Author Archives: Sandi Friel

Film Lovers Delight at the Orcas Island Film Fest

Sunny October view from the T Williams Realty office

Late October view from the T Williams Realty office

Fall has always been my favorite time of year and now there’s a reason to love it even more: the Orcas Island Film Festival.

This year’s cinematic lineup at the October 6th-9th event was top-notch, featuring films from all over the globe including many Oscar-contenders that hadn’t yet been released in theaters. I only saw a handful of the 30 films, and though I enjoyed them immensely, what really elevated the experience for me was the energetic buzz among attendees before and after the showings – a feeling of being part of a community that values art and creativity.

So it’s no surprise that the winning local short this year was about just that: two talented musicians growing up on Orcas Island, thriving with the support of mentors in the community. Click below to watch:

It Takes An Island will be shown at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) – the largest and most highly attended film festival in the U.S.!

Orcas is full of feel-good stories like the Litch brothers featured in the film. Our own Sea View Theater is a prime example. A few years ago, the Sea View was in danger of closing its doors after the movie industry converted to digital. The theater’s owner didn’t have the funds required to upgrade the old projector, so in classic Orcas fashion, a fundraising campaign was launched to save the theater.

Today the Sea View provides not only first-run films, but also a stage for live entertainment and local talent. Complementing the world-class offerings at Orcas Center, the Sea View Theater brings the community together to celebrate art and culture, island-style.

See you at the 2018 Film Fest!

Sandi Friel, Orcas Island Realtor

 

 

Sandi Friel, Realtor®, movie-buff and lover of the simple life on Orcas Island.  Contact me to find your way home.

 

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Orcas ROCKS! A Brief Geological History

1Mt-Baker--WEBLooking out from one of the stunning viewpoints atop Orcas Island’s Turtleback Mountain or Mount Constitution, it’s easy to imagine that the evergreen archipelago spread out below you has existed as-is since time immemorial. Indeed, the rock you’re standing on may be more than 500 million years old!

Far from being permanent, however, Orcas is part of a dynamic system that has changed in remarkable ways within the blink of an eye—geologically speaking.

Turtleback Mountain, Orcas Island

Ancient oceanic rock on Turtleback Mountain – from Mexico!

For one thing, back when dinosaurs stomped around the landscape, Turtleback Mountain was at the bottom of the sea. And it was in Mexico. Yes, Orcas was once south of the border where Baja lies today! In fact, all of the San Juan Islands are still slowly sailing through the cool waters of the Salish Sea, moving northeast at about an inch-and-a-half a year.

An elephant-sized Giant Ground Sloth roamed our turf just 12,000 or so years ago

During the last ice age you could skate across Orcas Island, which was buried beneath a mile of ice. It was the advance and retreat of glaciers that ultimately shaped the dramatic setting you see today, smoothing and scarring the rocky highlands while excavating the deep channels that eventually filled with seawater and turned hilltops into islands.

Not too long ago, our island wasn’t even an island. Orcas was part of a larger land mass upon which very large—but now extinct—animals such as giant ground sloths, short-faced bears, mammoths, and herds of nine-foot-tall buffalo roamed.

A fascinating archeological discovery was made on the east side of Orcas in 2003. Though a dozen Orcas sites have unearthed remains of the extinct giant bison, Bison antiquus, bison bones found at the Ayer Pond in Olga were the first to show evidence of human butchering. The significance of this discovery is that it puts humans in the Salish Sea by 14,000 years ago — a thousand years earlier than previously believed.

I find all of this quite mind-blowing, and a good reminder of what a tiny blip of time we have on this beautiful earth. One of my favorite poems, Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day, asks so elegantly:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

While I’m still trying to figure that out, I realize I’m actually already doing it: living a simple life on Orcas Island, with a genuine love for the world around me.


Sandi Friel at Sucia Island

Sandi Friel, Realtor and life-lover on Orcas Island

Dreaming of the simple life on Orcas Island? Contact me to help find your way home.

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Time for ‘Quick Three Beers’ — The Olive-Sided Flycatcher Is Here

Sandi Friel at Sucia Island

 

 

 

Posted by Sandi Friel

 

Last summer I listed and sold a property in Crow Valley on Quick Three Beers Lane. I was tickled by the creative address, and as a bird lover I knew right away the name had nothing to do with a cold brew. Quick Three Beers is a birder’s phrase for the three-beat song of the elusive Olive-Sided Flycatcher, my favorite feathered summer resident on the island (click here to hear the song at Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

These remarkable birds fly from as far as South America each summer to nest in northern places such as Orcas Island. As soon as they land, their mating calls begin. If you’ve spent any time here in May through August, you’ve certainly heard them. Actually spotting one, though, is a challenge. The Flycatcher perches high in the tree tops, and its camo colors make it all the more challenging to find.

