July 23 – 25
With the short ferry ride to Lopez Island completed, a five-mile drive took us to Spencer Spit State Park for the next three nights. Featuring two sand spits that join to form a briny marsh lagoon, the park is a popular migratory stop for waterfowl, including Bonaparte’s gulls, great blue herons and kingfishers.
This is a very nice campground, with spacious level sites surrounded by tall native bushes, providing adequate privacy for those who seek it. The toilet facilities were clean and modern with the one drawback being there were no showers present. This would turn out to not be an issue as we would discover later.
We set up camp and with some time on our hands drove over to Lopez Village to check out the amenities there and to find a market. We parked in the lot at the Visitor’s Center, which just happened to be next door to the Just Heavenly Fudge Factory for some Lopez Island Ice Cream, where we would become frequent customers. Our inquiry at the center yielded positive results, a market just two blocks away and the knowledge that public showers existed in a cinder block building across the street.
With not much to look at from a tourist perspective on the island, our routine for the next couple of days would be to ride our bikes, do a couple of meals in camp and one in a restaurant, and prepare for the next phase of our journey, a return to civilization in Vancouver.
After sucking down a large coffee/chocolate milkshake, we stopped in at Lopez Village Market for supplies. Dinner in camp that night would be an experiment for us, trying to recreate the stir-fry we do at home on the camp stove.
We usually use chicken breast or cubes of firm tofu, but the best option at the market seemed to be the right amount of nice-looking pork chops, so we went with that and after much chopping, sautéing, and stirring the end result was delicious. One more meal to add to our camp food repertoire.
The next morning, we set out for the first of two rides we’d take over the course of the next two days. We started north out of camp and headed up to Swift Bay, turning inland below the ferry terminal and heading south, passing through Lopez Village and continuing on to the southern end of the island.
We turned off Mud Bay Road onto Mackaye Harbor Road which eventually led us down to Outer Bay and Agate Beach County Park. We turned around there and returned to Mud Bay Road, which becomes Center Road (straight down the center of the island), completely disregarding the warnings on the “Are You Bikin’ Smart” sign
we’d seen at the park because, well, there just wasn’t that much traffic to be worried about, finishing up with 29 miles in total.
Back in camp we gathered up a change of clothes and our bathing gear and drove over to the public showers to get cleaned up. The shower stall was large enough to accommodate the two of us, had plenty of hot water and ended up costing just a couple of dollars. Clean and refreshed, we went across the street in the same complex as the Visitor Center to eat our one meal out on the island at Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill.
They have a nice outdoor deck but between camping and bike riding eating indoors seemed like the better choice and after ordering a beer, Joanna decided on the Mussels while I went for the fish taco plate. My first real experience with fish tacos was many years ago in the then small town of San Felipe in Baja Mexico. We’d camp at a place named Ruben’s, just a short walk outside of town and with only a few restaurants to choose from at the time, often end up at a small take out joint that seemed to just serve fish tacos and cold beer. Those tacos, as I remember them are what I look for now when ordering as they followed a simple formula; fresh corn tortilla, strips of battered fried fresh white fish, cabbage and a light amount of creamy topping.
And that is what I got at Bucky’s with the exception of a nice amount of Pico de Gallo, they were as I remembered them to be, all the attention focused on the fish and its freshness. We finished up our meal and went next door to the coffee house for a large iced coffee and the password for their wi-fi to spend the next hour or so getting caught up on-line.
Our ride the next day mirrored in part the one the day before, heading directly south this time and spend more time in that part of the island. We rode out towards Watmough Bay, not quite finding it before turning around to stop at the Southend Market and Cafe for a drink and a snack, then heading west to Jones Bay and then north to return to camp.
We drove over to the showers again, cleaned up, stopped at the market for supplies and returned to camp for some down time and a simple camp dinner of sausages accompanied by Mac and Cheese with some broccoli added to it. Along with a bottle of good rose, this simple but satisfying meal, like the many others we prepare in camp, are one of the keys to successfully traveling for extended periods of time.
As nice as eating out is one simply can’t do it all of the time as it becomes expensive and loses some of its magic. Camping, or staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen, enables one to eat 2-3 meals a day out of the pantry with the added benefit of being able to control what we put into our bodies and how much of it we eat, all part of staying healthy on the road.
With our time on the islands and twelve straight days of camping drawing to a close we were glad to be at Spencer Spit for the last bit of it, a welcoming state campground with nice facilities. I’m not sure we’ll return to the San Juan Islands anytime soon, as the days spent there allowed us to see and do most of what we came to accomplish. If one lived closer, say in Seattle, these islands would be a once a year retreat, a place to recharge and reconnect. But for now, we looked forward to Vancouver and the comforts of indoor plumbing and the lights of the big city.
Spencer Spit State Park: https://parks.state.wa.us/687/Spencer-Spit
Lopez Village Market: http://lopezvillagemarket.com/
Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill: https://www.yelp.com/biz/buckys-lopez-island-grill-san-juan
Southend Market and Cafe: https://www.southendmarket.net/