Locals walk Orcas Island’s Crescent Beach, looking out on East Sound.
WE TOOK A 3-1/2 HOUR VACATION to visit the rich cousin with the organic farm and lots of sheep.
Each of these San Juans has its own personality, so when Barbara and I took our old Ford pickup, Ranger Rick, to Orcas Island for a day last week, it was a bit like visiting the eccentric relative. It’s only seven miles away from Center Island, but a different watery world.
After a very moist, cold and stormy January, the weather gurus called for a day of sunshine and light breezes. Happy to relieve a mild case of cabin fever, we jumped in our boat, tied up at Lopez Island’s Hunter Bay dock and took the truck aboard the interisland ferry for the 35-minute hop to Orcas, the largest island in the archipelago.
On the way to Orcas Island, the state ferry pulls into the dock at Shaw Island, the least visited of the ferry-served San Juans.
The ferry schedule can rule your life when you live in the San Juans. Finding interisland sailings that would get us there and back with plenty of daylight on each end, with a bit of ferry-line waiting built in, we had 3 1/2 hours to explore the 57-square-miles of Orcas.
But, you know, you can actually see a lot in a few hours. You can even have lunch.
Another motive for going: I have another writing assignment for AAA of Washington, giving them 800 words about Orcas Island. I’ve been there many times, but needed a quick refresher.
With that objective, we mostly drove around and took photos. (The weather gurus muffed it, by the way: We got, ahem, snowed on, which put the kibosh on driving to the top of Mount Constitution.)
Along the way we had time to munch tasty fish n’ chips at the White Horse Pub in Eastsound, with a lovely view of the water. We did a little Valentine’s Day shopping. And we stopped at one of our favorite Orcas farmstands, the historic Coffelt Farm (now run by the Lum Family), where we picked up a dozen of the prettiest, freshest eggs a hen ever clucked about, in delightful soft pastels of green and brown.
The quick tour reminded us of the bucolic beauty of Crow Valley’s rolling pastures, pocketed among island forests; the mossy, mountainous wonderland that is Moran State Park; the hippie-dippie perfection of Doe Bay Resort; and the coziness of Olga, one of the few communities I know that can properly be called a hamlet.
A mossy old one-lane bridge marks one entry of Moran State Park.
There’s also money on Orcas, with plenty of it represented in the view homes overlooking long-ago Seattle Mayor Robert Moran’s 110-year-old waterfront mansion, Rosario, or in Oprah Winfrey’s 43-acre, $8 million island retreat, which she calls “Madroneagle.” (Doesn’t quite trip off the tongue for me, but money and poetry don’t often go together, it seems.)
It’s a different crowd, all in all. But anybody driving around in an old pickup truck can fit right in, too. Just wave at the sheep as you go by.