baths. The master bedroom was huge with large palladium windows looking out west over Orcas Island and Eastsound. The 2 master baths were large, one had a 7 foot cast iron claw foot tub and a shower sized for 4, the other had a Jacuzzi tub. A second bedroom had it’s own sitting room with large screen TV and a kitchenette. The downstairs floor was one large living room/ kitchen/dining room area that opened onto a large deck that spanned the whole front of the house and provided magnificent views west over the island. That first night we played the old swimming pool game, “Marco Polo”, with our 2 nieces trying to find everyone in the maze of hallways, closets and rooms upstairs.

This is our view from the deck overlooking Orcas Island. In the center is the town of Eastsound.

The Mansion.
The entrance to the mansion.


Lounging around and reading.
Lounging around the large sunny windows.


Diane, Megan, and Amy cooking supper.
Diane, Megan and Amy making supper.

The whole gang around the supper table.
The whole gang around the supper table.

Day 3 (Monday):

Today was designated Whale Watching Day. We had reservations with Deer Harbor Charters to go on their whale watching cruise which left out of the harbor at Rosario Resort. Rosario Resort was a short 15 minute drive south of our house.

It took about an hour of westward cruising thru the maze of islands to get over to Haro Strait which is between the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island. There were already several other whale watching cruises out there floating about each jockeying for a good position. Two whale pods (pods are what they call a group or “herd” of whales) were heading south down the strait . The tour boats would position themselves ahead of the whales, turn off their engines and wait for the whales to pass close by. After the whales went by, the boats would power up again, scoot ahead of the whales, and repeat the process. On one pass, a large Orca whale passed right underneath our boat. That was when Dave realized just how large the whales were. He could see the dark shadow just a few feet under the water approaching the boat. It kept coming and went right under the keel. It must have been huge based on the size of its shadow! Other than that experience, most of the time we saw the whales from a distance as they surfaced to breath. Their large dorsal fins were breaking the surface all around the ship. We were told that the fins on the older whales we were seeing were as large as 6 feet tall. The dorsal fin is the whale’s “cooling system”. They use it as a radiator to control their body temperature.

After a few hours of watching the whales, we followed the maze back thru all the small islands back home to Rosario Harbor.

The Buckley family lineup.
Here we all are, waiting to board the whale watching boat.

Orca Whales
Orca Whales

Some of the Orca Whales we saw. Some of the dorsal fins are 6 feet tall !

Day 4 (Tuesday):

Sea kayaking with Shearwater Adventures was today’s activity. They too operated out of Rosario Harbor, among other locations.

After a short class on kayaking techniques and safety from our guide Harold, we were off. Harold lead us to the quieter, western Amy and her seastar.side of Eastsound, away from the boat traffic in the harbor, where we slowly cruised along the shoreline. He showed us zillions of Sea stars all clinging to the rocks just under the water along the shoreline. He picked a few of them off the rocks and handed them to us so we could check them out up-close. Our nieces Megan and Amy especially enjoyed handling them. We slowly cruised past a large group of seals that were sunning themselves on some rocks. We drifted under a majestic bald eagle perched high on a branch looking out over the water for his next meal.

Harold also introduced us to a type of seaweed that had “air sacs” on it. It was very prevalent in the water around the rocks. He told us to take it back home and bake it in the oven at 360 degrees F for about an hour (I may be wrong about the time and temperature, I’m going by my memory, don’t try it without knowledgeable adult supervision). It was supposed to be very tasty, kind of like puffed potato chips. We took some home but after cleaning it in the sink, finding large roach sized amphibious bugs clinging to the branches, and feeling the slimy, mucousy exterior we all chickened out. We instead processed it in the garbage disposal {:- ).

Getting into our kayaks.
After our safety briefing, we get into our kayaks.


The Buckley family kayakers !
The intrepid Buckley family kayakers !


kayak-randy-megan.jpg (16148 bytes)
Megan and Randy

kayak-kathy-bj.jpg (15860 bytes)
Kathy and BJ

Day 5 (Wednesday):

Today was Kathy’s last day with us on the island. She had to return home to Seattle and her job. Per her last request, we planned a family picnic in Moran State Park. The main attractions in Moran State Park are Mt. Constitution and Cascade Lake.

