San Juan Islands, Washington
Island time is mountain time in this rugged Pacific Northwest gem
At the north end of the Puget Sound, allllllmost to Canada, speckling a sprawling waterway known as the Salish Sea, some 400 islands compose the rocky, piney archipelago of the San Juan Islands. Four of these islands are bigger than the rest and accessed from mainland Washington by an old-school ferry system. There, you’ll find a motley assortment of eccentric humans -- rich hippies in early retirement, real hippies in moldering yurts, working farmers, fishermen, artists and authors, a former Defense Secretary.
In topography and temperament, Shaw, Orcas, Lopez and San Juan are all just as varied. Lopez is flat, great for cycling, home to a rustic food scene that includes at least one restaurant with a manifesto. Orcas is the largest, rugged and Middle Earthy, crowned by Mount Constitution, fed by a Beard-winning woodfire pizza joint, rocked by one of America’s most scenic music festivals. San Juan Island, which was once advanced upon by the British Navy during an inflated dispute over a dead pig, is all rolling open hillsides, secluded beaches, and grand seascape vistas. Folks run about in between in motorboats, sailboats or kayaks, hike or swim or bike, basking in the glaciered countenance of Mount Baker on the eastern horizon and the jagged Olympic Peninsula to the southwest.
Like all of the Pacific Northwest, summer weather is perfect. A mere 15,000 years ago, the whole area was under a mile-thick sheet of ice. Today it’s a maritime jewel set a million miles from anywhere and a 55-minute puddle-jump from Seattle. -- Jonathan Zwickel