Monday, July 08, 2013

Orcas Island 2013: A Three-Quarter-Assed Photo Essay


“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” -Chinese Proverb

We practically sprinted to the car to get the bags loaded. All of the previous night’s preplanning and packing checklists were instantly reduced to “Ah, fuck it. We’ve got enough stuff. Let’s go.” We weren’t late or pressed for time, but enough was enough. That’s how eager we were to get back to Orcas Island.

I can’t tell you a single spectacular thing about Orcas Island. The weather can be pleasant, the vistas can be sweeping, and the touristy craft stores can smell like we arrived just a few hours too late for the free cannabis giveaway. Pretty standard resort getaway stuff.

But after visiting Orcas Island once for a wedding back in 2011, it became clear to me that the place has a calming, relaxing aura about it. I mean, get me – a guy who hates social activities in general and weddings especially – pitching in and trying to help the wedding D.J. patch together a party set list after an equipment malfunction. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that you stand a better chance of witnessing a panther make out with a unicorn while juggling bowling pins on a unicycle than seeing me try to contribute to a social engagement.

Such is the magic of Orcas Island.

As we jumped into the car and peeled-out for the Anacortes ferry, we knew that we were essentially trying to trap lightening inside my bourbon flask. An environment where I felt at ease? Comfortable in my own skin? Dare I say, free to be me? There was no way to guarantee that we would get the random combination of ingredients right for a second time. But as the goal of blissful success outweighed the effort of travel (as well as the ever-present risk of me melting down and setting myself ablaze in protest) we were hell-bent on returning to this nexus as quickly as possible, unpacked sweatpants and extra socks be damned.
After arriving at the ferry landing, we experienced and shrugged-off the first of many potentially fracturing scenarios. Bookie – now an aspiring student of environmental science, conservation, and other peripheral tree-hugging topics – was eager to spend time on the beach studying nature. Unfortunately, the path to the beach led through a thicket of what I assume to be thorny, murderous, death-bushes, and I just wasn’t having it. Adding to my trepidation, I observed countless dog owners towing eager pooches, but only one of them was carrying a plastic bag for poops. I don’t hate dogs or anything, but you do the math. What Bookie saw as a simple nature hike, I saw as dog-biscuit landmine city.

So I kicked my feet up in the car while Bookie explored the beach and took these awesome photos:


Bookie told me what these birds are called, but Christ… I can’t remember. The hell with it.


This could also be a bird. Or at this distance, it could also be Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster’s love-child.


Part of the beach. Surprisingly free of dog-biscuit landmines, if you ask me.


The love of my life, with what I assume is a Pacific madrona branch in the background. Hey folks! Did you know that Pacific madronas have distinctive reddish bark, that they are native to the western coastal areas of Washington state, and that they are now endangered thanks to the intervention of humanity? And don’t think that this is the last time that I heard about this fucking tree this fading member of our eco-system.


This girl was just chilling next to Bookie while she was taking photos. I don’t know how Bookie didn’t see her sooner. She must’ve been distracted by all those beautiful fucking Pacific madronas.


I don’t know what Bookie was shooting here, but I assume that whatever’s happening in this shot is our fault. Oh humanity! When will you resist putting our eco-system in peril just for the sake of sensible shoes?


Here’s a better shot of that bird. I think Bookie told me that it’s called a loon. Or something. Fuck it. I was going to go look it up, but then I remembered that you have Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips too. Have at it.


Despite our first mini-disagreement, spirits were still soaring. Here’s Bookie, fresh from her beach expedition.


And here’s me in rare form, stripped of my normal psychological cages.


Bookie tried to get me to take just one “normal” pic, but I guess I wasn’t having it.


I’m not usually this much of a ham. This must be something I heard about in school a long time ago called “free-spirit”.


Huh. This “happiness” stuff is pretty good. Who knew?


While en-route to Orcas Island on the ferry, the briny sea-air filled my lungs with nostalgia and an inexplicable calm. That’s when it hit me. Though I never thought so or even imagined in my wildest dreams – even during my six years in the U.S. Navy – it seems that I was always meant to be a sailor. Or at the very least, I was always meant to live near the sea.