The drive to the top of Mt Constitution is along a steep, narrow, winding road through beautiful forests up the side of the mountain. At the top of the mountain is a large overlook and an old stone look-out tower. The 270 degree view from the top of the tower was fantastic. The view extended from the north around thru the east to the southwest. There were several islands laid out before us between Orcas Island and the coast of Washington. In the distance was Mt. Baker rising above the flat horizon and down to the south we could just barely make out Mt. Rainier. There were no real good picnic areas at the top of the mountain so we drove back down to Cascade Lake where we found a lovely lakeside picnic table in the shade where we could enjoy our lunch. After lunch, several of us went swimming, namely Randy, Megan, Amy and Diane . Notice that I Dave didn’t go swimming. No way! Uhn-uhn ! I'm not crazy!. The water was way too cold to suit me!

After lunch we drove Kathy around the island over to the ferry terminal so she could catch the ferry back to Anacortes.

That evening we walked down into the village of Eastsound to watch their fireworks show. It was very good. I even got clobbered on the head by a large piece of an unburned cardboard shell casing that fell from the sky!

Mt Constitution panorama
This is a panoramic shot from the top of Mt. Constitution looking eastward.
It doesn't do the view justice.

The Buckley's on Mt. Constitution.
The Buckley's conquer Mount Constitution !

Picnic time at Cascade Lake.
Picnic time at Cascade Lake.

Day 6 (Thursday):

Today we had planned an all-day excursion to Victoria on Vancouver Island. We had to get up at the crack of dawn in order to make the first boat ferry from Orcas Island to San Juan Island. (Some members of the family had trouble waking up so early and had to be encouraged with the loud clashing of pot covers!) Once on San Juan Island we had to drive from Friday Harbor to Roche Harbor to get yet another boat ferry to a hotel at Oak Harbor on Vancouver Island. From the hotel at Oak Harbor we took a shuttle bus to the city of Victoria. I’m not sure how Diane managed to coordinate and time all these different modes of conveyance but everything worked out great. After the bus discharged its other passengers in downtown Victoria, it took us to Butchart Gardens out in a local suburb. We spent the next 2 hours walking around all the colorful, beautiful flower gardens.

Then the shuttle bus picked us up at the gardens and took us back to Victoria where we all went off in our own directions. While wandering about town, Diane and I ended up running into Diane’s parents. Together we decided to take a pedi-cab tour of the city. We found a young, strong-legged man who pedaled the four of us around town in his “bicycle built for 5” for 30 minutes while he described various sights around the city. After our pedi-tour, it was back to the shuttle bus for the ride back to the Oak Harbor Hotel, then the boat ferry back to Roche Harbor, then the car ride back to Friday Harbor, then the boat ferry back to Orcas Island, then the drive back to the house, …. and then finally sleep, glorious restful sleep!!

Flowery fountain
A flowery fountain at Butchart Gardens.

Part of the Butchart gardens.
An old rock quarry that was converted into a beautiful flowery garden.

The Buckley's at Butchart
The Buckley's at Butchart Gardens.

Rose trellis
The rose covered trellis's in the Rose Garden.

Day 7 (Friday):

Today was something of a free for all. Nothing was planned.

We first wen exploring nearby Madrona Point. It was a wooded peninsula with a rocky shoreline that extended out into Eastsound. The kids wanted to see more seastars. So we spent some time crawling along the shore searching for the biggest seastar we could find. Below you can see the results of our seastar safari.

Seastar safari
The Buckley's on a seastar safari.

Randy gets wet
Randy gets wet from a rogue wave that surprises him!

Diane models two of the seastars that we found.
They were later returned to the water where we found them.

After checking out Madrona Point, Diane and I wanted to check out the rest of Orcas Island and so we took Mom and Dad with us. Orcas Island is shaped like a horseshoe with the opening pointing down or southward. Our first destination was the southeastern end of Orcas Island. We found several nice small harbors at Doe Bay and Lieber Haven Marina . At Doe Bay we met up with our friendly sea kayaking guide Harold. Shearwater Adventures runs kayaking tours out of there also and he was running the office there that day. There was also a gentleman there, out on a point of land, blowing large 2-3 foot diameter soap bubbles. They were the weirdest things to watch as they gently drifted past us undulating and changing shape as if they were alive and breathing At Lieber Haven Marina we visited the small country store where we bought a cluster of dried barnacles that had been removed from their pier. Each barnacle was about the size of a shot glass. From there we drove back up over the top of the island and down to Deer Harbor. By then it was getting late and we had to return home for supper.

