Hiking with Friends & Strangers
June 27, 2019
Hiking with my bff and a lady I’d never met before
“Hey Dede, wondering if you’re hitting the trail tomorrow,” writes Lisa Eldridge.
She’s someone I’d never met before. We are both members of the WH&C FB page and I remembered she had commented that she’d like to hike together someday, and I responded with, “Sure, let’s make it happen.”
I let Lisa know that my sister from another mister, Marlene Knox, and I had our maiden voyage to Lopez Island planned and I asked if she would like to join us. Lisa responded affirmatively and I told her we were on standby for the 10:30 a.m. ferry. I also told her that I needed to check with Marlene and would get back with her after doing so.
The text to Marlene read, “Um, I invited a stranger to hike with us, you cool with that?” Her response, “As long as she’s not a killer or cray.” I let Marlene know I couldn’t confirm or deny either way, but she’d be outnumbered against us so we should be good.
I told Lisa to meet us at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal by 10 a.m. and that all of us should send positive vibes into the universe to increase our chances of securing a spot on the vessel. Ferry reservations are highly recommended when heading to the San Juan Islands.
We arrived at the terminal at 8:45 and paid the $60 boarding fee. Once the shock of the ferry fee wore off we asked the attendant what our chances were for boarding. She advised we were 7th on the standby list, and the odds were pretty good that we would make it on board. We were able to get a refund if we weren’t able to board, and I had an alternative hike ready to go in the event our plans didn’t work out, so there was that upside.
We took our place in the standby line, waved to a woman who we presumed was Lisa because she had on hiking attire, and she waved back. When she got in the back seat of Marlene’s vehicle; we introduced ourselves and the next hour and thirty minutes was spent getting to know one another.
Marlene and I have known one another over 40 years, and Lisa joining what I call our dynamic duo was seamless; she’s outgoing, funny, and has a go with the flow vibe. We talked about the education system, family, travel, and of course hiking.
Time seemed to pass quickly, and before we knew it we were being waved aboard the vessel for our just under an hour trip to the island. Our first stop was Iceberg Point a spectacular, short hike located on the south side of Lopez Island.
We parked at the small Agate Beach parking lot which can accommodate about 12 vehicles. Marlene and Lisa walked across the street to the beach; Marlene to look for agates while Lisa snapped some photos as I put on my shoes and got my backpack situated. It wasn’t long before I joined them, took some photos myself and the inaugural hiking selfie and then we were off to explore.
We took a short walk on the gravel road headed toward homes that are on private property, we know this because there are plenty of signs alerting us to this fact. As long as visitors respect the locals they are happy to have us use their private land to access the trailhead. If not paying attention, we could have easily missed the sign on the left-hand side of the road pointing us in the direction of the trailhead.
We were greeted by a dirt trail that welcomed us into the forest, and within a short time frame, we reached a fork in the road that was accompanied by open meadows and peekaboo views of what was to come. We took a left and headed toward the bluffs and the national monument. When I tell you the panoramic views from the rugged cliffs were stunniung, you gotta believe me. Sea lions bathing, sky touching the sea, fresh island air, and birds flittering about was a sensory-beautiful explosion.
We climbed down the bluff closer to the water where we encountered more rocky bluffs, wildflowers, and open fields. We made a loop, stopping often to marvel at the awe-inspiring scenery, and voice repeatedly how blessed we were to be in such a beautiful, natural space.
Once we made it back to the parking lot, Lisa went to use the facilities and came back raving about her bathroom experience. She said there were flowers, art on the wall and hand sanitizer in that there toilet stall. Full disclosure, she said it still stank, but the effort put into making it look nice made it stink a little less.
Our second stop was to the Shark Reef Sanctuary, which was a 15-minute car ride away on the west side of Lopez Island. We walked for about 10 minutes through the trees and easily navigated trail. Once again, we saw views that can only be described as captivating; more rocky ledges jutting out over the body of water below, trees with interesting shapes, and more seals were spotted on coves across the way.
Cell service is spotty on the island. When we were finally able to get a signal, we put Fisherman Bay Spit Preserves into the GPS. It led us to Lopez Village, the quaint “main street” on the island where restrooms, restaurants, unique boutiques, and souvenir shops can be found, along with more killer views.
Lisa went to ask a shop owner how to get to Fisherman Bay and came back to the car with a map, directions, and caution that it will seem like we will drive into someone’s home on the way. It did feel that way, and indeed we didn’t drive into anyone’s home, which was a good thing. We followed the signs and were in the small parking lot that can accommodate about 7 or 8 vehicles and an outhouse in short order. It’s a charming locale that a frequent visitor to the island who has a family cabin nearby said is still relatively undiscovered. It’s a very short walk to the driftwood filled beach, and along the way there were more meadows, what looked to be an old fireplace and wetlands.
Once we arrived at the beachfront we found the waves crashing against the shoreline. There’s a big swing on private property that was so inviting. I could see a note on the swing, so of course I had to get close enough to read it, much to my hiking companions chagrin. The note on the swing reiterated it was privately owned, but welcomed visitors to gently swing with the caveat you do so at your own risk and if the owners want to use it, we must get up.
I shared what I learned after reading the sign and guess who came running over? Yep, Lisa and Marlene! There was more picture taking, gentle swinging, and general glee about the day we just had on this beautiful island.
We headed back to Lopez Village, this time on purpose. We all got ice cream and then drove to the ferry terminal. I didn’t get home until a little after 10 p.m., but I’d do it all again. That was the best $60 I’ve spent in a long time.
For the record, Lisa is not cray. Marlene and I really liked her and when she was out of earshot we both agreed that she could hike with us again anytime.