For all you bird enthusiasts, or shall I say birders, there isn’t a more perfect place to come to see many species of birds in the Pacific Northwest. San Juan Island has more than 200 species of birds. Birders consider San Juan Island some of the best bird watching in the state of Washington.
One reason is that the volume of water that flushes from the Strait of Georgia through Haro Strait, and the Salish Sea is a rich environment for birds. Currently you can see, common murres, Cassin’s auklets and the occasional forktailed storm petrel.
On American Camp’s rocky shorelines you can find, black oystercatchers, surf scoters and rafts of seabirds on the open water. Shorebird migration begins around July 1, when birds such as black-bellied plovers stop to feed in the prairie grasses. Fourth of July Beach and Jakle’s Lagoon are big wintering spots for ducks, including buffleheads and Harlequin ducks as well as common loons.
In the woodlands of American Camp and English Camp, you’ll find winter wrens, chestnut-backed chickadees and rufous hummingbirds. On the prairie, look for American goldfinches, great horned owls, and 18 varieties of raptors, from merlins to peregrine falcons to northern harriers. In spring you’ll see Savannah sparrows and vesper sparrows, and winter is a good time to see migrating seabirds.
In 1859 the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over possession of the island, the crisis ignited by the death of a pig. The territory in dispute was the San Juan Islands, and the confrontation began when an American farmer shot a pig that belonged to Britain’s Hudson Bay Company. The “Pig War” ended 12 years later with the American’s gaining control of the San Juan Islands. English Camp also known as British Camp, is situated on Garrison Bay on the northwest corner of San Juan Island.
Bell Point Trail is one of Grover’s favorite hiking trails, mainly because it’s shaded and a leisurly walk. Make a 1-mile loop around Bell Point under big madronas, taking in splendid coastal scenery. No need to hurry along this splendid loop, the resident eagles, ravens, and kingfishers don’t mind if you linger.
There is also a splendid garden that was once a vegetable garden for the English soilders, but then was turned into a victorian garden to please the officer’s wives that had accompanied their husbands to the San Juans, leaving the comforts of home behind.
The Harrison House Suites and the Tucker House Inn offer complimentary kayaks to our guests. This is a great family adventure activity! The San Juan Islands offers some of the best sea kayaking in the world. For novice kayakers or those with small children, launching at Jackson’s Beach is a nice way to spend your day paddling. For experienced kayakers, launch from San Juan County Park on the west side of the island, where you might spot orca whales! Our kayaks are available on a first come, first served basis and we have a single and two doubles. We provide tie downs so you can easily load the kayaks onto your car or if you prefer a cab will happily take you and the kayaks to Jackson’s Beach for $30 each way. Sign a waiver and you and your family are off to sea!
If you prefer a guided trip or more of a group experience, there are many outfitters on the island that we work with. Let us know the type of trip you are looking for, whether it is an afternoon sunset, family outing or daylong adventure that you are seeking, and we will take care of all the booking details for you. What a way to create many fond family memories.
Wenda has been tending our gardens for over a year now and the fruits of her labors couldn’t be more evident this spring. Everything seems bigger than life – the tulips taller with large structured heads, the rhodie flowers bigger and more vibrant and the herbs in our vegetable garden more prolific. The chives are so abundant that we have been making chive pesto by the bucket. The lower tier of our chef’s garden is full of red potatoes, the strawberries have set fruit and our first crop of lettuce is on the cusp of harvest.
The hanging baskets have been in place for the last 3 weeks and with the warm May weather are way ahead of last season. She has been digging and planting new beds and every time you turn around there are more flowers and plantings to enjoy. There is a new hedge of yellow and pink forsythia that will greet guests each spring at check in. She also added a witch hazel. I remember fondly my witch hazel in my Maryland Garden. It sent out yellow confetti type flowers to hearken the beginning of spring – some years with snow and ice still on the ground. This upward growing tree has heart shaped corduroy leaves and Wenda found a strategic location for so its showy wispy flowers will be seen from many perspectives throughout the property when it blooms. There is also a new pear tree in the front lawn.
So when you visit Friday Harbor take some time to stroll through and enjoy the various pocket gardens at the Harrison House and Tucker House. The lower shade garden under the weeping willow tree’s ground sweeping fronds is a tranquil setting for an afternoon of reading or napping. The shade garden between the Garden Café and main Harrison House has two specimen Japanese maples within a bed of ferns. I can’t help petting the maple and ferns every time I walk by. The camellia at the end of the path has just finished blooming and the petals from the bright cotton candy pink flowers filled the side walk for the last few weeks. The landscape roses and lavender by the picket fence on C Street are in full bloom. Inhale a huge breath of relaxing lavender while enjoying the accents of orange, white and pink from the roses that add a splash of color to the sea of purple.
I have fond memories going to the drive in as a child. We put on our footie pajamas and piled into our station wagon with blankets and sleeping bags. Sitting in the back seat with snacks and drinks in hand, we watched the movie on the big screen listening to the sound track with the crackly speaker perched precariously on the wing mirror of the car. There was a car hop that sold popcorn, candy and soda throughout the show. Ahh the good ‘ole days.
Now you can relive that same experience at the San Juan County Fair Grounds on Fridays through fall. And the admission prices are retro too – $5 per person or pile your family into a car for $20!
Here is the summer and fall schedule:
June 6 – Karate Kid
June 20th- Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory
July 5- Back to the Future
October 3 – An American Tail
October 17 – Hook
October 31 Beetle Juice
If you forgot your blanket, the concession sells these cozy fleece hoodies in pullover or zip styles, designed by Jennifer Rigg from Loea Design. Proceeds support the fairgrounds.