Lieberhaven Marina
Lieberhaven Marina at low tide. Note the large tide difference.

Day 8 (Saturday):

This morning was the Eastsound Volunteer Fireman’s Pancake breakfast down at the firehouse. They do a fantastic job of feeding everyone with pancakes, sausages, and eggs. Right after the pancake breakfast is the town’s annual Fourth of July Parade They also had a farmers market and craft show going on in the town square area afterwards. We spent most of the day walking around town. That evening was the Lion’s Club Salmon Bake. They held it outside under a large tent. Talk about a fantastic Salmon dinner! Mmmm Mmmmm Good ! You could tell they’ve been doing this a long time and were very good at their jobs.

Fireman's Pancake breakfast
The volunteer firefighters pancake breakfast.

Lion Club Salmon bake
The VFW salmon Bake

Day 9 (Sunday):

Today was spent packing up, and clearing out of the house. With 8 people and 5 bedrooms and a kitchen full of food it took us awhile. We had to hustle though because you need to get to the ferry early to get on line. They recommend about 1 hours ahead of time. Don’t forget, it’s Sunday and everybody else also wants to get off the island and get back home to Seattle or wherever. Unfortunately, we just missed the cut-off for the 12:00 ferry by 3 cars and had to wait another 2 hours for the next ferry. While waiting, we enjoyed a picnic lunch and shopped in all the tourist trinket shops clustered around the ferry terminal.

After getting back to Seattle, we ate a hasty supper in a pizza parlor downtown and then several of the family (Kathy, Diane, Randy, Megan and Amy) went to the Janet Jackson concert at the Seattle Civic Center. The rest of us returned either to their hotel or Kathy’s apartment.

Day 10-13 (Monday - Thursday):

We spent these days backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area by ourselves. For the complete trip report description, see our separate Alpine Lakes Wilderness Trip Report.

Day 14 (Friday):

We were originally planning on being out in the woods backpacking today. But since the mosquitoes had been so bad, we cut the trip short (see the separate Alpine Lakes Trip Report). Since we found ourselves with an extra “Bonus Day”, we decided to make good use of it and visit some old friends of Diane’s who lived south of the Seattle area. She has known these friends since her volunteer days in Louisiana with the Mennonite Central Committee. It was about a 2 hour drive down to Chehalis, WA, where we had lunch with her friends Mary and Neil. Then, it was 2 hrs back up to Seattle for supper with the family.

Day 15 (Saturday):

Today we drove about 2 hrs to Mt. Rainier with Diane’s parents and sister for a quick picnic lunch at Rainier’s Paradise Visitors Center. We had just enough time to eat before Diane and I had to part company with Kathy, Mom and Dad, and hurry back up to Seattle to meet other old friends of Diane’s, Paul and Aileen, at the downtown ferry terminal. There we took a ferry to Tillicum Village on Blake Island where we enjoyed another good Salmon dinner and a native American Indian show.

Day 16 (Sunday):

It was finally the end of the trip. After spending the morning packing, we drove to the airport and flew back home to BWI, arriving home about 11:00 pm. It was off to bed quickly because we had to get to work the first thing the next morning.

Orcas Island Pottery:

Searching thru some tourist brochures, we read about this pottery studio to the west of Eastsound where anyone can try their hand at throwing pottery. For $5 you get a lump of clay, and time on a potter's wheel. The studio then fires the pots overnight. The second day you can come back and apply your glaze. Then they fire it again overnight and you can pick up your finished piece of art the third day.

They have an assistant who sits beside you and offers guidance. It's a great idea for kids, even adults! Megan, Amy, Diane and I all tried it.

Megan and Amy check out Amy's bowl.
Megan and Amy discuss
Amy's bowl.

Amy's clean hands.
Anyone for "patty-cake"?

Megan turns her bowl.
Megan works intently
on her bowl.



Travelogue Index
D & D Home
last revised : February 16, 2006