San Juan Islands

September 14-19, 1987

“Superb beaches. Fascinating gift shops. Made to order weather. Leisure for all,” observed Helen Howard.

“A beautiful trip with a beautiful group of delightful, inspiring people,” said Kay Anderson.

“Especially enjoyed the noon time picnics,” said Amy Clugston, recalling sunny coves, sea-washed rocks, driftwood.

“Rosario was outstanding — a bit of heaven,” said Bette Hack.

“A beautiful trip — around the world in six days,” said Bea LeFevre.

“When I have a million dollars I’ll buy a place on Orcas,” said Lois Schreiner.

“Difficult to imagine a better trip,” said Ewart Baldwin. “Wonderful people. Wonderful country. Wonderful driver.’

Well, you get the idea! The Obsidians’ tour of the San Juan Islands, September 14-19 was the six day adventure that will remain in our memories forever. Incredibly blue skies. Gulls sweeping over sparkling water. Sail boats, ferries, tankers that barely defined sky from water.

And the Food! The baked salmon dinner at Ft. Worden was judged one of the greatest meals of all times. And the Fisherman’s Catch dinner at Rosario Resort served amidst fine linen, crystal, and a million dollar view was the ultimate of luxury. Ice cream cones picked up at almost every stop were savored as we walked over sun-bleached docks and narrow streets that meander through coastal communities.

Our trip began at South Eugene High, 8 a.m., Monday, September 14. Whole wheat bagels and coffee bridged the hungries between early breakfast and lunch. Lunch boxes came out at Olympia Park next to the brewery at Tumwater.

Soon we were skirting the Hood Canal entranced with Indian names — Lilliwaup, Duckabush, Dosewallips. We stopped at the Dosewallips State Park. We arrived at Port Townsend around 4 p.m. After touring this historic city and its turn-of-the-century houses we proceeded to Ft. Worden.

There, the only snafu of the trip occurred when the Ft. Worden clerk shoved a bag of keys to Jane and Val with perfunctory instructions to proceed to the six officers’ quarters which were to be our home for the night. In the midst of the downpour (our only bad weather) we made some sense of the puzzling directions and settled in rooms furnished in handsome antique furniture. At 6 p.m. we crossed the compound to the shelter on the beach for the salmon feast.

Next morning up with the sun, we cross the compound again for a sumptuous breakfast of bacon, eggs, sweet rolls, toast, hash browns, and juice, then board the each for Anacortes. There, Baxter slipped his coach onto the ferry, and the Obsidians spilled out to all levels of the ferry to view the San Jauns.

It was a different world. Islands slipping by. Snow-capped mountains in the distance. Sail boats tripping the water, stately ferries intent on their destination. We dock at Orcas Island. The old Orcas Hotel, built between 1900 and 1904, beckons us ashore.

Soon we were on our way to Rosario Resort, the elegant spare-no-expense home that Robert Moran, Seattle ship builder and mayor, built as his home in 1904. Greeted by bell boys and room clerk we felt indeed like celebrities. We settled in our rooms — the view breathtaking. Dinner served at 6:30 was a gourmet delight served in the dining room with parquet floors, magnificent chandeliers, and waiters in black suits and ties.

Breakfast the next morning was in the same posh setting — then we board our coach for the Orcas Island tour. We drive through the big arch that is at the entrance of the 4000 acre Moran Park. We drive to the summit of 2409-foot Mt. Constitution – highest point in the Islands. Then for a closer look at Lummi Island we climb the stone observation tower — a replica of a 12th Century Russian Fortress.

Then on to East Sound Village. We picnic on the beach then return via Deer Harbor taking time to admire some of the world’s greatest scenery.

Late afternoon and we’re back on the Ferry plying the water to San Jaun Island, largest of some 400 San Juan Island (yes, 400-plus at low tide!). We arrive at Friday Harbor. Baxter deposits us at the Down Rigger Restaurant where we meet Neva Kay Durhack, Jane Hilt’s longtime friend — our charming guide on the San Juan Island. Meanwhile, Baxter unloads our baggage at the Friday Harbor Inn. What a jewel he is!

After dinner we go directly to the Whale Museum, held open especially for the Obsidians. Docent Dr. Don Fox, a retired Chicago surgeon, introduced us to the intricacies of whale life.

Early next morning Neva Kay rejoins us for a tour of the University of Washington Oceanography Laboratories. David Dugman, a kelp specialist, is our lecturer. Then we load on the coach again for a full-day tour of the Island. Neva Kay, a resident since the early ’40s, regaled us with its history, progress, legends. We visit Roche Harbor, the historical Hotel de Haro, and climb to the Mausoleum which John S. McMillin built as a memorial to his youngest son.

Back to Friday Harbor for dinner — and more excitement. Friday Harbor Historic Museum has remained open especially for the Obsidians. And we meet a choice bit of history — a petite, charming bundle of energy. Etta Egeland, 92, who still lives in the house in which she was born, is our hostess.

Friday morning, and we’re a bit sad. We’re departing Friday Harbor for Anacortes. We report at the dock for the 1½ hour crossing. At Anacortes, we reboard our coach for LaConner.

LaConner — the tulip-growing center of the United States — is a historic area that captures the imagination of the Obsidians. In the suggestion sheet for future “By-Ways-By-Bus” trips, 17 of the 38 passengers express enthusiasm for a “Tulip-Time Tour of LaConner.” In LaConner, we explore water front shops, snack on smoked salmon, explore antique shops, and art salons, and just generally relax.

All too soon, it’s Saturday — time for the homeward-bound journey. We’re on our way at 8 a.m. With songs, jokes, trivia contest and a limerick-bash (all written to celebrate super-driver Baxter Shaw) we drive down I-5. But there’s yet another surprise! Baxter treats us to lunch at the Rib Eye Restaurant near Chehalis. Thanks, Baxter. We’re home at 5:15 p.m. A super trip!

Participants were Kay Anderson, Glenn Aplin, Verna Aplin, Ewart Baldwin, Margaret Baldwin, Elene Barker, Rita Baxter, Mary Bundy, Ingrid Carmichael, Bernie Claypool, Clair Cooley, Amy Clugston, Euphemea Culp, Virginia DeMers, Gladys Grancorvitz, Hilda Downer, Jan Gund, Bette Hack, Vera Heidenreich, Beatrice Hill, Gini Hodson, Margaret Hutchison, Helen Hughes, Helen Howard, Dee Kelley, Bee LeFevre, Mary Mallery, Frances Newsom, Janice Pattison, Hazel Peck, Lois Schreiner, Grace Smith, Lila Smith, Paula Vehrs, Frances Witzel, Ada Woberg, and leaders Val Thoenig and Jane Hilt.

— Val Thoenig


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