Winter escape to Orcas Island – Part II

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The 12th man lives on Orcas Is.

By Marianne Lincoln

In the dark of early morning, around 5:30 a.m., a small cloud began to creep over the harbor at the Rosario. By 6:30 a.m. there was a gray sheet of fog hanging over the entire resort. I arose, dressed and headed off across the island to find a place where a sunrise might be visible. I stopped briefly to make note of a house with blue and green lights forming the number 12, Seahawks supporters. I also captured several of the headstones at a local graveyard. North of the airport at the center of the island, there is a small area at the end of the road with access to the beach. Not to the left, not to the right, but straight out. The rest is private property. Being on the north side of the island, it usually has a nice view, particularly of sunsets. But it, too, was cloaked with fog. So I headed toward the other end of the island, toward the ferry dock.

Along the way, I discovered many other interesting sights, dilapidated buildings with collapsing roofs, old barns, crooked trees, fence gates with curious art and the sun rise, peeking out from the fog in odd places. The fog along Orcas Road glowed peach from the rising sun, in places, the sun rays beamed out from the tops of trees like a fan.

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Orcas Hotel at the ferry landing
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A young eagle with roadkill

The ferry was at the dock when I arrived, but it was dimly visible due to fog. I turned around and headed toward Deer Harbor. Suddenly as I rounded a corner, an immature bald eagle flew up from the road. I moved my Jeep a few feet farther up the road, then stopped as it flew back for the morsel of road kill it was devouring.

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Massacre Bay in the fog

A few blocks from that point was Deer Harbor Road. I made a left turn and soon could see a marina through the fog. The road twisted and turned along the shoreline of Massacre Bay. A doe running at high speed darted across the road in front of me. She cleared before becoming the massacre. I passed the Deer Harbor Inn, a nice local restaurant which on this Saturday morning had a considerable number of cars. I turned on Channel Road and crossed a lovely bridge over a narrow passage crossing Deer Harbor.

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Sunrise on the farm, Crow Valley Rd.
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Moran Mansion

It was time to turn back from my chase for the rising sun. Even Deer Harbor was cloaked in fog. On the return toward Rosario, I remembered I could return on Crow Valley Road. It was obviously a well used route as there was a picturesque old General Store Café at the corner. About a mile up the road I had to suddenly put on my brakes. I saw the most lovely, orange glow from the sunrise through the fog over an old farm pond with a windmill and a nice vintage barn. Not far from that spot was an historic school house, the Crow Valley School Museum. It wasn’t open at the time and I needed to get back to the hotel for my massage appointment. When I researched the school later, I discovered the building was last owned by Richard Schneider and Bud McBride, friends I knew from the Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees Association.

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The spa shop
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The spa waiting room

I passed straight through Eastsound, back to the hotel and headed downstairs to the spa. The room had a big fireplace with cozy chairs and a gift shop with swimsuits, towels, logo shirts and jackets, snacks and other trinkets. There were also a myriad of lotions and scented oils to choose for use while having a relaxing massage.

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Massage room
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The pool

The massage was my next experience, after I filled out three pages of medical history, that is. The masseuse led me upstairs to a pleasant, but small, white corner room with curtained windows and a large white fireplace. In the center of the room was a single bed with a hoop to position your face while laying on your stomach. It was topped with a small flannel sheet and brown satin coverlet. I had declined all the aroma therapy oils and gone with the standard product by choice. Surprisingly, I wasn’t very knotted up except for my right shoulder that controls the stick shift for my car and my left hip which controls the clutch. The masseuse suggested I consider getting an automatic, a wise suggestion.  At the end of the massage, a robe is available to wrap yourself in and go downstairs to the spa for a long soak in the hot tub or a therapeutic bake in the sauna. You could follow that with a quick dip in the outdoor pool, where the air was about 38 degrees. That cold dip in the pool wasn’t on my list, but the tracks from the pool into the building say someone thought it was a great idea.

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The hot pool
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View to the west toward Orcas and Shaw Is.

Lunch at the Moran Mansion didn’t begin until 1 p.m., so I decided to head over to Moran State Park and up on top of Mt. Constitution. The morning at the park had been a 5K race. Although the event was over, many people were still at the park having a picnic after the race.

The landing halfway up proved the fog was just at ground level. I paused to take a few photos from that side of the crest. The view was spectacular.

