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My time in the San Juan archipelago has finally come to an end. I pedaled 450 miles in the wrong direction to be in this tropical paradise. It was worth everyone.

Four islands are accessible by ferry: Lopaz, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan. They are each unique and worth at least a days exploration. Rustic campgrounds and luxurious resorts suit the needs of any budget; large woodlots for stealth camping suit the budget of long distance cycle tourers. Wildlife abounds. I have seen: golden eagles, bald eagles, osprey, porpoise,  seals, deer, alpaca, fox, raccoons (who are known to rip into tents for food), and even a camel. Three pods of killer whales, orcas, also frequent these waters; though, I was not fortunate enough to see them.

Saturday was my birthday. It was one I will never forget. It began with a toast at midnight and ended with a salmon bbq watching the sun go down. I was camped in a campground – important to note because I’m typically just in the woods somewhere – on San Juan Island just north of the Orca sighting hotspot of Lime Kiln state park. Two new bike campers came rolling into the park; Claudia and Debra (please forgive me, I’m awful with names). Help with a new tent earned me a beer and a place at their table. We talked late into the night and celebrated their first tour and the arrival of my 28th birthday. The next day, we rode out of the campground together and went our separate ways.

I took the ferry back to Lopaz Island for a much-needed shower and stumbled into a surprise birthday party. There are only two showers on the island. They are free and wonderful and I took my time not realizing people were waiting. I apologized to the waiting Frenchman and his friend from across the lake in Switzerland and excused myself, “Nice talking to you.” I said. “I’m off to treat myself to a birthday pizza.” “It’s your birthday?” He asked with a thick accent. “You come to my home for dinner. We have salmon bbq.” It took almost a minute for me to comprehend his broken english. He was inviting me to dinner with his family! I was speechless. We loaded my bike in the back of his van and drove to his property.

His “home” is a rustic cabin on the southern tip of Lopaz Island. I was introduced to the rest of his family: his wife, son, and the wife of his friend from France. He loaded a wagon with wine and food and I followed down a path of high grass and thick trees to a simple grill located on a rock outcropping above Puget Sound. He then lifted the grate from the three rocks forming the grill, added charcoal, doused it with lighter fluid, and set it ablaze. “Bon appetite!” He shouted. We made a toast and were soon feasting on fresh salmon, pasta, and kale as we watched the sun set over the water. Thanks to these wonderful individuals, this is a birthday I will never forget.

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