The Hills of San Juan Island

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June 18, 2012. Above South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 18, 2012. South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

I shut the door of the van, turned and started running up a gradual hill. For just a split second, I thought I was in the rolling hills of northern Nebraska. But then the smell of the sea snapped me right back to the prairie grasses, not of the midwest, but on the slopes of San Juan Island, above the Straight of Juan de Fuca. This was not Nebraska. Instead of pheasant, cranes and coyotes I saw cormorants, oystercatchers and foxes. This was the spot where the Salish Tribes once gathered plants and fished salmon, drying them in the warm, salty breeze.

From on top of Mount Finlayson, 290 feet above sea level, (above the American Camp occupied by the U.S. Army 1859 – 1874) I spotted a light house and continued on toward it, stringing together trails from the State Park, a conservancy and the BLM. I looped around past quiet coves, again through the grasslands and back to the beach where I’d begun.

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June 18, 2012. Above South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 18, 2012. On Mount Finlayson, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 18, 2012. Cattle Point Lighthouse, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 18, 2012. At Cattle Point Lighthouse, San Juan Island, Washington

The next day, I shot up Young Hill (above the English Camp occupied by the Royal Marines from 1859 – 1872) thinking it must be the lesser of the two, a hill, not a mount. The views proved why I was bit winded. It was more than twice the climb at 650 feet above sea level in under a mile. I carried on from there around a lake and through the forest.

While on this island, I often felt as if I was in some foreign land. I asked the Welsh woman who gave a presentation about wildlife on the island if this place reminds her of home and she said yes, but that there were more trees and fewer people on the San Juans. And this could explain why the English were so hesitant to just hand over the island to the U.S during the famed Pig War dispute in the 1800s. They too must have felt very comfortable running through the hills and the forests, taking in the views breathing the sea air.

for more from this series focused on running click here

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June 19, 2012. Young Hill trail, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 19, 2012. Young Hill trail, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 19, 2012. English Camp trail, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 21, 2012. A tiny trail, San Juan Island, Washington

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June 21, 2012. Abandoned limestone mines above Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington

all content © 2012 Tim LaBarge

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