San Juans Trip: Adventures on San Juan and Shaw Islands, and back to the mainland.

Wednesday morn, July 29. I’d be heading back to the ferry dock at Orcas to get to San Juan Island today. I had originally hoped to catch the 12:25 ferry, giving me a little time to ride to the westernmost part of Orcas Island by Deer Harbor, since I heard the ride from Westsound to there was beautiful. I got to the junction and decided that I had enough of Orcas for this trip, so I high-tailed it to the ferry and made it for the 10:40 sailing.

And lucky I did, as my friend Ryan was on the ferry! He had just finished up a tour of the islands with socalpedalpusher and was staying on Lopez Island for a few days. He was going to do an out-and-back from Friday Harbor, the town at the ferry terminal on San Juan Island to Cattle Point, the southernmost tip of the island, a roundtrip of 20 miles. So I tagged along, since I didn’t have any major plans for San Juan besides ride around.

We made it to American Camp, the southern unit of San Juan National Park, where we ran into construction as they were completely rebuilding the road to Cattle Point. The delay was going to be 20 minutes, so we opted to take the trail. This was very much a hiking trail, rideable for bits, but requiring a bit of hike-a-bike action. The payoff was the great views from atop Mount Finlayson. After a bit of lunch, we made it down to the disused lighthouse at Cattle Point, then decided to take a different trail route back to the road. This involved some better dirt riding, some pushing of bikes on Third Lagoon, more pushing of bikes to get back to the main trail, then a nice ride through primordial forest.

We got back into Friday Harbor around 4:30. Ryan wanted to catch the 5:30 ferry back to Lopez, since the next one wouldn’t be until 10pm. (The reality of ferry life.) So I bit him adieu. I could have ridden around some more as it would have been nice to go out to Lime Kiln Point on the west side of the island. But after all the riding (about 30 miles)* I decided to call it a day, check in to my night’s lodging (Wayfarer’s Rest), and enjoy the “night life” of the “city”, Friday Harbor.

It’s only a five minute walk from the hostel to downtown, so I walked instead of biking. I found an okay pub that had a good view of the waterfront, and enjoyed a few beers while watching the ferries come and go.

Thursday (July 30) was the return to the mainland day. I could have taken the ferry straight back to Anacortes but decided to hit up Shaw Island and ride around a little bit. Shaw is the smallest and least populated of the ferry-accessible islands, so the just-about-three-hour ferry window would give me a taste of the island.

And yeah, it’s small! In two miles from the ferry dock I hit the other side (south side) of the island. I checked out the camping action at Shaw Island County Park. It was quiet, had a beach, and featured a hiker-biker site. I then rode over to Hoffman Cove, one of the few publicly accessible spaces on the island (most of it is private property) and checked out the tide pool action. Then I found a gravel road featuring the steepest pitch so far of the tour. I zoomed by the Little Red Schoolhouse and the Museum, and soon I was back at the ferry dock with time to spare. And I saw a total of twelve cars the whole time I was on Shaw, which was a nice change from the heavier traffic on Orcas and San Juan. I celebrated with ice cream from the general store.

The ferry brought me back to the mainland just after 1 pm. I rode the eight or so miles through Anacortes to March’s Point, where I caught a bus into Mt. Vernon. There was a bit of time until the bus to Everett was to depart, so I got an IPA and nachos at Skagit River Brewing rather than hang out at the bus stop. (Not a bad decision!) Another bus brought me from Everett to downtown Seattle, and it was back to the HI hostel for the night. I got in early enough to head over to the Schooner Exact Brewery with Robert to enjoy beer and stories. Finally, on Friday July 31st, I caught Amtrak Casades Train 501 to get me home to Portland. Another trip done.

*Yeah, I know, 30 miles isn’t a heck of a lot when it comes to touring. But the islands are hilly with lots of up and down action, which wears me out.


2 thoughts on “San Juans Trip: Adventures on San Juan and Shaw Islands, and back to the mainland.

  1. Judging from your photos and this post, it sounds like your trip was a resounding success. I’m down here in the summer heat imagining what that trip must have been like. Our May expedition (and now this account) created a tour hunger in me, and I seek satiation. I must get clever and solve the hot weather challenge because waiting for my October outing is just too much to bear.

  2. Aw, you and Ryan celebrated my birthday the way I wish I had been celebrating it! 🙂 Psyched you guys ran into each other, and psyched for your SJ islands adventure!

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