James in his Jeep Getting Java – Anacortes and Friday Harbor

As all my road trips down south do, this one started with my pit stop at Woods Coffee in Birch Bay. This road trip was way back, April 7th, and yes I am just getting caught up now in posting. All I can tell you about what you see in the photo below, was that the drink had cookies in it and lots of chocolate syrup. The bagel was plain with cream cheese, and together they were delicious.

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This time I was headed to Friday Harbor by way of the Anacortes ferry. I could have taken the ferry from Canada, but ferry prices are ridiculous up here–especially if you are bringing a vehicle. Unlike my trip to Port Townsend, I booked ahead to make sure I was on the ferry. It was good that I did, because the earliest ferry I could get was 8:30pm.

Since I had the day, and this one had turned out to be an unusually hot and sunny one in a spring that has been mostly clouds and rain, I stopped in at Edison, WA where I had lunch at the Slough Food and a coffee at the Tweets Cafe. There was quite the crowd at the Tweet with the jug band that was playing. If you’re counting, this was my second coffee while on the road.

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I arrived early in Anacortes and headed for the historic section of the town where I hunkered down for most of the day. Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island, just north of Whidby Island. It has a population of just over 16 thousand.

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After grabbing my third cup of coffee, I wandered the town and wound up at the Calico Cupboard Old Town Cafe. This one is a second location (apparently there are three) to the one I visit when I’m in La Connor. I had lunch and a glass of iced tea (real iced tea down in the USA–not the sugary syrup I’m accustomed to back home). The waitress was friendly and told me about the harbour that was worth checking out.

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The harbour was interesting with a museum (not open on the Friday I was there, of course) of a famous ship, the W.T. Preston Snagship. Also nearby the harbour was a hike up a small mountain that overlooked the city. Since I had time, I decided to take the hike.

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At this point three things should have occurred to me: (1) I am alone. If I go on a hike and get hurt, there is no one to go for help. (2) I have asthma (3) I never carry my puffer.

The hike was steep, and very dusty from a dry day. There were a few moments where I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. But, as I looked at my surroundings and just how amazing they were, I decided if I were going to go out that was not such a bad place to do it.

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Once I got to the top, I was met by an elderly couple walking with canes. At first I was pretty impressed they’d hiked this mountain, but as I watched them hobble around I started to doubt we’d taken the same path. So I asked.

“We came up from the parking lot over there,” the woman said to me, pointing to a road that wound up the mountain. “Where did you come from?”

I pointed to the hiking trail, still a little winded from my asthma.

“You did that hike all by yourself? You’re brave.”

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After three more cups of coffee, I was ready for the ferry. It’s a short ride through the San Juan Islands to Friday Harbor, but by the time I got there it was already dark.

I had booked ahead for a hotel room at a place called, “Orca Inn,” which was the only place in my budget. Everywhere in Friday Harbor was $300 plus a night, but Orca Inn, off season, was $70 for a night.

 

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The inn rented me what they call a “micro hotel room.” It was big enough for a bed and two closets. In one closet was a shower and toilet (separate), in the other a sink and coat rack. For one night it was perfect. Quiet, clean and affordable.

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The next day I had breakfast where I met a retired couple who now drive yachts from Victoria to Friday Harbour. A few weeks later I would learn that the gentleman would post about our conversation on Facebook, where his niece (and good friend of mine) Crystal Stranaghan would read about it and connect that it was me.

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I had lunch at Friday’s Crabhouse after taking a good walk around the town. The place looked amazing, so my expectations were pretty high for the food. I ordered the calamari and fries, which were passable as lunches go. They tasted (and were presented) like fast food without the fast food prices.

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Friday Harbor is a cute town, with a population of just over 2,300. (My “Canadian-ness” keeps wanting to spell it, “Friday Harbour,” so I’ll say sorry now in case I do so by mistake.) I wandered up and down the streets, had a coffee at the pier, watched the ships and ferries arrive and depart, and then decided it was time to check out the rest of the island.

Unlike the day before, the clouds had started to roll in and the air felt like rain. But even with inclement weather, the San Juan islands are a beautiful place to visit.

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There were a few spots along the scenic road that took tourists around the island where signs told the history of the island. I wound up stopping to look at a really beautiful bird, actually there were many of this species, when a cyclist pulled up behind me.

“They are cormorants,” he said to me, instantly friendly and kind. “beautiful, but the scourge of the island. It’s illegal to hunt them, or I’d shoot them all.”

This cyclist suddenly turned into a James Bond-ish villain in my eyes as I imagined him huddling down in the bushes waiting for his prey. Apparently, the cormorant (not a native species to the island, according to the cyclist) eats all the fish in the lakes and has no predators.

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My next stop, and at this point it did start raining on and off (pretty heavily on while I was here,) was the Cattle Point Lighthouse. There was a visitor shelter that looked more like a zombie apocalypse bunker, so I hunkered down and stayed dry for awhile.

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As I drove around the island, I passed many farms with cattle, horses and llamas. The landscape is quite picturesque and on a nicer day better suited to cycling than driving.

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I wound up finding what I thought was another town after about thirty minutes of driving. This surprised me, as I had thought that Friday Harbor was the only town on the island. Turned out it is the only town on the island, I’d just driven the entire circumference and not realized it.

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The rest of that day it rained pretty hard, so I spent it in a cafe writing my thoughts and crafting my stories as I sipped probably another three or four cups of coffee. After that, I headed home.

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If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend Friday Harbor as a place to visit. For the type of get-a-way I enjoy, one day was enough to get a feel for the place and explore what I wanted to explore. But if you wanted a place to just relax by the ocean with an old-town feel, Friday Harbor would make a great longer vacation.

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