Ever since bringing home our Airstream in 2010 it has somewhat become a tradition to spend the cozy Thanksgiving holiday in the San Juan Islands – specifically Orcas Island. Year after year we return with the longing of peace, relaxation and just taking things easy next to the Salish Sea.
You can spend an eternity in the San Juan Islands and it still would not give you enough time to discover everything these magical islands have to offer. As we continue our spring trips and postings here on J5MM I would like to share with where we were this time, last year :)
This weekend we are heading to Hood Canal to stay at a really cute RV park called, “Rest a While” where we are hoping to get some clams that I can cook for dinner. Part 3 of our Olympic Peninsula Loop is also coming soon — hopefully tomorrow!
This time, last year we took our Airstream to the San Juan Islands, specifically to Orcas Island where we camped with her at West Beach Resort. This island holds a very special place in my heart and I truly believe that if you visit, she will hold a special place in yours too . . .
Here is a link to ♥ ALL ♥ our outdoor and culinary adventures on Orcas Island :)
~ Perfectly Steamed Clams from Buck Bay Shellfish Farm
Have you ever had one of those days where you are so taken by your surroundings that for a moment you forget the time? This was our day on Orcas Island when we realized that #1 we were starving and #2, we had a ferry to catch. We were making the move with our Airstream to begin our non-stop outdoor and epicurean adventures on San Juan Island and didn’t have much time to spare.
Luckily the Madrona Bar and Grill in the Eastsound village was open and ready for us. We could always count on the Madrona for serving us quickly so we could catch our ferry on time. We have dined here countless times selecting a spot in the spacious interior seating area or opting for outdoor seating with views of Fishing Bay. Either way both are excellent choices. Time and time again we were impressed with the quick service and smiling faces not to mention delicious fare and today was no exception. Sourcing local ingredients and supporting local farmers is what the dining establishments on island excel at. The steamed clams were one of our favorites and came straight from Toni, who with Mark runs Buck Bay Shellfish Farm in Olga. Thank you to owner Monica Duthie for sharing this simple but yet mouthwatering recipe !!
It’s a great atmosphere here at the Madrona. On any given day you can find the locals of Orcas mingling with one another and catching up about the days happenings. Belly up to the bar during happy hour, order some appetizers, say hello to the locals and soon you will get to know them. Bonus here aside from the delicious food at great prices is that you may just walk away with some island rich folklore that you will keep in your heart forever.
Thank you for always being there for us Madrona! Not only is the service A+ but our dinner was pure perfection and a perfect ending to our journey and explorations on Orcas Island.
~ Refreshing Ahi tuna flame grilled medium rare and served with wasabi, pickled ginger and ponzu sauce ~ Our Airstream in front of the Orcas Island Museum in the village of Eastsound
~ Decadent chicken fettuccine with a flame grilled chicken breast atop a creamy sundried tomato, shallot, fresh herb and white wine sauce complete with fresh grated parmesan and toasted baguettes
~ Make sure to stop in and say hello to Kyle at the Orcas Homegrown Market. It’s by far, one of my favorite markets ever. Organic produce, meats, eggs, cheeses — all come from Orcas Island as well as San Juan and Lopez.
~ Fresh spinach with candied walnuts, mushrooms, pan fried capicola and chevre goat cheese tossed in Madrona’s special fennel infused honey vinaigrette
~ shots around darling Eastsound Village
~ Melt in your mouth hand cut and flame grilled certified Angus beef rib eye served with garlic mashed potatoes and chef choice vegetables with creamed horseradish
With heavy hearts we say goodbye to Orcas Island as we sail towards San Juan Island and begin a new series of adventures. We are happy to have you along with us!
I am guessing that you probably have a dream for someone to take you out on their luxury yacht, cook a delicious evening meal and allow you to do absolutely nothing but relax and enjoy the views. Am I right?
Well, on this night I can say that dream came true for me. Thank goodness for Captain Robin of Cruise Control who offers this incredible journey! Our destination was Sucia Island and with that simple fact, my dream come true was made even better :) Sucia Island is not serviced by the Washington State Ferries. It is only accessible via pleasure boat or I would imagine a sea plane. There are no roads here, only beautiful paths that lead you around the island so having the chance to come here and enjoy this island was a treat in and of itself. Here is nature untouched and at its best.
Here is Captain Robin’s yacht named Capricorn tied up to the dock on Sucia Island.
