My First Visit to the San Juans

IMG_8683Roughly 20 years ago, I saw photos of the San Juan Islands in a travel story. I was nothing short of mesmerized by the natural beauty of a part of our country, which, to that point, I didn’t know existed. It looked like another world, not the United States. The San Juans have been on my “must visit” list ever since. Little did I know I would one day be living less than a half day’s journey from them!

For the twins’ Spring Break this year we packed our bags for Friday Harbor on the largest island, San Juan. Their friends were bragging about travel plans to Palm Springs and other sunny destinations, which made me feel a little guilty, admittedly. We were basically taking the twins on a week-long nature hike, but we know our kids. They may have preferred to be in Disneyland, but they love the outdoors.

Here are our favorites from our trip

IMG_8267Roche Harbor – a short drive from Snug Harbor Resort, where we stayed, this village is quite charming, complete with a little white church and brick-paved streets. We dined at McMillin’s in Roche Harbor later in the week, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset, not to mention tasty food.

IMG_8351English Camp – even a long-time (50+ years) American history professor (my dad) had never heard of this “conflict” between the British and the United States, which all began with the killing of a pig in 1859. What ensued was an argument between the two countries over who owned the San Juans. This stand-off dragged on for 12 years until in 1871 the boundary issue was placed in the hands of Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany for arbitration. Thanks, Wil! The camp sits on Garrison Bay, and the hikes around the property are easy and scenic. A visit to the cemetery where 7 British men are buried is worth the walk (across the road).

IMG_0089Lime Kiln Point State Park and light house – we read this spot was our best bet for seeing whales, short of a whale-watching tour, and if we had brought binoculars, we would have had a great view of a group of orca swimming far off the shore. Darn it! We will know better next time. This park includes a nice hike along the water to a beach/bay full of driftwood and rocks. Just beware of a sharp cliff near the whale-watching sign not far from the light house. After I wrote a letter of concern to the park, they have agreed to install warning signs of the cliff danger.

IMG_0137American Camp – situated on the south end of the island (English camp is on the north side), we were astounded by the vast open land here. The drive to American camp looks like the English countryside. We would have enjoyed more time for exploring, but the kids were wearing down by this point of the trip.

IMG_8698Jakle’s Lagoon – two ladies at a local winery told us to take the twins here, and we were not disappointed. The short hike to the lagoon was very pretty through dense trees, and the beach is long, rocky and full of driftwood. A driftwood fort had been built by previous visitors, and we had fun adding to it.

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We look forward to returning and to visiting the other islands, as well. We promised the twins next time we will ride horses and drive scooters. They love those ideas (but they remain curious about Palm Springs).

(All photos are my own.)

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