Tag Archives: Sandi Friel

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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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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The Shocking Truth: We Get Sun In Winter

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi Friel

On Friday I had the pleasure of showing property all day to a couple who are thinking about retiring here. They scheduled their trip for January so they could experience the worst of our weather, fully expecting rain and gray clouds. Well, take a look at the photos I snapped throughout the day:

Deer Harbor Estuary January 2015

Taken at 9:00 am from the Deer Harbor bridge overlooking the estuary. Pair of Hooded Mergansers gliding by, with Turtlehead peeking up behind the treeline, catching morning rays.

Crescent Beach Orcas Island January 2015

View from Crescent Beach, taken midday on the way to lunch in Eastsound. Temp was a balmy 44 degrees.

Sunset at Cormorant Bay on Orcas Island January 2015

The day ends with an exquisite sunset over President Channel on the west coast of Orcas. Who could resist?

I’m not claiming that we get sun all winter long, but more than you might think. It’s part of the rain shadow effect created by the Olympic Mountains, which keeps the San Juan Islands drier than other parts of the pacific northwest. So if you’re thinking of an Orcas getaway or property scouting hunt, make sure to pack your sunglasses – even in January!

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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Fall and Winter on Orcas – What’s to love about it?

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerBy Sandi Friel

Now that I’ve recovered from my brief mourning over the end of summer, I’ve fully embraced the change in seasons. Just like the moss and licorice ferns burst back into life at the first rains, I find the slower pace renews me and allows me to grow inwardly.

Sandi Friel's moss terrarium

One of my mini moss creations

This is a great time of year for inside projects and creativity, and one of my hobbies is creating moss terrariums. It combines my love of miniatures, moss and designing with CTnature. And it lets me experience a little bit of the outdoors, inside?

There are plenty of other reasons to love this time of year, too. Here’s a list of a 10 that come to mind:

  1. The departure of tourists and part-timers creates a strong camaraderie among year-round islanders. It’s like being a part of an exclusive club and gives a comforting “we’re all in this together” feeling.
  2. Yes the days are shorter, but the nights are longer. If you’re an avid reader and/or Netflix movie hound, this is the time of year you can indulge yourself without guilt.
  3. I’m loath to leave the island when the weather is picture-perfect, but December gives me a great reason to visit mom in Florida.
  4. Soups, stews and other comfort food. I’m trying a new recipe each week.
  5. Planning and prioritizing for next year helps me gain clarity and focus.
  6. Flannel sheets.
  7. Cozy fires in the fireplace.
  8. Hot apple cider, dusted with nutmeg and stirred with a cinnamon stick.
  9. Reconnecting with people who’ve been on your mind.
  10. The glow of indoor colored lights strung around a gray window scene.

What we experience on Orcas in the quiet season is much like the Danish concept of hygge: a sense of comfort, camaraderie, warmth, coziness, well-being and connectedness. It’s nesting at its best, and one of the simple pleasures of living on a small island.

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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Feathered Friends have Flocks of Fans on Orcas Island

Posted by Sandi

And I’m not talking about Seahawks fans – although there are plenty of those too.

Orcas Island – and the rest of the San Juan Islands – is home to many bird enthusiasts. There are guided bird walks, Frank Richardson Wildfowl Preserve, and of course we’re a migratory stop on the Pacific Flyway. But I recently found another bird-loving contingent here.

Charlie the African Grey Parrot on Orcas Island

Charlie

About 10 days before Christmas, my neighbor passed away leaving behind ‘Charlie,’ her beloved thirty-something Congo African Grey Parrot. I volunteered to find Charlie a new forever home.

First stop was the Orcas Animal Protection Society  where I was given names of several local parrot owners/experts to contact. All of these ladies gave me excellent info on what criteria to look for in Charlie’s new home. One offered to be foster mom until we found the perfect landing place.

Next I joined the Orcas Island Pets group on Facebook. This interactive page is where you can ask for advice, trade pet supplies, post lost and found pets, and rehome  or adopt a pet.

Charlie the Parrot in his new home on Orcas Island

Charlie gets a new home for Christmas

The grand slam, though, came when I posted on two online Yahoo groups: “Deer Harbor Community Bulletin Board”  and “Westsound Neighbor-to-Neighbor”. I was flooded with emails, phone calls and offers to help. That’s when I found the perfect home for Charlie: Ed and Amy Masters.

Ed and Amy and their two teenage sons live on a 10-acre farm near Westsound. They own Orcas Island Shuttle (our local rental car company) and work from home, so Charlie will have constant attention and activity. Amy has experience with parrots and a close friend that raises parrots. She always wanted an African Grey. They’re prepared to provide a loving home to Charlie for the next 30+ years.

