By Marianne Lincoln
I rose Sunday before the break of dawn, the Moran Mansion was still glowing through the fog hanging over the harbor. I showered, packed my bags, grabbed my camera and headed off to the south east corner of the island to find the sunrise that was foretold at last night’s dinner. Up the winding hill from the resort to Olga Road, through Moran State Park, past the small community of Olga where the road actually passes the sea shore, then suddenly, a glimmer of light shone through. Tree, trees, trees… the whole island is trees. There actually aren’t many places where you can get close to the shore by road. Most of the shoreline is owned privately. It was my objective to find where the road and shore met the best angles to take photo at just the right time. I reached Doe Bay and discovered the inlet was pointed too far south away from the rising sun. The lovely hillside of trees blocked the lilting morning light.
I hopped back in my car. The road got narrower and soon there was only a single lane entrance to a residential area. But the sunrise was there in all its glory, without the fog. So I went on down the driveway to Sea Acres. Many of the houses appear to be rentals for summer travelers. I snatched up the camera and walked the frosty grass to the fence line over the cliff.
The sun was painting the sky a melon shade of orange beneath a long cloud of fog that was drifting by. The sun was reflected in an orange glow on the blue gray water and trying to peek out from behind a cloud. Above the cloud, the sky glowed with gold. The rocky shoreline and windswept trees framed the edges of the small bay. At last, a few lovely photos of the morning.
I departed Sea Acres and headed back to Doe Bay. The sun was high enough in the sky to frame the trees with gold over the hillside. The cougar statue on the crest of the hill over the beach also framed nicely in the rising sunlight. The colors here were gold and blue with only a little peach in the distance over the Rosario Straight. The cool crisp January morning air made surfaces damp and slippery. I used caution near the rock on the hillside. Looking toward the rising sun, the location was lilting and romantic. I lingered staring out over the water toward Blakely Island. Looking away from the light, the rocky edges of the island dropped straight off into the water and held only a few sparse, brave trees to struggle for nourishment. Beneath the water, it was likely teeming with life clinging to those same rocks.
The Doe Bay Resort and Retreat had an eclectic combination of little pea green cabins dotted all over the hillside and out on the rocky cliffs, several yurts for the more adventurous. There was a general store that hosted lots of souvenirs of the island and local events as well as necessaries for campers and locals. Behind the store was a small restaurant, the Doe Bay Café. It was time for breakfast.
The café was eclectic. The newer wooden stools and chairs added some beauty to the combination of art prints, hanging stemware, chalkboard advertising and hippie-like costumed wait staff. The counter top hosted dramatic serving plates with muffins and bagels along-side a collection of sauce bottles with Tobasco, ketchup, vinegar and more.
I sat at a table next to the windows overlooking the inlet. The old panes obscured the view slightly, but it was a lovely sight. A bottle of greens decorated the table. I took of my warm hat and scarf and pulled up the menu.
The menu described food fit for the Gods. Selections were combined with fresh greens, drizzled with goat cheese or fruit sauce, nuts or avocados the descriptive words were enticing. I asked for a hot chocolate to warm me up while I decided. It arrived in a huge cup with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. It was creamy and delicious. It warmed me back up from the frosty air outside.
At the top of the Brunch Menu was a quote from A.A. Milne – “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
I ordered the French toast. It was cinnamon brioche with sweet goat cheese, toasted pecans, mixed berry compote, raspberry coulis and organic maple syrup. It arrived like a masterpiece. I asked if the chef had a PhD.
As I consumed my delicious breakfast, the couple from the next table had finished and gone down to the deck below where they were spooning while over-looking the water. I grabbed my camera; it was the perfect shot to text to a friend.
I took my time savoring the tasty treat. When I left, I read the flyers, posters and certified organic stickers. The Café has gardens around the island that raise much of its food organically. The San Juan County Certified Locally Grown sticker proved their commitment to the island and great food.
Outside the Café entrance was a statue of a doe, curled up, resting on the deck. I walked back down to the cliff over the water and breathed in a long breath with a last gaze on the lovely scene of Rosario Strait.
Back at the hotel, I officially checked out of my room. I planned to stay for the barbecue lunch, but I had a couple hours to use first. So I decided it was time to try the spa and sauna. First I perused the gift shop which had any interesting trinkets, logo island shirts, food and gifts. I picked up a large yellow striped towel from the spa desk. Then I got directions to the changing rooms just past the lovely tile room and indoor pool. It was peaceful in the hot bath, I had the entire pool to myself on Sunday mid-morning. The pool rooms have lovely tile work. Adjacent to them are showers and the exercise room full of equipment. When I felt sufficiently relaxed (and baked) I changed back into my street clothes and headed to the hillside south of the main building.
