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A Challenge to View San Juan Island on a Deeper Level

san juan island
Photo courtesy of James Mead Maya.

Over the years, we’ve found that guests coming to our Friday Harbor Inns or to San Juan Island in general have a much different “agenda” than our summer visitors. Summer visitors rush to pack everything in to their limited time on the island, whereas the off-season visitors adopt a much more relaxed pace. Some come regularly, and some have “seen and done” all there is to do here on San Juan Island.

To off season visitors – and locals: I now challenge you to take an even deeper look at the island, and truly connect with the beauty of nature’s spectacular regalia and soothing arms. To help you, I’ve enlisted the assistance of Nicholas Corrin, owner of Friday Harbor Holistic Health and author of The Power of Letting Go: transforming fear in to love. Nicholas writes:

“Are you by chance planning a visit to San Juan Island? You may have already read up on its charms and beauty spots, its marina, eateries, lighthouses and, of course, its whale pods. But where on this island can you find a portal into nature’s inner secrets, a place of mystery and power? One option would be Lime Kiln state park, but if you go there, please make your approach as slow and contemplative as possible, and begin by parking your car at Dead Man’s Bay.

From here, you will descend a narrow trail that loops towards the ominously named bay with its swath of grey pebbles and blanket of silvery driftwood before rising then falling again, wending its way through patches of spruce, fir, wild rose and blackberry bramble, twisting now this way then that. This pathway, you will discover, is rather like a marine current replicated on dry land, an arterial flow through the coastal landscape that your feet will soon persuade you to become one with: the pure pleasure of no longer having to walk in straight lines! You will accept, as you walk, deep gulps of breath and brief snatches of sea-sounds, licks and splashings on rocks and then intermittent glimpses of glittering water. If you are lucky enough, perhaps a sea otter or an inquisitive seal may meet your passing glance with theirs. Walking along this serpentine path, you will soon feel your body become more fluid, your limbs remembering how good it is to reconnect with the solid presence of rock underfoot; your skin will be refreshed by the cool marine breezes and most importantly, your mind will unwind until suddenly, and with complete amazement, you become aware of water.

As though for the very first time, water will reveal itself to your senses not as an inert fact of life but as a great, living being. You stand now before the straits of Haro with Vancouver Island ahead of you while to your left, the straits of San Juan De Fuca sparkle southward and beyond their rapid currents the Olympics tower upward in a haze of cloud and speckled light. Water, another world to ours: the living force of this blue planet, where the orcas, the minke whales and other marine mammals are far more privy to its inner secrets than paltry, dry-limbed and land bound man. You suddenly apprehend a vast, kaleidoscopic universe of the liquid element; a labyrinth of swirling currents you can barely imagine leading to fearsome depths in this crevice between islands on the very edge of the Americas. Somewhere within these deeps, the orca pods lead their discreet yet communal lives and occasionally, if we are so fortunate, breach the surface to reveal glistening, formally clad flanks of pristine white and black.

Contemplating these swirling waters is to be carried away into a limitless expanse before us as we inwardly bow to that ancient power of waves and wind, and also the remoteness to which these deepest currents move in their unerring yet primal chaos.

A Suggestion for You
Instead of gathering together with the typical tourists by the Lime Kiln outlook wall and peering expectantly at the sea for any sign of a dorsal fin, it is far better to attune yourself to this meeting of patterned waves, currents and straits which fan out before you like the wings of a great invisible bird taking flight. If you can only still your busy mind, you will be allowed into this realm where words, cameras and even thoughts are no longer necessary. Very soon you will experience an opening at the gates of your heart and you will recall what it is to feel unencumbered, unlimited and free.

There is more: if you continue walking past the lookout perch towards the Lime Kiln lighthouse, you will come across, to your right, a wooden bench containing a square insert made of brass. On this plaque, there is an inscription in embossed lettering that reads, “I love to wander through the woodland in unmarked spaces as if I am discovering the world”. And below this, “Martin Blackman: 1952-2008”.

san juan island
Photo Courtesy of James Mead Maya

Surrounding these trails, benches and lighthouse, and hugging the coastal rocks from which space and water launch forth into the spell of distance, stands the spirit guardian of the place, the Pacific Madrone trees. Take some time to connect with them and these mysterious beings will guide you further into this liquid, dreaming world. Their outer bark is like a cross between prehistoric feathers and grey alligator skin. Their inner bark has the color of crushed pomegranates mixed with tobacco juice and the texture of flaking manuscripts. But their unmistakable presence will surely impress you with its power, mystery and gentle authority.

Please also take some time to observe how the madrone branches often reach out towards the Western horizon, beyond Vancouver Island and on into the very heart of the Pacific Ocean where, at the end of each day, the old sun will sink forever and the new sun will arise. Lime Kiln Preserve, if you enter it mindfully, will never fail to enrich you, whether or not fins appear above the scudding expanse of waters.”

What to Do
We suggest you print this blog post out and take it with you to re-read before you head down the trail, as a reminder of what to focus on. Then use this same technique to visit other “Power Spots” on San Juan Island or places of beauty in your home region. Practice this technique regularly, and you’ll find nature will grant you calm and peace amid a world of screaming chaos.

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