Or on my own island, displaced from the daily grind and social norms.


Bookie grinned at me. “I was hoping to see this side of you again,” she said.

“What do you mean? What side?” I asked, confused.

“This calm, content side of you.”

Perplexed, I pressed for more, “What are you talking about? aren’t I always calm?”

“Yeah, but the strain in what you call calm is usually evident,” Bookie said while embracing me. “At least it is with me. Out here, you’re calm, and there is no strain, whatsoever.”


Translation: “Out here, you’re not as much of an unapproachable dick pretending to be nice for the sake of others. Out here, you’re actually being nice because, why the fuck not?”

I totally get it.


Also, adding to the ambience of the ferry ride, a good old-fashioned hoot-nanny broke out back aft (that’s on the back of the boat for all ye’ land-lubbers.) I didn’t get the name of the band, but they were fantastic. I’m not sure if they were playing bluegrass or up-tempo folk music, but it was definitely a solid soundtrack for smoking salmon, washing clothes in a creek with one of those grated hand-washers, or slaughtering chickens. You might think I’m being snarky, but I’m not. I genuinely enjoyed the band enough to want to try to kill my own dinner with my bare hands. Ahh, nature.


Bookie wanted more candids of the tamed beast that I’d become. Whatever.


The love of my life, being gorgeous, as always.


Bookie prefers “adorable” over “gorgeous” because apparently, adorable is ageless while gorgeous is less so.

She’s adorageous. Might even be gorgable.


“Ramming speed!” (I know it’s a bad camera angle, but I was pointing at the other ferry. I promise I didn’t lose my fingers in a fireworks incident.)


“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” -Lily Tomlin

Upon arriving at our hotel room, the first thing I noticed was the stench. Bookie called it “Too much Febreze”, but my nose was telling me something different. It smelled like someone used an ammonia agent to clean messes left by some lazy pet owner who obviously decided to let his big, dumb beast piss in the corners in lieu of taking it for a walk.

But I could’ve been wrong. It could’ve totally just been Febreze. (Pro-tip: When booking your trip to Orcas Island, if possible, stay at Rosario Resort & Spa. Do not stay at Orcas Suites at Rosario. It’s easy to confuse the two, seeing how they are adjacent to each other. But trust me, after staying at both spots, one offers the soothing sound of waves gently brushing the shore, while the other offers paper-thin walls and the smell of Febrezed animal urine. Your call.)

I wasn’t going to let a little thing like our cat-piss chateau dampen our spirits. We unpacked, threw on our jammies, and immediately napped for about three hours. We were exhausted, mostly due to rising at 6am, but also because Bookie drove the entire way, and because I’m 40, going on 75 (Oh yeah, muthaphuckas; I’m practically sprinting towards my rocking chair. Deal with it.)

Our missing of the 4th of July fireworks was intentional, as our whole purpose was to get away and slow down, not to converge where all the action was. We watched several celebrations on T.V. and opened the patio slider to hear the local display in Eastsound, WA, where our obstructed view made the fireworks show resemble a distant thunderstorm against the clear sky, which devoid of city-light pollution, resembled a tapestry of stars draped overhead.

We also capped our night with a Twilight Zone marathon, so don’t tell me I’m not a fuckin romantic.

The next morning, we drove into Eastsound for breakfast at the Island Skillet. That’s where we encountered the Greatest Skillet Breakfast Burrito Ever Assembled. I’m not even sure if I should even attempt to describe it. I mean, perhaps I’m moving into a scary new phase of my life, because prior to this divine creation, I don’t ever recall a meal giving me an erection. OK, so I’m overstating a wee bit. But this burrito deserves its own bullet-point on my argument for making retirement plans on the San Juan Islands.

So to keep score: relaxing ferry ride + chicken-strangling soundtrack - cat-piss chateau + star-filled night in + burrito good enough to sell my brother back into slavery = RETIREMENT POTENTIAL!


