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Test Lab Hike–San Juan Island Kayaking, part 5 of 6

Posted by joeabbott on October 30, 2011

Day 4


This is the fifth of six parts:

Part 1: Intro
Part 2: San Juan Island to Jones Island
Part 3: Jones Island to Blind Bay and back
Part 4: Jones Island to Griffin Bay Park
Part 5: Walking tour of San Juan Island NP
Part 6: Going home


imageToday was a hiking day!

Our itinerary called for a hike about the San Juan National Historical Park, which I didn’t even know was a NP until this trip! My handy pocket guide of National Parks (I picked it up in CO Rocky Mountain National Park last year) doesn’t even include it! The National Park Service does recognize it; in their summary it says,

San Juan Island National Historical Park

Come and celebrate where Great Britain and United States demonstrated that it is possible for individuals and nations to settle their differences peacefully without resorting to violence. It was a near run thing in July 1859, when Capt. George E. Pickett landed on San Juan Island with his 60 soldiers intent on protecting the rights of American citizens from British authorities. Fortunately the only being injured in this "Pig War" was the pig.

So, along with our yearly trip we got a bit of education. Can’t beat that!

We got up leisurely and hiked the beach along the path Tim and Ron took the day before. At Fourth of July Beach we headed inland, walking the quiet Cattle Point Road to Pickett’s Lane. On the way we’d pair up, fan out, or group as a foursome taking the distance and time at a comfortable pace. When we spotted a flagpole down an unnamed thoroughfare, the flagpole being a destination indicated on Ron’s map, we headed to it. Unfortunately, flagpoles are somewhat common and the one we found did not appear to be one of the two noted on the map; but this was leading us in the right direction.

imageOur meandering path took us to a point called the Redoubt: a place where, during the Pig War, the US setup a number of cannon capable of firing either to the north into Griffin Bay, or south into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They were never fired in hostility.

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 268From there we followed the History Walk, bumped into a ranger at the Officers’ Quarters and Parade Ground (where we found one of the two noted flagpoles) and talked a while. Oh, and I lost the sole on my shoe at about this time!

Yes, the sneakers I used for many years on these annual hikes (I call them “camp sneakers” as that’s usually the only place I wear them) came apart!

Having no options, I tolerated the “wardrobe malfunction” and tagged along, a bit sourly, after the others.

From the Parade Ground we headed south on one of the many trails in the area. It took us toward another flagpole which turned out to be the second of two that we’d sought. I was pleased to find that, rather than metal poles, these flagpoles were just tall timbers painted white. Immediately an air of authenticity was granted the poles themselves and the area in general. I’m a bit surprised we actually found them … his map indicated two small circles with the note “flagpole” on an otherwise blank slate! Sorry to have doubted your map, Ron!

About this time we also found a plaque detailing the Pig War. And so our trip’s education moment was realized:

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 273





The Pig Incident

Cutlar’s claim was about a mile back up the present road. He chose to ignore the charge that he was trespassing, built a cabin, and planted a small garden.

His potatoes soon attracted a Hudson’s Bay Company pig. Repeatedly he drove it back to Bellevue Farm and complained, to no avail.

Early on the morning of June 15, he again saw the beast in his garden and “… upon the impulse of the moment seazed my rifle and shot the hog”. Immediately he went to the farm to make amends.

Cutlar found Griffin hard to deal with. They argued over the exorbitant price set by the company. Griffin threatened jail if the sum was not paid.

Cutlar refused and dared them to try to take him from his home. A month later Pickett led his soldiers ashore “to protect the interests of American settlers”.





Kayaking - San Juan Islands 276Kayaking - San Juan Islands 288

There were other plaques along the trail and we read a bit more … the build up of troops, the miserable conditions of the American Camp, the British moving their camp to the NW side of the island, etc. All can be read here. And while the whole affair started with a pig being shot (or, if your sentiments lie with the Brits, with a settler trespassing), both sides lived with a token military presence until the land was decided to be US soil by the Kaiser, Wilhelm I of Germany. (or !!!)

But, in spite of the excellent history lesson being learned, my sneaker problem was causing me a bit of angst. Each step was a slap on the sole that felt as goofy as the strutting done in the Monty Python skit on the Ministry of Silly Walks. Reviewing that skit, I can see my concerns of silliness were nearly minor in comparison, but there you have it. Quite distracting nonetheless.

And so, while the others headed south to Grandmas Cove, I flapped along to the Visitor Center to see if they had duct tape and sympathy enough to part with it.

The walk was short and they didn’t end up having any tape I could use, so I cut a hole in the end of the sole, cut off part of my shoelace, thread it through the hole, and tied it off on the bottom of the lacing. As the heel was still attached, I thought this a neat little bit of fixit and called it good.

