Letting go of Orcas

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Eagle Lake: beautiful from any angle.

After 13 years of enjoying a piece of paradise, we no longer own our lovely cabin on Orcas Island.

We sold our vacation home in September, a bittersweet moment for sure. The fact that it’s taken me more than three months to finally write about it suggests that I may be in denial. After all, this is a place that created so many wonderful memories for our family over the years.

But, yes, it’s true.

We sold it to the ideal buyer — a Seattle-based writer who had visited the island many a time and was looking for a quiet place to nurture his creative talents. We think he made a great choice.

We bought the place in 2005 with a hefty down payment we made with our share of an inheritance from Lori’s parents. In the years since, it’s been a place where we could come and relax for a few days at a time, knowing we’d find solitude and serenity at the end of a gravel driveway with a gorgeous view of water, mountains and forest.

 

The memories are too numerous to mention. But I list a few here just to remind myself of the special occasions and extraordinary number of places on the island where one could enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature.

None surpasses the day in August 2014 when our daughter Simone married Kyndall on a spectacular Saturday afternoon ceremony that extended into a lively, intergenerational party in the rented Odd Fellows Hall. Nearly 100 people came from a dozen states to join in a celebration that was preceded by a rehearsal dinner at Eagle Lake.

Another favorite: When I spent a long weekend alone with my two boys, Nathan and Jordan.

 

But there was plenty more:

— Family walks and solitary runs around Mountain Lake, Cascade Lake and Twin Lakes. Day hikes to Obstruction Pass State Park and Turtleback Mountain.

— Kayaking trips out of Doe Bay and Deer Harbor. Playing nine-hole rounds at Orcas Island Golf Club.

— Sitting at the edge of Eagle Lake with a beer or a glass of wine on a sunny afternoon, gazing at a bald eagle or an osprey as trout occasionally breached the water’s surface.

— Walking the Lake Trail around Eagle Lake, first with Otto, our Jack Russell Terrier, and then with Charlotte, our Border Terrier-Chihuahua-Pug. Doing the same on the trails above our home, leading up to Peregrine Lane.

— Driving through Moran State Park to and from Eastsound, the center of commercial activity on the island. Taking visitors to the top of Mount Constitution for a majestic view of the San Juan Islands, Canada and the U.S. mainland.

— Discovering the quirky vibe of Open Mic Night at Doe Bay Resort while savoring a tasty dinner. Patronizing local vendors at the Farmers Market. Buying farm-fresh duck eggs and live clams at Buck Bay.

— Sampling the many great places to eat on the island, ranging from the elegant Inn at Ship Bay to our favorite lunch spot, Asian Kitchen, to the old-school Lower Tavern, where I could count on a delicious burger and fries and a billiards table, to Brown Bear Bakery, with its luscious treats.

 

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Even with all of that, the greatest pleasure was simply being alone in our cabin, waking up to the sounds of songbirds and preparing a leisurely breakfast. We’d have lunch outside on the deck, go for an outing somewhere, curl up with a book in front of the woodstove, cook a nice dinner, watch a movie or play a board game, and go to bed in a loft bedroom partly illuminated by moonlight and a blanket of stars.

We would come up three to four times a year, usually for a week at a time. Part of the routine was stopping for coffee breaks and designated rest areas at the same spots along I-5 on our way to and from the ferry landing in Anacortes. During the years that Jordan and Jamie lived in Spanaway, just outside Tacoma, we’d stop in for an overnight visit.

But with the two of them, and our granddaughter Emalyn, now living on the East Coast and our two oldest kids and their spouses preoccupied with many other things in their lives, we realized the time had come for us to think about selling the property.  Plus, Lori wanted to be free of the burden of maintaining a second home, especially when we were only getting up there not even a handful of times a year.

 

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We will always treasure the friendships we made on the island, particularly with Carl and Juliana Capdeville, who took us under their wing as Eagle Lake caretakers when we first arrived in this neck of the woods. We shared many a meal with them, got to know their three adult children, and were pleased to have them prepare and serve the catered dinner at Simone and Kyndall’s wedding.