This is where my burrito sat for less than five minutes.


Wifey, serving up another cup of gorgable.


This was before the Burrito that Changed My Life. There was an after-shot, but my radiance after witnessing and consuming The Truth fried the image. It was like I saw the Ark of the Covenant being forged or something. I think I even grew a white Moses beard.


After breakfast, we decided to explore the beaches and cliffs of Eastsound. That is, until I was blocked by a thick patch of seaweed and other disgusting goop that would’ve turned my Nikes into Ickies. So I turned back and resorted to sun-bathing and scolding Bookie from a distance for not using sunscreen during her expedition.


Me, keeping an eye on Bookie from a safe distance, away from icky stuff.


Fuck what ya think. I hate icky-toes.


Bookie did take some amazing shots of tide pools while somehow avoiding taking a bad tumble. She lost her footing on more than one occasion, but recovered and soldiered on like a boss.

Some examples (without commentary):



It makes my heart soar to see the love of my life beaming.


“Nah, I’m good. I was just asking this elderly couple how to get kids to turn down their rock-n-roll 8-track tapes.”

We failed to fit-in any kayaking, but we did manage to explore almost all of Orcas Island. Overall, it was a relaxing, enjoyable experience. (Put it this way; I, a whiny, city-slickin’ asthmatic, stayed in a room that I dubbed “cat-piss chateau” for two nights, and that didn’t kill or otherwise diminish my vibe at all. Not even a little bit. I don’t know what else to tell you.)

Bookie wants to make this a twice annual occurrence, and she wants to visit and explore the other islands within the San Juan Island chain. As for me, I’m more than game to begin aligning our retirement goals with what’s available in this beautiful oasis.

I classify this mini-vacation as a success.

(I won’t be providing a play-by-play of the remaining photos, but I will caption some of the note-worthy shots.)


This is the view from the balcony of cat-piss chateau. As you can see, the deer are very friendly.


With no natural predators on the island, the deer can get rather cocky.


This guy was on some serious “fuck you, pay me” shit right here.


This is a figurehead from the bow of a nineteenth-century sailing vessel. It’s now on display in the courtyard of the Rosario mansion/resort.


Seems like I should be holding a pitchfork, and she, a shovel. Or vice-versa.



This is where I was meant to be.



Yeah. Pretty sure I’m going back soon.


Yes, that’s me Facebooking about nature, within nature. Fuck what you think, and spare me the lecture about being too attached to technology. You know what this is. I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain just to enjoy nature’s stunning beauty with only my own eyes like some common savage. 


“No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it.” -Harry Emerson Fosdick



So, what was the deal with the ferry scene from The Dark Knight? “We’re going to conduct a little sociology experiment. We’ve rigged both ferries with explosives. At midnight, I will blow up both boats, unless one boat blows up the other boat…” I dunno. Just seems rather contrived now for some reason.


Bookie calls this one, “Where the sidewalk ends.” I never read that book, so I don’t get it.


Majestic view from the patio of cat-piss chateau.



What the fuck is up with my body? Is this how I really look? I have my mom’s long legs, my uncle’s monstrous wingspan, and my dad’s squatty, compact torso. I look like a fucking Pixar character.



In the ferry line, waiting to return to crappy, crappy reality. Even the guy in the pickup truck wants to turn around and stay another night.


Even so, waiting in the ferry line for the ride back home is still incredibly chill. This place grabs hold of your soul and kneads away all the anxiety.


“What? The ferry is still 45 minutes out? Pssssh! Whatever. We’re in no rush to be anywhere.”



Sitting beneath the shade of a madrona tree.


Holy shit! It’s a madrona tree!



“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.” - Herodotus


  1. Really enjoyable essay. Your sweetie is adorageous and gorgable! Now I want to go save the fucking Pacific madronas.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Heidi! I may be biased, but isn't she just the cutest, though?

    I'm gonna go hug a Pacific madrona tree right now!

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. :)