A Day On San Juan Island

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.

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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.


Cattle Point:
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!




Hanging With Plants, Climbing The Water Tower & The Black Sun At Volunteer Park

There is something very peaceful about a conservatory full of plants. A place where all the cares can be left outside the glass structure and take a breather for an hour. An old Victorian Conservatory, a Victorian water tower and seeing Seattle from the black side of the sun. All of this done before noon on a quiet overcast day in Volunteer Park.

Volunteer Conservatory:

Walking among the plants in a Victorian-era greenhouse structure is a step into a peaceful warm environment full of plants from all over. From one area to the other of the building was packed with flowers, trees, cactus, and other exotic plants blooming with color. I went right around the time the conservatory was opening for the day and I believe this is the best time of day to go when it is not crowded with people.


The Water Tower:

Walked all the way up to the top of this old Victorian water tower to great views of Seattle, Bellevue, and Lake Washington. From here through the tree top/branches there are glimpses of the old grand houses of Capital Hill. The very same houses that are well out of reach for anyone in this city unless you have a couple of million dollars extra sitting around. From the old style wrought iron bar windows you can see the landscape of the park below, and with the old pictures of the tower, some of the trees below have been growing since 1909!


Black Sun Of Seattle:


If you stand just right on the top of the stairs with the SAM behind you, you can get the Space Needle framed in the middle of the sculpture. I do not remember why it is called the Black Sun, but it has been part of the park since 1987.


I did not visit the Lake View Cemetery where famous Seattle people are buried (which is next door to the park) because there have been a people destroying grave sites in the Seattle area. So I could not see the final resting places of Bruce Lee. Maybe some other time.


Terracotta Warriors In Seattle

Terracotta Warriors were in town for a limited engagement in two cities in the US. Seattle was lucky to have the traveling exhibition come to Seattle before heading back to China. While Nana was in town for our birthdays we went to see the exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. We happen to go on the same day of the Seattle University graduation at Key Arena and some festival at the Seattle Center park. Just think in another year this will be me walking around in my black cap and gown from Northwest University.

….back to the Terracotta Warriors…..

We got our timed tickets for the first group of the day so there was not a whole lot of people in the exhibit. The whole exhibits were in the making of these terracotta statues, the science behind preserving them, how the site was found, and the history of the Qin (Chin) Dynasty, the first emperor of China. The special thing about this exhibit is the fact you can get up close to the artifacts were at the excavation site in China you cannot.



Nana and I posing in front of the statues


The surprising thing I learned in this exhibit is the first man-made pigment was founded during this time called Huns Purple which is barium copper silicate. This pigment is stable enough to conduct electricity and is made of this compound it is found in many electronics such as a smartphone. A science nerd moment right there! This compound was found on terracotta warriors and pottery of the time period.

List of paint pigments used to paint the warriors



After the tour of the Terracotta Warriors, we headed over to McMenamin’s in lower Queen Anne for some lunch. The place was hopping since families of graduates from the university graduation where there the celebrate. The food was done pub style and the theme of the restaurant was done like an old pub in 60s England.

The rest of the day was spent walking around the Seattle Center area and going to the Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront.

More Information:
Pacific Science Center Exhibits