The San Juan Islands

View from fire tower at Moran State Park

Cool Spot #11: The Fire Tower at Moran State Park

I have been eyeing Moran State Park (on Orcas Island) since I first purchased my National Geographic Book on State Parks. It has been our home now for three days and I have to say it is a pretty special place filled with hiking trails, swimming lakes, and old growth forest.

Check mate!

Check mate!

The land was a gift from former workaholic and governor of Washington Moran who was told by his doctors to either quit his job as governor or die an early death. He took this advice seriously and set off to Orcas Island where he built a kind of min-Hearst castle. Soon after he advocated that everyone spend some time in the country and did what he could to set up Moran State Park. In the 30s the CCC came and built a whole bunch of trails, shelters, and one awesome fire tower meant to recreate a 14th century tower built in Europe. I think it looks like a chess piece (a rook to be exact). Henna sees a tower; kind of like the one a princess might be forced to live in by a dragon. What is without any doubt is the amazing views seen from on top the tower (which at barely 2,500 feet I think is the highest point in all of the San Juan Islands). In one glance you can see dozens of islands, Canada, Mount Baker, and the equally snowy Cascade Mountains. Thank you Governor.


Cool Spot #12: The Washington Ferry System

For just over $70 Corey, Henna, myself, and our car where given a ticket that allows for passage from Anacortes to Orcas Island and then back again to Anacortes. It would be even cheaper if we did as many other passengers did and traded our car for bikes. What makes this ride even cooler is the fact that once on the island you can take it free (there would be a charge for a vehicle) to either Shaw Island or Friday Harbor. A lot of people living on the island take advantage of this. Some do not even bother getting off the boat which proves that there is only so much kayaking, hiking, sailing, and fishing one can do.

View from ferry to Friday Harbor from Orcas Island

We did get off the boat at Friday Harbor and pretty quickly regretted not paying the $20 to bring our car. Instead we took a bus filled only with tourists to Lime Kiln State Park to not see any Orcas. The bus driver treated us to a non-stop narrative of the island where he mostly gossiped about locals (“the lady who lived there used to be married to a pilot but now she is with the postmaster” or “see that house over there, the guy living there is a real curmudgeon”). He also threw in a bit of self-loathing (“recently my wife met a guy and she won’t admit, but she really wishes I was more like him. You know, that I was funnier or better looking”). My favorite though was when he brought out the truly depressing (“I used to see him walking around all the time, then he walked with one cane, then two, then a walker, and then I just stopped seeing him. That’s what happens when you get older, you kind of just fade away.”)


Lime Kiln State Park is supposedly the number one place on land anywhere in the world to see killer whales (they actually are a type of dolphin but don’t tell them that, they are not called killers for nothing). It was a pretty place filled with short but steep trails that led to great big rocks a few feet from shore that were ideal for us not seeing killer whales. Later we saw a lot of them in the gift shop where a DVD pretty much mocked our efforts at seeing them (look, if we saw them they might have jumped in the air then flopped on their side). By the time our bus driver picked us up (the same one from before) I was ready to kick back on my free water taxi back to Orcas Island where the driver of the ship wouldn’t try to entertain me and I might even get to glimpse a whale (didn’t happen). Noel 7/17/13

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