San Juan, Orcas, Shaw, and Lopez islands beckon to visitors sailing aboard the Washington State Ferries from Anacortes, WA and Sidney, BC, Canada on Vancouver Island year around, with the exception of no ferry service from Canada during the cold winter months.
My first experience travelling to the San Juan Islands was by bicycle with the Boeing Employees Bicycle Club over three consecutive Memorial Day weekends during high school. Members, Bill and Erin Woods, authored the Mountaineers book titled Bicycling the Backroads around Puget Sound and used a photo of our group cycling along Cascade Lake in Moran State Park on Orcas Island on the cover.
Twice, we toured Orcas Island, the largest island in the archipelago, camping in tents at Moran State Park. For three days, we followed two-lane roads winding past tranquil valleys, freshwater lakes, crescent beaches, and climbed to the top of Mt. Constitution. This highest point in the San Juan Islands at 2,409-feet (734 metres) has a stone lookout tower offering a 360º breathtaking view of the surrounding islands and the mainland of British Columbia and Washington State. Of the four islands reached by ferryboat, Orcas Island is my favorite because of its variety of scenic geographical features.
Our third trip took us to San Juan Island, the second-largest and most populated of the islands. Friday Harbor, where the ferry lands, is a town of approximately 2,000 residents nestled in a small bay protected at its entrance by Brown Island. To this teenager from the Seattle suburbs, the commercial hub and governmental seat of San Juan County felt remote.
Snatching a few snacks to tuck into our saddlebags, we pedaled on semi-flat roads toward windswept American Camp on the island’s southern tip. Captain George E. Pickett, of Civil War fame, established a military presence at this beachhead on July 27, 1859 during the infamous Pig War with the British. The following day, we explored English Camp located in a very pleasant spot on the forested northwest corner of the island on Garrison Bay.
Over forty years ago, I had no idea I would research the Pig War, an international conflict settled peacefully because cool heads prevailed, and include the event in a Christian historical romance novel. God has a way of surprising us, doesn’t He?
Thanks for reading!