A day trip to the San Juan Islands starts off with an early morning ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor in one hour of winding through the islands. The early wake-up call was for catching the 8:30am ferry to San Juan Island. Why such an early reservation? So we can make a day of it.
My goodness, the ride is gorgeous! With all the islands rising out of the water as the ferry passed through the channel. This might have been how the Hawaiian Islands looked long ago. Once touched down in Friday Harbor it was all open road winding through country beautiful with farms, lavender, and ocean views towards Cattle Point Marine Park to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse was not open, so we all opted to explore the tidal pools for sea life. Climbing over black volcanic basalt cliffs, finding all kinds of marine life hiding until the tide started to move back in.
Catching a red Rock Crab or maybe Dungeness Crab live and unbound was a crazy moment. The crab was not a happy crab since it almost got my finger (which can snap it off!) and got to hold it by the front legs claws away from me. Also lying along the rocky shore was a dead moon jelly that was massive.
From the shore of the Cattle Point, you can see the western side of Lopez Island in the distance which some people in the group mistaken as Canada (Victoria Island). When you think about it, San Juan Island is very close to Canada when the cellphone text you welcome to Canada cell service.
Lime Kiln Point State Park:
With the island being only fifty-five square miles, getting to Lime Kiln took only fifteen minutes. This park is known as the whale watching park and it is the only park dedicated in the world to shore-based orca whale watching. The 1919 lighthouse still in service is the point where you will find people with binoculars waiting for the orca pods to swim by. On this particular day, I missed the orcas by two hours.
The park is more than orcas but has a fascinating history as well. On the site of the park was a lime-kiln operation. The history lesson here is visible with one of the original kilns restored. Lime at one time was a huge economic boost for the San Juan Islands with two major ones in operation on San Juan alone. Lime Kiln was used to turn limestone into quicklime and carbonic acid. The island has many limestone quarries dotted around the island, but this particular kiln lasted from 1860 to 1930, when the production of quicklime ceased.
The kiln by the looks of it is really an inefficient way to turn limestone into lime. the number of trees need to keep the kiln at a constant 1,517°F (825°C) all the time to melt the limestone into lime powder.
Along the cliffs, you can see the rejected barrels of lime near the old shipping dock.
Spending a good chunk at Lime Kiln meant forgoing ice cream in Friday Harbor. A bummer, but it just means I need to plan another trip back to explore the town a little more.
How does limestone become quicklime (calcium oxide)?
Calcium oxide is usually made by the thermal decomposition of materials, such as limestone or seashells, that contain calcium carbonate (CaCO3; mineral calcite) in a lime-kiln. This is accomplished by heating the material to above 825 °C (1,517 °F), a process called calcination or lime-burning, to liberate a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2), leaving quicklime.
- CaCO3(s) → CaO(s) + CO2(g)
The quicklime is not stable and, when cooled, will spontaneously react with CO2 from the air until, after enough time, it will be completely converted back to calcium carbonate unless slaked with water to set as lime plaster or lime mortar.
Quicklime is still used today in many different industrial applications such as agriculture, paper, cement, and mining metals.
Whale watching at Lime Kiln:
The local orca pods are called J, K and L pods. Lately, there has been news of these pods not doing so well, and are at the point of extinction. This is true, and heartbreaking to witness a beautiful species no longer alive in our waters. If you do see them off in the distance frolicking, celebrate it! You have a treasured memory to share.
Have you been to any of the San Juan Islands? Which one was your favorite? Any great places to explore? Let me know in the comments!