A man could get used to this. Lauren and Stephen have a little 15 power telescope set up on the porch, overlooking Elger Bay, west of their perch on Camano Island. The kids are all plugged into various electronic entertainments – that’s fine, it’s what vacation is all about – while I try to catch up on the perambulations of the past few days. Letsee – three islands in three days, even if Camano is only an island by dint of the bridged tidal slough separating it from Standwood on the mainland. It feels like an island, and that’s what makes it special.
On our first full day up in Seattle, we dragged Jem across the sound on the Bainbridge Island ferry. Met up with the inimitable Miss Emily for a tour of her natural surroundings. Played with family chickens and ducks, lunched in the town’s vintage diner, and got ourselves pleasantly lost on backroads to and from nowhere in particular.
Today, it was back in the air: first up to Blakely Island, a tiny little airport-and-boat community at the edge of the West San Juans, then halfway back down, to Camano.
Blakely’s lovely – really lovely. About 200 people live there in the summer, mostly clustered around the runway and marina at the north end of the island. The bulk of the island is privately owned woodlands with permanent easement to the residents. A couple of freshwater lakes (“This one has trout – the other has bass”) and miles of gorgeous shoreline. Got a tour of the island from one of the residents – otherwise, as Judy says, it’s a bit of a “gated community without a gate”.
Then down to Camano – damn, I miss flying up here. I mean, the Bay Area is lovely and all, but out over the water of the San Juans on a day like this? It’s hard to imagine a better place for a pilot. No surprise that folks like Richard Bach live up here. A day like this was made for flying – as we cruised south, we see could dozens of islands sparkling in the water below us. Venerable old DeHavilland Beavers on floats trundled north, carrying cargo and tourists to who-knows-where. The controller at Whidbey Naval Air Station asked us to climb to 3500’ to allow a few flights of F-18s to pass below us on their way back to the base (“Five Six Yankee – traffic is two lawn darts at two miles, one o’clock at 3000 feet.” – you’ve got to appreciate a controller who enjoys his job).
In contrast to the luxuriant long, wide and smooth runway at Blakely, Camano’s strip is…interesting. It’s everything Blakely is not: short, rough and narrow, with a notch cut through the trees at the approach end and more trees running the length of the field just off your left wingtip. Makes for a good exercise of piloting skills, especially when there’s a substantial crosswind. Which of course there is most afternoons. No, not dangerous, but glad I had all those years of experience under my belt to negotiate the burbles, gusts and downdrafts. Also glad that when we fly out, it’ll be early morning, when winds will be nice and calm.
But where were we? Oh yeah – on island time. Devon and Lauren have returned with Thai takeout for dinner. It’s somewhere after 7, but the sun’s not going down for another couple of hours. One kid is reading on the porch, another swinging listlessly in the hammock. The plans are… well, to pretty much just do that until the mood strikes anyone to do otherwise. There’s been talk of a campfire on the beach, and I’m pretty sure there are s’mores ingredients in the fridge. As I said, a man could get used to this.