MARCH 29, 2009 (SUNDAY):
The local weather forecast was questionable, but the forecast at the San Juan Islands sounded good. Not counting Anacortes/Fidalgo Island, I had only previously made a couple of trips to the San Juan Islands and both of those times were to Friday Harbor/San Juan Island. I had been thinking about traveling to Orcas Island for some time, and soon after I found out the highest point (Mount Constitution) in San Juan County was located on Orcas Island I knew I wanted to go there even more than before.
On Saturday, I contacted Moran State Park to verify the Mount Constitution Road, the road leading to the summit, would be open. I was told it would be. Then, on Saturday night, I printed out the ferry schedule from online. The ferry I planned to catch left Anacortes at 8:00 AM. After a late start, I arrived in Anacortes at 8:10 AM. The next ferry scheduled to go to Orcas Island left at 10:00 AM. I figured I could either kill some time hiking a local trail nearby and then drive to the ferry dock, or just drive directly to the ferry dock and wait for the ferry there. I chose the latter option, which turned out to be the best decision I could have made. When I arrived at the ferry cashier booth, I told the woman in the booth that I realized I just missed the ferry. To confirm the next ferry to Orcas Island, I asked if the 10:00 AM ferry was still the next one traveling to that island. She looked puzzled. "What 10:00 AM ferry? The next ferry for Orcas Island leaves at 8:50 AM." I showed her the print-out of the schedule, and that is when she informed me I was taking the ferry on the first day of the Spring schedule. The official schedule I printed-out the previous day was still for the Winter schedule (because, as the booth worker put it, that schedule was not complete, yet).
I was happy I had decided to drive directly to the ferry dock, after all. The ferry left at 8:50 AM, and arrived at Orcas Island at 9:50 AM. I knew my time on the island was limited; the next ferry going to Anacortes left at 1:55 PM, and I wanted to be back home in time for dinner. Once on the island, I proceeded to drive to the north end of the island before following the main road east. When I began heading east, I passed a "Low Flying Aircraft" sign on my side of the road. I briefly stopped to take a photo of the sign, the funniest thing I had seen in some time on a trip. A while after the main road then headed south, I entered Moran State Park and turned onto Mount Constitution Road. Then, to my dismay, I found a gate shut and locked... 3.7 miles from the summit. This went against what I was told the previous day, but for once I was prepared for such an incident; I had brought my mountain bike with me.
I parked on the side of the road, just prior to the gate. Quickly realizing I had not ridden my bike in several years, I ended up pushing the bike while also carrying a 30-lb. backpack on my back. It was tedious, but still a great workout. Periodically, when the incline was not too steep, I would ride the bike to save some time. I was surprised to find another mountain biker heading down the road, and he stopped to talk with me. He informed me that 1-2" of snow was on the road after Little Summit, from essentially the halfway point between the gate and the summit of Mount Constitution. I continued up the road, and eventually reached the snowed-in parking area for Mount Constitution. As I chained my bike to a small tree, I realized I had dropped my sunglasses somewhere on the snowy road. I walked up the short trail to the summit tower, passing two men who then went into the building adjoining the parking area. I took several photos near the base of the old stone summit tower, and enjoyed the gorgeous vista from that viewpoint. This was the third Washington county highpoint I had summited, with Mount Rainier and Rattlesnake Hills being the other two.
Then I entered the stone tower and followed its spiral staircase up to the top. A man was there, looking at the neighboring metal communications tower. He told me the owner of the communications tower was planning to tear it down because of constant vandalization to it, and the three men at the summit were surveying the communications tower for a possible tear-down. I took a few more photos from the top of the summit tower, and the man politely took a few of me there. I'm really glad I took the time to visit the highest point in San Juan County; Mount Constitution has great views. I went down the tower and back to my bike, unchaining it and riding it from the parking area, looking for my missing sunglasses. About a 1/4-mile down from the parking area, I found the sunglasses laying on the snow in the middle of the road.
I then rode the bike to my next destination, Little Summit. I noticed the gate uphill from the Little Summit parking area was now closed, while during my ascent that particular gate had been open. When I arrived at the parking area for Little Summit, I was shocked to see it full of vehicles. Apparently, the park ranger open the lower gate (where I was parked) about an hour after I began my initial ascent to Mount Constitution. I chained my bike to a tree and proceeded to the top of Little Summit, once home to a wooden fire lookout tower between 1966-1988. A lot of people (mostly kids) were at the "summit" of Little Summit. The southern views from the summit were great. The water below was sparkling in the daylight, and the nearby islands looked beautiful. After taking multiple photos from Little Summit, I walked down to my bike, unchained it, and cruised down back to my car. I made it back to the ferry dock at 1:00 PM, allowing plenty of time for the 1:55 PM ferry. After having visited the island, and especially Moran State Park, I definitely plan to go back with my wife.