SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASH. - Explore the great discoveries from your favorite islands - the San Juans! Team Evening visits the San Juan Islands to share some of their favorite finds.
It looks like something out of a movie or maybe a dream.
When guests stay at Suzanne Dege's cottage they're embarking on a getaway to Middle Earth.
"We knew immediately this is where we wanted to stay," said Texas newlywed Jason Seiler. "I don't think we went to bed until 2:00 because we just kept finding things, like, 'Oh there's a deck up here! Oh, look at this!'"
Neighbors here on Orcas Island know it as the Hobbit House. It was designed and built by alternative architect Sunray Kelley.
"They drew out the plans on a napkin," said Dege.
It's part fairytale castle complete with majestic tower, part treehouse, and all hand-built using local, natural materials.
"It makes you feel more like you're in the woods than you are in a house," Seiler said.
There's hardly a straight line in the place.
"Surprises," Dege said. "Magical, fantasy architecture."
A place for guests like Jason Seiler and his bride, Jessie, to begin new stories of their own.
Some things never change on Lopez Island in the San Juans.
Like the waves, for example.
But some of the iconic places in the island's only town have changed. They're being operated by new owners, who've traded city life for Lopez living.
Holly B.'s Bakery has supplied Lopezians with Love and Butter for 40 years. New owner Stephanie Smith is continuing the tradition, and she's aware of the sweet legacy she's taken on, “A lot of people came in, and they were just so happy to know that the bakery was going to continue."
In Kirkland, Smith ran the bakery for Microsoft's catering service, now she's loving her new, scaled back job.
But some things here are not new. She says she'd probably get run off the island if she quit making these two staples: "Cinnamon Rolls and Butterhorns. Probably in that order. "
The Bakery's Motto, “Love People. Cook them tasty food”, remains the same.
“That was always Holly’s motto. The name of her book was “Love and Butter”, and it just has to continue.”
For Stephanie, baking for Islanders isn't just a job, it's a calling, “It's not something I was looking for but it was all the right things. It's such an emotional thing for me."
She's willing to put in as much time. And as many treats, as it takes. To become an official Lopezian some day.
"I've heard 20 years, but maybe I can get a variance on that since I own the bakery."
Blossom Grocery has been part of the island community since 1977, and if you don't have time to visit all of the many the organic food growers and makers on Lopez, you'll find their fare here, according to owner Brian Kvistad.
Bread from Barn Owl Bakery, greens from Christine Langley’s Farm, meats from the Jones Family Farm and shellfish from Sweetwater Shellfish are just a few of the locally sourced items you’ll find.
Congratulations to this 'amazing operation', nestled in the heart of Lopez Village, which just celebrated 40 years of keeping it local!
It's a time machine powered by steam. Thanks to Orcas Island resident and resident historian Grant Schumaker, a century-old mode of transportation is on the road again.
"I've always liked taking old things and bringing them back to life," said Schumaker.
Schumaker and his buddies, engineers Dale Briggs and Arthur Koch, have restored this fire-breathing beauty to mint condition.
"It takes a while to learn how to run a Stanley Steamer," said Schumaker, "You have to unlearn what you know about regular cars. They're made out of wood, they're always on fire, and they'll go 70 miles an hour in reverse."
Schumaker is offering tours of scenic and historic island sites in this classic Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon.
He said, "There's only 12 of these cars in private hands left in existence now, and this is one of those 12."
Like in the old days of rutted roads and washed-out gravel, the Alaska Airlines pilot keeps his steamer under 20 miles an hour. It could go a lot faster.
"They were the fastest automobiles on wheels 100 years ago," Schumaker said. "Nothing could outrun a Stanley Steamer. They were so powerful, so smooth."
But the Stanley is no turnkey operation. It takes about 15 minutes to heat the boiler, and the high-pressure steam that drives the locomotive engine needs to be constantly monitored and regulated. But what better way to roll across this historic island than aboard a piece of history in motion?
The canvas cabins at Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island have been booked solid ever since they made the cover of Sunset Magazine back in 2011. How do they feel about the term 'Glamping?'
"Oh we love it, that's exactly what it is. We didn't pioneer that phrase, but a lot of our guests learned that phrase from staying here,” said Richard Pitchford, Lakedale’s director of operations.
But this 82 acre resort on 3 lakes offers a handful of other unique ways to overnight. Only equipment needed? A toothbrush and an appreciation for something other than a standard room with two queen beds.
Like, perhaps something shiny with wheels?
"It's a 1978 Airstream Sovereign,” said Pitchford. "It's definitely one of our more popular accommodations."
Lakedale's Airstream offers far more than shelter for the night:
"It's story-worthy -- how often do you get to stay in a 1970's Airstream when you go on vacation, right?" Pitchford said.
One story might be a fish tale. There's a lake stocked with trout right outside the Airstream's private deck.
If aluminum's not your thing -- how about wood? There are six log cabins here, complete with views, and lofts.
“Real log cabins. But not rustic in any way shape or form. We've got televisions with DVD players in ‘em, wifi access, so you’re still out in nature, but you still have a lot of the comforts you expect.” Pitchford said.
