Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On Lopez

I've known for a while now that there was one thing I wanted to do to celebrate my 30th birthday. I wanted to revisit the San Juan Islands. My first thought was to rent a cabin for a weekend in September with some friends and sit about for a few days just drinking wine, playing cards and generally enjoying each other's company. I had some difficulty motivating the troops to plan that far in advance, September is still over a month away. Then life sort of paused for a month or so, there were so many more important things to think about and feel from April to June. When the dust started to settle from the upheaval of life, I started to think again of the islands and of vacation.

This trip came together easily, Tom did most of the reservation work and he and Erin packed up all of the gear we would need. Sunday morning at 6am I met up with Becca, my old chum from high school, as well as Erin and Tom. We strapped the bikes to the roof of the car and caravaned up to catch the ferry from Anacortes. I rode up with Becca and we caught each other up on the comings and goings of life, stopping only for a momentary doughnut/coffee break.

Sky densely gray, the islands looked a deep velvety evergreen from the docks. Frances and Ian met up with us in line and we managed to cram everyone's gear into the one car. The rest of the morning was spent going and getting and upgrading sites and unpacking and setting up. We set out on our bikes at about noon and headed straight for Tom's favorite spot on Lopez, Shark reef.

The ride was challenging, but only a challenge, not a heart breaker. Lopez is 'the flat island' with gently rolling hills and what I like to think of as a Prairie Landscape. There are rolls of hay, sheep, cows, gentle farms, quiet roads and modest homes (mostly owned by the very wealthy). Oh and bunnies, lots of bunnies.

At shark reef, which has neither sharks nor reef by the way, but it does have a rocky shelf. The shelf is ten to twenty feet below the surface of the water and so on a gray day with no reflection from the water you can see straight to the bottom. The shelf drops off into a bull-kelp forest, an entire vast habitat of sea life. We watched as harbor seals swam in and out of the kelp, gracefully and intently chasing fish. One seal chased an entire school to the surface, his wide pink mouth fiercely breaking the surface as an explosion of silver fishes leaping out of the water ringing his head.

We ate and slept and read and biked and biked. Tom began to teach me the finer points of shifting gears and my legs, my legs screamed about the hills. I got to be reacquainted with all the reasons I'm good at camping - don't mind not showering for days on end, can sleep anywhere and through anything, really like fire, can plan an entire meal using only one dish, and just like working my way through life.

When we left the island the sun had finally returned and I hung out on the back deck of the ferry watching the water slide back into our wake. There were porpoises and even more striking there was a humming-bird flitting about on deck. He appeared from across the water, the nearest island was at least a mile away. It was amazing to see something so small knowing it had come so far.
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