My dad, Robert Boyce (same name as my son), purchased 10 acres on López Island in the San Juan Islands in the mid 1960s. I won’t mention the price but you will pay more for a used car now.
It is a sort of pie shaped property, wide at the road and narrow at the beach. It is on the waterfront on López Sound, which is fairly protected and relatively shallow. You can see Mt. Erie and Mt. Baker from the property. Straight across the water is Decatur Island.
López has around 2500 Inhabitants now. It is around 30 square miles in area I believe and is relatively flat, which has attracted a ton of bicyclists.
It is indeed a magical place in the world and the impact on our extended family has been immeasurable. My father created a legacy with his decision to make this purchase. When we first started coming to the property, there was nothing on it except a very muddy, long road that went through all the alder trees and nettles to reach the area near the beach. Sometimes we would find new trees that had fallen and we always found a ton of new nettles had grown in. Cutting down nettles was one of the mandatory and feared jobs when we would visit. They were fun to cut down until one made contact with your skin. They cause a severe stinging and somewhat painful reaction. Getting into the saltwater was the preferred way of treating the nettle stings.
We would camp on a small area above the beach in an old tent. I don’t remember much about that, but I remember eating the pancakes that my mom would cook on the Coleman stove we had. They were delicious and we had to fight off the hornets while eating them. I can almost smell the bacon and pancakes now. The many scents of the island were wonderful. The salt water air was always such a pleasant thing to smell when we would step out of the car upon arrival.
To get to the island, we would drive about an hour and a half from Shoreline, Washington to Anacortes, where we would catch the ferry. The trip to get there was an adventure in itself. When we would arrive at the ferry landing, we would go outside and play on the beach near the ferries and then sprint to the car when the horn sounded indicating a ferry was docking. We knew all of the names of the ferries and how many cars they could take. The Evergreen State, Klickitat, Nisqually and the tiny Vashon. Lopez was the first stop, with Shaw, Orcas and San Juan to follow.
The San Juan Islands are on the border with Canada and have around 170 “islands” as I recall. Only a handful receive ferry traffic and I don’t know how many are actually inhabited. The islands are picturesque and seem to take one back in time. On Lopez we always had fun arriving because all of the drivers wave at each other when passing. I have not been there in a few years, but last I was there, that still seemed to be a habit.
There was not much on the island when we first started going there. There was one store that opened for only 15 minutes on Sunday after church. Since that time many new businesses have opened and there is more money on the island. Paul Allen of Microsoft bought up an area on the island and real estate is quite expensive.
On the 10 acres my father purchased, a small cabin was initially built, I believe from a kit of sorts and it has evolved over time to include running water, electricity, plumbing and so on. The deck is of a nice size so one can enjoy the beautiful setting.
As a young boy, I would walk down the beach for what seemed like forever in either direction. There were the prized wooden football shaped floats and the nice doughnut like round, cork floats. We would bring bags of them back home. I am not sure what we did with them. We definitely did a lot of beachcombing. Being a baseball fanatic I would find the perfect piece of driftwood and hit rocks for hours until the wood broke. We also skipped rocks across the surface of the water.
We spent a lot of time digging clams and turning rocks over to catch crabs. We caught minnows by hand in the small tidepools and I can recall watching them be paralyzed by the sea anenomes we would feed them to. While digging clams, we would try to catch the monstruous horse clams. Invariably, we would catch lots of butter clams and cockles as well. My mother would cook delicious clam chowder and clam biscuits. We had a dog that would point out the Dungeness crabs in the shallow waters and we would often catch them by hand. We also caught them using crab pots that we would reel in from a canoe. We used to have to walk about 50 meters up the driveway to use the portapotty which would have insects swarming around. Indoor plumbing is marvelous.
One of our favorite things to do was to paddle a canoe out to “seagull” island, which was not a short trip. While there, the seagulls would divebomb us and seals were everywhere. What a treat! When the tide would go out, we would of course dig clams, but also run along the sandy part and step near the clam holes. The clams would then shoot up their fountains of water as we ran by as they sensed our pressure. The island has modernized and there are many amenities but these traditions have been handed down to grandchildren and now great grandchildren over 50 years from the time my father first imagined it. There is much more to say about the island and many more photos to be found but I will leave you with photos to enjoy. Thanks mom and Dad for this special place.