Alpacas on San Juan Island

Alpaca from Krystal Acres

Guests at Harrison House Suites may be surprised to see an occasional alpaca or llama mixed in with the cattle in the pastures of farms on San Juan Island. While driving on West Valley Road, the surprise will be compounded when a turn of the road reveals  60 + alpacas meandering around the fenced pastures of Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm! Visitors are welcome to stop in, and there is a lovely store on the property.

Alpaca from Krystal Acres

Welcome to San Juan Island!

Alpacas (Lama pacos, or Vicugna pacos), are natives of South America, domesticated in the Andes over 6000 years ago. Alpacas are raised for the fleece, which is lustrous and silky, and not to be beasts of burden. There are over 52 natural colors of the fiber, and it contains no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.

Alpacas in the Wild

Wild Apacas in South America (photo courtesy of Intl Alpaca Assn

The Alpaca is smaller than a llama, and has a gentle and curious nature. The adults weigh 106-185 pounds, and the “baby alpacas” are called cria. The female carries the cria for 11.5 months before delivering. Alpacas live 20-25 years.

Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, on San Juan Island, is owned and operated by Kris and Albert Olson. The farm is a beautiful, peaceful place, and each pasture holds a few of the 60+ alpacas the Farm currently owns. The Krystal Acres Store offers a wide selection of scarves, coats, socks, teddy bears and many other products, all made from the light and soft fiber of their own stock.

Take the family out for a unique sightseeing & shopping opportunity. A recent visit by this writer and two young friends resulted in a new-found respect for beauty and a chance to see Alpacas close up. Kris the owner walked by as we were sketching, and called each of the alpacas in our group by name – it was lovely!

Alpaca checking out Alison

Children are drawn to the gentle nature and beauty of the alpacas

Chiara and her art

Chiara brought art supplies and spent some peaceful time creating this drawing of the alpacas

Harrison House Suites’ Living Fossil

Harrison House Suites Friday Harbor


Harrison House Suites Friday Harbor

Monkey Puzzle Tree on the grounds of Harrison House Suites, Friday Harbor, WA













Wander about the grounds of Harrison House Inn and Suites on C Street in Friday Harbor, and you will discover a tree whose origins trace back to the days of the dinosaurs.

The Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria Araucana), located on the corner of the Inn’s property, is native to the Southern Andes foothills, and was declared an endangered species in 2013 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In 1976 it was declared the National Tree of Chile.

There is no official record of how this tree was brought to Friday Harbor, but it was probably brought here by someone who admired the unusual shape and hardiness of the Monkey Puzzle in an ornamental garden in the British Isles. How did these seeds make their way from Chile, to England and Ireland, and finally to Friday Harbor? The answer lies in the famous expedition of George Vancouver, 1790 – 1795. After exploring the Pacific Northwest, the ships made their way home, stopping in Chile. Monkey Puzzle Tree seeds were added to the expedition’s collection, and in the 1840’s, a British nursery was able to produce enough seeds to begin marketing Monkey Puzzle trees to the public.

The British and Irish wealthy were entranced with the unusual tree, and with good reason. The Monkey Puzzle can reach 70-130 feet in height, is fire-resistant, and can live for over a thousand years.

It soon became a status symbol to have a Monkey Puzzle in one’s ornamental garden. One of the first purchasers was a man named Sir William Molesworth, whose friend coined the name “monkey puzzle tree” by saying “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that!” In French, the tree is called a “monkey’s despair”. By the early 1900’s these intriguing plants began showing up in gardens in Seattle, and in the San Juan Islands.

However, we can find only three so far on San Juan Island. One is here at Harrison House Suites, one in a residential area of downtown Friday Harbor, and one at the San Juan Historical Society Museum.

Maybe you will find another Monkey Puzzle in your travels of San Juan Island – and if you do, we would love to hear about it!

What to Do When Visiting This April 2015

Things to do Harrison House
Things to do Harrison House

One of the Stops on the Poetry Trails for April 2015

Your April trip to San Juan Island with a stay at the Harrison House Suites will create lifelong memories as you blend into the community during one (or all!)  of these upcoming activities:

Poetry Trails:  In celebration of National Poetry Month, there will b a series of three Saturday guided poetry walks, outlined below.  In addition, the poems will remain in place along the trails for the entire month of April.

  • April 4th at 1pm. Poetry Walk Guided by Poet Gary Thompson and Land Bank Volunteer Karen Vedder.  Meet and park at Lime Kiln State Park main lot. No dogs please.
  • April 11th at 1pm. Poetry Walk Guided by Poet Paul Nelson and SJI National Historical Park Historian Mike Vouri.  Meet and park at American Camp Visitor Center lot. No dogs please.
  • April 25th at 1pm. Poetry Walk Guided by Poets Sally and Sam Green and Land Bank Director Lincoln Bormann.  Meet and park at Lime Kiln State Park main lot. No dogs please.

