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Art, history ... and ice cream!

Washington State: day sixteen

View Washington State 2017 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Exploring San Juan Island

The Cheesecake Bakery

For breakfast today we decided to go to the Cheesecake Bakery where we had enjoyed lunch yesterday. The coffee was pretty good, the muffins also, and we enjoyed having the view of the water and boating activity. Another bonus here is fast wifi, so we were able to catch up properly on messages and emails after the challenges of trying to get, and stay, online at the Nichols Street apartment.

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

The plan today was to see something of San Juan Island beyond Friday Harbor. The weather had started dull and there was some light rain as we drove towards our first destination, Roche Harbor, in the north west of the island. But as we parked at the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park on its outskirts the rain stopped, and it wasn't long before the weather started to get a little brighter.

Rainy daisies and sunny lavender at the sculpture park

The sculpture park is run entirely by volunteers so doesn't charge an admission fee as such, but does ask for a $5 donation per person, which is definitely merited. Not only is the collection extensive (over 150 pieces of sculpture in a wide variety of styles) but it is displayed in a pretty setting, with paths winding through wooded areas, past ponds and so on. Here are just a few of the pieces that particularly caught my eye:

At the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

One of my favourite exhibits was a group of pottery jars inspired by prayer wheels. Visitors were encouraged to write something of meaning to them (a name, a quotation, a prayer, a thought) on pieces of paper provided and to place them in one of the jars before spinning it. I videoed them in motion, and also another of my favourites:

Prayer Wheel sculptures

'Phoenix with Leaves'

In addition to photographing, and videoing, the art work, we enjoyed seeing the barn swallows nesting in the entrance area and gulls splashing around on the pond.

On the pond at the sculpture park

Dotted around the park there are also a number of poems, all written by the same poet, D. M. Jenkins. These are pseudo-philosophical in nature and made us smile - here's an example:


two sides
of the same elephant.

One, measuring, defining, probing -
the other, touching, coloring, loving -

two sides.

Elephants have
more than two sides.

[reproduced just as it appears on the sign, punctuation included]

Roche Harbor

Marina at Roche Harbor

From here we continued into Roche Harbor. I had expected this to be another town, like Friday Harbor but smaller, but we found instead a sprawling upscale resort village with a marina, smart hotel and cottages to rent. It served our purpose however in that it had a coffee bar down by the water and a shop where we could buy picnic fixings. We also browsed the small craft market and had a quick look at the old lime kilns nearby. San Juan was once the main location for lime production in Washington and traces of the industry's remains are still dotted about the island.

Lime kilns

English Camp

At English Camp

From Roche Harbor we drove a little south to English Camp. This is the site of a former British Army base, dating back to a time when the border between the United States and British-owned Canada was under dispute. While using the 49th parallel made sense on the mainland, in the network of islands off the west coast it was impossible to draw a straight line between the two nations and the exact line the border should follow was hotly contested – Vancouver Island was accepted as being part of British Canada, but should the border separating it from mainland USA run east or west of the San Juan Islands?

At English Camp

In the garden at English Camp

There were settlers from both countries living on the island, and Captain Ken told us yesterday (while out whale-watching) how in 1859 the killing of a British pig by an American farmer, because it had eaten his potato crop, almost sparked a full-out war between them. With tensions rising, and each country continuing to claim San Juan as its own, it was agreed they could both establish camps here until the dispute was settled.

After twelve years of argument the border was settled through arbitration and the island confirmed as being in the US, but during the intervening period both nations had troops stationed here although no shots were fired and the pig remained the only casualty of what became known as the Pig War.

Today you can visit both military bases and see the remaining buildings from that time - English camp here in the north of the island and American Camp (which we didn't have time to see) in the south.

Lime Kiln Point State Park

Hopeful whale watchers at Lime Kiln Point State Park

Our next stop on our little tour was Lime Kiln Point State Park, named for the nearby lime industry activity. This is renowned as the best place in the world to see whales from the land, and orca apparently often pass by, but we had no more luck than when out whale watching with Ken on the previous day. Indeed it was from here that pod L had been spotted leaving the area to head further out to sea on the evening of our arrival on San Juan, two days ago. But although the orca again eluded us, the park did provide us with a pleasant spot for our picnic lunch, and some interesting displays about whales in the region.

At Lime Kiln Point State Park

Cattle Point

From here we drove further south to Cattle Point, right at the tip of the island. Here we took a walk to the lighthouse (which was closed off for repairs).

Path to the lighthouse, Cattle Point


Flowers at Cattle Point

We also went down on to the nearby small beach from where we had great views of Lopez Island and more distant ones of the Olympic Peninsula beyond.




The beach at Cattle Point

Views from the beach

Back to Friday Harbor

Returning to Friday Harbor we took a stroll into town for ice cream at the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co. on the waterfront (with a mind-boggling choice of 72 flavours!) On the way back to the apartment we browsed a couple of shops, buying an interesting native-designed trivet in the Arctic Raven gallery, which has some wonderful pieces of First Nations art.

In the evening we returned to Downriggers where we'd had such a good meal yesterday. This time both food and service were marginally less good (the black bean hummus starter we shared was nice and Chris liked his burger, but my cod tacos were a little dull and their margarita, with limoncello added, was too sweet for my taste) but we still had a good evening, liking the waterside setting and relaxed atmosphere.

And there was another great sunset to end our final day on San Juan Island.


Posted by ToonSarah 02:05 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises art islands history lighthouse washington_state

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I never knew anything about the border dispute or the Pig War. Good that the pig was the only casualty.

by Nemorino

Loved the video of the prayer wheels. What fun. Your lighthouse photo was spectacular.

Looks like another good day.

by Beausoleil

Thank you both. The history of this area was completely new to me too Don

by ToonSarah

… and I thought the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was great but your pics now show something that seems even better.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Thanks for visiting Yvonne. I think maybe this is different rather than better, but certainly really worth a visit. We spent much longer here than I had thought we would :)

by ToonSarah

"and a shop where we could buy picnic fixings" - sounds like a very American term?
Very interesting history here too that I was not familiar with.

by Wabat

I'm not aware of that being exclusively an American term Albert, but I guess it may have originated there. The history of this area was certainly all new to me ? Thanks for your visit!

by ToonSarah

I rather like the info about the pig war, something interesting for sure! ;)

by Ils1976

Yes, it was an interesting area to explore Ils - worth spending the extra day on the island to see it properly :)

by ToonSarah

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