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San Juan Island

Bring a camera, comfortable walking shoes and your canine, but leave your cares behind. The serenity of San Juan Island beckons.
Written by Brandie Ahlgren | Photography by Julie Clegg
Just a scenic ferry ride or a short flight from Seattle lies a paradise for the adventurous spirit: San Juan Island. Whether you yearn for the slow pace of island time or the excitement of new experiences, this Washington gem delivers—especially for dog lovers.

One such dog-friendly oasis is Lakedale Resort. Surrounded by three freshwater lakes on 82 acres, Lakedale is nestled between Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor. This is our home for the next two nights as photographer Julie Clegg and I explore San Juan Island.

Lakedale Resort offers guests a choice between five types of accommodations: the romantic Lodge, an elegant, four bedroom Lake House, custom-built Canvas Cabins, individual campsites and family-friendly log cabins. Only the log cabins and campsites are dog friendly and since it’s late in the season, we opt for one of the cozy log cabins.

There are just six cabins in all, each featuring two bedrooms, two full baths, dining nook, fireplace and large cedar deck. Other amenities include a kitchen with microwave, full-size oven with range, refrigerator, TV and DVD player (guests can borrow DVDs from the main Lodge). Each cabin also features complimentary breakfast fixings that include scone and pancake mix, granola, milk, orange juice, butter and syrup. Located outside each cabin, there is a fire pit with a grill for cooking and a picnic table.

We happen to be staying in cabin six, located adjacent to The Meadow, a large, grassy area perfect for letting the pooches, Scout and Ziggy, run and burn off some energy. After the dogs enjoy their romp, we set off to explore the property. As mentioned, the resort is surrounded by 82 scenic acres, providing guests with a range of outdoor activities including hiking on the many trails and paths, playing horseshoes, barbecuing and bike riding. There are three freshwater lakes for swimming as well as paddle boats, row boats and canoes to rent. Or guests are welcome to try their hand at trout fishing in the stocked lakes (permit required). The four of us are at Lakedale in the off-season, and it seems like we have the entire place to ourselves to explore, so we head out along the path to see what we can find.

There are several places to stop and take in the scenery, and a flock of geese keep a close eye on Scout and Ziggy (who are more interested in chasing each other than the geese).

After our stroll, we arrive back at the cabin, where we switch on the gas fireplace, cook up some dinner, throw a movie in the DVD player and relax, for we have a big day tomorrow exploring the island.

With a map in hand, we load up the dogs and hit the road. Our first stop is the Sculpture Park, located within walking distance to Roche Harbor on Westcott Bay. The 20-acre park features more than 100 pieces of incredible art including works in bronze, stone, wood, metal, glass and ceramic by noted artists from the Pacific Northwest; Georgia Gerber for one, known for her Pike Place Market bronze sculpted pig. For art- and dog-lovers alike, the Sculpture Park is a must-see on your island adventure. For a virtual tour, visit sjima.org.

After exploring the Sculpture Park, we drive the short distance to Roche Harbor, a lovely hamlet featuring a marina, shops and three waterfront restaurants. It’s quiet today as we stroll through town, but in the summer, it’s bustling with boaters and tourists.

The next stop on our journey is English Camp, but first, a bit of history. On June 15, 1859, an American farmer shot and killed a Hudson’s Bay Company pig rooting in his potato patch. By doing so, he nearly started a war between the United States and Great Britain. Over the next 12 years, the two countries jointly occupied San Juan Island with their own camps on opposite ends of the island until the dispute was settled, ending the so-called war in which the only casualty was a pig.

The American and British camps are now designated national historical parks, with English Camp situated on the north end of San Juan Island on Garrison Bay. The setting is beautiful with trails meandering through as well as an open grassy area at water’s edge. A highlight of the expansive park is the formal garden, originally a vegetable garden planted in 1867 to feed the troops. The garden today was planted in 1972 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the boundary settlement, and features 13 beds of flowers and shrubs planted in a circular pattern in the tradition of formal English gardens.

With more exploring to do, we again hit the road, this time in search of Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. While Krystal Acres is not dog friendly, for animal lovers it is still worth a visit. The farm sits on 80 acres, with an ever-growing herd of more than 50 alpacas. Stroll around the farm, pet an alpaca or two then browse through the extraordinary selection of super-soft alpaca sweaters, coats, yarn and cuddly alpaca toys in the Country Store.

Returning to the car where Scout and Ziggy anxiously await, we head next to the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. It’s a short distance from Krystal Acres, but this farm is dog friendly, for the most part. Dogs can wander the grounds with you, they just can’t be in the organically-certified lavender fields, where Pelindaba cultivates the flowers. However, there is plenty to explore with your pooch including the on-site distillery where the essential oils are extracted from the flowers to create a wide range of botanical, culinary, therapeutic, household and pet care products.

Obviously we are curious about the pet care products and are told lavender is highly effective in repelling insects plus its soothing, antiseptic and anesthetic properties help with sensitive skin. I grab a bottle of lavender pet shampoo and some gourmet lavender chicken treats before heading out to our next destination.

As those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest know, the San Juan Islands are prime whale watching waters and Lime Kiln Point State Park is an ideal overlook to keep an eye out for these amazing creatures. In fact, as we are unloading the dogs to head into the park we run into a couple from Canada who spotted a minke whale not too far off shore. But, the main attraction of course, is the orca whale. With 2,550 feet of waterfront, Lime Kiln Point is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land and we are just on the tail end of peak whale-watching months (May through September). With fingers crossed, we hang out at the overlook for a whale sighting while taking in the breathtaking scenery on this clear, fall day.

Even at the height of the summer season, you can find solitude and experience nature on San Juan Island, especially where we are headed to next, the American Camp National Historical Park. Whether you’re on the prairies, rocky hilltops, deep forest or saltwater shoreline, there is plenty to explore with your pooch. The vast, open prairie is uniquely beautiful and rather unexpected in the western portion of the Pacific Northwest, where evergreen forests dominate the landscape. Here you can stroll through the same wildflowers and grasses as native peoples experienced hundreds of years ago. American Camp also features an expansive beach to explore with your four-legged friend as well as enjoy a game of fetch.

As the day comes to a close and our tummies begin to grumble, we head to Friday Harbor for a bite to eat. Friday Harbor might be small in population at 2,260, but it’s big on charm. This quaint seaside hamlet boasts a multitude of restaurants offering the finest in dining, from lovely open-air bistros to delicious ice cream parlors. We opt for the Cask & Schooner Public House & Restaurant, which looks inviting and even better, has Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese on the menu. After our meal, we stroll through Friday Harbor to find shops galore, offering everything from clothing and jewelry to paintings and sculptures—all hand-crafted by local artists. Most of the shops are dog friendly, particularly Brown’s Home Center, where your pooch will be warmly welcomed with treats. Up the street a bit, pay a visit to the newly-opened Edgar & Friends dog park where your Rover can run free. It also includes a separate small dog area.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and our visit to San Juan Island is no exception. It’s time to leave island life and the seclusion of Lakedale Resort and head back via state ferry to the hustle and bustle of life in the city. One thing is for certain though...we will be back.

More Information
Lakedale Resort
4313 Roche Harbor Road
Friday Harbor, Wash.
360.378.2350
lakedale.com

The rate for a log cabin is $215, depending on time of year and availability. There is a one-time pet fee of $35 per dog with a maximum of two dogs per cabin.
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