By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
I spent my last day of my trip to the Pacific Northwest on the water. While the sun shines too brightly for my sensitive eyes, sunlight on the water is perfectly soothing. Whether swimming or boating, I relish every opportunity to enjoy water. Family lore suggests that my great-great grandfather worked his way over to the United States from Germany as a cabin boy on a ship bound for New Orleans. I expect that tale is only slightly true, but as far as adventure goes, even in the 21st century, being aboard a ship in a wide expanse of blue overflows with primal joy.
I booked a trip on the Victoria Clipper III, which sailed from Seattle to the San Juan Islands followed by a wildlife viewing excursion, with the intention of seeing orcas in the wild. Happily, I did just that. I left Seattle harbor at 7:45 am on July 28th, and spent a full twelve hours travelling northwest in the Puget Sound, through Deception Pass to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, and then further north to international waters near Vancouver.
I followed the recommendation of a friend and I did not attempt to take breathtaking pictures; instead, I watched. This watching was rewarded with the initial orca spotting. Four family members of K pod were having lunch in the waters near a lighthouse. After a few minutes of joy (and relief that the trip was already a success), the captain headed to another location frequented by orcas. Here we found five members of J pod frolicking in the water. This group included an astonishing 103-year old matriarch named “Granny” who apparently has some energetic grandsons. Her offspring delighted us all with playful jumps and stunts: spy-hopping, cartwheels, tail flapping, and breaching. A thrill in every way.
The search for orcas successful, our boat headed back toward Friday Harbor for a lunch break, stopping along the way to observe the utterly adorable wiggling and graceful swimming of sea otter moms and pups that populated rocky outcroppings in the water. Thanks to the on-board nature guide, we also spotted bald eagles! Mountains in the distance framed each exciting discovery.
At Friday Harbor, we all dashed for lunch. The tourist trap restaurants filled up quickly, so I went a bit further up the main road to the quaint Herb’s Tavern (the oldest tavern in town) where I had a beer from Alaskan brewing and the rightfully recommended fish and chips. The day was entirely too beautiful to remain indoors, so I walked to an ice cream shop, aptly named The Sweet Retreat, for a generous scoop of salted caramel. Back at the pier, I looked out at the boats and the water to drink in the joy of feeling so wonderfully far from home.
How beautiful to have enjoyed such a tremendously full day in a region of spectacular beauty; how marvelous that the natural world is a treasure we all can share.