The itinerary for our fall escapades has one determining factor – Oklahoma State football. The stars aligned on October 7th when the Cowboys had a bye week and thus our tour de San Juan Island was scheduled. Ferry rides were reserved, Airbnb was rented and fingers were crossed that orcas would be spotted during our visit.
Because I was returning from Oklahoma late on the 6th we decided to leave bright and early Saturday morning to maximize our time on the island. This plan sounded brilliant in theory, but when Jarred and I arrived home from the airport at 2 o’clock in the morning (he’s a saint for picking me up so late) it was less than appealing. With three quick hours of sleep under our belt, jbabe and I headed to Bellevue at 6:00 a.m. to pick up our travel companions – Kelsey and Shawn.
With all the Witts piled in the 4Runner we ventured north towards Anacortes to board the 9:30 ferry. It was mandatory to arrive 45-60 minutes prior to departure to purchase tickets even though I had previously reserved a spot for our vehicle. It’s still rather unclear why reservations were encouraged, but we successfully secured tickets and punctually set sail towards our destination. We passed the time onboard by attempting (and failing) to complete the world’s hardest puzzle and people watching – the man wearing a pirate’s hat posted up on the deck took the cake.
A little before 11 our ferry docked at Friday Harbor, our home base for the weekend. As we started our exploration of the cute seaside town we were instantly greeted by the brisk autumn air and gorgeous fall foliage. I was immediately thankful for my last minute, sleep deprived decision to throw a small, puffy jacket into my bag. At Kelsey and I’s request we wandered into a couple cute boutiques before deciding our appetites were of the utmost importance. It was difficult to turn down the China Pearl, which boasted the best Chinese food AND pizza, but ultimately decided the Blue Water Bar & Grill was more enticing.
Kelsey, the mastermind behind the trip, has an obsession is intrigued with killer whales and was eagerly anticipating viewing these creatures in the wild. Unfortunately she left her Free Willy necklace at home, but nevertheless directed our vehicle west en route to Lime Kiln Point State Park. The park that is nicknamed Whale Watch Park due to being “one of the best places in the world to view whales from land” seemed like the perfect location to turn her dream into reality.
Sadly Shamu did not make an appearance, but to our amusement (and shock) Kelsey did pick up a large piece of seaweed. Jarred tried to convince her to drape it over her shoulders like a boa, but for reasons I cannot fathom Kelsey declined. If you can’t see an orca, I would imagine fondling slimy algae to be a close second.
Defeated we hit the road in search of a lavender farm. The boys were less than enthused with our destination choice, but Kels and I have dreamed of frolicking through lush fields of lavender for a couple years and couldn’t pass up the [photo] opportunity. To our dismay, we came to the realization that October is not the most opportune time to view these flowering plants in bloom. Lavender farms: 2, Kelsey and Evan: 0.
We then wandered to South Beach for more shenanigans. This particular pebble and sand beach on the southern peninsula of the island stretches for two miles and is garnished with mounds of bleached driftwood as far as the eye could see. Not only did the wood provide calisthenics in the balancing act it required to scamper across the logs, but also Jarred thoroughly enjoyed pretending to be Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones while swinging a “club” around his head. It may have been the lack of sleep we were all suffering from, but needless to say lots of delirious laughter happened at South Beach.
With enough time for one more excursion before meeting our Airbnb host, we found ourselves at San Juan Vineyards. The grounds of the vineyard were picturesque with a tiny white church and matching one-room schoolhouse, which had been renovated to serve as their tasting room. Jarred is the only member of our entourage that doesn’t appreciate wine (my life’s mission while in Washington is to change this), but Shawn, Kelsey and I savored our samples. All three of us favor red wines, but the undeniable champion of the afternoon was their award winning, estate grown, white Madeleine Angevine.
At the recommendation of our Airbnb host, Tim, we strolled to the recently opened San Juan Island Brewery after checking in. As a beer aficionado, Jarred was much more thrilled with this establishment than our previous one. The boys ordered flights in order to sample a wider range of their locally crafted brews, while Kelsey and I stuck to pints. After tasting Pumpkin Ale for the first time, I have now discovered I’m an admirer of the seasonal favorite.
Craving more than football and libations we departed the brewery and ended our night dining at Tops’l Sushi and Seafood. The ambience could not have been more delightful between being located on the second story of a building outlined with Christmas lights with a harbor view and a cellist playing in the corner. The food was mouthwatering, the drinks were delectable and the conversations were hilarious. All in all, our first day on the island was a success.
Sunday morning we awoke to beautiful, sunny skies. We commenced our day with more food than was probably necessary at the delicious Rocky Bay Café. We may or may not have even been asked to vacate our table after being immersed in conversation long after our plates and drinks were empty. Apparently after spending over sixteen hours together we still had an abundance of topics to cover.
With a couple hours to spare before our returning ferry, we embarked on a Sunday drive to the northwest side of the island in search of the “other town.” The crimson lane of autumn trees that welcomed us as we pulled into Roche Harbor took my breath away. The town itself became an instant favorite, as it was the most adorable, quintessential little harbor town I’ve ever seen. As we explored the charming community they were setting up for a wedding at the local Hotel de Haro. If you’re searching for a stateside destination wedding location, add Roche Harbor to your list of possibilities and then invite me to the wedding. Please and thank you.
Sadly our weekend adventure on San Juan Island had come to an end. However, thanks to a FaceTime conversation Kelsey was having with her sister during the ferry ride home, we had an impromptu meeting with a man named Kelly. Kelly just so happened to film all the wild footage for the Free Willy movies. We spent thirty minutes of the ride engrossed in conversation with him about all things pertaining to orcas. It was a fascinating way to end our perfect weekend getaway.