For more information, phone Tanja at 360-370-7655 or visit us online at

saw-whet owl from Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow Open House:  

Since it was founded in 1982, Wolf Hollow has provided care for almost 12,000 injured and orphaned wild animals, with the aim of releasing them back into the wild.  A rare opportunity to see the workings of this rehabilitation center on San Juan Island is available on Saturday, April 4 from 11 am to 3 pm.  Parking at Wolf Hollow is very limited so please park in Friday Harbor (if you are staying at Harrison House Suites or Tucker House Inn, it is a very short walking distance to the San Juan Grange)  and catch our shuttle bus, generously provided by San Juan Transit. The bus will pick up passengers in front of San Juan Grange (on First Street, just up from the Whale Museum) at 11.a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

San Juan Singers:

Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 pm and Sunday April 12 at 2 pm, prepare to sit back at the San Juan Community Theatre and enjoy the music of San Juan’s community chorus.  This spring’s theme is America, the Beautiful, Music of America, by Americans.

One of the Stops on the Poetry Trails for April 2015

Spring Street Intl School presents “Metamorphoses”

San Juan Community Theatre is the host for Spring Street’s drama students to present this famous Greek classic play, Friday and Saturday April 17-18, at 7:30 pm

We look forward to welcoming you to Harrison House Suites this April!

Illuminated Glass – William Morris February 14 – May 12, 2015

IMA Exhibit

IMA ExhibitMorris’ glass sculpture speaks of human origins, myth, ancestry, and ancient civilizations. Symbolizing a harmony between humanity and nature, the artists’ extraordinary technical skill combine with a love for cultural history to create a body of work like none other.

William Morris, a teacher at the world renowned Pilchuck School, has captivated and intrigued with hauntingly evocative and beautiful glass sculptures for more than 20 years. Morris gathers much of his inspiration from ancient cultures from around the world – Egyptian, Asian, Native American – all peoples, he has said, who respected and admired the land they inhabited. Because of this, Morris’s artwork has an intriguing ambiguity: it is culturally distinct and yet familiar to all cultures. His pieces embody a spiritual quality that sharply contrasts old beliefs with those of the modern world.

“The William Morris exhibition is the perfect inaugural show for the opening of the new IMA atrium,” said Executive Director Charlie Bodenstab. “…a perfect place to showcase this masterful glass art.”

New in Friday Harobor

Friday Harbor San Juan Island

The town of Friday Harbor turned 105 this February and without much fanfare, Friday Harbor is getting gussied up – an infrastructure face lift of sorts. Much of the work has focused behind the scenes in sewage or water treatment plants or beneath the road beds – replacing aging water and sewer lines, fixing storm water catch basins and repairing pump stations.

These types of repairs remind me of the Inns – all the behind the scenes repairs and proactive maintenance that you can’t do without. Somehow the 6 new water heaters or rewired electrical box do not have the same gee whiz factor as a newly painted room or landscape installation.

The town recently completed a few projects that you can’t help but notice. Blair Avenue from Spring to Guard Street will open this week. Those of you reading from a big city probably think we’re crazy highlighting this as news. This new 2 lane road, a veritable highway for the Island, has new sidewalks, street lights, and tree planters with beautiful Native American designs. The entire road bed of Blair Avenue was completely rebuilt.

Friday Harbor San Juan Island

Busy summer traffic was detoured from this major cross town arterial plus traffic to the middle and high schools, the post office and many other businesses that line the boulevard had to be rerouted. Islanders are musing with delight to say they can now drive the entire length of Blair Avenue without a detour. They describe the smoothness of the asphalt lift with the adjectives used to describe the facial complexion of models. Ah Island life. We are all proud of this new road project!

Speaking of road projects, the town completed a chip seal project that did an overlay on many of the down town roads and side streets. While it was a bit dusty for a few weeks and difficult for cyclists to maneuver upon, those inconveniences are distant memories for the improved road surface we now enjoy.

Friday Harbor’s new trash and recycle containers are showing up in prominent places in the down town core. No more having to carry your recyclables back to the Inn to find an appropriate receptacle for disposal.

The town will make a big splash for the holidays. Gone are the years when the tree lighting didn’t light as planned. The Town hired a professional company to light Memorial Circle Park, the entrance to town, for the holidays. From the installation previews, it is going to be nothing short of spectacular. No more Charlie Brown trees for Friday Harbor! Do plan a visit for an old town holiday celebration.

Friday Harbor is San Juan Island’s gateway. Our small little town of 2,200 residents maintains infrastructure that supports the growing summer population of visitors.Friday Harbor Trash Cans


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275 C Street Friday Harbor WA 98250 | 360.378.2783 or 800.965.0123 © Harrison House Suites | Photography: Michael Bertrand Photographer & Others