Camping on Lopez Island

Camping on Lopez Island

I left Seattle with my friend, Tora, and her little dog, Frodo, on Friday afternoon. We were driving to Anacortes to catch the ferry to Lopez Island. Neither of us had been to Lopez Island before…well, I know I hadn’t – Tora was a bit fuzzy and wasn’t 100% sure.

We arrived about an hour before the 4:35pm ferry left. It was a good thing we got there when we did since many were already in line ahead of us. The ferry ride takes roughly 50 minutes. We ran a little late because another ferry was still at the dock and we had to wait for them to leave. Once we drove off the ferry onto Lopez Island, we had about a 10 minute or less drive to Spencer Spit State Park. Since I have a VA disability, I get to camp for free, along with up to seven of my friends.

Our campsite was lovely…just the right amount of shade/sunlight. It was also quite spacious. We set up our large tent and put a canopy over the picnic table, then headed to town to find a grocery store. We only had about 10 minutes to get in and out of the store with our purchases since they close at 8pm. Good thing we didn’t go sight-seeing first! Back at camp, Tora got a fire started while I fixed our plates of roasted chicken and  potato chips.Not the most healthy meal, but filling enough before bed.

I had gotten up at 6am, so I was really tired and went to bed around 9:30pm after helping to drink a bottle of wine. Poor Frodo was shivering like mad…Tora had forgotten his sweater. I think Tora followed shortly after, because her lantern light flashed in front of my eyes.

When I camp, I’m an early riser…so different from my home routine where I usually don’t get up until 8:30 or 9:00. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to wake up around 6am. I let Tora sleep until around 7am when I called her for breakfast…bacon and scrambled eggs…and lots of coffee. During the night, a small critter had gotten on the picnic table and was checking out the watermelon that I forgot to put away. He left little deposits of evidence all over the table, but hadn’t gotten into anything else.

After breakfast and the dishes were done, we walked down to the beach, about a 1/4 mile away. The walk down was on a bit of an incline…enough to make my knees start to hurt. I have severe arthritis in both knees and am constantly battling the pain. Once down on the beach, we sat upon rocks and enjoyed the view. There was a mist over the water and between two of the other islands…it made quite a pretty picture, especially when a ferry was crossing through the mist.

While we sat there, I was looking at all the pieces of driftwood, hoping to find something interesting to photograph. And I found it! I 6″ piece of driftwood had a natural heart of darker wood (apparently where a previous branch had been). I just had to snatch it up and bring it home with me! The tide was going out, so there were lots of algae covered rocks, stranded jelly fish, and other things one might find on a beach. The air also smelled strongly of dead sea life.

The walk back up to camp was a killer for me…my knees were screaming bloody murder and refused to support me further! So, I found a bench and Tora went back to get the car to pick me up. Gawd, it sucks getting older and the toll of old sports injuries makes its presence known.!

After some sandwiches for lunch, I asked Tora for the keys so I could drive around a bit and look for photo opportunities. I saw many things to photograph, but there was never a good place to pull over. Oh well….maybe I’ll rent a bike and check things out further. An hour of driving around the island was enough, so I headed back to camp. There, I went in search of the bike guy so I could rent a bike.

I haven’t been on a bike in at least eight years, but I remember how much fun it used to be to ride and really enjoy the nature/sights around me. It was a perfect day to ride, too. At $5/hour, renting a bike is quite a bargain. I headed off down the road and was really enjoying the coasting. But then a little voice hollered at me that if I was coasting, then it was a good chance it was uphill going back. After only a mile, I decided to turn back. My knees were hurting, I was thirsty (I forgot water), and my body was letting me know just how out of shape I am. I had no sooner turned around and was riding back when I heard startled grunts. Looking to my left, I saw about a dozen pigs jump out of a water hole by the fence and turn around to look at me. I hollered “hello, pig, pig, pig” and they squealed and bolted like their tail was on fire! Those pigs had the biggest pasture I had ever seen pigs in. usually they are in small sties. I bet those pigs were from the same farm as the bacon we bought…it had very little fat…not even enough to scramble eggs afterward. The road back had a very long, slight incline. If I was in shape, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I ended up walking the bike the whole way back up the hill, stopping to take pictures and catch my breath every few yards. While I was riding, everyone who passed me would wave. I later learned that it’s the custom on Lopez….when you’re driving, you wave to everyone. When I finally made it back, I had been gone exactly one hour. The pisser was that I had to walk back down to the beach to turn in the lock key to the bike, then back up again. Tora to the rescue once more!

We decided to snack in the early evening and have a late dinner after watching the sun set. I had read that Agate Bay was the place to go to see beautiful sunsets, so we headed off in that direction. Since sunset wasn’t until another three hours, we explored other parts of the island. At Lopez Village, we followed the sound of Indian chants and drums, finding them only as they were finishing for the day. What we did hear was really spiritual and pretty. One of our favorite places to discover was Shark Reef Sanctuary on the southeast part of the island. The quarter mile trail was an easy one, ending at rocky, fir tree covered cliffs. The view was breath-taking! When we got to Agate Bay, we still had about 90 minutes before sunset, so we just chilled for a bit. There were lots of goldfinches flying around and we even heard and saw a kingfisher. A blue heron landed on a rock and stayed there quite a while, so I was able to get several pictures of him. There were rock formations out in the bat that were quite unusual…one looked like a fish tail and the other looked the head of the fish.

We were getting bored, so we headed back to Lopez Village to catch the sunset there. Gorgeous!

Dinner consisted of sausages that we tried to roast over the campfire. The outside of mine was black, but the inside was still pretty pink, so I split it opened and tried again. Much better! I threw it on a bun and added some mustard, then devoured it in 30 seconds. Corn on the cob and potato salad accompanied the sausage. We forgot the marshmallows, though we did follow our meal with another bottle of wine. While we drank our wine, we looked up at the sky to see a remarkable display of stars. Bed around midnight….at least it was a bit warmer tonight.

I slept straight through until around dawn when I awoke to the sound of rumbling of the bags on the picnic table. In my half sleep stupor, I hollered, “excuse me!”, thinking someone was robbing us. I heard footsteps head off….or at least I think that’s what I heard. When I finally got up at 8:30, I noticed that one of our bags was on the ground and a critter (probably the same one from the night before) had been eating the crumbs of the chip bag. I think the footsteps I heard were really a deer that was sticking its head in the garbage back (that was hanging from the canopy) and trying to nibble the few remaining kernels from the corn cobs.

After a quick breakfast of hash browns with scrambled eggs and loads of bacon (I didn’t want to take it home), we packed up and headed back to the ferry dock. The 11:45 ferry only took 20 cars since it was full from Orcas Island. We just missed getting on by two cars….which means the two asshole cars that were in the wrong lane and barged in front of us got on in our place. Grrrrrr! So, we had to wait for the next ferry at 1:40. I was glad I brought a book with me since it kept me from getting too bored or antsy while waiting for the ferry. The donut I ate, though, sent my sugar skyrocketing, so I ended up sleeping most of the way home.

I really enjoyed my time on Lopez Island. There is a real sense of community there and I wouldn’t mind retiring there sometime down the road.

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