Monday, January 19, 2009

Stuart, lovely Stuart Island

One would think it so mundane for us to return again to Stuart Island, and yet how wrong that thought would be. We headed north this wintry month and found bliss once more, like returning to an eternal well of happiness. A persistent high pressure system has blessed the San Juan Islands with clear, cold weather, and we took the chance to get away for a mid-winter trip to Reid Harbor. We fully expected to be enveloped in fog the entire time, as we had been under fog the preceding many days, but luck would have it that we had nothing but sunshine.

Our journey north began inauspiciously as no sooner had we left our slip in Friday Harbor than I noticed our steering wheel was binding and not turning freely. I had enough control to guide her to the face dock, where I began my investigation. The systems are simple and easy to diagnose, and upon review I found nothing wrong with any of the cables or pulleys. Looking under the water I couldn't see anything binding the rudder, but concluding this had to be the reason, I put her in gear and drove away determined to try to dislodge anything that might be there. Sure enough, after hitting hull speed I executed a tight figure 8 and when I pulled out, the wheel was free!

The rest of our motor to Reid Harbor in the 38 degree sunny weather was beautiful and uneventful. Choppier than normal with a stiff NE wind, but nothing worth a second thought.

Arriving in Reid Harbor we were surprised how few boats were present. Usually at least 15 or so boats seem to be there whenever you go, and more than 25 if good weather, but this time, only 4. All, it turned out, were boats from Friday Harbor, and friends or acquaintances of ours.

The sun bakes the eastern isthmus of Reid Harbor in afternoon light, and after lunch, we hiked the state park trail along the bluff to our favorite spot we call "Stump Bluff", for the scenic Douglas Fir stump that sits perfectly overlooking the harbor. There, we laid in the sun and became deeply warm while the boys climbed trees. By all accounts, it might have been July. I've had many colder days around here in July than those few hours in January. Feeling so warm, we both did some yoga and played a game of hide and seek with the boys. Our youngest son, Owen, was unusually bold and climbed right up to the top of the snag, some six feet or so off the ground. It was heaven. Pure, undiluted, heaven.

The night was crisp and clear, magical. Stars above and below, as there was no discerning the real thing from the reflection. It froze during the night and the dock was crispy when we woke. Having heard a fog horn that night, I thought we would wake to a thick fog, but our luck held, and the sun poured into Reid Harbor at first light. We didn't know it was oriented so perfectly to get the morning sun.

We decided to hike out to the lighthouse and were rewarded again with a stupendous walk and outstanding views. The signs are all wrong along the walk, as it is no more than 2 miles at most all the way there and 4 miles round trip. It is: UP to the school, Down to the Ericson farm, UP along the airport, and Down to the lighthouse.
Views from the lighthouse were exquisite as always, and I'll say again, it has to be among the most beautiful places in the United States.

Upon returning to Reid Harbor we noticed that everyone had left, and were were alone. Alone in Reid Harbor. Wow.

The journey home alongside surf scoters, buffleheads, sea lions, harbor seals, cormorants, and more eagles than we could count, had us again feeling like the most blessed people in the cosmos.

To have such beautiful and healthy boys, an amazing wife, and a lifestyle that resonates the best out of each of us, is just too much for words.


Dan said...

"Views from the lighthouse were exquisite as always, and I'll say again, it has to be among the most beautiful places in the United States."

Well said. I agree with you top 5 view spot in the world in my opinion

Brian, Amy, Elliott and Owen said...

Yeah, it is really something special. It's not that what you see with your eyes alone that makes it so extraordinary, but the feeling of being in a place with massive currents teeming with all sorts of life. The juxtaposition of the water, land and history make it so unique to me. By the way, sailing by Turn Pt., which I've often done, is less dramatic than being on the land looking out. Maybe it is the height of eye.