No killer whalesI thought Orcas Island (the large, vaguely horseshoe-shaped island visible on the map of the San Juans, below) had been named because the region is well-known for its killer whales. But it's not as simple as that — oh no. It's a shortened part of the glorious name of Juan Vicente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, who sent an exploratory expedition this way in the 1790s when he was viceroy of Mexico. Must have been a bit chilly up there for the Spaniards — they liked their colonies hot.
Anyway, it's just gorgeous.
I'd love to show you the house we stayed in, but it's a private family home — suffice to say it was an extraordinary edifice of three storeys built entirely of wood, and it was spacious, luxurious ... and out of this world.
There are no bears on Orcas, but I woke up one night to an owl screeching in the trees, and on another to a deer's loud chewing outside the bedroom window, and heard its footfall on the wooden verandah steps. Or perhaps its antlers brushed the verandah post. It was magical.
We had four heavenly days there, walking, canoeing, playing cards, doing jigsaws and even, one evening, fishing in the lake, which is so full of trout that they leap out of the water all around you.This is our car on the ferry. We were first out when we arrived at the island, seen dead ahead.
It was a fifty-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, north of Seattle. The water's like a millpond; it's smooth enough all year, in fact, for there to be many little seaplanes buzzing back and forth between islands and the mainland.
I imagine the plane ride over the islands must be spectacular — this is the view we got from the highest point on Orcas, on top of Mt Constitution. You could see Seattle in one direction and Vancouver the other.
One of the island's many beaches and bays is a repository of driftwood. I've never seen so much. Apparently it's a bit of a tradition, if you spend any time at all on this beach, to build a fort, which you leave to be added to or cannibalised by other Robinson Crusoes. I've brought a huge bag full of the stuff back to San Diego — I can envisage icon-like paintings ... or maybe not!