I found myself feeling sad the other day, realizing there was no place I’d rather be than in the living room of our cabin, dozing in the recliner with Charlotte in my lap, and absolutely nothing to do other than read a good book. The moment passed, however, when I realized that I have this blog to remind me of the beautiful images and wonderful memories made in this tranquil place.

Like it or not, I need to close this chapter of our lives. I am letting go of Orcas.

 

Orcas photo album

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A dockside view of Eagle Lake.

Even when it rains five out of seven days, there’s no place I’d rather be than in our cozy log cabin, enjoying the warmth of a wood-stove fire and the tranquility of a remote location on Orcas Island.

Lori and I came home yesterday from a week on the island, where we enjoyed down time with our little dog, Charlotte. The premises were in good shape, so we spent more time relaxing and less time working than we would have otherwise.

We buried ourselves in books and magazines, played Scrabble and plowed through the six-part Netflix series “Wild Wild Country” on the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers. Lori did some knitting and we walked the Lake Trail around Eagle Lake on the one-year anniversary of my father’s death.

We took Charlotte on short nature walks above our home, had a home-cooked meal with longtime friends Carl and Juliana, tried a new restaurant for lunch in Eastsound, and capped off the week with dinner at the nearby Doe Bay Cafe.

When Saturday morning arrived, the sun came out and we had a leisurely drive back to Portland. Heading into a new month and a new week, it’s safe to say we’re both feeling refreshed and eternally thankful to have this island getaway to relax and recharge.

As always, here are a few (OK, more than a few) images to seal this trip in memory:

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Home: a welcome sight after a nature hike.

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The driveway down to the main road.

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Looking northward from the back of the cabin.

 

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Sunrise on Orcas Island, with Mount Baker (middle right) in the distance.

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The essence of serenity: Eagle Lake.

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Who doesn’t enjoy being the only ones on the trail during a weekday morning?

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Charlotte, our trusty guide, sizes up an obstacle.

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Words don’t do justice.

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A splash of color, thanks to skunk cabbage.

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Treetops reflected on the glass-like surface of the water.

 

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We had lunch at Wild Island Juice Bagels and Bowls, a new addition to the Eastsound restaurant scene.

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How’s this for a restaurant facade?

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Looking toward the village of Eastsound from our outdoor stools on the porch.

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Tasty: The Wild Island Bowl (left) and chicken pho with veggies.

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Peregrine Road, a favorite hiking destination, has a new sign.

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Puddles on the path of our walk.

 

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So long, Orcas Landing.

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View from the interior of the MV Yakima heading back to Anacortes, Washington.

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Circles and rectangles make for some cool photo aesthetics.

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A passing ferry on the Salish Sea, headed for Orcas Island.

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Aboard the MW Yakima, capable of holding 2,500 passengers and 160 vehicles.

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Looking over the stern of the MV Yakima, a super-class ferry operated by the Washington State Ferries system.

Enchanting Eagle Lake

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Morning silence enhances the feeling of tranquility on Eagle Lake.

Some things just never get old. In the dozen years we’ve been vacationing on Orcas Island, we’ve never failed to visit Eagle Lake, a picturesque body of water that inspires feelings of tranquility.

Walking around the perimeter on the Lake Trail not only encourages you to slow down, it requires it on the eastern shore. You’ve got to watch your steps on the narrow path that takes you to the water’s edge. Tree roots poke up here and there as the trail twists and turns beneath towering Douglas firs that provide shade and silence.

Lori and I took two walks at the lake during last week’s stay at our cabin a mile away. The outings were perfect bookends to our visit, giving us a chance to soak up sunshine and fresh air when we weren’t relaxing indoors.

Charlotte came along and gave us a mild workout. When this city dog gets into the outdoors, she’s overcome by all the animal scents (deer, otter, squirrels, waterfowl) and goes into Iditarod mode. Imagine a 15-pound terrier mix straining on her harness as if she were leading a pack of huskies through the Alaskan tundra.

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Charlotte the Explorer checks out some new turf.

We’ve walked this trail countless times (I’ve run around it too) and I always feel better after having done so. There’s a timeless beauty to these placid waters that makes even an amateur photographer look good.