Kids love this adventure and Captain Robin loves teaching them how to navigate. Bradley could not stop talking about the fact that he steered this big yacht all on his own.
Here is a heron that was fishing off the shore of Sucia Island . . .
That is Olivia, Captain Robin’s crewmate. Oliva is wonderful, that is all I can say. She cooks amazing recipes for dinner guests of Cruise Control and makes everyone feel comfortable. When I asked her who her favorite chef was, guess what her answer was?
“My mom,” and she said it with a big smile.
She. Is. The. Best. !!
These incredible rock formations were formed by geological folding as evidenced by the many beautiful colored layers you see.
I will let the pictures speak the words as to how spacious and comfortable the inside of Capricorn is. Here are even more pictures of her on Captain Robin’s website.
“So there are no cars here on Sucia Island mommy?”
“So that means, there are no roads too? Only trails for people?”
“Wow, that is sooooo cool! It’s like we are on a deserted island.”
It was an evening to remember forever from the hike on Sucia Island to the fine dining we had anchored out in the bay complete with sweeping views of the Salish Sea. The San Juan Islands are a true paradise and seeing them in this way in such a relaxing environment was something I will never forget. Neither will B.
“When can we come back and see Captain Robin mommy?”
Thank you Captain Robin!!!
If you have the Google Earth Plugin installed, you can take a virtual tour of Sucia Island :)
One of our first missions when visiting Orcas Island years ago was to discover the plethora of trails to hike here on the Island. Orcas is home to many, many incredible hiking trails including this waterfall hike located in Moran State Park that we are still talking about to this day.
We have heard about Turtleback Mountain for quite some time and today was the perfect day to go and experience it. As we spotted the trail head, I also spied this sweet little self serve farm stand nearby.
Of course we had to stop :)
~ B analyzing the trail map
~ Peek-a-boo sweeping views greet you around every switchback
~ Eagle Feather (can you see it?)
The freshly harvested greens that were for sale were even decorated with blue borage flowers, which are edible.
As we hiked on I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it was to know that this beautiful place where we were, would stay like this forever thanks to the San Juan County Land Bank and the San Juan Preservation Trust. Both of those special organizations have created security and peace of mind for everyone who lives on the Islands and beyond. Peace of mind in knowing that future generations will be able to come here and enjoy Turtleback Mountain as much as we were enjoying it today.
Close up view of an island outside of West Sound Marina. I believe it is a private island as there is a house there. But I could be wrong . . .
I couldn’t have said it better myself. The residents of the San Juan Islands do live in sweet abundance and how lucky they all are xoxo
I hope that if you ever come to visit Orcas Island you will take a nice hike on Turtleback Mountain. Here is a brochure/trail map for you if you would like.
A View of Turtleback Mountain on Google Maps (you may have to hit F5 if it reads an error, sorry about that)
Warm air, sunny blue skies and long days. These are just a few of our favorite things about summer.
Our summer, so far has been spent in the San Juan Islands here in Washington State. Every weekend, we are here. Well, I should correct that — every weekend, I am here. Hubby and B are the lucky ones that can be here all of the time since school is out for summer. They call me while I am working away in busy corporate America telling me about the whales that are breaching off the coast of South Beach on San Juan Island while I am frantically fixing the copy machine that has flooded our work room with a sea of papers. Or they call me to tell me about the most delicious lunch they have just enjoyed while I glance down at my pitiful brown bag lunch now smashed because I unknowingly dropped it on the floor and proceeded to roll over it with my chair. *sigh* This is not all, I also receive pictures via my email that hubby snapped from his phone of certain events happening during their days such as dungeness crabs they have caught, views from the top of mountains they have climbed all while being co-mingled with urgent emails from fellow colleagues needing A.S.A.P. help with something.
But really, I am happy for them because I know they are having the time of their lives. Really!
What keeps me going? The fact that on Friday’s I have a one way ticket to paradise . . .
~ A Weekend Escape to Orcas Island from Corporate America
These weekends for me are filled with excitement because after five long days of not seeing my boys — there they are.
“Mommeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” cries B as he runs to me, weaving in and out of the line of walk on passengers. He literally, runs faster than a speeding train and I must really brace myself to make sure we don’t fall over.
“Are we going to go kayaking now??” he asked.
“Yes! ” and with that came a big sigh of relief :)
Kayaking was on my mind all week and I could hardly wait. Our tour guide was Jeff with Shearwater Kayaks and on this evening we were able to tag along while he toured a lovely couple, Kathy and Robert on a sunset kayak tour. Not only does Jeff know these waters like no other but he teaches you quickly and easily the ropes of kayaking.
