Today was our first full day in SJI and we set out to explore.
First a bit about this place, which we unexpectedly found ourselves staying at. Roche Harbor Resort is located at the site of a 19th and 20th century lime company called (wait for it …) Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Company. In 1956 the 4,000 acre property was bought, the lime operation was shuttered, and it was converted into a resort. Many of the old building have been repurposed into facilities for the resort, which now has hotel accommodations, condos and private lots with private houses. And a 400 slip marina.
Since there’s a grocery store on premises, we bought some supplies and ate breakfast in the room, which is quite nice and has a covered porch with an excellent view of the marina.
After a late breakfast and some relaxation, we took off for an island tour. Our first stop was Friday Harbor, the only real town on the island and where our aborted hotel stay was to take place (1). Our immediate reaction on arrival was that we were in Martha’s Vineyard: the ferry dock, the restaurants facing the harbor, the same stores selling the same stuff, the real estate agents. I don’t mean this in a negative way; it’s a pleasant little place with a downtown of perhaps 8 blocks altogether. The whole island is not very crowded, which is surprising considering it’s the last week in July and the weather is beautiful here. It’s also not empty, but we had no problem getting a table outside with a harbor view without any wait at all.
There are only a few sightseeing opportunities on SJI and we set out to see two of them. The history of the island is that the San Juan Islands were the subject of a 12 year saber-rattling between the US and UK over ownership, as the issue was unclear from the terms of the Treaty of Oregon of 1846. In 1859, the British and the US both established army camps on the SJI to protect their interests while the diplomats worked on a solution. These were at opposite ends of the island and called the American Camp and English Camp (clever, I know). We went to see the American Camp. It’s a mostly desolate strip of land along the south shore, with two structures still standing and miles of beaches to walk.
In deference to Sally’s ankle (not to mention the fact that there really wasn’t much to see), we walked in to see the two buildings at the parade grounds, then walked out. We never got as far as the beach, it would have been too much.
Historically interesting, but visually not exciting. Oh yeah, the dispute was settled in 1872 by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, who was selected to be an impartial judge and decided in favor of Americans. I don’t know why he was given this job, nor why he decided what he did. But everything here would probably cost less if we were paying with Canadian dollars 😉 .
The last scheduled stop was Lime Kiln Point State Park, the site of a very picturesque lighthouse and also renowned for Orca sightings. The location is indeed pretty, and Orcas are indeed sighted in the channel adjacent to the park. However, your chances of seeing one if you watch for an hour is less than 1%, so we didn’t stay very long.
While we were driving, Sally had mentioned that there was a goat farm that we could think about visiting. So we pulled over and did a bit of googling, but couldn’t find anything. Then, just before we got back to the resort, we passed an alpaca farm. So we stopped and looked around the alpaca products shops – sweaters, scarves, jackets, stuffed animals, etc. perhaps we should have been looking for this 😉 .
(1) For those keeping track, we were in-and-out of hotels four times yesterday: out of the Rosewood Georgia in Vancouver, in and out of the Friday Harbor Inn (complete with me lugging all our stuff up and down a narrow flight of stairs) and in to the Roche Harbor. Neither of the latter two seem to believe in bellmen.