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San Juan Salute – April 2022

Written by Jack Riley

Another month has come and gone.  Is it just me or did April fly by?  This past month was a mix of emotions here on San Juan Island, as it is always an exciting time with anticipation of a busy summer, yet there was also sadness and the loss of iconic buildings and businesses in town.

Early in the morning of April 7th I planned to catch the 5:55 AM ferry to Anacortes and as I pulled into town (Friday Harbor) the sky was pitch black but I couldn’t help but see some haze in the air.  “Fog?” I thought.  To my dismay it was not fog, but smoke.  As I motored towards the ferry parking lot I saw the flames, parked my car, and pulled out my camera.  At the time, the flames were concentrated within our local Windermere office and there were multiple fire department members hosing it down from the front and back.  It was shocking to see.  Surreal and hard to believe it was real.  At this point the ferry had to load and off I went, but unfortunately it would not get better before it got worse.  The fire spread to adjacent buildings and destroyed a much-loved local coffee shop, kayak outfitter guide, and an iconic town bar Herb’s Tavern.  This is a tragic event and the loss of these businesses will be felt for a long time in our Island community.  Thankfully no one was hurt through it all and our hardworking fire crews were able to contain the blaze from spreading even further.

Fires like this do not happen often on the island but there is something that occurs with more regularity on this 4th month of the year: the real arrival of spring!  Flowers are in bloom everywhere you look from wild roadside growth to curated gardens.  Speaking of gardens, the Roche Harbor gardens are looking amazing, thank to our hardworking grounds team.  They have been doing lots of planting and getting the resort ready for summer.  Expect to see lots more colorful plants in bloom this May.

Though a majority of our guests stay during the traditional summer months, the resort celebrated multiple major operational milestones at the end of April, signaling that summer is practically here.  First, the Madrona B&G opened up on April 28th, followed by the opening of the pool and first Colors Ceremony of the year on the 29th.

If you happen to find yourself on San Juan Island in the month of April, I highly suggest taking some time to check out the wildlife out and about during this time of the year.  It is a great time to observe wintering bird species that have not yet gone north, as well as migrants passing through on their journeys, and of course there are some species that stay here all year round.

A common sight (and sound) around the resort are hummingbirds.  Though they are small, they sure are quick.  Catch a glimpse of one in good light and you might just get a colorful flash of their iridescent shimmering feathers.  A number of other colorful birds can be found in various habitats around the island such as Caspian terns in False Bay, yellow-rumped warblers in marshland, and house finches practically everywhere.

The small birds are beautiful when seen, but sometimes it’s much easier to spot the larger creatures.  This last month I was overjoyed to find a great horned owl – a very elusive nocturnal predator – as well as see that a pair of ospreys had rebuilt a nest at the classic nesting spot in English Camp Historical Park.  One tree in particular had been their spot of choice and in years past the park ranger will have a scope on it for visitors to view.  Unfortunately, the nest was destroyed by winds in 2020 but it has since been rebuilt.

That about sums it up for our April 2022 edition of the San Juan Salute.  For all those that will be coming to San Juan in coming months, we are eagerly awaiting your arrival and offering up all that this wonderful place has to offer.  If you don’t have plans to come up, maybe we can change that!  May is a great time to be on the Island and there is generally more availability and less crowds than the coming summer months.  Enjoy and stay safe!