Touring the Islands

How about a bike trip that includes inter-island travel, ferry boats, delicious food options and beautiful scenery at every turn? That was part of our experience in August as about 20 of us headed north to the San Juan Islands in northwest Washington state.

Traveling to and from Friday Harbor via Anacortes consumes most of a full day. Sandwiched between those travel days was some adventurous riding.

Day 1, Monday, August 16, we explored San Juan Island. We rode first to Roche Harbor to view the yachts and get a latte. We made a little side trip to the John S McMillin Memorial Mausoleum on Afterglow Drive. We ended up in various groups visiting the sites, climbing and descending, to finally arrive in Friday Harbor. Depending on the side roads taken, the mileage seemed to be around 40 miles – some more, some less. I had an elevation gain of 3,000 feet. Nothing big, just up and down, using all my gears along the way. 

Day 2, Tuesday, August 17, we caught the 8:30 AM ferry to take us to Orcas Island. As we got up and ready for our day a light rain was falling. The rain continued as we crossed to Orcas but quit pretty much as we arrived. The road was still wet but no moisture coming from the sky. Most of us stayed together and rode to Moran State Park. The park is at the foot of Mt. Constitution, a 2,409-foot climb. No one opted to tackle the peak this year. We headed back to Eastsound to find lunch, and the sun came out about then to warm us up. We had time to spare before catching our ferry home, so we stepped into some shops, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and explored the little community a bit. I ended up with 35 miles and almost 1,500 feet in elevation gain. There was one longer sustained climb on the way out to Moran but mostly just the usual ups and downs.

Day 3, Wednesday, August 18, it was off to catch that 8:30 AM ferry again but for travel to Lopez Island. Lopez is not quite as hilly, so an easier day. We checked out Lopez Village then rode toward Shark Reef Park. Most of us locked our bikes and walked in where we lingered quite a while taking in the view of Griffin Bay. The majority hiked a bit further south to improve their chances of seeing a whale or seal. I got in almost 25 miles on the island (not counting the 12 miles to and from Lakedale Resort and Friday Harbor) with 1,800 feet of elevation gain.

All three islands had some combination of good restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and brew pubs; and if you had money, you never needed to feel a pang of hunger!

Some of our friends chose to kayak one day, and while they didn’t see a whale (always the optimum experience), they did see some wildlife, and it sounded as if they had a great guide to show them around.

I share this information more as a recommendation for the islands and to show how easily they can be navigated. Roads are mostly chipseal and few had any form of shoulder. However, most motorists were more than kind and our group seemed to have the “car back!” single-file routine down pat.

Theoretically, I was a ride leader for this wonderful summer tour, but in fact, Cindy Bernert-Coppola was the ride leader extraordinaire who really pulled it together and did 99.9% of the organizing. It seemed to all go fairly well. I know of no mishaps or flat tires. We came back with all the people we left with. (Those who know me are aware that isn’t a given.)

This is an experience, and if you haven’t done it yet, then I encourage you to get up to the San Juans to enjoy the beauty and magical appeal of traveling by ferry. I doubt we will offer this tour next year but maybe in 2023? It’s well worth the effort. Ask Cindy!

Ann Morrow, Vice President