Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A night with nature - Camping at San Juan Islands

Finally understood the real meaning of living in nature, albeit with all the supplies loaded in our car and at a site with excellent restrooms! It really made me wonder if I was a castaway on an island what will be my survivor instincts, and found out that I am not even at ground zero level and way below the level!
This weekend we planned camping at San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor, north-western of Washington from where we could see the Canadian land.

We started early in the morning to make it for the 8:30 am ferry from Anacortes for 9:30 am ferry has lot of waiting time since after that the next ferry is at 2:40 pm. We made it on time and were on the 8:30 am ferry and reached San Juan Islands at 9:30 am. 

We had already checked out on tripadvisor for good local eating places and went straight to Rocky Bay Cafe which is very popular amongst the localiites for get-together coupled with good food. We were famished and surely enjoyed our breakfast there. 

After our breakfast, we headed straight for Cattle Point Lighthouse. En route, we stopped at view station and were just awestruck with the beauty. On the map, it is marked opposite Jakle's Lagoon. Also, marked is the trail ahead. You may have to park it a little before and then walk down the trail. It is always better to get the Discovery permit which you can hang on the rear view mirror without worrying for parking fees. Also, I must mention that the network is very poor in many parts of the island and found that we went in roaming mode as it entered Canadian network! Guess, be alert when you enter the island lest you may end up paying roaming charges unknowingly!

View from the viewpoint station. All we heard was wind and waves. If you have the time, then you can go down till the beach. There is parking below or else just trek down.

From there, we headed to Cattlepoint Lighthouse and found that we needed to hike through a field. Then went ahead straight for the cattle point trail and realised we should have parked and the hiked down the trail. Well, something for next trip.

Having completed the Southern tip, we headed to Lime Kiln State Park. We hiked till the shore and then to the Lighthouse. It is again a great place to picnic and spend time.

From here we headed to San Juan County Park to our campsite. We registered ourselves at the kiosk and got the car permit to be hung inside. The ranger, Kevin, explained many things about racoon. He advised us to keep all our food inside the car and not to even touch our tents with food on our hands as the racoon can rip off the tent if it gets the smell! He was a very warm and friendly guy. Anyway, we being first-timers took his advice pretty seriously and were always alert about the caveat. 

After reaching our site, we installed our tent and set up all the gear inside the tent and chilled out with some cans from our cooler. Our son was very excited with his first camp and just could not wait to make s'mores for which he had to wait till dinner ofcourse! :)

Here is the list of food items we packed and which moreorless got consumed completely: (Shall post our checklist in another post which helped us a lot)
a) filled our cooler with ice just before leaving for the trip/
b) we marinated the chicken drumsticks, chicken patties, veggies and cottage cheese(paneer cubes) and packed them in ziplock packets and kept them in our cooler.
c) cans of coke, beer
d) cheese singles, butter in cooler
e) bread, cakes, chips
f) fruits
g) marshmallows, chocolates, graham crackers
h) cup noodles
i) boiled eggs in egg case which was in the cooler again

The grill was hot and we started with chicken and veggies and cottage cheese on barbecue sticks. The lunch was great and the charcoal just added a nice aroma to the food. After lunch, went to the day use area for whale watching and were lucky to catch glimpses of the pods around 8 pm near the Canada border. We could see the whales swimming across in a line. By the time camera could click, we could capture only their fins. But we were lucky to have seen them in their natural habitat, free and independent and not confined in a museum! Probably next time will go for the whale watching tour to get closer look at them.
Then again dinner grill was already running and we had loads of variety to hog on coupled with drinks. It was an amazing night. Then we settled for s'mores which came out really well. Awesome dessert!

Soon, we realised that as hot it was during the day, it has now become very chilly. The fire had to be put out at 10:30 pm so we snuggled inside the sleeping bag and were in our dream world within minutes. With all the action, we never realised the body fatigue till we lied down. 

Early in the morning, woke up and again the morning view was amazing again. It was my first time where I was brushing my teeth in the woods looking at the ocean!! Wow! Just so you know, the restrooms in San Juan County park were really clean and hygiene was maintained and all the campers respected and kept it clean. 

Then we had morning coffee, and you need to just experience it to enjoy the aroma of the coffee at the beach!! Soon breakfast preparations were on the way. We had some overnight grilled stuff which we reheated and put it in the bread and had sandwiches. Kids had eggs and sandwiches. 

The check-out time was noon so we changed our clothes and packed up the tent and cleared the camp site. Enjoyed at the beach for some more time and left for British Camp which had a history of the pig battle. They have a beautiful trail to the Bell Point. 

Then we left for Roche Harbor which is the northern tip of the island. After going there, we felt that it is more for boating and people with boats. We just enjoyed seeing the boats but except that not much to do. If not much of a boating person, then you can traverse the Cattle Point Road again and see American Camp, Jakle Lagoon and the beach.

We had lunch at Cask and Schooner Restaurant right opposite the Friday Harbor. We found the place little pricey for the food served and the service surely could have been better. We were a group of eight and she forgot one of our orders and mixed up the billing. They charge you 20% gratuity for a group of 8 and above, by the way! There are more places outside where you can get your favorites for a lower cost at a faster rate!

We were aiming for the 4:15 ferry and soon found out that by 2:50 pm the queue was full for the ferry and now were lined up for 6:25 pm. The person told us that there was a graduation ceremony for which purpose the ferry got full so quickly. We were following the WSDOT vessel watch which showed 130 spaces and scheduled ourselves. Soon found out that since they do not issue tickets at Friday Harbor, the numbers on the website from Friday Harbor to Anacortes are not the real-time numbers! 

For those who have covered the loop and done camping, park your car in the queue some 2-3 hours before your ferry time and then explore the island on foot or bikes or mopeds. We found Susie's mopeds a novelty and thought we could have ridden the moped. 

Our luck had it and the 6:25 pm ferry got cancelled and now we had to wait additional 2 hours for the 7:45 pm ferry! We reached home by 11 pm all tired and exhausted. In the morning when we saw the photos, we were recharged and remembered each moment of our trip and how much we enjoyed the camping experience!