It took a few summers of living here before I caught a glimpse of my first O-S Flycatcher. I followed the sound through the woods and waited for the bird to take flight, catch its snack and return back to its perch – a feeding routine it repeated again and again. The bird has a distinctive head shape, and I became successful at identifying it from a distance. But I wasn’t able to get a really satisfying look. Until recently.

olive-sided flycatcher on Orcas IslandSituated at the top of a ravine and nearly eye-level with the upper canopy of the trees below, our living room is an ideal bird watching spot. Last week an Olive-Side Flycatcher claimed a nearby bare madrone branch for an afternoon of hunting, and I was thrilled to finally get closer to the bird I cherish.

We’ve kept a wildlife log for the last 11 years, marking the arrival and departure of migrating birds on our property along with other events in nature. Though the Flycatcher’s numbers in the world are diminishing quickly due to loss of winter habitat, so far without fail, they arrive in May to nest on our property. Their mating calls signify the arrival of summer to me, and always make me smile.

Do you love birdwatching? The San Juan Islands are part of the Pacific Flyway and a great place to watch birds year round. Contact me to find your very own perch.

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BUILDING A BRIDGE: How government can work for people and planet

Sandi Friel and Picardy Shepherd Puppy, Quinnby Sandi Friel

When the time finally came to replace the ailing Channel Road Bridge in Deer Harbor, San Juan County took the high road.

Instead of top-down decision-making, County Councilman Rick Hughes encouraged Public Works to reach out to the community and let the residents guide the aesthetics of the bridge. This engagement process added a year in planning, but resulted in citizens taking ownership and pride in a bridge that they, in a sense, helped build.

Providing the sole access for hundreds of residents on the southwest side of Orcas Island (including yours truly), the Channel Road Bridge crosses the inlet to Cayou Lagoon. The old 52-foot-long timber bridge not only had a deteriorated structure, it was built using excessive fill that reduced the natural channel width by 50 percent, constricting tidal flow in and out of the lagoon. After nearly five decades, the lagoon was literally choking to death with buildup of fine sediment and resulting poor water quality.

Cayou Lagoon as seen from the bridge, with iconic Turtleback Mountain in the background

The new concrete bridge is 80 feet long and restores natural tidal flows which, over time, is expected to reduce sediment accumulation and increase habitat for juvenile salmon, forage fish, shellfish and shorebirds.

The bridge was also designed with an increased width to allow pedestrians to safely cross as well as pause and enjoy the views and wildlife.

Public Outreach

County Engineer Colin Huntemer held numerous meetings at the Deer Harbor Community Club to present possible designs and get feedback. He credits the citizen-based Deer Harbor Plan Review Committee for playing an essential role in the entire process.

The community input included selecting the color/pattern of the stamped concrete supporting walls and a unique style of timber guardrail that pays homage to the old timber bridge.

Weekly newsletter kept us informed

Once construction began, County Engineer John Van Lund sent out a weekly update highlighting the prior week’s accomplishments and letting us know the next steps, including any required closures or traffic delays.

When I contacted John over the Christmas holidays to ask that the expanding potholes get fixed, the holes were filled the NEXT DAY.

Residents were so thrilled with the community engagement and construction process, some brought the workers cookies and sent letters of thanks.

With the bridge now complete, we can enjoy safe passage for cars, pedestrians and our finned friends. Kudos to the Public Works staff for setting a shining example of how government can work in partnership with the people.

Deer Harbor Bridge ribbon cutting ceremony on March 7, 2017

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An Island Winter Wonderland

sandi-quinn-pupby Sandi Friel

Last week we got our first snow of the season on Orcas Island. It only snows here every few years, and when it does, our magic “Emerald Isle” becomes even more magical.

Our last “big” snowfall was in 2014. The amount of snow ranged widely on this 57-square mile island  — from a few inches that disappeared in days to nearly two feet that lingered for weeks. Why? Orcas’s horseshoe shape and varied topography create many micro-climates. The mountains, inlets and fjords that make this rock so dramatically beautiful also help drive its patchwork weather patterns.

Here are a few shots from my trip up Buck Mountain yesterday, plus scenes from winter’s past. Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slideshow. Enjoy!

 

If you’re thinking of visiting or relocating to Orcas Island, winter is a great time to experience a quiet wonderland – snow or not. Contact me if you’re looking for rentals or homes to purchase!

