We love it here. It’s just as laid back as you imagine island life to be, but with the particular twist of being located in the Pacific Northwest, a belt of liberal folks who are serious about protecting the environment, growing and eating local foods, expressing themselves creatively, and nurturing community.
Our Fourth Summer On Lopez: This Is Now A ‘Second Home’
We’re cozily ensconced in our somewhat rustic campsite at Spencer Spit State Park, surrounded by a dense thicket of salal, bracken fern, towering red cedars, and Douglas firs. This is our fourth summer camp hosting here, and our second as Interpretive Hosts.
Our job is to run the Junior Ranger program and any other programs we’re inspired to create. We also serve as a “presence” in the campground. Three nights a week, we’re on duty, which primarily means we sell firewood from our campsite and answer questions. We’ve found that camp hosting here is generally just as laid-back as the rest of Lopez Island life.
After four summers here, this has become something of a second home for us. We’ve been accepted into the community—not a difficult task, as the 2,500 Lopezians are notoriously friendly. The “Lopez Wave” is famous. The most common wave is simply to raise your index finger, but there are almost as many peace signs flashed on Lopez.
Lopez is a small island—15 miles long and 8 miles wide. There are no big box stores, no chain stores, no fast food restaurants. This is our kind of place.
It’s Small, But There’s Everything We Need
The first time we came to Lopez, we stocked up on food and supplies as though we were headed for an Arctic expedition. Now, I don’t bother stocking up on anything.
Lopez boasts a fabulous little natural foods store, abundant local produce (the finest farm stand we’ve ever seen is within biking distance of Spencer Spit and is open 24/7 on the honor system); an organic berry farm; purveyors of island raised grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and lamb; local salmon, and shellfish farms.
There’s also a fantastic library, excellent independent bookstore, delicious bakery, two gourmet coffee shops, an artist’s coop, a superb wine shop, and a couple of fabulous cafés. A Saturday farmers’ market rounds out the offerings and is a festive weekly event with local foods, crafts, and music.
Our days have been filled with Junior Ranger’s programs, biking, hiking, kayaking, visits from family, visits from Ashland friends, and reconnecting with Lopez friends. We also enjoyed a visit from fellow RVers and bloggers Nina and Paul, who were hosting on Orcas Island. For us, this is the quintessential summer vacation. Stay tuned for more Lopez adventures!
Basic Tips For Visiting The San Juan Islands
A couple of things you should know if you plan to visit the San Juan Islands:
• Getting here involves a voyage on the Washington State Ferries, departing from Anacortes. This is part of the charm of the islands, but it can be expensive (the bigger your rig, the more it costs—our truck and trailer at 40’ is about $180 round trip). Obviously, it makes sense to come for at least a week or longer. (As park volunteer hosts, the state reimburses us for our ferry fee.)
Beginning January 2015, you’ll be able to reserve a spot on the ferry. This will ostensibly cut down on the need to arrive at the ferry landing 1-½ or more hours ahead of sailing to ensure a spot.
• Camping options are limited in the islands and you need to reserve far in advance for the summer months. On Lopez, there’s Spencer Spit State Park, which has beautiful, private spacious campsites, but with a couple of significant drawbacks: No electric or water hookups, and no shower facility in the park. (That’s how we ended up camp hosting here—we wanted to stay longer, and the host sites are the only two with electric and water.) Also, it’s a small park (50 campsites) and only a few sites can accommodate bigger RV’s (the official cut-off is 32’), so choose carefully.
The only other option if you’re in an RV is The Islander Resort—the term “resort” is stretching it as far as the RV sites go—but they have eight sites with electric and water, and can accommodate big rigs.
Hmmm, there’s a place for The Dip? We’re putting Lopez on our list! Unfortunately, we’ve scheduled our Dr.’s appointments and have to head south… How long are you going to be there?
Yes, you guys could fit in at the “resort” for sure. I think you would love it here. We’ll be leaving mid-September to start the journey back to Ashland. See you there??
We’ll be parked at the Portland Fairview RV Park in Fairview, OR for two weeks starting on Sept. 22nd. We’ll head south (toward Ashland) around October 6th but are unsure of when we’ll arrive. We hope our paths will cross!
We’ll make sure that our paths will cross! We really want to see you guys in Ashland, if not before.
You look like you are in heaven.
Fred, it is a little slice of heaven! So maybe you guys might make your way to Anacortes next summer? And then day trip to the islands?
What a great selection of shots and description of the Islands. We definitely felt the laid-back charm when we were there….and we got the waves! I can see why the place captivates you.
Nina, so glad you two got to experience island life, Pacific Northwest style. And it was wonderful meeting up with you!
WOW! I loved reliving the great time we had with you two beautiful Lopezians through the super blog and stunning photos.
Careful how you make it sound so fabulous, you may just get a rush of flatlanders. Winn and I had a memorable time and will be grateful for the rest of our days for your delightful hospitality. You truly are the host and hostess with the mostest!
