While we haven't yet reached the longest period of time we've spent in one place while full time traveling, we are fast approaching critical mass in that respect. And Summer.
The weather on San Juan Island has been nothing short of spectacular. Well, spectacular depending on your idea of what that means exactly. If you are looking to sunbathe, take leisurely swims in the ocean and spend your days in 90+ degree temps with high relative humidity, then prolly not so much.
While we've had days in the 70's and reached low 80's maybe once or twice, the temperatures here have, generally speaking, been pleasantly in the 60's during the day and low 50's at night with the occasion low reaching into the upper 40's. For us those temps are pretty amazing, especially for May and June.
Days may begin with a marine layer of clouds, but by mid to late morning those clouds burn off and blue skies prevail. We've had only 3 days where rain showed up since we arrived on May 2. The "dry" season is upon us.
We'll be in the 60's for the next two weeks, low tonight, 49 degrees. This is our new normal.
We've settled into our volunteer positions here working at American Camp three days a week and at English Camp one day each week, leaving us three days to relax and explore the island(s).
Our days in American Camp are generally divided between the great relatively new Visitors' Center and roving the park engaging visitors as we meet them on the trails or at the wildlife viewing station we set up overlooking the protected prairie.
I also spend time assisting our landscape maintenance crew with keeping the Visitor Center looking great.
We're also quickly finding out how truly wonderful spending an extended period of time in a National Park is for living with wild creatures who inhabit the area.
Our resident Red Foxes are a big draw for visitors to the park. Many of our visitors have never seen a fox in the wild and our open prairie affords them an opportunity to see them hunting the plentiful rabbits, voles, snakes, insects and mice, among the items on the local menu for these omnivores.
Many days photographers from places all over the world can be seen with their long lenses focused on the prairie. While the foxes are not protected by San Juan National Historical Park, the native prairie and grasslands are protected and visitors are no longer allowed to walk over it, with the added advantage of giving the foxes enough space to remain wild and raise their kits in relative peace.
That's not to say there are no opportunities to hike. There are at least 7 trails offering wonderful vistas of the prairie and grasslands along with the Salish Sea and Olympic Mountain range.
Melanie and I roved the Mount Finlayson Loop Trail a few days back where you can experience a walk through a really nice second growth forest of Douglas Fir. While most all trees were logged when the Lime Kilns were operating into the early 1900's, the Finlayson Loop Trail offers a great example of how some of these forests are making a comeback.
On our hike we saw a Pileated Woodpecker and Black Tailed Deer. The trail offers great vistas of the prairie, grasslands, Salish Sea, and Olympic Mountains.
Melanie has asked me several times within the past few days when we might publish again. Life happens, volunteer duties happen and time slips by when you're enjoying island time.
Since my last attempt at catching us up on our joint journaling of our time here on San Juan Island, two weeks have passed.
We've made the conscious decision to remain on island, with one forced exception, during that time choosing to explore additional parts of the island and familiarizing ourselves with Friday Harbor. We regularly ride the 5 miles into Friday Harbor for light grocery shopping, a meal or a beer. More on our favorite places to eat and drink later.
We traveled to Tacoma, Washington just over a week ago to finish background check requirements for the National Park Service. Being late hires for this season has complicated the onboarding process, but hopefully all of that is behind us now. Besides, the ferry ride to Anacortes, Washington is a treat and we picked up fresh strawberries and scones in La Conner on the way. Costco happened to be within a few miles of our destination in Tacoma so we resupplied there too.
Turns out we were fortunate our returning ferry made it back to Friday Harbor. It was out of service after it reached the island. Seems the ferries have been inconsistent at best this season. There are various explanations for this, but as you may imagine, both visitors and residents aren't happy when plans are ruined or delayed because the ferry isn't on time or operating at all.
Finally, what would a small mostly rural island community be without a bit of controversy?
While I don't know all the nuances of the issue, a multi-use trail has been proposed and funding procured that will take people from Friday Harbor to Zylstra Lake Preserve about 3 miles out of town.
Much of the land is agricultural and while money is appropriated for purchase of the right-of-way and construction of the trail, landowners are pretty much unanimous in their opposition.
I've taken to asking residents about the "No Trail" signs along San Juan Valley Road that landowners have posted a few miles before the Preserve that advocate against the trail. Suffice it to say I've gotten mostly inconsistent answers to my question. Few know much about the trail, where it will be located or why exactly residents along the road oppose it. Word on the street is there's a compromise in the works.
We are learning so much, and making new friends who are quite generous with their wisdom and resources. Ranger Jeff brought us watermelon for lunch one day while we picnicked at English Camp; Superintendent Lex brought us lettuces she'd grown in her garden and fresh eggs just brought in from her chicken coop; Ranger Cyrus has given us home baked goods (many made with berries and stone fruits he has foraged on the island) almost every day we have worked with him; and Ranger Allison has plied us with brownies. It's not enough that they show us this hospitality and their gratitude with such offerings, but they demonstrate their deep love of this island, our Park, and all of the creatures who live here with us by teaching us about all of it so we can share with the visitors we come into contact with. The enthusiasm is contagious, and I'm grateful every day for the chance to understand more and to give it away to fellow seekers.
And, it is a very small world. One day last week as I was swearing in a new Junior Ranger named Gabe down at English Camp, Gabe's father asked me what I knew about the church services that would have been held there during the occupation. He explained that he was an Episcopalian, and that he figured they had Anglican services somewhere at the Camp. I told him that I did not know, but as I reached for our resource book to look for an answer to his question, I told him that my immediate past work had been as Executive Director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship. He said, "Well, perhaps you know my father, the Rev. Bob Davidson, who is retired as National Chair of EPF". At that I jumped up and ran around the desk to hug this stranger's neck. I said, "Know him? Father Bob hired me as ED of EPF!" I had, happily and unwittingly, just made Bob's grandson, Gabe, a Junior Ranger. We took photos and visited and made plans to try to see one another again in August when Fr. Bob and his wife, Linda, as well as Kyle's family (who live in Bellingham), return to the San Juans for vacation. I never did answer Kyle's question about the church services, but I will find the answer and write him next time I am at English Camp.
Steven and Melanie