November 28, 2007

Seattle and the San Juan Islands from Helicopter

I spent this past Thanksgiving visiting friends in the state of Washington and was especially happy to go on a helicopter tour of the San Juan Islands.  Located in the Pacific off of the northwest corner of the United States, this archipelago comprises more than 700 pristine islands, many of which are only visible at low tide.  Originally, the San Juan Islands were part of a mountain range that was greatly altered and compressed into the sea by huge glaciers during the Ice Age.  Today, the islands vary from flat land to small mountains, with plunging deep channels beneath the sea.

A popular tourist destination, the San Juan Islands are home to many species of wildlife.  You’ll find porpoises, seals, sea lions, and whales, including the orca, or killer whale.  And all sorts of furry animals live there such as otters, rabbits, foxes, and deer.  The archipelago is home to many different kinds of birds and migratory birds often stop there to rest.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when we flew over a field of thousands and thousands of snow geese.  From the helicopter, it looked as though someone had planted a crop of white fluff!  I would very much like to return to the San Juan Islands only next time, it will be in warm weather and in a kayak for a more up close and in depth exploration.      

View of Seattle From Helicopter

Lake Washington waterfront – wonderful views, boat docks, lovely lifestyle

Timber and lumber is BIG business, here is a logging facility

A giant Native American gambling casino

Kevin on right bench seat, the earphones allow communication with other travelers over the noise.

A “Field of White” – I thought at first It was a crop – But indeed it is a resting place for snow geese

Huge tulip farms north of Seattle adjacent to Puget Sound – Barley is grown here too

A large oil refinery – giant tanks hold a lot of oil

A massive oil tanker – to load and unload at the refinery

First glimpse of the San Juan Islands

734 islands make up this archipelago – many are unseen at high tide

Wes, Martha, and Charles in front of the twin-engine helicopter – a great way to sightsee!

The first building one comes to on the short walk from the grass airfield to town. It looks like a school house.

Directional sign to Roche Harbor

Rental units at a summer colony on the outskirts of Roche Harbor

Towering trees line the paved road to town

The Church in Roche Harbor

The town square is paved with hand made bricks – stamped with many different names

Here I am in the town square - the overcast day was actually perfect for sightseeing at this time of year

Two limestone pillars in the center of town

The local eatery – Kevin had fried oysters, I had leek & potato soup, after the holiday feasting, Charles and Wes only felt like sipping coffee

A colony of sea lions basking on a rock. These giant sea creatures are just some of the great mammals seen here in the archipelago

The coastline of the islands are often cluttered with lost cut timber – which has escaped while being boated from forest to lumber yard

Here is a photo of the lock system in Seattle - it's path from the Puget Sound to Lake Washington is substantially higher in elevation

Two stadiums, side by side - one for football - the other for baseball - both have retractable roofs

All of Seattle is surrounded by cloverleaves and complex highway systems - sometimes very confusing to navigate