And if you want to truly camp -- but don't have the equipment -- don't worry. This place has you covered.
Really. With a brand-new tent, an awning, two cots, and two chairs that the staff will put up at any campsite on the property. They call it Camping EZ
“When you arrive it's here, it's waiting for you,” said Pitchford, from under the awning that serves as a front porch for the tent that he can stand comfortably in – he’s 6 foot 4.
They'll even set up your campfire:
Best of all -- no need to pack a wet tent into a tiny bag when the weekend's over. "Nope. We'll take it down for you after your check out."
Lakedale also welcomes canine companions in certain parts of the resort. It has a general store -- lots of activities -- and giant chess. Pitchford summed the Lakedale experience like this:
"Summer Camp for grownups and summer camp for their kids.”
Everywhere you turn in the San Juans you see water. You hear water. You're surrounded by it.
"Because we are a community out here that is nothing without water. Everyone comes out here, they want to be on their boats, they want to see the whales, they want to go fishing, they want to do any number of things that always have to do with water,” said Ian Boyden, Executive Director of San Juan Islands Museum of Art.
Right now, you'll even find water indoors, at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
"Fragile Waters is an exhibition that advocates for water, worldwide,” added Boyden.
The museum recently opened Fragile Waters -- a collection of black and white photographs by world renowned photographers Ernest H. Brooks, Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, and Ansel Adams.
"I was his camera bearer on some of these trips; a free camera bearer didn't cost too much,” laughed Michael Adams, the son of the late Ansel Adams, the photographer who created some of the world’s best known images of the American West. Michael Adams visited the San Juans to speak at the exhibit’s opening, about his father’s regard for, and impact on, environmental conservation.
He says seeing these images is like looking at a family photo album.
"They are. And you know I grew up in Yosemite. I was born in Yosemite, I grew up there, these are all very familiar scenes,” he said. "So it's like coming home."
Adding to that feeling: his wife, Jeanne Falk-Adams, curates 'Fragile Waters'.
"And this whole thing is about connecting people to water through beauty,” said Jeanne Falk-Adams.
Some of Ansel Adams' very first photos are of water -- two tiny shots he took as a teenager are here:
Helmet Rock, Diamond Cascade, his first impressionistic photo.
"Ansel made photographs. He didn't take them. He created something, and that was very special. So this is a really valuable important image,” said Jeanne Adams.
The other photographers whose work is in Fragile Waters visited the San Juan Islands for the opening, and were captivated by what they found here:
"It's my first time here, and I love it!” said Dorothy Kerper Monnelly as she took in the scenery of one of San Juan Island’s most scenic areas, Cattle Point.
"You live in the most beautiful place in the world, surrounded by water,” declared Ernest K. Brooks, famed underwater photographer.
All three of these photographers hope their work will inspire people to see that the water surrounding the San Juans, and gracing the rest of the world with beauty are indeed fragile.
The Lopez Island Procession of the Species is a small town parade you would only find in the San Juan Islands. It’s a celebration of Earth Day, honoring all species, real or mythical.
Islanders make costumes during workshops leading up to the procession. Reuse is encouraged, and in the hands of creative thinkers, waste becomes a fantastical animal costume.
This year, the Procession of the Species coincided with the Great Island Cleanup and The Tour de Lopez, a more-scenic-than-speedy Island-wide bike ride.
Christa Campbell, director of the Lopez Chamber of Commerce, filled us in on the particulars of the tour.
“It's a fun ride, it's a family ride, it's noncompetitive and it’s not a race," Campbell said. "There's no timing, there's no bibs. You get a lunch ticket and a really good meal after you’re done.”
Visitors picking up litter and pedaling bikes suit Lopez just fine. In fact, when was the last time you heard a Chamber of Commerce Director say this?
"If you wanna come, if you're okay with your cell phone not working, if you're okay with slow internet speed… gerbil style, if that's important to you or you can relax and enjoy it, we are that place," Campbell said.
And really, who needs cell service when you have so much going on?
Low-impact, Lopez living looks like a pretty good party.
Getting to the San Juan Islands really is half the fun. Do your research with Washington State Ferries on the schedules and reservation system. Kenmore Air also has regularly scheduled flights to San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands.
One of the prettiest places Evening discovered was Cattle Point on San Juan Island. This is a great place to combine wildflowers, ocean views and island history in one walk.
The hand pies at Holly B's Bakery will soon be as legendary as the butterhorns and cinnamon rolls.
Lopez vibraharp guru Hawk Arps – and his band The Laureates – play a mean version of Desert Caravan. The Evening crew couldn't stop humming that song after seeing them play at the Tour de Lopez.
Interested in doing some Volun-tourism on San Juan Island? National Parks BioBlitz is May 20th and 21st – you can volunteer to work along scientists taking an inventory of all the species on the island.
Finally, don’t miss the Friday Harbor Film Festival the first weekend in November. This festival has premiered important movies like Blackfish, and this year’s lineup – Stories of the Pacific Rim and Beyond - promises to be inspiring and enlightening.
For more information about the San Juan Islands go to www.visitsanjuans.com