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Log Cabin Living in the San Juan Islands

Learning the Value of a Quiet Vacation

Our friend David Bryce, wrote another article for the Log Home Directory earlier this year. In this article he shares some experiences from his log cabin vacation in the San Juan Islands.

I’m not quite unoriginal enough to suggest that there are only two kinds of vacationers- those seeking after excitement and stimulation, and those looking to get away from excitement. There are certainly contingents of both crank-it-up and turn-it-down vacationers but many (maybe most) of us are looking for a little of both, often during the same trip. While I tend toward the more adventure-based excursion, I was not so long ago taught a fantastic lesson on the essence-recharging benefits of a tranquil vacation.

This lesson was imparted to me by the San Juan Islands. For the unfamiliar, the San Juans are a chain of postcard-beautiful islands in the Northwest corner of Washington State near the Canadian border. My wife, daughter and I began our serene adventure in a beautiful beachfront cabin we rented on Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juans and the second most heavily populated (still less than 5000 people). The cabin was pet-friendly, as many of those places seem to be, which was a bonus for our pet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Squirrel.

Our days were generally filled by touring Orcas Island, we did a little bit of island-hopping as well, and visiting a number of the apparently countless charming little art galleries that featured both work from artists around the country and great arts/crafts stuff produced by locals. We checked out a few of the admirably (and frankly, surprisingly) tasty restaurants.

Great as the local cuisine was, about half the time we made our own dinner- chiefly dinner taken from the ocean that washed in about fifty feet from our cabin’s front door. The market closest to us didn’t have much in the way of beef, pork or chicken and were modestly stocked in a number of other amenities, but their seafood… The fourth or fifth day in we found tuna steaks that were unlike any steak or fillet I’d ever seen before. The flesh was a beautiful mottled swirl of pink, red, purple and near-blue. It was the prettiest cut I’ve ever seen and it tasted like it looked- fresher and more delicious than the chicken of the sea had any right to be.

The gallery visits dropped off considerably after my daughter and I discovered clam and geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”) hunting. It’s a blast- you look for the telltale bubbling hole in the sand and dig quick as you can to capture your prey. Clams may not be pretty, but they can move in sand. As soon as go for them, they zip down into the wet sand with uncanny speed. An amused local later enlightened us regarding rent-able clam guns- tools that look like posthole diggers and made for what my daughter and I were tackling with shovels. The two of us had become purists, however, and politely declined.

While we clammed or walked the beach, Squirrel kept himself busy tearing up and down the sand, occasionally barking at waterfowl and once at a surfacing whale- which was incredible (the whale surfacing that is, not Squirrel barking- there’s nothing incredible about that). Squirrel was as happy as he’s ever been as the wet sand allowed him to indulge in his favorite pastime throwing up on expensive rugs being a close second)- getting filthier than any fancy dog should capable of.

My wife is both far tougher than and a scientist so was tasked with the clam and geoduck cleaning and preparation. All three of us would then collaborate in cooking up the freshest clam chowder you’d ever taste. After dinner we’d sit around a fire we built, my wife and I sipping on wine or a beer, roasting up ‘smores and talking or telling stories while we waited for fog to roll in or the sun to go down. One night, not long after we went to bed in the loft of our cabin, rain began to fall on the roof. I stayed awake for an hour listening to it- perfectly content. That’s one of my clearest and fondest memories of that vacation.

Although I’m sure this has been made clear- our time in the San Juans proved one of the best family vacations we’ve had, hands down. It was exactly as it should have been: fun but not activity-crowded, low-key but not boring, exciting but not manic. We are already plotting out the foundational sketch of another trip. If you have a vacation coming but aren’t sure where to go- just head north and west until you hit the San Juan Islands.

About our guest:

David Bryce is a blogger lucky enough to write about his passions- golf, travel, vacationing, fishing, his cabins in Branson, MO and what he refers to as “log cabin living” in general. He has a lovely and patient wife, an amazing daughter and a very spoiled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Squirrel.

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