 

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Falling for Orange on Orcas Island

Sandi Friel, Orcas Island RealtorPosted by Sandi Friel

It’s gray and rainy outside today, but my house is anything but gloomy – thanks to the color orange. The glowing fire, wood ceilings, trim and amber lighting create a cozy lively space I want to be in. Orange makes me happy!

Upbeat and friendly, when orange is muted it’s warm and comforting. In vibrant hues, it’s downright exciting — a little goes a long way! Fall is traditionally when we think of orange (see my post Slideshow of Fall Color on Orcas Island), but I enjoy it throughout the year, inside and out. Take a look:

Sandi's madrone branch chandelier

When I couldn’t decide on a chandelier, Bob whipped up this Madrone branch with orange lights. The perfect glow over our table – I love it!

 

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My best score from the local consignment shop – a gracefully shaped stained glass lampshade with colors of fall.

 

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A copper octopus ornament sparkles on my fireplace year-round. If you love something, keep it out where you can enjoy it. 🙂

 

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Another cherished cephalopod: a whimsical print from Teri.

 

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Teri and Marlis used pops of orange effectively when they staged this home for sale. Orange is both unexpected and memorable, and harmonizes with most wood tones.

 

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A bedroom in a listing of mine reminds me of orange sorbet…yummy! In larger areas like this, full-strength orange would’ve been be too intense.

 

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Check out the bold color Teri picked for the front door of our first-place-winning parade float this summer.

 

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An orange Ford in an Orcas field. I snapped this picture years ago when I first thought of a post about orange.

 

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California poppies sunning themselves over Massacre Bay. Blue and orange are opposites on the color wheel, making a classic complementary color scheme.

 

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Wild Orange Honeysuckle in our yard attracts and feeds hummingbirds.

 

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Critters come in orange too! Here, a poisonous Red-Bellied Newt sports a fire orange underbelly as a warning to predators.

 

Orcas Island Scenes

The most prolific display of orange on our island is the bark of the beautiful Pacific Madrone tree.

 

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Orcas Island’s western shoreline lights up at golden hour.

 

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The sunsets from the west side of Orcas are simply breathtaking. The tiny floating island is White Rock.

 

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What October post about orange would be complete without pumpkins?

After writing this post, I’ve decided to I’m going to bring more cheery orange into my life. How about you?

 

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Community Spotlight: Crane Island

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel

If you take the simple life on Orcas Island and dial it down a few notches, you might end up on Crane, a 250-acre private island paradise dangling south of Deer Harbor on Orcas’s west side.

Crane aerial label

This quiet, pedestrian-friendly island is accessible only by private boat. I had the opportunity to get to know Crane when I sold a waterfront home there a few years ago. And on a beautiful day recently I got to visit again, this time bringing a contractor to look at a vacant lot I have listed for sale.

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Approaching the Crane Island Community Dock

We landed at the community dock on the north end and took a 20-minute stroll to the property on the south side, seeing only deer and listening to bird songs along the way. We passed by the community beach, the airstrip and tiny community hall that also houses a fire truck.

Road on Crane

Typical country lane on Crane Island

Circling around the 50-acre nature preserve, we arrived at our destination – a pristine 2-acre waterfront lot purchased in the 1960s when Crane was first platted.

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View from the 2-acre Crane Island waterfront lot listed for only $199k  Click for details

Many Crane properties are held for generations as a summer getaway. There are only a few full time folks on the island, and residents are affectionately known as Craniacs. I asked one full-timer what’s the best part about living on Crane. Her answer was multi-faceted:

Five Reasons To Love Crane, as told by a Craniac:

  1. Surrounded by natural beauty
  2. Nature preserve
  3. Sense of community – we train for fires and first aid together. One of the most organized fire protection efforts on an outer island.
  4. Feels remote but it’s quite convenient to Deer Harbor and Orcas Landing groceries, restaurants and ferry.
  5. We have a community center with a new ping pong table!

 

If you feel tempted by the simple life on Crane Island, and think you have what it takes to be a Craniac, contact me!

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A Dog’s Life on Orcas Island – Part 2

Sandi Friel and Picardy Shepherd Puppy, QuinnPosted by Sandi Friel

Named one of Sunset Magazine’s Top 10 Dog Friendly Escapes, Orcas Island is truly a pup’s paradise for those lucky enough to live here. My previous post focused on the multitude of outdoor adventures available to dogs. Now let’s look at some of the community resources supporting our four-legged friends.

