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New Things, Old Islands

It's pretty cool when you go back to a place you've been a whole bunch of times before and you learn new stuff about it! 

We left Blind Bay yesterday around noon and made a quick stop in Deer Harbor to grab some TP (we forgot to put it on the shopping list while we were in Anacortes, dur). We also picked up what looked like a delicious bottle of Smoked Jalapeno Barbeque sauce from Local-Goods on Orcas Island, made right there in Deer Harbor. (Update: it's fantastic! I think I'm going to put it on my eggs in the morning.)

Airship at the guest dock in Deer Harbor:


The weather forecast for the whole week is pretty calm, so we originally thought we'd go out to Sucia to do some hiking, but as we were en route, I thought we should first see if the mooring ball (there's only one now) on Patos was available. If so, we could do the trail we haven't taken yet (we always get suckered to go out to the lighthouse, but there's a trail that goes the other way too). We got to Patos and the mooring ball was empty, and therefore ours. The cool thing about a rocky, uninhabited island with one mooring ball and no good place to anchor is that if you have it, you're pretty likely the only ones on that island. 

Patos Island Lighthouse (I know, you've seen it plenty by now if you've been reading this blog for any length of time):


View toward shore from our mooring ball:


We fought a pretty good current on the way here. This is looking back past the entrance to the cove where we're moored. The water is churning and the birds are feeding like crazy out there:


We dinghied to shore and headed for the untaken hiking trail…the one that goes counterclockwise.

The cut between Patos Island and Little Patos Island:


Looking back out at Airship in the cove:


The counterclockwise trail meandered along the rocky shore for a while:


And then somewhere down the way a bit it turned inland and crossed the center of the island over to the north side. The trail was super lush, with ferns and mushrooms and moss:




There were definitely many signs of last week's windstorm, and as we got maybe three quarters of the way around the island (let's just say we climbed over a whole lotta trees in our path), our trail was completely blocked by a giant piney tree that had fallen across. Unfortunately, there was no way around it because the brush and bushes flanking the trail were tall and brambly, so we backtracked until we found a way to get down to the rocky shore. (I tried to take a photo of the blockage, but it just looked like a wall of green.)

Luckily, it was low tide, so we had a lot of land to work with (and not too much further to go to get to the lighthouse and to the trail back to the beach where our dinghy was). The lighthouse is just up there a ways:


Bonus: tide pools with starfish, crabs, and tiny fishes!


Oh, someone had a bad thing happen to their engine (this is a crankcase, the bottom part of an engine block):


Hey look! The lighthouse! And the tide hasn't come in yet. We won't perish on the island after all.


A pack of seals, following us to make sure we made it okay (or maybe just that we didn't linger too long in their hood):


I like this shot of Kevin heading up the hill to less slippery ground:


We watched a few big ships go by in Boundary Pass and then headed back via the paved trail from the lighthouse to the beach. Remember how I mentioned there is just one mooring ball here now, and we were the ones on it? And, there's nowhere to anchor near the island? And, it's miles from any other land? Well, about a minute from the lighthouse on the trail, we passed two guys going the opposite direction. Whoa! Where'd THEY come from? We say hey, and they said hey, and then that was it. They were youngish (late 20s/early 30s) wearing Carhartts and knit caps. The guy in front had a radio, but other than that they weren't carrying anything and didn't look like tourists or kayakers. Once we could see the cove and the beach, we noticed there were no boats there. So, how did they get here? No kayaks on the shore, and they had no camping gear (this island is a Washington State Marine Park with a bunch of amazing campsites). State Park employees? Coast Guard guys? Checking on the lighthouse? We got back to the beach and there were no other footprints besides our own. Ghosts???

We're waiting for the boat that's coming to pick them up.


So far: no boat. But the sky is super pretty and dusky and we counted 18 eagles (all or most of 'em juveniles) in the trees on the left, next to Airship:


Oh! Also, we learned a neat thing about this island we didn't know before! A woman named Helene Glidden wrote a book called The Light on the Island. It's her story of growing up on Patos Island with her twelve brothers and sisters while her father served as the Patos Island lighthouse keeper from 1905-1913. She died in January 1989 (survived by her husband and four children), and apparently her ashes are spread here on Patos Island. I think we should read that book!

And if you never hear from us again: two men, late 20s early 30s, Carhartts, knit caps, not too chatty. 🙂


  1. Kevin McLaughlin Kevin McLaughlin

    Your AIS track shows Airship exiting Roche Harbor and passing Pearl Island on the east side, a route I’ve never taken due to my not entirely trusting the chart. What depths were you seeing? Looks like such a great short cut, and the chart show just enough water, but there are rocks.

    • We’ve done that shortcut once before and it was super kelpy but plenty deep. This time there was no kelp, the tide was not low, and we followed a larger boat out … depths were in the 20s at the shallowest…we had all the new sonar running, too. Sideview, downview, pretty sweet!

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