I was watching a video loop on the history of the park when Ron found me and said Dan and Tim were waiting at the Redoubt. We met them minutes later, shared the peppermint candies I bought while asking if I could have some tape (always good to show up with more than a hand held out), and we strolled on in search of Mt. Finlayson.

Mt. Finlayson is disappointing in every regard and scarcely a bump on a trail above the Cattle Point Road. The picture of Ron standing out in a field waving … yeah, that’s him on the summit. A ways back up the trail we were at a higher point but, both signs on the trail and Ron’s GPS indicated the true summit was further on.

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 282Kayaking - San Juan Islands 287So, we topped-out on Mt. Finlayson (only Tim showed the sympathy or interest in joining Ron on the “summit”) and continued on the trail until we could see the Cattle Point Lighthouse. I very much wanted to see it up close but the sole of my shoe decided to completely pull away (leaving it hanging onto my shoe by the shoelace rigging I’d contrived) leaving me with no option but to turn back.

I supposed I could have pushed on but wasn’t sure what it would be like to hike five miles in stocking feet; not wanting to find out, I turned back and told the others to push on. But, they’d had enough, too.

With Dan looking longingly at the lighthouse wondering why we didn’t at least hang out a bit, me wondering why they all followed me and didn’t do whatever their footwear allowed, and Tim and Ron discussing some work project, we all filed back.

On the way we separated and met up a number of times but ultimately got to camp together and put up our tired feet. We then had a more proper lunch and I extracted promises from Ron and Tim to “see the lighthouse from the water”. And so after cooling our dogs and noshing, we hopped into the kayaks: Ron and Tim in one, me in another. And Dan rested his aching head as his sinuses started abusing him again.

Once in the water our first order of business was to inspect Halftide Rocks. I’d include the pictures I took but it’s just a manky pile of guano ridden stone in the middle of a stagnant bay. I don’t believe I mentioned it but, Griffin Bay, this far south, doesn’t “flush” as well as the rest of the bay. The water is heavy with algae and other detritus. And it stinks. Which makes putting in and taking out (your kayaks) an ugly affair. You know your legs will be coated with the watery goo. Ugh.

But, it supports a lot of sea life!

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 324Kayaking - San Juan Islands 230On the paddle out to Cattle Point, jellyfish were swirled up by every stroke; sea lions would breach so near it was a bit spooky; and bullwhip kelp and other salt water plants whirled around the boats. Either my reflexes or the camera’s were too slow to catch a picture of the sea lions but they were very active where the kelp beds were deepest. I also missed a picture of a nearby bald eagle and of a couple of porpoise earlier in the trip! I need to find a better camera and to keep it at the ready!

Tim, Ron and I continued up the shore, looking at the vacation houses and taking our time rounding the point. I often lagged the twosome but they’d wait now and then to keep me from trailing too far behind.

Unfortunately, we rounded the point into Middle Channel and my partners immediately turned around and started heading back! I was stunned!

I yelled to them that we’d agreed to see the lighthouse from the water but they claimed we did! I have to admit that photographic evidence is on their side but you have to squint pretty good to see the lighthouse:

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 317

Allow me to zoom into that for you:

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 317

Yup, that was the “view of the lighthouse from the water” that they’d allowed me.

I have to admit to being fairly disheartened by their lack of energy and adventure but they claimed concern for being able to handle the currents in the Middle Channel and preferring to be cautious rather than getting in over their heads. So while I wanted to say “ta ta” and head toward the lighthouse, I didn’t want to separate the team and didn’t want to do something stupid. With heavy heart I put off seeing the lighthouse for another time.

We paddled back in a wide loop, interested in getting in but not quite sure how to draw that line between where we were and where we wanted to go. It was early evening and we’d completed some hungry work … time to have dinner.

Dan was in his sleeping bag after we drew up the boats but we hauled him out of the sack and we all ate together.

In the campsite next to us, Danny and Anne (I made mention of them in my Day 1 post) had made camp and we chatted conversationally with them. In the main campsite, a team of six people setup camp and their military-style debriefing and exercises just seemed out of place to the rest of us. Good for a giggle as the team lead barked instructions or demanded answers to contrived scenarios all the while the others postured with name dropping of all the places they’d dived or kayaked. We must have been in a very “vacation” frame of mind!

After sunset, Dan, Tim, Ron and I donned our headlamps and played a game or two of hearts. Part of the fun is winning and being exceptionally obnoxious about it. I managed to do both … but was more obnoxious than usual. Couldn’t have been happier with myself.

But with that accomplished, it was time for sleep. And so we did.

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 333 Stitch

Kayaking - San Juan Islands 338


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