Sunday, July 2, 2017

Friday Harbor Flyout

Flying to the San Juan Islands is my all time favorite flying route.  Western Washington has the Cascade Mountains and volcanoes, the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound dotted with hundred of islands that make that trip absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.  Bill and I flew up to Friday Harbor for a CAA Flyout.  The club quite often plans flyouts there because it is a relatively close destination to get to and those that don't want to fly can drive and take the ferry over.  The airport is so close and convenient to town and it is just a really great place to visit. We had four fantastic days of weather to fly there and home.  Bill made an interim trip to Bellingham to pick up Chris to bring him to Friday Harbor to spend an evening with us on the island.

The group always stays at the Earthbox Inn when we go there.  It is owned by the daughter of one of the club's members so we do our lodging business with her.  It is an old travel lodge but it has been remodeled and is decorated in a very modern European style which is fun.  They did a really nice job with the remodel.  I've only stayed at one other motel/hotel there and it is also owned by her.  Of the two, I recommend the Earthbox Inn.

After we arrived on Thursday, I decided I wanted to go find where PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center is located.  It has one of the ORs that I support but I have never been there.  It is located right next to the airport--a little more than a half a mile from the motel.  It is pretty quiet little place but I walked through just to see it and say I was there.  Then I walked around town and to the marina before heading back to the motel.  Bill decided to take advantage of the spa and get a massage.

That evening we went to Mike's Wine Bar and Cafe.  We tried out some wines made by the owner and had some appetizers.  The entire menu is vegan so we had hummus and tried out some vegan cheeses.  We went to the Rumor Mill for dinner afterward.

We thought we were going to be going on a tour of San Juan Island on Friday but as it turned out, our flight leader had the dates mixed up and our tour wasn't until Saturday.  I hadn't made any other plans and didn't want to sit idle all day so I scouted out some whale watching tour companies.  Things were fairly booked but I found a spot on a Zodiac boat tour with the Western Prince Tours company.  I had always gone on the bigger vessels to go whale watching in the past and I got skunked seeing any Orcas on my last tour so I was a little reluctant to schedule a tour but wanting something to do got the better of me and that was the easiest thing to arrange and get to.  I went on my own.  Bill wanted to work and take a walk on the island.

Going on the little Zodiac boat was quite an adventure. We had to suit up in water survival suits and keep cameras inside our suits when we were traveling to protect them from the salt water that we got sprayed with on occasion.  We traveled quite a distance because there were no whale sightings near Friday Harbor.  I was actually feeling fortunate that I got on the Zodiac tour because I am not sure if I had taken a traditional one that they would have been able to go that far in the amount of time that the tour takes.  We were skunked on the last whale watching tour I went on there as far as seeing Orcas so I'm not sure if I would have seen any taking the bigger boat.

Our first stop was on the east side of San Juan to see a pair of eagles perched in a tree near their nest.  It was pretty obvious that the sunshine wasn't going to be able to let me see what I was taking photos of and that the distance despite having a pretty good zoom on my camera was too great for its capability.  But I did my best to see what shots I could get and hoped for the best.  Next stop was a little rock island with several harbor seals sunning themselves.  

The big event was about 25 miles away so we made haste in getting to the east side of Lummi Island.  I could see Bellingham as we traveled to get there.  I thought about waving to Chris across Bellingham Bay LOL.  When we were about a mile away, I spotted one of the whales breaching.  Oh how I wish we had been closer at that moment.  I have never see a whale breach and was hoping that they would do it again once we were closer but no such luck.  Boats are required by law to be at least 200 yards away from any whales.  One of my cousins had been on a tour out of Orcas Island a week earlier and had whales come right up to their boat and swim under it.  That would have been so awesome but this group of five were on the hunt looking for a seal along the coastline.  At one point, we saw an eagle on the beach watching the whales swim by.  When they got to the north end of Lummi, they started working on killing a seal.  I never saw the seal but those with binoculars and good lenses on their cameras were able to see it.  After about and hour, the captain had to take us away to get back to Friday Harbor in time to go on their next tour.  Another fast tracked trip back taking a different route south of Orcas Island that took about 45 minutes.

I should have known better but I didn't put any sunscreen on and my face got burned pretty badly-especially my nose.  My nose blistered and I lost the skin on my nose and it scabbed over.  Not very pretty.

We had some refreshments and snacks at the hotel with our group and then headed on our own to the Cask and Schooner.  Bill had a steak salad and I indulged in a lamb burger.

Our tour of the island was on Saturday.  I got up early to take a walk to the harbor.  I caught a glimpse of the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain as we were going in and out of Friday Harbor on my whale watching cruise but I wanted to go down and see them at the dock.  They are famous for being in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and were in port for tours.  I had taken the boys on them years ago when they were docked here in Washougal so I didn't need to get on the ships themselves but wanted to get a glimpse at them again.  The local pirate group decided to take advantage of them being in town and had their First Annual Pirate Festival in Friday Harbor.  We didn't actually go but saw a few folks dressed up as pirates around town and heard them.  There was also a tall ship battle in the harbor Saturday night.  We got to see it for a little bit during dinner but they soon moved out of view.  We could hear their cannons even when they were out of sight though.

Our tour of the island was very interesting.  It was a history tour and we had a local historian on the bus with us to give us the tour.  We started at American Camp and learned about the military occupation of the island and the Pig War with the British.  From there we went to Lime Kiln State Park to see the remnants of a lime kiln there and learn about the lime industry on the island.  There is also a lighthouse there and I always love to see lighthouses.  Next stop was Roche Harbor.  Bill left the tour to take a taxi to the plane so he could fly to Bellingham to pick Chris up after work.  I had lunch at the little cafe there and wandered around the shops and garden for a bit.  There is an old historic hotel there as well as two lime kilns next to the hotel to look at.  The gardens were so beautiful.  Our last stop was at English Camp and we watched a few demonstrations of wood carving, spinning wool into yarn and washing clothes before we headed back to the hotel.  It was a pleasant way to spend the day.

I had to wait a bit for Chris and Bill to get back.  Unfortunately they blew a tire out when they landed in Friday Harbor.  Bill was grateful to have Chris with him to help manhandle the plane and I was grateful I wasn't along.  He sent Chris ahead while he waited for a mechanic to come to the airport and help him fix the plane so Chris and I had a chance to talk for awhile which was nice.  Not often that I get an audience alone with him.  Bill got back just in time to head to Downriggers for dinner.

We took Chris out for breakfast before heading to the airport to take him home to Bellingham and then head home ourselves.  The temperatures were sizzling here in the Portland metro area over the weekend while we were enjoying warm but tolerable temperatures in Friday Harbor.  I wanted to get home before it hit the 100 degree mark.  It was 93 degrees when we landed--still too hot for me.

It was a great little getaway to get some island time.  One flyout down.  We have a few more coming up over the next couple of months to share when they happen.

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