Pawki's for pets

Who needs Petsmart when you have homegrown Pawki’s

Pawki’s for Pets   
The first retail shop you see when you come into Eastsound isn’t an art gallery or clothing boutique…it’s Pawki’s! Here’s you’ll find a full line of healthy natural pet foods and treats, a huge variety of toys big and small, grooming items and all sorts of accessories.

Eastsound dog park

Misty morning at the dog park

Orcas Off Leash Area (OOLA)
With the help of many donors including local contractors and architects, OOLA volunteers created a much-needed Dog Park near the Eastsound airport on land loaned by the Port of Orcas. They’re now working with county officials to secure a permanent location nearby for an even bigger and better dog park. See the concept sketches here. Very exciting!

Pet Parade
A fundraising event for the past 25 years, animals of all types march in the annual Pet Parade and compete for a chance to win quirky awards – including Best Smile (sponsored by a dentist), Best Built (sponsored by the builder’s association) and Best Fed (sponsored by the grocery store). The event supports Kaleidoscope, a provider of childcare and preschool.

2014 mayor of Eastsound

“Jack” 2014 Mayor of Eastsound

Honorary Mayor of Eastsound
Maybe you don’t have political aspirations but perhaps your dog does? Another creative annual fundraising event (this one for Children’s House, a childhood early-learning center), the Eastsound Mayoral Race frequently features canine candidates. It’s a chance to give your pooch some notoriety while raising money for a good cause. One year our mayor was a cow.

Kelly Puccio of All The Happy Dogs

Kelly Puccio of All The Happy Dogs, a dog-walking, sitting, adventuring and training service

Pet Care – Boarding – Grooming
In addition to a vet clinic practicing both eastern and western medicine, Orcas has a variety of options for boarding and grooming (see partial list here.) Be sure to check the menu of services offered by Eastsound Kennels and All The Happy Dogs.

Orcas Animal Protection Society
No pet-friendly list would be complete without mentioning the Orcas Animal Protection Society (OAPS). Run by a dedicated group of volunteers and supported by donations, the shelter helps re-home animals, find lost owners, provides spay-neuter assistance, education, and offers classes: puppy socialization, basic obedience and agility classes.

 

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerAre you thinking of moving to Orcas and want to know more about resources for your dog-friendly lifestyle? Contact me — I can help!

 

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A Dog’s Life on Orcas Island – Part 1

Sandi Friel with Leonberger MurphyPosted by Sandi Friel

When Bob and I relocated from Florida to Orcas Island, our dog Murphy was 5-1/2 years old. That might be considered young for many dogs, but for Leonbergers who have an average lifespan of seven years, Murphy’s best days had passed. Or so we thought.

Murph turned out to be like Robert Moran of Rosario Resort and Moran State Park fame. Moran arrived on Orcas at 47 years old in such poor health that his doctors didn’t expect him to live to see 50. Of course Moran outlived all his docs. Orcas Island’s low-stress, fresh-air, outdoorsy lifestyle inspired the retired shipbuilder to live another 39 years!

Likewise our Murphy lived almost another full Leonberger lifespan after we moved to Orcas. Hiking Turtleback Mountain and Moran Park, paddling in the cool water off North Beach, patrolling the property for deer, driving around the island in his papa’s pickup to visit friends and collect hugs and biscuits, enjoying the temperate Northwest climate: Murphy had a lot to live for here on Orcas. The healthy, adventure-filled and extremely dog-friendly island kept him going well past what would be, in human years, his 100th birthday.

Murphy trotted off to Fiddler’s Green this past August at age 13. The following are a few of the many wonderful island moments Murphy and dogs like him have available here on Orcas. There’s also a shot of our new puppy Quinn, as he eases into the island lifestyle with his first boat ride.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we take a closer look at some of the island’s pet-friendly perks!

 

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An Adventure-Filled Vacation Without Leaving Home

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi

One of the great aspects of living in an outdoor destination like Orcas Island is that people of all ages love to visit. There are so many fun things to do here that even teens who are normally glued to the virtual world of their smartphones and other gadgets find enough real life adventure to stay entertained.

In mid August my father-in-law and 16-year-old niece trekked out from back east to see us. Bob and I took the opportunity to unplug and enjoy a vacation in our own backyard. We packed a month’s worth of activities into a week, ate fresh-caught seafood almost every night and were reminded all over again why we chose to live in this far out northwest paradise. Our family photo album tells the story – click a photo to start the slideshow:

 

If this type of adventurous lifestyle appeals to you, I’d love to help you make it a reality. I specialize in helping people in all phases of life move to Orcas Island. Contact me and let’s begin!

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