San Juan Islands, Travel, Wildlife

Lopez Island: Tranquility Amongst Birds

I traveled to the San Juan Islands for the whales, but I stayed for the driftwood-covered beaches and blissful serenity.

After several days spent watching orcas from Lime Kiln Park on the popular San Juan Island, I traded redwood forests and a bustling town for the seclusion of neighboring Lopez Island. Fun fact: the ferry is free to walk-on passengers when you’re traveling between the islands, you only pay when you’re leaving from Anacortes on the mainland.

odlin park-2
Entrance to the hikers and bikers only campsites

From the ferry to Odlin County Park is about a mile of walking, first uphill along the road until you come across a trail stretching into the woods, then you follow the meandering path through the forest and to the campground. There are sites right on the beach, but I opted for a site in the ‘hikers and bikers only’ section set a little ways back in the woods with a gorgeous view of the water through the trees. I pitched my tent and ditched my too-heavy backpack (I need to work on my packing skills), then strolled down to the beach with two of my favorite things: a camera and a good book (The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare).

odlin park
Beautiful crow taking flight

I found driftwood that made a perfect seat and opened my book, doing my best to ignore the many wasps that were sharing the beach with me. They seemed to have no problem ignoring me, and the experience helped me overcome my fear of wasps, if only temporarily.

Soon an osprey appeared, circling over the water nearby before catching sight of the perfect fish and diving down like a rocket, only to extend her talons out below her before hitting the surface and snatching up lunch. I had never watched an osprey hunt before and hadn’t realized how much of their bodies end up in the water. She had to flap her wings vigorously to rise above the water again, but soon was flying off to her nest. She returned many times that day, as did a pair of bald eagles and an abundance of crows.

beagle take flight
Bald eagle taking flight

Being that it was nearly the end of summer, the heat of the day gave way quickly to chill night air once the sun had set. I was ill-prepared for the cold, and next time I go will be sure to pay more attention to the weather forecast. On Lopez Island, there is no town in easy walking distance and the bus only runs Friday-Sunday, so anything you forget to bring you will have to do without unless you came on a bike or in a car. Of course, the distance from town is part of what makes the park so peaceful and worth visiting. I can’t wait to go back with a good book and a warm blanket.

osprey wings
Winging above the sea

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