July 17 – 20
As planned, we took off the next morning on our bikes to attempt a ride around the island. Turning left out of the resort onto Roche Harbor Road we continued north to the tip of the island, skirting its airport
and making a brief stop at Roche Harbor there before turning south past the Sculpture Garden towards English Camp.
We’d return to each of these spots the next day on a car-based tourist run of the island, but for now we just kept on riding. At this point in the ride we were in the foothills of Cady Mountain and for the next five miles or so would do a lot of climbing.
As we reached one of the summits, we came upon a dirt road to the left that was populated with a number of whimsically shaped structures that looked the outcasts from a fantasy land theme park. We pedaled on, ascending and descending, stopping briefly at Lime Kiln State Park (we’d return here the next day) and reaching the southern part of the island, turn to the east and work our way to Friday Harbor.
We stopped in again at King’s Market for dinner provisions, and then finished up the last five miles back to camp. It had been a challenging but good 30-mile ride, one we would come to appreciate even more as we would later ride on Orcas and Lopez Islands. We spent the rest of the day lounging in camp, using the wi-fi and the handy device recharging station at the store and as a bonus, for a nominal sum Joanna was able to make a tie-dyed t-shirt.
The next day would be a full day of sightseeing in the car. We retraced our route from the day before, first stopping at the San Juan Island Sculpture Park to walk this 20-acre outdoor park with more than 125 unique sculptures. They are primarily by artists from the Pacific Northwest and are chosen by blind selection on an annual basis by art academics from local colleges and universities.
With over 30,000 visitors a year it is run by a non-profit charity with no employees, all work being done by volunteers. It is a great place to spend time, particularly on a beautiful summer’s day. All the exhibits are well marked with artist information and quite a few are for sale; although many appealed to us, their size and price precluded us hauling one home in the car.
Our next stop was English Camp, the first of two military camps that had a direct role in the history of the island. It was on San Juan Island in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over possession of the island, the crisis ignited by the death of a pig. Spain, Great Britain and the United States each explored, charted and named the 172 named islands and reefs in what is now San Juan County, while staking overlapping claims to what was then the Oregon Country, the present day states of Washington Oregon, Idaho, portions of Wyoming and Montana and the province of British Columbia.
Spain had abandoned its claims by the time an Anglo-American agreement in 1818 provided for joint occupation of the region. Although lucrative trade agreements existed between the two nations, , tensions mounted among those living in the Oregon Country. Americans considered the British presence an affront to their manifest destiny while the British believed they had a legal right to lands guaranteed by earlier treaties, explorations and commercial activities of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Nevertheless, in June 1846 the Treaty of Oregon was signed in London, setting the boundary on the 49th parallel, from the Rocky Mountains “to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver’s Island” then south through the channel to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and west to the Pacific Ocean.
The crisis came on June 15, 1859, when Lyman Cutlar, an American, shot and killed a British company pig rooting in his garden. When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar and evict all his countrymen from the island as trespassers, a delegation sought military protection from Brig. Gen. William S. Harney, the anti-British commander of the Department of Oregon. This would lead to the establishment of an American Camp at the south eastern tip of the island.
In response, the British built their own camp on Garrison Bay and would occupy it, as did the American’s their camp, for the next 12-years. In 1871, when Great Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Washington, the San Juan question was passed to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany for settlement. The Kaiser referred the issue to a three-man arbitration commission who met for a year in Geneva and on October 21, 1872, the commission ruled in favor of the United States, establishing the boundary line through Haro Strait.
Thus, the San Juan Islands became American possessions and the final boundary between Canada and the United States was set. Left standing at the camp today is the restored Royal Marine Barracks, built as a privates’ mess in 1860 and converted to a barracks in 1867, which now serves as a visitor contact station during the summer season. Also restored are the parade ground, blockhouse, and a formal garden.
With much more to see and do that day, we cut our visit to English Camp short, enjoying the tranquil setting, viewing Garrison Bay from the small but lovely garden established when the camp was built. We pushed on north towards Lime Kiln State Park and will cover the rest of the day in our next post.
San Juan Island Sculpture Park: http://sjisculpturepark.com/