Found out we missed a hot spell in Ashland while visiting you (several days over 100 degrees in the shade), yikes!
Kristos, we had such a great time enjoying Lopez with you and Winn. This is just the beginning of my Lopez series of blogs — upcoming is one on our adventures with you two!
It truly looks wonderful! How long will you be there this go around? What are the next year’s adventures? You all look great. Findlay is growing up so fast. Enjoy the rest of the summer, Brenda
Thanks, Brenda! We’ll be here until mid-September (about six weeks total — not long enough!) and then heading back to Ashland. We’d love to get together with you while we’re there.
Sounds great just give us a call when you are in town. Have a safe journey.
We’re looking forward to seeing you guys! It will be so much fun to catch up. See you in October….
Sounds like Port Townsend on an island ;-)
With a bit of planning perhaps we’ll make it up there someday I can tell I’d love it!
There are definitely many similarities, Lisa — although life on Lopez is even more laid-back and low key. Knowing how you feel about Port Townsend, you would love it here.
Ah…Lopez looks gorgeous as always. It’s been SO long since I’ve been there. Maybe I’ll visit again someday since Noah will be attending WWU in the fall. I’ll drop by the harbor to add my tears to the Sound. :( Your photos are always such a treat! Funny, though it sure seems like I’ve seen those horses before pulling the plow. Are you recycling photos, Miss?? :) :)
Janet, I just love that you appreciate Lopez, too. We’ll be here next summer — so perhaps you could come for a visit? And my, my — you are so observant — that is the very same farmer with his horse drawn plow, but we took that photo just last week. It’s the farm land (and farm stand) right down the road from Spencer Spit, so we see him often.
The island sounds like paradise! How nice that you are able to find all those fresh veggies, grass fed beef, berries, and fish!! I would be in heaven with just that. I do believe the way for us to visit is just to bring the car and stay in local inns or bed and breakfast spots. It sounds like it would be easier than dragging the huge MH. Your photos are fabulous. You definitely have me thinking!!!
Pam, that’s a great idea — there are some really sweet B & B options — one of our favorite places is Lopez Farm Cottages. I’d stay there if we didn’t have our trailer. The biking here is wonderful! It truly is a paradise (at least in the summer…)
Thanks, Laurel, for the suggestion:)
You’re so welcome! Email me if there are any specifics I can help with.
Lopez sure is a great place to be, you have a wonderful niche there. Look forward to seeing you this fall. Our daughter will be in Port Townsend this fall starting in late September so we will get up that way for sure.
We really enjoyed when you visited us here several years ago, Bob. Hope we can do that again next year! We’ll be leaving the island mid-September — let’s get together in Ashland in October!
Definitely looks peaceful and inviting and with a grandson nearby irresistible. Enjoy the rest of your stay. When will you be heading south for the winter?
You’re right, Ingrid, having our daughter and grandson nearby adds to the irresistible charm of Lopez for us! We’ll be heading back to Ashland by the first of October, and then….not exactly sure of our plans. Further south in winter, for sure!
Laurel, this sounds just like our cup of tea. We are wanting to volunteer both in OR and WA if possible next summer, so I am wondering if the islands would be a possibility. Lopez Island looks heavenly, so laid-back with fresh produce and pastured meats. I am drooling over that header of yours. :)
LuAnn, it is spectacularly beautiful and peaceful here. If you’re interested in volunteering on Lopez, email me and I’ll give you more info. :-)
Boy does this sound like a gig I could love. Poor Winnona is 3″ too long. This is a travesty. Sounds like my kind of people and food on this island. You guys are amazing and so are your pictures.
Winonna is only 3″ too long? I think she could fit! This is definitely your kind of place. Try to come here if you can. Glad you like the photos. :-)
I could live in an island especially “your” Lopez Island, beautiful and laid back. We biked around San Juan island when we were in Anacortes. If we head that way again, and you still have your gig, we might come leaving Betsy in Anacortes again.
You looked cute as a teacher and your students were really very attentive.
MonaLiza, it would be so much fun to show you and Steve around Lopez! It’s a great island for biking. We’re planning to come back next summer — we love Lopez and we really enjoy leading the Jr. Ranger program.
Thanks so much for the detailed description and photos. Since we have only a day in the islands, we decided to pick the smallest quietest one for our day. We will have the kayaks, and I am perusing your photos and maps to decide where to put in the boats. Thanks so much, Laurel. I did read all of Nina’s posts. I know that a few days at Whidbey and a day on an island is just a tiny bit better than doing a cruise port in a day, but it will do for this first trip. I know there will be more to come.
Sue, I can provide you with more detailed info about kayaking on Lopez — I have an upcoming post about our kayaking/biking/hiking adventures on Lopez. Lots of good kayaking here!
Oh wow! What an amazing place to spend the summer. I can see why you have returned so many years in a row. We dream of someday doing some camp hosting. I am not sure when or if it will ever be possible, but Lopez Island is exactly the kind of place I would choose.
The combination of interpretive hosting and Lopez Island is perfect for us, Amanda!