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Mt. Baker and Bellingham Bay
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Tower at the summit

At the top, the parking lot was crowded with people and there was another picnic of 5K runners. I put the telephoto lens on the camera and headed to climb the tower. The sound below was mostly covered with a layer of white clouds. The mountainous portions of Lummi Island rose out of the sea of white while Bellingham Bay shone clear as a bell all the way to Mt. Baker. At the top of the mountain it was a lovely, sunny day and pleasant at about 50 degrees.

The park and the mountain were formerly owned by Robert Moran, a shipbuilder and former Mayor of Seattle. He had retreated to Orcas Island in 1905 due to his health, thinking he only had one year left to live. He built the mansion and named the place Rosario after the waterway east of the island. Life on the island favored him and he ended up living to 1943. During his life on the island, he began quietly buying up properties on Mt. Constitution, eventually owning the entire peak. In 1921, he donated 2700 acres to the State of Washington for preservation. This became Moran State Park.

Summit Lake
Summit Lake
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Cascade Lake

The park has many picnic areas on the way up the peak and a hike to a secondary peak, the false summit. There are three notable lakes, Cascade Lake near the entrance to the park, Mountain Lake part way up the peak and Summit Lake. There are also several ponds and creeks flowing through the area. On the way down, I stopped at the boat launch to capture a lovely reflection photo of the lake and again near the park office where the creek trickles under Olga Rd. I stopped to hike briefly along the creek into the woods.

DSC_4027I left the park and headed back to the unincorporated community of Eastsound, pulling up to park near the Island History Museum. I walked over to the building and spotted the sign that read, “Closed for the month of January.” I breathed a deep sigh. Travel in the winter has these risks. I decided to peek through the window to see what types of displays were visible. I noticed a woman in the building and she noticed me. She came out the door for a brief chat.  I explained my connection to area history and how to obtain documents on Senate hearings regarding the decision on where to draw the Canadian Boundary through the San Juan Islands.

Crescent Beach near Eastsound
Crescent Beach near Eastsound
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Organ console

She introduced me to a photographer across the street. He has been reproducing old plat maps of the island with original settlements. I admired several of his works, then returned to the mansion for the 4 p.m. organ concert and history presentation.The concert included video and slide presentations by Christopher Peacock. He is an author and historian of Rosario as well as an

The outer pipes are decorative
The outer pipes are decorative

accomplished musician. The original organ had no keyboard, it came with player rolls. Later a manual console was added. It was explained the player portion no longer works, but after the presentation, the group was invited to the upper level to see the instrument and there was a computer controlling the music while we questioned Christopher. The concert is complementary.

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Museum level of the organ room
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View from Moran’s office

After the concert, I walked up the hill west of the mansion. There are lawns there that appear to be used in warmer seasons for weddings and special events. The hillside has a view of the setting sun toward Eastsound.  The wind was light, but the air was cold and crisp. Most of the fog had finally dispatched itself and the soft mauve colored sunset was visible.

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Sunset from Rosario looking toward Eastsound

At last it was time for dinner at The Mansion Restaurant. I was escorted to a table next to a window overlooking the harbor. The lights along the walkway illuminated the swimming pool outside the west side of the building. An occasional seagull soared past. The menu contained several great steaks. I chose a filet mignon with roasted garlic butter and Yukon gold potatoes. I added a glass of Lopez Island Vineyards Madeline Angevine to wet the palate. The wine was divine, slightly sweet and mildly fruity. A plate of warm sourdough slices arrived while I anxiously awaited the steak.

Fillet Mignon
Fillet Mignon

The steak cut almost like butter and the juices added extra dimension to the delicious potatoes. For dessert, I chose the vanilla bean crème brûlée. It was smooth, sweet and creamy with a crunchy crystal sugar decoration on top of the burnt crust, a lovely finish to a marvelous meal.

Crème brûlée
Crème brûlée
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Looking at the Harborside Rooms and waterfall from the Moran Mansion

I retreated to my room, making use of the free wi-fi to catch up on email and my Facebook accounts. Snuggling into bed felt exceptionally good after a long day running all over the Island.

Tomorrow, I test a recommendation from  visitors at a neighboring dinner table, Doe Bay for sunrise and breakfast.

Part III

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Robin says:

    Really enjoyed reading your article, thanks

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