Beyond the amazing scenery and laid-back vibe of the San Juans, the thing that really impressed me about the area was the riding. It’s absolutely fantastic! There are fairly tame, flat(ish) roads through Lopez Island. Anacortes has a great bike path that crosses one of the inland bodies of water. Orcas Island has fantastic, hilly, rolling roads along coastline and through enchanted forests. I rarely use the term “enchanted,” and wouldn’t be doing it now if there wasn’t in fact an “Enchanted Forest Road” on the island. The road could quite possibly be enchanted, too. Liz and I saw a real-life traveling minstrel whilst riding on it! Well, perhaps he’s not a “minstrel” in the strictest sense, but I’m not entirely sure what you call an unshaven, shirtless, hemp-pants-and-sandals-wearing man walking alone down the road and playing a rather large drum. I’m gonna go with “minstrel” on this one.
And did I mention the mountain? (Hint: if you answered “yes,” you have clearly been paying attention to my earlier posts and have earned yourself a cookie. Congratulations! Now go find yourself a cookie. I’ll wait.)
Everyone back? Good. So Orcas Island is home to Mount Constitution, a fairly impressive little mountain with a totally sweet road leading up to it. The climb to the top is fantastic, with steep grades, sweeping switchbacks, breathtaking overlooks, and shady tree coverings. It’s only about a 5 mile climb, but it’s definitely got some kick to it. I rode it on my first day on the island and I was ready to hop off of my bike and call it quits about halfway up. Thankfully, I chose to suffer at least a little while longer and was rewarded less than a mile later with a phenomenal view of the surrounding islands, the Washington coast, Canada, and the distant Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges. The view from this intermediary stop along the climb was enough to energize me to a point where I knew I could make it to the top.
As a side-note, there’s something very spiritual about climbing (be it on foot, on a bike, or on a rope). Nature has this way of letting you know that it’s in control, and there’s no clearer representation of this control than when you stand at the base of a mountain. You, quite literally, realize your own insignificance in comparison to the world around you. As you work your way up the mountain, there are inevitably points where it almost feels like the mountain doesn’t want you to reach its summit. Pain, fatigue, and exhaustion start to set in. You may (as I did) consider just calling it quits and heading back to the ground. If you do, however, find it in you to persevere, you’re rewarded with one of the most unique feelings I think a person can experience: a brief dominion over Mother Nature. The view from the top is indescribable. Looking down on the world that you were a part of prior to the climb is fantastically empowering. I'm not sure if I'm describing this as well as I could, but hopefully you get the idea.
Okay, enough ridiculous existentialism. I need to get my mind back down to earth because right now (as I type this) it's t-minus 9 hours until we pick up our next group of guests. Since my last posts I've headed to sunny Northern California to prep for a long weekend trip in wine country. My co-guide for this trip is Justin, and we should have some good stories and pictures to share from the next few days. In the meantime, here are a few of the fun things I've seen since my arrival in Cali:
Yes, you did just see enchiladas in that picture mix, and yes, they were delicious.