The last time we were on Orcas Island, it was August 2014. We came up for Simone and Kyndall’s wedding, and it was truly a magical time, celebrating with family and friends.
But seven months had passed. Too long a time.
So it was with great anticipation that we finally saw the calendar turn to mid-March and the planned weeklong getaway to our island cabin.
As I write this, on the ferry from Orcas to Anacortes, I can say the past week was our most low-key ever – and yet no less satisfying.
Except for one quick trip into Eastsound and two even shorter trips to Olga, we were holed up the whole time at Eagle Lake. Part of it was the weather. Rain book-ended our arrival and departure. In between, we had sunshine, but we busied ourselves with chores one day and then mostly just hung out at the cabin, reading, playing board games and taking short walks with our dogs, Otto and Charlotte.
All that down time was good for us. The weekly routine consumes so much energy, rising early every day, diving into work, walking and caring for the dogs, coming together for an evening meal and trying to make the most of two or three hours of evening time.
Up at the island, there’s no schedule to meet, no appointments to keep. Just silence and solitude. A place to decompress and let go of daily concerns.
As we head home, it’s a good time to reflect on the past week.
Arrived in the late afternoon. Unloaded our stuff and sat down to a dinner of Thai leftovers from the night before.
Went to dinner at the house of our good friends, Carl and Juliana Capdeville, the couple who are year-round caretakers at Eagle Lake. They invited Ben and Carma, two other permanent residents, to join us in a feast worthy of a restaurant: grilled oysters and shrimp, skewers of cod with teriyaki sauce, a make-your-own-salad, beef shanks and rack of lamb, followed by flourless chocolate cake and vanilla bean ice cream.
Juliana is such a fabulous cook and she and Carl are such gracious, fun people. I think part of why we connected with them so easily is that they, too, have three kids (a girl and two boys) similar in age to our own. Plus, there are no pretenses about them. They are authentic and accommodating. They plan to pass through Portland in mid-April, so we hope to return their kindness then.
Chores. Lori worked in the garden, added a few new plants, put up the bird feeders (too early for most species, but we did get several hummingbirds), etc. I cleaned out the rain gutters, split some firewood.
Went into Eastsound on St. Patrick’s Day. Checked out Island Hoppin’ Brewery, a charming little place with four tables and maybe four chairs at the bar. Had three samplers – a cucumber-infused Klover Klosch that Lori loved; an amber ale that was quite good; and a coffee/Kahlua porter that was off-the-charts great. Would have ordered a growler but they had only a limited quantity and wanted to save it for more tasting.
A very friendly server named Becca, a transplant from western Michigan, waited on us. An old black Lab strolled through the tasting room. And we liked the place well enough to plan a return visit.
Had lunch at Madrona Bar & Grill, a place situated right on the water, and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Another place we will want to return to.
Back home again, enjoyed a luscious Irish dinner of corned beef, potatoes and cabbage. I am so lucky to be married to such a great and versatile cook.
Took the dogs on part of the Lake Trail around Eagle Lake. Otto is 10 years old now, and a real veteran of our visits, so we don’t even need to leash him.
Charlotte, on the other hand, is a 12-pound bull, pulling on her leash to the point of near-exhaustion. We figured she’d delight in all the senses of a new place and that she did. What we didn’t fully anticipate is that our walks would be shorter than planned, only because there was no let-up on Charlotte’s end.
This was the day we had hoped to hike around Cascade Lake with just Otto. Unfortunately, I was laid low by a cold. Still don’t know where it came from but it was enough to cause me to take two naps and keep us grounded.
I recovered well enough that we had another friend over for dinner: Jennifer Brennock. We met several years ago when I attended a creative writing workshop she was leading at the Orcas public library. She’s a community college teacher, the mom of a 10-year-old boy, and a talented, passionate writer
We had a delicious dinner, good wine and rich conversation.
Left Charlotte in her kennel while we took Old Man Otto out to Obstruction Pass State Park for a short hike. We took a break at a picnic table overlooking Buck Bay and the western part of Orcas Island and just marveled at the splendor of the place.
We could look over the cliff to the water below and see half a dozen orange sea stars clinging to rocks. To the north, we could view the town of Olga in the distance, with two small mountains rising behind it. And to the south, we could look out toward other islands in the San Juan archipelago.
So fortunate to have moments like those, feeling as if you’re the only two people on the island.
Spent the afternoon cleaning up and packing up, preparing for an early morning departure, but treated ourselves to one dinner out. It was our first time at Doe Bay Café, just down the road, for anything other than Open Mic Pizza Night, where you can get a salad and pizza, but nothing else.
And, wow, what a dinner it was. Lori had scallops and I had king salmon. Both came with the freshest winter vegetables served in the most creative ways, and all of it was served by the best waitress we’ve ever encountered on the island: a woman named Cate, originally from Oklahoma.
There was live music, a man and a woman on acoustic guitar, but we only had time to hear the guy. Dude had a great voice and was more than competent on the guitar but it was almost impossible to decipher his lyrics. Would have been nice to hear the lady, too, as she was the featured performer. But we had to get back to our four-legged friends and hit the sack early so we could rise in plenty of time to pack up and catch the ferry.
Well…a longer post than I intended, but each and every visit to the island is special. I’ve said it before, but it’s a place that is truly enchanting. Your blood pressure drops as soon as you leave Anacortes, knowing it’s an hour-long ferry ride to the island, followed by another hour of 35 mph driving to the cabin.
Life slows down and you can’t help but go along. A week on Orcas is meant for relaxation – whether it’s running or hiking, reading or writing, fancy or casual dinners, spending time alone, with each other or with friends.
Heading back to the mainland, we know what lies in store: Re-entry to the daily routine, re-engaging with too many people in too much of a hurry to get where they’re going.
We plan to come back in late July, this time with our kids and their partners. But after this week’s R&R, we’re tempted to sneak in a short trip of our own, perhaps in late May or early June.