An Undiscovered Paradise in the San Juan Islands of Washington State
Let’s say that you have finally scored that golf tour trip to Hawaii, or perhaps Tahiti, or some other version of paradise in the world. Or, let’s say that someone else scored it for you, and you didn’t have the heart to tell them that you’re not primarily a tropical sort of person, or golfer. I admit, that’s not something one is likely to hear from a human being very often. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like a tropical setting once they got there, at least a little bit. But, there are people who thrive in other sorts of environments – golfers, too.
I am no exception to the tropics lovers, but in truth, I am also an alpine person from the word go. The palm trees are lovely, but nothing looks or smells so good as a tall, healthy fir tree. In a pinch, any old pine tree or blue spruce will do pretty well. For anyone looking for a touch of the Hawaiian experience with some modifications, look to the north, just to the upper left of Washington State. There, you will find a northern paradise, where newcomers sell their cars and get around on sail and speed boats. In this patch of islands, long distance transportation is the ferry that runs between Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia,. In this part of paradise, your standard forms of wildlife are orcas, seal, salmon, and deer. On that note, you will rack your brain trying to figure out how the deer got there.
The San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State are tucked just safely inland. That satisfies shy sailboat folks or for people who love mild weather with no raging storms bringing the surf to the front door. They represent some of the most beautiful edges of the United States. Anything people do with, in, or around water, one can do there. Every sort of culture can be found in the San Juans. The wealthy do build first or second homes there, but you can find artist communes as well on their own islands. Offshore from the chaos of city life, it’s a case of ‘to each his own paradise.’ Here and there are families that take over one tiny body of land, perhaps forty to fifty feet across. Other islands are many miles long, and all interlaced with gorgeous blue water.
One can’t have a stretch of land and water like that without including the game of golf. There are three principle courses scattered throughout the islands, but a newcomer has to see things in a slightly different way. The island dwellers have taken great pains to avoid slaughtering the forest and wildlife of these jewels, so space is economized. Hence, courses are skewed toward the 9-hole variety, with separate stands of tee boxes different enough to give the feel of 18. The Orcas Island Golf Club, the Long Island Course of Lopez Island, and the San Juan Club of Friday Harbor represent three of the major islands.
The courses all enjoy the same advantages. Summer temperatures hover in the 70s, while the winter is considerably warmer than the average mainland temperature. The natural elements rule. For one course, local businesses publish one tip each for how to negotiate a particular hole. They go like this – “Aim your tee shot at the rock pile!” Or, there is Play it at the Madrona tree.” How about “Use bank at back of green for backstop.” As a left-oriented player, here’s my favorite – “Far left as possible, or hit a DRAW.”
The trees are always there to catch your eye, or your ball. The islands are made of rock, so rock you shall have, tee to green. I don’t even need to mention water. All you could ever want. Give these courses a look, after you’ve scanned the region of over 150 islands. And, in case all of that shouldn’t be enough, just point your sailboat a few miles to the west of Stuart Island. Cross the line into Canada. Call the authorities to let them know you’re there, and start on a whole new stretch of island paradise.