Sunday, August 30, 2009

Island Travel and Then Some

Wednesday kicked off the penultimate push of activities before I leave for Argentina. I drove to Anacortes after work and took the 9 pm ferry to Orcas island where my friend Amber has been residing. I visited in January and vowed to return in the summer. Amber lives in a yurt next to her two good friends Owen and Whitney who live in another yurt and, occasionally, a school bus (more on that later). This is Amber's sunny summer home with container vegetables outside:
After Amber and I worked all day Thursday, we decided to take advantage of the afternoon sun and went to Moran state park where we went for possibly the longest swim of my life (we guessed about a quarter mile). It was encouraging that I wasn't even fatigued until just as I got out of the water. That night we cooked a fantastic rice and island-grown vegetable dish in their outside kitchen, followed up by a sauce made from plums out of my backyard but too sticky to eat after their long journey. Here is a picture of their outdoor cooking and eating space:

Friday morning we woke up and did some more good eating (homemade hashbrowns and eggs plus more plum sauce and Greek honey yogurt) and then prepared to embark on a journey to San Juan Island for the "Stress Less Barter Festival" which is really more like a mini village put together for 3 days on a farm just outside Friday Harbor. If "embark on a journey" sounds dramatic, it was: Owen decided to take the 40-foot bright yellow school bus (which sleeps 4 and has a kitchen) off Orcas island for the first time since he's owned it.

Amber and I both needed to park at the ferry so Owen went to pick up some kayaks (Owen and Whitney are both kayak guides) while we finished packing food and ourselves. We met just as he was about to drive onto the ferry and hopped aboard for a sweet front-of-boat spot and a gorgeous ride to Friday Harbor. Here are Amber and Owen on the bus on the ferry:

Side note: I love the inner-island ferry. It's a throw-back to what I remember riding in the 80s (think faded yellow motif) and the tables are scattered with jigsaw puzzles in various states of completion. I worked on a giraffe puzzle in honor of my sister Tessa.

Riding in that school bus was a trip to say the least, and when we got it settled in at the camping village Amber and I took advantage of our "you're staying on the school bus? cool!" status and promptly ate, napped, and then woke up and played baritone ukulele for awhile. Then we wandered back up to where the very wholesome, family-oriented village party was getting started and listened to music on the main stage, wandered around the various set-ups (notables included "math guy" who would explain anything you wanted to know, a "mineral water" hot tub, the "make tea not war" mini-school bus, and a place to get a bartered hair cut) and ate brick-oven squash pizza and tempura vegetables. Then it was back for a bus-side bonfire and bed. Here are Amber and Whitney on the bus Friday night:
On Saturday Amber and I both had to be on the 2:30 ferry to Orcas so she could go to work and I could catch the 4:20 Anacortes ferry to get to Robyn's 5th annual wine party in time. We woke up later than anticipated but against all odds we managed to make and eat breakfast, rally the crew, borrow a truck to strap the kayaks to, and make our way halfway across the island to Lime Kiln state park which is noted for its from-shore orca sightings. Whitney strapped herself into a single kayak, Amber and I shared a double, and other Orcas island friends of theirs Erin and Michael shared another (Owen politely sat out the first round).

The waves were perfect and the current wasn't difficult to row against. It was sunny and breezy and my arms didn't turn to jelly until just as we were returning. The whole time we could see whale watching boats nearby but were too far to see the orcas themselves (and couldn't get closer without going too far into open water). Just as we reached our agreed-upon turnaround point which was the lighthouse where people go to watch for whales, two beautiful female orcas appeared before us! They were about 50 yards away and we could hear the cool sound of blow-hole breathing each time they came to the surface. We didn't see any jumps or breaches but I did see one smack her tail against the water. It was my first time seeing orcas up close and that was the icing on an already magical weekend. Amber has pictures and I promise to share them once she shares with me. We also saw a seal catch and eat a fish in open water about 15 feet from us, and were surrounded by huge, beautiful red jellyfish.

We got back to the trucks just in time for Michael and Erin to whisk Amber and me to the ferry with 5 minutes to spare. Once back on Orcas Amber went to work and I got in line for my second round of ferry riding of the day. The whole weekend was a dance of perfectly choreographed timing, often when we were sure the timing would not work out.

Speaking of timing, I was worried I'd be late for the wine party - especially since I was supposed to help set up - but luckily Robyn is a very gracious friend and everyone else was late so I was just early enough to prepare some food and get ready for the blast that was last night. I've been to 4 out of 5 of the wine parties and this one was probably the most hilarious, complete with a famed high-kick contest between two of Robyn's close friends Paul and James. The food was fantastic (highlight: watermelon gazpacho) and you may all be surprised to know that a $3 bottle of Charles Shaw Shiraz took second place in the reds category.

Today I jumped into house guest mode. My friend Annie and her brother are theoretically arriving on their Seattle leg of a road trip sometime after midnight tonight (the plan was to make it from Park City, Utah in one day but it's after 7 and I haven't heard from her so we'll see what happens). I cleaned, bought groceries, and cooked like a maniac. So far today I have made: pesto; green tomato chutney (copied from a recipe Amber made on Orcas last season); plum sauce (copied from what we just made on Orcas), hummus and tzaziki sauce. I'm also soaking farro and wheat berries to cook later and I'm thinking about making a lentil-black bean dip since I'm trying to use what I have before the first of 3 moves.

Next weekend I go to Las Vegas with Robyn and her friend Natalie (yeah Vegas!) and then when I get back we have to move out of our rental and into a house sit. But more on that and the rest of my September later - this is already ridiculously long. If you're still reading, thanks for sticking with it! Here are some bonus photos as a reward (green tomato chutney and fresh-picked plums).

These plums are so delicious, just enough to pop into your mouth for a flavor explosion! Right now they're overripe on the tree, which is the perfect time to cook them down into sauce. Yum.

1 comment:

Momma Archer said...

Loved your newest post. The very best part is that you visited back-to-nature, beautiful Orcas Island this weekend and that you'll be headed to artificial, decadent Las Vegas next weekend. Oh, and wine tasting in between. Way to mix it up, girl!