The hillside is sculpted with several tiered grassy spaces separated by trees and hedges. In the summer they make lovely party areas for special occasions and most certainly for small weddings. The view from the hillside takes in both the harbor to the north and Eastsound on the south. The windswept trees are picturesque and when the fog is away, the view goes all the way out to the Rosario Straight. A colorful sunset or sunrise, if visible, would be stunning from this vantage point. For a very special garden wedding, this is certainly worth considering. With the right decorator, it is guaranteed to be stunning.
I returned to the mansion and decided to work on my computer for awhile and catch up on email. I settled in the lounge where there were a few tables conveniently near electrical outlets. I ordered a bottle of Spire Draft Cider and started to work downloading photos and typing stories. I also checked the sailing schedule for the ferry.
At 1p.m. the lounge was to start their Sunday barbecue. It was more like 1:45 p.m. when I ordered my brats and sauerkraut. It was a tasty lunch which also included some mashed yellow potatoes at my request. When I finished, I took a last walk around the Moran Mansion and a few more photos before departing back across the island.
I drove back to Eastsound. The town was still fogged in. There was some visibility near the airport, but very little near the water. In the summer, the airport is a landing place for tour planes arriving from Seattle. In January with the fog, there wasn’t anyone trying to take off or land. The airport sits on the center of the island where it is the most narrow. You essentially take of and land over water, making it a challenging place to maneuver. The runway is also fairly short. So practiced pilots will be challenged and new ones must use the utmost caution. In the summer months, the charter planes from Seattle fly in and out of the airport with visitors.
Being a winter Sunday, Eastsound was quiet. I paused to look at a map and take several roads to the western side of the island. Beach Haven Road and West Beach Road both end at little resorts on the waterfront. Along the way, I paused as I spotted a young buck munching on some grass at a construction site. I turned down Crow Valley Road and took a photo of the spot I took the lovely orange sunrise shot on Saturday. At the intersection community of West Sound I turned toward Deer Harbor. The Deer Harbor Inn which had a large number of breakfast visitors on Saturday had just a few cars this afternoon. In the center of town, the parking lot was mostly full. I stopped to admire the marina and boats in their moorage. The harbor has a number of rentable buildings for island visitors. Taking a personal boat from other points around Puget Sound and the Salish Sea and pulling in at Deer Harbor is obviously a popular get away. I followed Deer Harbor Road to the end of the island, but it only led to gated driveways and more large trees obscuring the view of the water. A few of the fences had interesting and artistic decorations, a popular habit on the island.
Turning around, I travelled back through Deer Harbor and photographed the setting sun and sever other building and classic yard art. I pulled into the Orcas Ferry lot around 4:30 p.m. There were only a few cars ahead of me. I got out and walked around the community on foot. I stopped in the gift stores and the grocery store for a small snack to take on the ferry. The selections of memorabilia and gifts vary from wines, port cards and Christmas ornaments to shirts, coats and sport cups.
The sun made a colorful splash over Crane Island on its way out of sight this evening. It was a solemn sight to watch the sun go down as I was awaiting the ferry to take me away from my magical weekend on the island. The lightly rippled blue water was separated from the orange glow of the setting sun by a deep green tree covered island. A few clouds were sprinkled merrily about the glow while the balance of the sky still shone in a light blue. There was no fog at the ferry dock for the sunset. It was pleasing to be able to say goodbye to the island this way.
I shared my waning sunset perch with a couple other admiring photographers. One of them was the mother of a 4 year old who came out of the neighboring store with an ice cream cone and a face of gooey white ice cream dripping down his chin. This was a delightful reminder that the pleasures of the island exist for many age levels. A little food sounded good and I stopped by the grocery store and picked up a package of Chinese barbecued pork for a snack.
As the sky grew dark, the lights of the Anacortes ferry appeared in the distance. It was time to get back to my car and get loaded onto the boat. After parking on the ferry, I took my computer upstairs to start work on the story of my visit. There was a brief stop at Shaw Island and in no time, we were back at Anacortes. The flood of cars exiting the ferry late on Sunday evening filled the streets like an afternoon rush hour. Many poured into the local McDonalds for a familiar burger and fries. Having had a little trouble with my cell phone on the island, I decided to pull over and try to get it to work now that there was a stronger signal.
By the time I reached the freeway, I-5, I spotted another McDonalds and decided a sundae sounded like a good treat to get me the rest of the way home. As I pulled into the restaurant, a familiar tinkling noise rose from my phone. Ah, civilization! I was back in contact with my favorite people who had encouraged me through this adventure.
In the course of a lifetime, we sometimes find ourselves alone. It is easy to make the decision to refrain from going on an adventure when there is no one with which to share it. In this case, I had decided I had earned the vacation and partner or no, the vacation was going to be a reality. I made the most of it, by chatting with others along the way and getting to know the staff at the restaurants and hotel, ferry service, parks and shops. But somehow I sensed I would be back soon and not alone as I was this time. Farewell Orcas, we will meet again soon, when the skies are fair and your sunrise can caress two noses.