Orcas Island

Walking by Cascade Falls in Moran State Park

J and I camped on Orcas Island for a few days. We hiked around Moran State Park. By now, the snow has melted and the waterfalls are gushing. We hiked past the modest Cascade Falls, and did a loop around Cascade Lake. We were the only ones on the trail that circumnavigated the green lake. Our surroundings alternated between exposed, emerald moss and dense, thick trees.

At the summit of Mount Constitution, there were panoramic views of other San Juan islands, and the calm waters of Puget Sound spreading into the horizon. There was a lookout at the top, hand-crafted, made of gray stones. We saw hawks circling below, and alpine lakes nestled between the trees.

Mount Constitution summit
Mount Constitution summit

We also hiked around Obstruction Pass. We read that there was stinging nettle that makes people itchy on contact.  Surprisingly, stinging nettle is edible and looks like harmless cilantro. The beach was rocky, shoreline blackened, covered in algae and bullwhip kelp. Near the shoreline, there was a carcass of a harbor seal, perfectly plump and intact, save for its head, which was picked down to the skull. On a distant island, a single fire covered the island’s entire beach in smoke.

Obstruction Pass
Obstruction Pass

Our little getaway felt surreal to me. Just a 40-minute ferry ride from Seattle, and time slowed down. We rose and slept with the sun, soaked in hot tubs overlooking a bay. There were excellent bakeries and farm-to-table restaurants. It’s hard to mess up breakfast, but it’s also hard to make a memorable one, and Orcas Island delivered.

The island was authentically bohemian. More than half the signs were unironically in Papyrus font. The deer, foxes, and other fauna that populate the San Juan islands got there by swimming from island to island.

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