Orcas Island: The Rest of the Trip

We managed to do a few other things besides climbing Mount Constitution twice … but not really all that much.

We stayed all four days of our San Juan Islands trip on Orcas, thanks to a Groupon deal for the lodging.  That proved a little much, especially in still-rainy April. Much better would have been to spend some of those nights on at least one of the other San Juan islands, for variety’s sake. Gorgeous as the Orcas roads are, there aren’t that many of them, and we ended up retracing our routes much of the time (and not just up and down that mountain).

We practically had the island to ourselves at that time of year — great because it was so peaceful; not so great because maybe it was a little too peaceful over four days.

Now that we’ve seen more of Bainbridge and Whidbey, with Vashon looking good on the radar, we’d perhaps opt for any of those over Orcas.  Easier to get to, more diversity both on and off the bike, and you still get a ferry ride.  Of course, we still have to hit the other San Juans …

And the scene is entirely different in the warmer months. Whale watching, kayaking and whatever else normal people do would be fun. Next time!

Orcas Island – Trying Mount Constitution Again

So, we’d made it up Mount Constitution (and more significantly given the weather, made it back down again).  But while climbing perhaps should be a noble end unto itself, we did still wish to savor the view from the top.

So we did it all again.

This time around the skies threatened as we headed out, and got downright ominous by the time we reached Moran State Park. Would the drizzle once again turn to snow? Descending a second time in nasty weather was not appealing.  But neither was missing a chance at the view. So we took our chances and pedaled onward.

Great decision!

After some maddening indecision, the weather gods opted to come over to our side (maybe they just wanted to give us some moody photo opps first). By the time we made our way back to the top, the skies were clear and the view spectacular.  And we could claim credit for that climb not once, but twice.

Here’s our route.

Orcas Island – Mount Constitution in the Snow

In mid-April we headed for a four-day trip to Orcas Island, part of the renowned San Juan Islands.  Highlight: the climb up Mount Constitution. Lowlight: the descent down Mount Constitution.

While Timothy prospers at both climbing and descending, Paula had never before uttered the words “going up was a lot easier than going down.” Especially when we’re talking about 2,600 feet of vertical gain over 4.5 miles.

But here’s where heading up a Washington State mountain in mid-April proved perhaps not the best idea: The chilly rain that we encountered on the way to the mountain turned to snow and freezing temps at the summit. And after we spent arguably more time than was wise taking pictures at the top — the structure erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 is a cool castle-fortress — our fingers could not feel the brake levers on the way back down again.  Paula was quite certain she would die of frostbite, or at least lose a finger or two, as she quaked and quivered and shook and shivered while inching down what should have been a glorious descent.

Timothy, being the seasoned cold-mountain veteran that he is, found it simply a little annoying.

But we survived. And a few miles down the road, we took shelter in the welcome warmth of the Moran State Park offices — where the very kind staff took pity on us and served us hugely appreciated hot chocolate.