We’ve seen bald eagles (hence, the name of the lake), osprey, Canada geese, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, mallards and other ducks on or above the water. On a solo run a few years ago, I witnessed a great horned owl in flight. Magnificent.

Eagle Lake holds a special place in our family. Aside from the Lake Trail, we’ve taken canoes out onto the water, played Scrabble at a dockside table, enjoyed potlucks with other residents and, most memorably, held a pre-nuptials dinner here to celebrate Simone and Kyndall’s wedding three years ago.

Some things just never get old.

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Hand-crafted signs mark the way.

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The trail provides views like this.

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Mid-morning sun glints off the water’s surface.

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Even tree branches make room for views like this one.

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Is there a better place to relax than a couple chairs in the shade?

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A sturdy shelter provides a gathering place for potlucks and barbecues.

Goodbye, summer. Hello, fall.

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George and Lori take a break during a hike at Coho Preserve on Orcas Island.

We’ve been coming up to our Orcas Island cabin for 12 years running. Until now, I don’t think we’d ever been here during the change of seasons.

Well, now we can check that box.

Friday, September 22nd, was the fall equinox and it marked the end of a weeklong stay at our place above Eagle Lake. On this trip, our third this year, it was just Lori and me and our little whiskered rascal, Charlotte.

This summer was brutal, with way too many 100-degree days and then the devastating wildfires that torched the Columbia River Gorge and ruined the air quality for several days. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready to greet autumn.

(Click on images to view captions.)

This was a quiet week, even by our usual standards. Thanks to a still-sore ankle I developed during a routine run around Mountain Lake on our last visit in June, we didn’t try to do too much that would further strain my Achilles tendon.

We confined ourselves to a couple of walks on the Lake Trail around Eagle Lake, took several short walks up the hill above our house, and made time for one lovely hike at a new spot — Coho Preserve, just above Buck Bay.

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Eagle Lake: beautiful from any angle.

The San Juan County Land Bank negotiated the donation of 24 acres of private woodland that it’s turned into an easily accessed trail with a loop that takes you on shaded switchback trails past Cascade Creek and a series of mini-waterfalls. It’s really gorgeous. And although the trail might be a tad steep for some, my ankle didn’t bark at all during the ascent or descent.

We went into Eastsound just once for lunch, groceries and light shopping. The village has about 2,000 residents and it’s the island hub for commercial activities of all kinds. Lori made a dietary concession and we ate burgers at the Lower Tavern, one of my favorite spots on the island.

For once, we didn’t go to any bookstores. Fittingly, however, I finished a book that I had purchased here at least one summer, maybe two, earlier. It was “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest,” the last in the crime trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Lori, meanwhile, read two collections of short stories — one by Portland author Kate Carroll de Gutes, the other by the acclaimed Irish writer Colum McCann.

We went out to dinner just once. We joined our friends, Carl and Juliana, at Rosario Resort for appetizers and wine. It was a fun evening catching up with each other while noshing on everything from lettuce wraps to cheese-and-charcuterie to salt-and-pepper sand shrimp.

Most of the time was spent here at the cabin. And, believe me, there’s nothing to complain about when you’re relaxing in a dozen different ways: Reading. Watching movies. Playing Scrabble. Building a woodstove fire to warm the house. Filling the bird feeders and watching the various species — juncos, towhees, sparrows, grosbeaks — come and dine.

We cooked our own meals — duck eggs for breakfast; fresh clams and oysters for dinner. We watched barge traffic on the water far below us, with Bellingham in the far distance. Mostly, we enjoyed the silence — the utter silence — that envelops this place. Nothing compares to pausing on a walk in the woods and hearing … absolutely nothing. Not even a bird.

Monday brings a return to work for both of us. Lori picks up where she left off with her personal training clients and group fitness class. I start a new Media Literacy class at Portland State after five weeks away from the classroom.

I know I’ve said many, many times but spending seven days here has been good for the heart, the soul and our relationship. Now if only we could stay for another week.

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The view at dawn from our cabin.

Downshifting on Orcas

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A walk around Eagle Lake is good for the soul.

