Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Shaw Island, Washington


Shaw Island is something of a legend in my book.

I remember the first time I was aware of Shaw Island (I'd come to San Juan Island as a kid, but wasn't aware of the stops). It was May 4, 2011. I was on a trip to Orcas Island with my dad. It was a school day, but a trip to the San Juans was always worth skipping school with (later I talked to my professor about it and she fully agreed). Many times since then I've passed Shaw Island but never have I visited. Our ferry would pull into dock for a few minutes and leave - I never got off and neither had Hannah.

Shaw is a 8-square-mile small island with just around 240 folks who call it home for the full year. Besides the post office open year round and the general store which is open for 4-5 months a year, there's not really much. There's folks. There are beaches. There's...

Well, we weren't entirely sure, so Hannah and I grabbed our bikes, boarded the Evergreen State ferry (my favourite ferry, used for inter-island traffic) and hopped over from Lopez to Shaw for the day.

We had planned the trip for a few days before but plans changed and, as it turned out, Tuesday gave us the perfect weather. As we prepped to board, we suspected rain but never witnessed a drop. It wasn't till later that we learned that our idyllically sunny day on Shaw was nothing like the downpour that Lopez had faced just .93 miles away across the Upright Channel.

The ferry trip was chipper and casual as ever - and perhaps as calm as you can be when you're on a ferry (an experience that I've found never gets old, even when you've been on a ferry for 3.5 days straight). We broke out the snacks and got checked on by the ferry staff who thought we were with the high school group going to Orcas Island.


It was interesting, to me, talking to Hannah about biking.

I have it pretty well cemented in my mind that:

1. Biking is awesome.
2. Biking has potential to make you awesome or at least...
3. Biking makes you cooler than you would be if you weren't biking.
4. Biking makes you happy.
5. Biking down hills makes you extra extra happy.

There we have it. I sort of thought that was a given.

Then I learned from Hannah that she doesn't feel the same way. Between here and there and growing up, she's got more negative associations with biking (I think she used the word "dork"  and not in an endearing way). I had an especially hard time digesting the fact that going down hills was not a pleasant experience - more terrifying than joyful. This made me twist my brain about to think about things that I might not be keen on that others are delighted in - I know they exist.


We started out with a short 2 mile jaunt to one of the public beaches. The route there took us right along the water, by a few fields, through the trees, and then deposited us, once again, on the water.

There, we pulled out the rest of lunch and a book to share. It was a topic that she was well familiar with and I wasn't so much. It was a book I had recently purchased at the recommendation of Julia, Clark, and Tim and I was determined to read it. This is where I guess I can think of something that Hannah enjoys a lot and that I don't as much. Reading this sort of book is something I think she really gets into. For me, I can find it engaging, but it doesn't snag me in for hours.

As we read, I'd come across terms I was unfamiliar with and she would hand me a more digestible definition I could play with.

Apple. Olive chips. Almonds, Crackers. Green Beans.

After a quick wave to Canoe Island, we hopped back on our bikes and wove are way up down and up a hill to the cemetery where we walked about and read every single tombstone.

At the top of the hill, we were rewarded with the Shaw Library. Hannah had heard rumors of a library and it turns out they were quite true. It also turns out that we were there during two of the 6-8 hours hours total that this library is open each week.

The Shaw Library is one of the few libraries left without a computer - just a old card catalog system with actual cards. It's run by the help of volunteers and the donations and contributions of the community. Quite a landmark, I'd say. There were handwritten notes around the library and a family had decked out the display with their favourite book selection.

The highlight of the library was the Pacific Northwest section. They had a rich collection of books that are worth going back to. I found several I wanted to thoroughly dive into (involving Russians and Alaska, the Salish, Quadra Island...).

Hannah found a gem of a book and read the best bits out loud. I love that human.




The library was conveniently next to the museum where a man talked us a bit through the geography and layout of the island. There was also a collection of some of the wooden street signs used around the island. When Washington State deemed that all towns needed to get those shiny green street signs, Shaw wanted nothing to do with them and painted the carved out words in their signs with reflective paint.


The museum-man pointed down a few roads, advising us where to go. We took a left at the intersection to head to the biological preserve held by the University of Washington. A wee hill took us up past the little red school house before releasing us down a giant glorious gravel road the wound itself down and around and through the trees. It was bliss. I decided to see what my bliss face looked like. Turns out it looks something like this - complete with tears of joy.


The preserve was a bit more whimsical and a bit more magical than I was expecting. A short road through the fields and sun dumped us out at Hoffman Cove. We first investigated the beach which was very... beachy. There's been a lot of these beach-things lately. I like them.


From there, we started walking towards a giant green field. Arm in arm, we strolled to the rocks and checked out the buildings, seemingly abandoned. Hannah tried one of the doors and it opened up.








Surreal world.

By this point, it was just about 6. Our ferry was at 7 and, to make sure all went well, we headed back for the ferry dock. The extra time was just enough for us to stop back at the park, visit the alpacas, and pause at the community center's "free bench" which was more so a shed of goodness.

Hannah liked the alpacas.
I think they liked her too.
How could they not?




Back at the ferry terminal, Hannah found a cat to cuddle while I scrawled out postcards to send, eager to have the "Shaw" postmark. We were there with plenty of time to spare, but not so much that I felt foolish in waiting around.



We boarded the ferry, tying up our bikes on the deck with the yellow rope provided. Seeing Silas there made me feel a few bursts of warmness. Silas was given to me by my employers back in 2011 - a wonderful family with three boys. Upstairs, there were puzzles to be done and Hannah read me a book she had picked up at the Free Bench.


I'm grateful for this day. Grateful for Hannah. Grateful for Shaw. Grateful for Silas the bike. Grateful for hills to bike down and puzzles to do. Grateful for the the sun we had, the water and fields, the library...

Things sort of feel solid, right now. I had been waiting for this.
I don't know how long it will last, but I'll enjoy it for as long as it is so.

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