Finally, my weekend has begun . . .
In addition to exploring the islands and all of the outdoor activities they offer, I love going to the farmer’s market to pick up goodies like these. I was very excited to see currants there. Oh those currants, how I have missed them!
These are just some of the views you can expect to experience while on a sea kayak tour with Shearwater
Peaceful, quiet and beautiful . . .
Wildlife abounds in the San Juan Islands as seen this evening on our kayak tour . . .
Grilled and flattened sugared figs with a honey and ricotta. Another simple, yet elegant creation prepared in my Airstream kitchen with ingredients from the islands . . .
Thank you Jeff for allowing us to come along on your incredible kayak tour :) It will be a memory we will have forever and can hardly wait to come back again!!
“Monica, you should visit Toni out at Buck Bay Shellfish in Olga. You can pull live oysters, clams, local dungeness crab and island salmon straight from her tanks and coolers and if you wish, shuck them right there while looking out over the bay from where they came.” suggested my friend Jon Kobayashi, General Manager for The Outlook Inn and New Leaf Cafe.
I would like to say, I am very happy that he did because here at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm I had a life changing moment. You see, I would have never considered myself one to seek out oysters but rather “tolerate” them when the opportunity to experience them presented itself.
But now, things are different for me. I am obsessed with them. You can ask hubby. It’s a problem.
When we made our visit to Buck Bay Shellfish farm here on Orcas Island the concept that my mother taught me when I was little about cooking and keeping things simple and fresh, well, that concept rang very true here. Oysters pulled straight out of the clear blue waters of the Salish Sea arrived on my plate and only with a squeeze of lime. That is it.
Simplicity at its best.
In addition to steaming Buck Bay’s clams on the beach over an open fire, I also made a very delicious non fussy soup (I used my immersion blender). Once the soup was finished I took a medium sized sauce pan and added 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and let it melt upon which time I tossed in one pound of clams with a sprinkling of garlic powder, covered the lid and in less than two minutes they were open. I then poured the clams and all of the wonderful juices into the soup. This was amazingly easy and very flavorful. The orange you see garnishing the soup is chili oil. If you don’t know about chili oil, it is very (very) hot.
There are Al and Mark digging for clams :) Mark is third generation here at Buck Bay and with Toni runs the farm. Here he is showing me a huge bucket full of fresh clams! From this bucket came my clams for the soup as well as the clams I used for dinner on the beach. Al is a great guy who really made me laugh :) He’s been helping Mark and Toni harvest shellfish for quite some time. He has lived in many different places but has settled on Orcas Island because, “It just felt right being here.”
That is a feeling I have come to know very well :)
Here is Toni and in the bottom left photo she is holding her prized possessions that I am finding very hard to live without. Farm fresh, organic hen eggs and duck eggs as well. In addition to your seafood you can pick up these beautiful eggs!! If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying a duck egg, Doe Bay Cafe on island does an amazing Duck Egg Poached in Olive Oil(scroll down for the picture in the link) atop Cheesy Grits for breakfast. It is to die for!!
Roasted spring garlic from the Orcas Island Farmer’s Market spread on toasted multi-grain bread and topped with cherry tomatoes. I should say not to forget your crunchy and flaky sea salt :) Those little black seeds are basil seeds. I love them. When they touch anything wet they form a membrane around themselves and they become interesting to chew on.
Baby clams :) So cute, wouldn’t you agree? Did you know it takes up to two to three years for these little babies to become full grown? Even then, it may take longer. These little babies arrive much smaller than this and they are called clam seeds. They are then buried in the muddy sand when the tide is out and the top of the clam bed is then covered with a long sheet of flexible netting. The netting helps keep all of the hungry seagulls and other wildlife away from them keeping them safe.
~ Mark securing the netting which covers the clam beds
Here a piece of wood from a harvested clam bed is being removed. The wood served its purpose as a barrier so the clams would not be able to escape by digging deep. Mark told me that once he put a handful of baby clams down on the muddy sand, walked away for a split second and when he returned, they were all gone!! Deep down in the thick muddy sand they went quickly burring themselves. “They are very, very fast Monica!” he told me as he laughed.
Become a master oyster shucker – Toni will teach you how :)
Thank you for the memories Buck Bay Shellfish Farm :) xoxo