Over the span of three summers, we’ve spent a total of almost five months on Lopez Island. This summer, we were on the island for July and August, and we feel more than ever that Lopez Island is a gem. Apparently, it’s somewhat of a hidden treasure. When I mention Lopez to people on the mainland, most of the time the response is, “Where’s that?” When I tell them it’s in the San Juan Islands, I generally get a puzzled look, followed by, “Near Puerto Rico?” Or, “Is that in the U.S.?” Or again, “Where’s that?”
I understand the confusion. Until I moved to Ashland and made friends with a woman from Orcas Island (another island in the San Juan’s), I had only a vague notion that there were islands off the west coast of the U.S. They’re small, and the only way to get to them is by ferry. You’re not going to happen upon the San Juan Islands by chance.
Of the three main islands in the San Juan’s (San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez), Lopez is by far our favorite. With a year-round population of only about 2,500 people, it’s got a laid-back vibe that we love. It couldn’t be more picturesque, but in a relaxed, unpretentious manner—gently rolling farmland, jewel-like bays, and rugged coastline. The town center is about two blocks square, but has a delightful assortment of local shops that provide the necessities and luxuries that we enjoy (an excellent natural foods market, lovely bookstore, wonderful cafes, beautiful art gallery, great coffee shop and bakery, and an exceptional library). There’s a fun Saturday farmer’s market, Friday night wine tastings at Vita’s gourmet deli, and a variety of music, art, and community events—all this, in addition to exceptional natural beauty. I am not embellishing the charm of this island. You have to come see for yourself. Other than a few inter-island ferry trips to visit Amanda and Findlay on San Juan Island, we left the island exactly once in two months, and that was to spend the day at the Anacortes Art Festival.
Amazingly, the people on Lopez don’t seem to want to keep their island a secret. This was our third summer camp hosting on Lopez, and each time we return to the island, we feel like we’re coming home. We’ve made good friends at Spencer Spit, and we’ve also been fortunate to make friends in the community. I was thrilled to discover a Sunday afternoon music jam at the library, where I encountered friendly musicians and made new friends. We are also happy to be so close to Amanda and Findlay—San Juan Island is only a 45-minute ferry ride away.
It’s always hard for us to leave Lopez, and it was even more difficult this year. As we sailed away on the ferry, I found myself wishing that we somehow could live our lives in several places at once. We are so grateful that we have the opportunity to reside—even temporarily—as Lopezians. Each year, as I stand on the deck of the ferry and wave goodbye to Lopez, I say out loud: “Thanks for another wonderful summer. We’ll be back.”