Charlie the Parrot on Orcas Island

Charlie flies to his new mom during Christmas dinner

We delivered Charlie a few days before Christmas to their beautiful 3-story A-frame home, overlooking a large pond with their pet ducks and geese. They also have horses and chickens.

Charlie has now integrated well into the family and they all LOVE him! Each day he responds with revealing more of his intuitive personality and extensive vocabulary. On Christmas Eve, they allowed him to perch outside his cage for the first time, and during dinner he flew to Amy and perched on her arm for the duration of the family meal.

I’m so thrilled at the happy ending to this story. And it was made possible through the amazing community network of caring people we have here on Orcas Island. Thanks Orcas!

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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Summer Relief: 5 Ways to Chill Out on Orcas Island

Posted by Sandi

Last week while Seattle posted a record high of 93 degrees, the cool Salish Sea surrounding Orcas Island kept us a refreshing 10 to 20 degrees cooler. So if you’re not already on Orcas Island, the first thing to do is just get here! When you’re on island and feeling the heat, try these ways to keep your cool:

Cascade Lake - Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Cascade lake is a popular swimming hole on hot summer days.

Jump in a lake – The best way to cool off is a dip in one of our beautiful lakes in Moran State Park. The most most popular is Cascade Lake— which also has a beach, dock, snack bar and paddle boats for rent, along with coin-operated hot showers. Choose more remote Mountain Lake for a quieter back-to-nature experience. It’s the locals’ favorite hiking spot too.

Cascade Falls - Moran Park, Orcas Island

The falls along Cascade Creek are most impressive in the spring and fall, but a refreshing place to hike in the summer too.

Hike the cool forest – Can’t decide which lake to visit? Take the Cascade Creek trail which connects Mountain Lake to Cascade Lake. You’ll stay cool amidst the old-growth forest and along the way you’ll see 75-foot-high Cascade Falls and can dip your toes in the creek. Remember, like most WA State Parks, Moran Park now requires a Discover Pass — $10 per visit or $30 annual pass.

Judd Cove Preserve trail - Orcas Island

Murphy and me staying cool on Judd Cove trail.

If you’ve got less time to spare, you can visit Judd Cove Preserve just outside of Eastsound. The forested walk is a great way to cool off after the Saturday Farmer’s Market. The trail takes you past a historic Lime Kiln on the way to the shoreline and picturesque cove. The preserve is another success story of the San Juan County Land Bank, which is funded by a 1% tax on real estate sales.

Indian Island, Eastsound - Orcas Island

Be sure to check the tide charts before you hike the sand bar to Indian Island.

Walk a tombolo – The narrow spit of land connecting Eastsound to Indian Island is accessible during low tide. Hit the beach at Eastsound Waterfront Park, take off your shoes (hang on to them if you’re going to the rocky island!) and explore the sandbar. You’ll have the added fun of wildlife watching in Fishing Bay.

Lily Ice Cream Shop - Eastsound, Orcas Island

Alley entrance to Lily’s ice cream shop in Eastsound.

Get a Scoop or Two – The newest place in town to get ice cream is Lily, downstairs from Allium restaurant on the Eastsound waterfront. Open every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Lily serves gourmet hormone-free ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery. Or choose gelato from Enzo’s Italian Caffe, open year round with free wireless internet.

Zip on a line – Okay, this one probably shouldn’t count because it’s open to the public only a few days in the summer, but I couldn’t resist: The longest zip line in the state of Washington is at Orcas Island’s own YMCA Camp Orkila! Climb atop the tallest “building” in San Juan County (68 feet), strap on gear, and catch a breeze while you zoom through the air for 110 feet to the landing pad. Today was, coincidentally, one of the Community Zip days where the event is open to the public for free (appointment required.)

If you can add to this list of ideas, please post a comment!

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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Gifts From The Heart

Posted by Sandi

‘Tis the season for gift-giving (and receiving:). An upside of our down economy is that many of us have scaled back our purchases re-learned the joy of handmade gifts. This is especially true in our small island community with so many creative, resourceful people choosing to live a simpler, less materialistic life.

A gift from the heart conveys so much more meaning than the gift itself because of the time, effort and forethought involved. Money is tight, but time is universally more precious! A truly personal, one-of-a-kind gift will be cherished forever.

I’m excited about a few gifts I’ve made for Christmas this year (will save for a future post so as not to spoil the surprise.) In the meantime, here are some images from the archives. If you’ve given or received a gift from the heart that had special meaning, we’d love to hear about it!

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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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