Several years ago I was part of a Hood to Coast team that adopted a memorable slogan for the 198-mile relay race from mountain to the beach. It was so cool we put it on our T-shirts with an image of a snail: “Start out slow, then taper off.”

That thought came to mind during our recent vacation on Orcas, the gem of the San Juan Islands. If you’re already retired, how do you take it down a notch?

Lori is still working, so the question didn’t apply to her. But for yours truly, my “challenge” was to find a new level of relaxation during our weeklong stay at our log cabin in the woods.

Consider the challenge met.

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Mount Baker rises in the distance in this view from the Anacortes ferry parking lot.

From the time we board the ferry in Anacortes and find ourselves a table near a window, the process of decompressing begins. It’s a smooth, silent hour-long ride across the water to Orcas, meaning there’s ample time for a book, a snack or a nap.

Arriving at the ferry dock, we set off on a leisurely 45-minute drive to our place, traveling on two-lane roads that pass one pastoral scene after another. Our route takes us through the village of Eastsound and an expansive state park, along the shoreline of a lake and two bays, and then to the outer reaches of the island, where the locals sell farm fresh eggs, fresh-picked flowers and bundles of kindling.

(Fun fact: There is not a single traffic signal on Orcas.)

By the time we chug up the graveled road leading to our place at the top of a hill, we are tired from a day of travel, for sure, but also in a frame of mind to appreciate the slower pace of life in a place that oozes charm.

We hadn’t been up since July, so it felt great to reacquaint ourselves with everything we love about this place. Clean, crisp air. Confetti-like stars in the night skies. Greenery in every direction. And a blanket of silence. It’s quiet enough to hear a hummingbird’s beating wings, and the wind swooshing through tall treetops.

But enough of that. Here’s a fond look back at our favorite vacation place.

Every day started with a walk above our house, a much quieter experience than usual, when Charlotte and Otto are apt to see (and bark at) other dogs in the neighborhood.

 

We had a persistent visitor — an American Robin that kept flying toward our front-door window, wings flapping and claws extended. A quick internet search suggested the bird perceived us as a threat to a nest somewhere nearby. Felt sorry for him because he kept up this behavior the entire time we were there.

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This American Robin hung out on our porch the whole week.

We had no schedule and were content to mostly hang around the cabin, reading books, playing board games, watching a trio of movies on DVD, and preparing most of our meals. We made one exception: a lovely dinner at Doe Bay Cafe, which is part of the Doe Bay Resort, known for its hippie aesthetic.

We had our friends Carl and Julie over for dinner one night. A couple days later, I played golf with Carl and his buddy, Terry, and afterwards had dinner and played billiards  at the Lower Tavern.

While Lori knitted some days, I went on solitary runs in the Eagle Lake area. Together we went on a short hike at Obstruction Pass State Park, a favorite place of ours.

We also walked around the Eagle Lake area, admiring the many well-maintained homes and enjoying views of the lake and Georgia Strait, which separates the United States and Canada.

As if all this relaxation weren’t enough, I took it down a notch one afternoon. With the sun shining and no hint of a breeze, I headed toward the hammock down the hill from our cabin. Took a pillow and a book — John Updike’s “Rabbit Is Rich” — and read a few pages before nodding off.

I know. It sounds decadent. All this fresh air, R&R, good food and healthy living. So grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy it all. And so grateful to be able to spend the time with my wife.

Adiós, Orcas

We came back a few days ago from this year’s third and final visit to our island cabin. Like every one before it, the visit was good for the mind and body to just let life’s daily stresses melt away.

We didn’t escape the summer heat entirely. Our first couple of days were pretty toasty (90-plus), but after that things settled into a comfortable space and it was even raining lightly as we took our leave on a Saturday morning.

A few hours later, we were crawling through Seattle traffic, thanks to some guy in a compact who thought it would be a good idea to cut in front of a tractor-trailer on I-5 … and didn’t quite pull off the maneuver.

Welcome back to the mainland, eh?

In any case, here are a few images that make me wistful, but which I hope convey what it’s like to be up on Orcas Island, the jewel of the San Juans.

