Words and photos by Mark Longman
I think we can agree that this summer, in the Pacific Northwest, has been perfect for cycling. With one sunny day after another, no one can say that they didn’t get enough rides in, due to the weather. To finish out this incredible summer, we felt that we needed more than just one epic day on the bike, so last June, plans were set in motion for an inter-island adventure throughout the San Juan Islands. The planning started early in order to secure campsites, since it would be over the Labor Day weekend. Our goal was to take a ferry to an island, set up a “base camp”, ride the island and repeat that process for every island we wanted to see. We had dubbed the trip “End Of Summer Island Adventure”, or #EOSIA if you are on Instagram.
EOSIA started on a Thursday night departing from Seattle and making our way to South Whidbey Island State Park. We checked in, picked up a couple bundles of firewood ($6/each) and set up camp. The site was equipped with power, water and next to a bathroom; all the amenities. We got up the next morning (thanks to some kids coming to our campground yelling “Ahoy!” until we said it back), made breakfast and exited the park to begin our ride. We made our way north along highway 525, which wasn’t ideal, but short enough to get us to the route we had planned for. The morning started off with a drizzle of rain which was a little concerning but eventually let up and we were left with a typical cloudy Northwest day. We made our way past Fort Casey, up to Oak Harbor (via Penn Cove), around Coupeville and back to the campground. After a quick shower we drove north to the Anacortes ferry, while Derek prepared sandwiches in the back of the Westfalia. Surprisingly, when we arrived at the ferry terminal, there was still room, even with it being a holiday weekend. Spirits were high!
We crossed over to Friday Harbor and made our way to Lakedale Resort. The resort is very large and full of vacationing families, so it can be a little loud, plus a little more expensive than what a normal state park would cost you, but they had plenty of available spots and we were able to find a quiet one the fringe of the property. We cooked ourselves dinner and sipped rye whiskey under the stars until we called it a night. The next morning we got up and the touring of Friday Harbor began. What I like about the island is it’s fairly flat, so you can see a broader view of the terrain and appreciate the rolling landscape. The morning clouds eventually disappeared and we were left with bright, beautiful, sunny skies. A quick espresso stop and we made our way back to the campground to await the arrival of one other rider that was joining the trip.
The next morning was a travel day to Orcas Island, but we found time to get a ride in. We made our way to Moran State Park, dropped off our gear and rode the east side of the island including a climb up Mount Constitution. The climb varies between 8-16% but is perfect, as you wind through the trees and eventually to the summit. The view from the top is incredible where you can see Bellingham, Anacortes and beyond. The temperatures change quite a bit at the top, so you’ll want to pack a vest for your descent. Be somewhat cautious as you descend, since a few corners can sneak up on you. After the ride was over, we headed back to camp and since it was taco night, of course we had margaritas!
The last day we had the whole rest of the island to check out, so we made our way along back roads and ended up in Deer Harbor. After a coffee/bagel stop, we continued around to the south end of the island (past the ferry terminal) and found the roads kept getting better and better, even including a short gravel section. Also, since we were so intrigued the first time we went up Mount Constitution, a few of us had to go back up one more time. After the ride was over, no one felt like cooking, so we went to Hogstone’s Wood Oven in Eastsound to cap off the trip. What could be better than drinking local beers and eating oysters from an oyster bed 300 yards away.
Riding with a great group of friends, seeing fantastic scenery and being in the outdoors was a perfect wrap up to the summer. Now it’s time to hang up the road bikes and race some ‘cross!
Strava - Whidbey Island Strava - Friday Harbor Strava - Orcas Island
Essentials to every morning.
Stunning views from Mt. Constitution.
Orcas Island – Primitive roads are what we like to ride.
Friday Harbor – Watching the whale watchers.