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!
Buck Mountain HOA ensures roads are kept clear.
The lot I visited was bathed in sunshine.
Western vista from Buck Mountain.
Moss thrives in snow!
Beauty in the details
Our native Mahonia is an evergreen that sporatically dons fall color.
Picturesque barn in Crow Valley
Crescent Beach dressed in white
The rugged coastline
Rosario Mansion & Resort
Trek up Turtleback Mountain with my ole buddy Murphy (miss this boy!)
Snow cave in Moran Park
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!
The sixth annual Festival of Trees is happening this month at Rosario Resort. Visitors can come to see the uniquely decorated trees in the main lobby of the resort’s mansion. The trees are decorated by local non profit organizations with ornaments that portray what each organization embodies. There is a pet themed tree from the Animal Protection Society, and tree of smiling children’s faces from The FunHouse, and a wild animal themed tree from Wolf Hollow. And of course the garden of wonders tree created by students in my class to represent the Orcas Island Farm to Cafeteria program. Each tree is a beautiful representation of the great things the non-profits in our community do to contribute to making this a wonderful place to live.
Every year for 6 years now my students in Farm to Classroom at Orcas Island Elementary School have created beautiful handmade ornaments to decorate our tree. This year is no exception! Our ornaments represent many of the topics that we have studied so far this year.
A magnified image of a frozen molecule of water serves as the star of our tree.
It is tradition for the kindergarten students to string the popcorn. A lesson involving proper use of needles, using caution for tender fingers, and methods for perfecting the long untangled strand. Some children approach the situation with caution and others with wild abandon. Even though the popcorn is days old (easier to string without breaking) the children still enjoy eating as much as they string.
Our third grade students used a photo paper called cyanotype that uses the sunlight to expose images. The children choose items from our garden and placed them on the paper in the sun. After 10 minutes they rinsed the paper in water and set the images.
We have an interactive element to our tree this year. You can use one of the many magnifying glasses hanging on our tree to look into the tiny bottles filled with seeds hanging from the branches. You will find papers with glued on seeds clothespinned to the tree also. We have been busy saving seeds this fall and thought this would be a fun way to share some of our seed knowledge and excitement.
After studying apples this fall and learning that every apple has a star in it, we just had to include some dried apple slices with stars proudly displayed on our tree.
Please come admire our hard work and place a vote for our tree if you feel compelled. You can buy tickets for $1 each and place them in the voting boxes of the trees of your choice. All of the proceeds go directly to the non-profits and you will be entered for prizes from Rosario Resort and Spa and Kenmore Air. Rosario will be hosting a special Open House this weekend December 9-11 daily between 12pm and 8pm. You can enjoy the trees as well as complimentary cookies and hot apple cider.
If you can’t make it this weekend, the trees will be up through the New Year.
Don’t believe me? Come see for yourself on April 10 – April 12.
On Thursday, April 10, Orcas kicks off the first annual Orcas Island Bird & Wildlife Festival with a dinner at Rosario Resort’s Beach House. Featured speaker will be Thor Hanson, conservation biologist and author of the book Feathers. Hanson lives in the San Juans and will share his knowledge of all things wild on Orcas Island. There will be a Silent Auction to add to the fun, and help secure funding for future festivals.
The perfect place to stay while experiencing the festival is at Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast. Otters Pond, renowned as a prime birding spot, is home to hundreds of bird species and certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat. At the breakfast table, you will enjoy a front row seat to flurry and feathers and as a variety of birds dine in the feeders just outside. Innkeepers, Carl and Sue Silvernail, provide more than a ton of bird seed each year to attract some of the Northwest’s most colorful flying wildlife.
Enjoy a front-row seat to flurry and feathers at Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast.
Sue reports that just this week, they are seeing Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, House and Purple Finches, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Spotted Towhees, Crossbills, American Robins, Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Bald Eagles, Anna Hummingbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. On the pond they are seeing Hooded Mergansers, Ringed Neck Ducks, Pied Billed Grebes and Mallards. She says they are watching for Rufus Hummingbirds, White-crowned and Golden Sparrows and Pine Siskins.
Sponsored by the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce, BirdFest will offer activities sure to please all who enjoy the birds and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. The still-unfolding line-up of walks, talks, workshops and activities are ideal for all ages and experience levels. Stay tuned for more information and events to be announced! Meanwhile, here are some helpful links to help you plan for BirdFest.
This past Friday, after our holiday “Shop the Rock” excursion in Eastsound, Bob and I decided to have dinner at the Rosario’s Moran Mansion. We hadn’t done this in years, a consequence of lazily living on the opposite end of the island. Wow, am I glad we did!
Arriving at the mansion you're greeted by the "Festival of Trees" decorated by local non-profits as a fundraising event.
It was hard not to give all our tickets to The Funhouse tree -- each colorful ornament was handmade by a child.
At the end of December, all voting tickets will be entered in a raffle to win round-trip tickets for two to Seattle on Kenmore Air with hotel, dinner for two in The Mansion Restaurant and a two-month spa pass!! Hmmm…. somehow I’m feeling extra “charitable” this evening.
On top of the cozy ambience of the festive historic mansion, our dinner was absolutely superb. I chose the Filet Mignon served with Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes and Carrot Puree. Even though I ordered it medium well (I know, I can hear the gasps), it still cut easily with a butter knife. I combined my plate with Bob’s melt-in-your-mouth Wild King Salmon and we both enjoyed a delightful surf and turf.
The Living Room is my favorite place in the Mansion. Next time I will ask to take our dessert by the fireplace, like this couple did.
For dessert we shared a chocolate souffl’ee with vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel sauce. This alone would be worth driving an hour for. Pure ecstasy.
After dinner we leisurely toured the upstairs mansion on our own, marveling at the exquisite construction and trying to imagine what it would’ve been like to live here – a luxuriously large yet intimate space, warmed by mahogany throughout and a fireplace in every room, and a drop-dead gorgeous view down the sound. No wonder Robert Moran outlived his life expectancy by more than 30 years after moving here. I feel so thankful that this historic gem has been preserved and re-opened for us to enjoy. We will definitely be coming back!
Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.
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