San Juan Island

Trip Start May 09, 2008
Trip End May 11, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Sunday, May 11, 2008

We had originally planned a hiking trip to the North Cascade Mountains, but discovered that the trails were all still snowy, so we decided to visit San Juan Island instead.
We left straight after work on Friday afternoon and after crossing the border, we zipped down the highway to Anacortes and caught the ferry from Anacortes across to Friday Harbour on San Juan Island. The ferry trip took a bit over an hour but was a very nice trip amongst some of the other islands in the San Juan archipelago.
The place we stayed at was more budget than we'd expected from its website but it didn't matter too much because we were hardly there.

On Saturday after a short wander around Friday Harbour we drove to the western side of the island and stopped along the coast, where we got out the binoculars and spotted a pod of something off the coast. They looked like dolphins and we discovered later that they were probably harbour porpoises.
Up the road we stopped at a national park which is renowned for Orca sightings but it was a bit early in
the season so unfortunately we didn't see any.
Then we visited a place called English Camp. When the Treaty of Oregon divided the land between the US and the British in 1846 the San Juan Islands were omitted, as they are in a bit of a tricky spot between the southern end of Vancouver Island and the Washington mainland. The land debate was brought to a head when an American Farmer shot a Hudson Bay Company boar and the British threatened to arrest him, starting the 12-year "Pig War", in which the only casulty was actually the pig. So both the American and British armies were encamped on the island while the dispute was sorted out. Eventually the islands were awarded to the US.
Afterwards we hiked up nearby Young Hill (a higher climb than its name suggests) which came out at a grassy clearing and we could see the nearby San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island and the Canadian Gulf islands. It was pretty spectacular, also given the sun was shining and a bird of prey flew directly overhead - we could have stayed up there all afternoon.
We followed our exertion with a visit to the small but beautiful Roche Harbor. It was pretty quiet as it was Saturday afternoon but the town had old style buildings including an impressive hotel, bricked pedestrian walkways and a marina which we wandered around, wishing we had megabucks to buy one of the fabulous boats and cruise the islands. The town was so picturesque that we weren't suprised to see several weddings in progress. To top it off we were enjoying sitting on the pier overlooking the harbour with a couple of hot drinks when a tiny red and white hummingbird came and fed in the flowerpot right in front of us - not something you see every day, especially so close. 
Speaking of birdlife, on the way back to Friday Harbour a juvenile Bald Eagle flew over the car and suddenly there were half a dozen eagles! We got talking to some American tourists who had also stopped to watch and it turns  out a local guy had left some chicken for them and they were swooping down to get it from the grass. I don't condone feeding wild birds and animals because it can make them dependent on it, especially the juveniles, and the guy was lucky he had left or he might have got a mouthful from me. But I can't deny we were treated to an amazing aerial display by the eagles, and also managed to glimpse a couple of foxes that had come to sneak some dinner as well.
That evening we decided to treat ourselves to dinner overlooking Friday Harbour, which was lovely. Afterwards we had a drink in the local pub - an interesting place to people-watch.
On Sunday we went down to the southern end of the island and visited the American camp, which was a lot
more basic and windblown, but still very pretty with the Olympic Pensinsula in the distance. We followed that with a hike up to the top of Mt Finlayson. It was a couple of kilometres through the forest and there was nobody about, except for a couple of Black-tailed deer that we startled! When we got to the summit we could see the lighthouse at the end of the island, the Olympic Peninsula, and more of the San Juan Islands. Another lovely view. By then it was time to head back to Friday Harbour and catch the ferry back to the mainland.
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