Monday, May 30, 2005


I saw whales!

Despite the zillion hour trip home because of the horrible accident on I-5, the wreckage of which was truly stomach-turning, the weekend on Orcas Island was a good experience for us. I learned:

1. some things about whales;
2. that there is room for more restaurants on Orcas Island, and reading egullet upon arriving home that we should have found a way to try Rose's Bakery;
3. that Brett is a bigtime Elton John fan;
4. that the deer population is thriving in the San Juans; and
5. that the Bite of Orcas festival should be attended prior to 2:30 in the afternoon.

When we showed up on Saturday we were starving, so we head to the aforementioned Bite of Orcas in Eastsound for a bite of Orcas. By the time we got there the selection was pretty picked over, but we managed to piece together a meal from the vendors who were still there. And I was introduced to the simple wonder that is cucumber water! Seriously, this is a good idea. Just plain ol' cold water that's had thin slices of cucumber sitting in it for a while. It was completely refreshing. I'm going to do this when it gets hot again.

Since it was pretty warm on Saturday, we decided head to Cascade Lake in Moran State Park, which was very close to where we were staying. It was too cold for swimming, but that didn't stop legions of under-tens, some triathletes in wet suits, and Chris and Brett, neither under ten nor in wetsuits. That state park also features a couple of other lakes and Mount Constitution and what looks to be a very nice trail network -- I wish I'd had more time and a running-inclined travelmate to more thoroughly check them out. As it was, we did a little ambling around on Sunday morning, but the whale-watching trip we had scheduled for that afternoon cut that a bit short. If I go back, I'll definitely take some more time for trail running.

The whales were totally worth it, though. I was glad that Jess put the trip together. We lucked into the trip on a day when two Orca pods were mating, which meant that there were quite a few whales to see. I followed the advice of someone at work and didn't even try to take pictures -- stuff happens so suddenly that the experience is much more memorable and worthwhile if you're not a slave to the camera. I'd definitely recommend it, although I understand that those trips are a crapshoot -- sometimes there are whales and sometimes there just aren't. For us, it was a great experience.

There's something that these islands in the sound around here have in common. I felt it as soon as we arrived in Eastsound, just how similar it was to communities on Bainbridge and Whidbey Islands (the only two around here I've been to so far). Small town America crossed with something distinctly northwestern -- weird mixture of artisans and town square lifestyle, early to bed and early to rise, aging hippie meets industriousness and virtue.

Something else this weekend got me thinking about is national borders. In particular, I've never lived so close to one before moving to Seattle. Traveling among these islands especially highlights the basic arbitrariness of political boundaries -- how much of local culture is determined by borders and how much by non-political geography (climate, landscape, and the like)? I don't know, but I know that these islands feel as much like Victoria as they do like Seattle, and they feel more like each other than they feel like any city or large town. I thought about this particularly when we went out to see whales. I'm sure we were flitting back and forth between American and Canadian waters, we were a few yards from Canadian whale-watching boats, and we were all looking at the same whales.

All in all it was a good time (and we managed to have at least one pretty good meal into the bargain, Sunday brunch at Cafe Olga, where Chris had farmer's cheese blintzes and I had a portobello mushroom, caramelized onion, and Swiss emmanthaler omelet, both of which were excellent) and I'm very glad we went. Getting out of town was just what I needed not even withstanding the fact that we left our hotel at 8:45 this morning and didn't get back here until 6 tonight. I'd go again, and I might consider renting a place for a week with some friends for some summer week. This strengthens my resolve to keep using these long weekends to see other places around the region, though. Olympic peninsula, here I come...


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