On Saturday morning, Rich and I loaded up our bikes, fortified our stomachs with Egg McMuffins and iced McCafe’s then drove to Anacortes to catch a ferry to Shaw Island, the smallest of the four San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries. It’s also home to less than 200 year-round residents.
The ferry going to Shaw, however, is very large, because it also stops at Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Islands (Friday Harbor). There were dozens of bicyclists with thin-wheeled bikes, biking shorts, snappy jersey’s, and biking shoes who got on the ferry in Anacortes. I was concerned that Shaw island would be swarming with serious bicyclist, but almost everyone got off at either Orcas or Lopez.
While waiting to leave Anacortes, we watched the cormorants from the windows of the ferry. There were at least a dozen nests in nocks of the tall ferry slip. On a couple of nests, we could see the eggs. Other nests were buzzing with activity with baby birds peaking out their heads. the picture on the right shows several cormorants on top of the slip. Below were several of the many nests built in slip with as many as four nests per girder.
We rode on the M/V Yakima, a 382 foot ship that can hold up to 2,500 passengers and 144 vehicles, including large trucks and RVs. The calm water enabled the ferry to zoom from island-to-island at 15 to 17 knots.
Here’s what the ferry looks like from the lower car deck where we tied up our bikes. Above the car decks are two levels of seating.
The first place the ferry stopped was Lopez Island, which has a population of 2,000 people and offers many activities from bicycling to kayaking, gallery hopping, wine tasting, clamming and crabbing, and relaxing at the island’s many inns and cabins.
One of the most challenging days Rich and I had sailing last September was catching a mooring ball off Spencer Spit on Lopez Island. Because of the wind and mooring balls with chains that were stuck, it took us close to an hour to tie up the boat.
Most of the ferry emptied out at Orcas Island (below). Rich and I have very warm memories of Orcas having attended a wedding there four years ago. The day before the wedding, we signed the paper to purchase our Mount Vernon house! At the time, our lives were filled with uncertainties as to whether we’d be able to move back to the Pacific Northwest (including moving six cats), find jobs, and afford a house close to Seattle. I longed for the day when we could take our bikes on the ferry and ride around the islands.
The ride from Orcas to Shaw took a few minutes. The quaint ferry landing was lined with planter boxes, filled with flowers of every imaginable color and shape. Next to the landing were the only commercial establishments on the island: A post office, grocery store/art gallery, and an antique shop that’s only open on weekends, during the summer!
The rest of the island consists of homes, farms, a community center, library/historical society, two-room school house (the original one-room plus a computer lab) that’s on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places, and several orders of nuns, including the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist who used to run the store and bless the passengers on the ferries.
While Rich and I intended to bike around the island, we seemed to spend more time enjoying the sites, including wandering through the library and historical society, where Rich posed in front of a reef net boat.
Native Americans and later fishermen in the San Juan Island would erect large fishing nets in the pathways of migratory salmon. They would stand on high platforms on their reef net boats and watch as the salmon leaped into the nets.
Across from the library was the two-room school house. Instead of staying on the paved road, we decided to cut across the island on a gravel road, which passed by a pasture of Scottish Highland cattle. I was able to pet several of the calves, but decided to get back on my bike after the “fully endowed” bull butted one of his giant horns on the low wooden fence.
I went on the American Highland Cattle Association Web site and just learned that the herd we saw belong to Mother Theresa Critchley of Our Lady of the Rock, O.S.B.! No wonder why the cattle were was placid and willing to be pet!
Access to the beach was easier on the other side. We visited a rocky beach then rode for a few minutes to a beach with large rocks with oyster shells stuck to the rocks. We found a fallen tree trunk to sit on and enjoyed our lunch of seedy crackers and pungent cheeses, green apple slices, carrots, and Gatorade.
We next biked on the beach at the 64-acre Shaw Island County Park. We might not have sexy road bikes, but we certainly have more fun on mountain bikes that let us easily ride on gravel, sand, and rocky paths!
Tired from our adventure and not wanting to wait for the 3:40 ferry, we head back to the ferry dock where we perused the many announcements on the community bulletin board, wandered through the antique store, then plopped down on a wooden loveseat to nibble on Ben & Jerry ice cream bars and look out on the bay.
Rich exclaimed, “It’s like sitting in a postcard.”