Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


Biking Warbass Way

Biking Warbass Way

I love riding a bicycle. There’s a freedom fraught with so many elements: no noise, no license, no insurance, no rules of the road (in the rider’s mind perhaps) no garage needed, no maintenance to speak of, low cost, good exercise, go where a car can’t, park leaning next to a sign post. You get the idea.

On the winter day I took this photo I was out on my bike for exercise. It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was calm and sunny. I took perverse pleasure in driving the wrong way on Warbass Way so I didn’t have to climb the hill up Harrison St. ( Warbass is one way coming into town from Turn Point Road and I was headed out of town.) To me that’s one of the most pleasurable attributes of a bicycle, going where cars can’t!

However, I’m a conscientious rider and even when bucking the traffic flow try to keep out of the way of cars and pedestrians. I hate to be a nuisance or a danger to anyone else. As I neared the public viewing platform above the marina where I used to live aboard my boat, I knew from experience that often in the winter the mountain would be visible nicely framed through a slot at the south end of Brown Island. Nice of the marina owners to put that platform just there where the mountain can say “HI.”

San Juan is a great biking island. Commercial bike tour companies come out here in the summer with their vans and trailers bristling with bunches of bikes looking like hedgehogs. The reason they pick San Juan Island is the relatively flat terrain with abundant open-space valley and marine vistas for the eyes and cameras of those choosing to take the quiet, slow approach to soaking in the island ambiance. Riding a bicycle is sooo unlike riding in a car. The slow pace allows time for subtle observations, and the quiet, unmechanized approach provides an intimate relationship with one’s environment, you’re part of the outdoors instead of clammed up in a car.

The marine vistas, such as Friday Harbor itself, or South Beach and Cattle Pass, then False Bay and the West Side provide multiple angles and elevations that are amazing in their composition and variety.

Want to gaze into a foreign land? Canada is right over there as a visitor looks out at Haro Strait from the Whale Watch area at Limekiln State Park. By the way, in the summer it’s not at all rare to see killer whale pods cruise by. I chortle at the tourists who ask what time the whales are scheduled to be there. I’m tempted to say something like, “I saw some printed schedules on the brochure rack where we parked, but didn’t grab one.”

San Juan Valley, Roche Harbor Resort, British Camp, American Camp (both relics of the Pig War of 1859-1872) and Cattle Pass all provide post card panoramas making the island most generous with vistas. For those intimidated by the hills, Island Inn on Front Street rents Pedego electric bicycles that do a great job of smoothing out the topography.

Photo: Mt. Baker in the Cascades with Brown Island near left, Shaw Island far left and Lopez Island the low green mass center to right, with Blakley Island behind Lopez. The ferries zip through this view en route to Friday Harbor , so if you time it right, a Kodak moment will present itself. P1000291


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