First night's dinner at our cabin: grilled snapper, roasted red potatoes, green beans from our Portland garden.

First night’s dinner at our cabin: grilled snapper, roasted red potatoes, green beans from our Portland garden.

In addition to short hikes with the dogs, board games and books, we kayaked out of Doe Bay.

In addition to short hikes with the dogs, board games and books, we kayaked out of Doe Bay.

We hit the water under the guidance of Cory, a sea kayaking guide from Iowa City (go figure), and another couple from Portland celebrating their 10th anniversary. Good vibes all around.

We hit the water under the guidance of Cory, a sea kayaking guide from Iowa City (go figure), and another couple from Portland celebrating their 10th anniversary. Good vibes all around.

After three hours of sea kayaking, during which we viewed a nesting bald eagle and a mink scampering on the rocks, we looked back out to Doe Bay.

After three hours of sea kayaking, during which we viewed a nesting bald eagle and a mink scampering on the rocks, we looked back out to Doe Bay.

We played a round at Orcas Island Golf Course. Pretty dry but very relaxing. Lori must have been my good-luck charm because I FINALLY broke 50 for 9 holes -- 49. Yes!

We played a round at Orcas Island Golf Course. Pretty dry but very relaxing. Lori must have been my good-luck charm because I FINALLY broke 50 for 9 holes — 49. Yes!

Socializing is hit and miss because you may come up to the island before or after others. This time we hit it right and enjoyed a paella dinner at Eagle Lake with a group that included a couple of retired California cops and their wives. From left: Lori, Gale, Phil, Lisa, Bob, Carl and Juliana.

Socializing is hit and miss because you may come up to the island before or after others. This time we hit it right and enjoyed a paella dinner at Eagle Lake with a group that included a couple of retired California cops and their wives. From left: Lori, Gale, Phil, Lisa, Bob, Carl and Juliana.

Heading home: A glimpse of Orcas Island from our eastbound ferry.

Heading home: A glimpse of Orcas Island from our eastbound ferry.

Passing ships. Literally. As we glided across the water towards Anacortes, a boatload of passengers headed to Orcas Island.

Passing ships. Literally. As we glided across the water towards Anacortes, a boatload of passengers headed to Orcas Island.

Monday, Monday

Where the county road ends, Eagle Lake Drive begins.

Where the county road ends, Eagle Lake Drive begins.

True story. How I spent last Monday on Orcas Island. *

Woke up.

Read a chapter.

Breakfast.

Read a chapter.

Walked the dogs.

Lunch.

Read a chapter.

Nap.

Walked the dogs.

Dinner.

Scrabble.

PBS special on Netflix.

Read a chapter.

To bed.

* This is what you’re supposed to do on vacation, am I right?

Water, woods & wildlife

Pristine Eagle Lake.

Pristine Eagle Lake.

Nothing quite compares to our little getaway off the Washington coast as a place to chill. During the time we sail away from the ferry dock to Anacortes to the time we arrive at Orcas Landing and then drive out to our place near Eagle Lake, a sense of calm comes over me. My breathing slows, my blood pressure drops and my senses come alive in appreciation of the outdoor scenery.

Afternoon clouds over Redes' Roost.

Afternoon clouds over Redes’ Roost.

En route to our cabin, we see goats, sheep and horses and view pastoral scenes with farmhouses and ponds. We drive through Eastsound, a laidback village of 2,000 residents, cruise through a canopy of tall fir trees in a state park, skirt the shore of a lake and a bay, and then pass by homes whose big yards draw families of deer. Up a hill we go, climbing a dirt road that brings us to Redes’ Roost, a log cabin looking out over the water to a panorama that includes Lummi Island, Mount Baker and Bellingham. (Click here for a map.)

Just writing about it makes me relax all over again.

Last week, Lori and I visited our place on Orcas Island for the second time this year. It was a Monday-through-Friday trip, a little shorter than usual, but still enough to produce fresh memories of one of my favorite places on Earth.

With apologies for any self-indulgence, here’s a taste of the island life.

Iconic Cascade Lake.

Iconic Cascade Lake.

The water

On this saddlebag-shaped island, roughly 20 miles from west to east and 7 miles north to south, you’re never far from sight of the water.  Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands, nestled between the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound. You can’t get to our place without going through Moran State Park. And, in doing that, you’ll pass by picturesque Cascade Lake, the site of summer canoeing, kayaking, paddleboating, swimming and angling.

I ran around the lake one day, an always satisfying experience made even better by my decision to keep my iPod shut off. Solitude + Silence = Something special.

Past visits have included kayaking out of Deer Harbor and Doe Bay, runs and walks around Mountain Lake and short hikes to Cascade Falls and Obstruction Pass Beach. And then there’s Eagle Lake, a feast for the eyes.

Lori & Charlotte on the South Loop Trail leading into the Cascade Lake Trail.

Lori & Charlotte on the South Loop Trail leading into the Cascade Lake Trail.

The woods

At the end of our driveway, a sharp left turn takes us up a hilly road that connects with several trails meandering through the woods. Thick-trunked trees, moss-covered rocks, feathery ferns, colorful foxglove and other wildflowers all combine to create a natural landscape that invites exploration.

Foxglove on a trail above our house.

Foxglove on a trail above our house.

If I’m not running around Cascade or Mountain Lake, I’m most likely running the trails around and near Eagle Lake. Nothing like a corridor of leafy trees to counter summer’s heat or provide a shelter of sorts when it rains.

The wildlife

As I started a run around Eagle Lake one morning, I saw a large bird fly from let to right and settle in a treetop. I slowed to a walk, curious what it might be. A hawk? Nope. A great horned owl. Majestic.

A goldfinch snacking at the feeder on our porch.

A goldfinch snacking at the feeder on our porch.

On another morning at Eagle Lake, as Lori and I set up a board game to play at the water’s edge, we spotted a female bald eagle. As we should, right? I mean, it is called Eagle Lake.

The following day, as I played golf with three other guys, we spotted another bald eagle watching us as we walked the fairway on the No. 2 hole. That white head of feathers is so striking and the bird itself such an inspiring sight.

Back at home, I was delighted to see a goldfinch among the songbirds that came to partake of the feeders. Other visitors included Steller’s jays, rufous-sided towhees, Oregon juncos, pine siskins, robins and hummingbirds.

If I were more of a birder, my list would be a lot longer. But, hey, I’m good.

***

We had dinner at Doe Bay Cafe with our friend, Jennifer Brennock.

We had dinner at Doe Bay Cafe with our friend, Jennifer Brennock.

The trip allowed us to spend some time reading and relaxing, hanging out with our dogs, and seeing friends as well.

We’ll be back again in just a few weeks — our third and final trip of the year. May the next visit be even more satisfying than this one.

The moon over Doe Bay.

The moon over Doe Bay Resort.

Relax and reboot

A view of Eastsound village. The natural beauty of this place never gets old.

A view of Eastsound village. The natural beauty of this place never gets old.

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.

Lori walks part of the Lake Trail with Otto and Charlotte.

Lori walks part of the Lake Trail with Otto and Charlotte.

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.

A 500-word piece puzzle? No problem for Lori.

A 500-piece puzzle? No problem for Lori.

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.

Saturday:

Arrived in the late afternoon. Unloaded our stuff and sat down to a dinner of Thai leftovers from the night before.

Sunday:

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.

Hummus, crackers, prosciutto and other good stuff for lunch.

Hummus, crackers, prosciutto and other good stuff for lunch.

Monday:

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.

Tuesday:

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.

Island Hoppin' Brewery is cozy, casual and a great place to sample the local brews.

Island Hoppin’ Brewery is cozy, casual and a great place to sample the local brews.

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.

Wednesday:

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.

Charlotte's senses were on overload during her first trip to the island.

Charlotte’s senses were on overload during her first trip to the island.

Thursday:

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.

Friday:

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.

Another first for Charlotte: Soaking up the warmth of the wood stove.

Another first for Charlotte: Soaking up the warmth of the wood stove.

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.

A reminder of our last visit: Kyndall & Simone's wedding.

A reminder of our last visit: Kyndall & Simone’s wedding.

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.

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