A WEEK ON PATOS ISLAND by Patty


Monday morning, the 16th of August, 2010 the six of us-all women- packed up at dawn and drove to the Lopez ferry dock where we were greeted by a glorious sunrise.  After a short trip to Orcas Island we drove across the island to ‘The Ditch’.  We then ditched the cars and loaded our gear onto a Washington State Parks boat which transported us to Patos Island. 

Now the fun begins.  We unloaded our gear onto the beach and then carried, dragged and hauled it to the campsite about a quarter-mile uphill along a lovely path through the woods.  Our campsite overlooked Active Cove and is the perfect spot for six eager adventurers. 

Let me digress for a minute and tell you about our group.  Four of us are avid campers and two are camping novices.  One of us is a gourmet cook and five of us are willing eaters of gourmet food.  Overall, it was a wonderful combination. 

We established our camp and then set out to begin our tasks for the week which included the following:  open the lighthouse for visitors, brush back the trail, clean the beach and have fun.  Not necessarily in that order. 

My favorite job is cleaning the beach.  Diane and I grabbed some garbage bags and headed to the other side of the island.  What a pleasure to be walking on the beach, talking with a good friend and working at an enjoyable task.  You might ask ‘how could it get any better?’ and I would have to say ‘it did’.  Diane heard a commotion and she looked out to sea where two or three boats were sitting and the people aboard were yelling.  We thought, ‘what in the world…?’  Then we saw the pod of orcas.  What an amazing sight!  They appeared to be playing; splashing their flukes and fins, breaching, spy-hopping, and doing back-dives and belly-flops.  I’d never seen anything like this.  We were thrilled and thought, ‘how lucky can we be?’   It’s unusual to see such a display from orcas.  After we settled down, we returned to our task of cleaning the beach and headed back to camp with our full garbage bags. 

All of a sudden we heard the commotion from the boats again and the orcas were back.  It was just as exciting as the first performance.  We continued back to camp anxious to tell our campmates about the spectacle we had witnessed.  When we arrived, the camp was deserted but we heard excited chatter from the beach and when we got there the orcas were back for the third time that afternoon and everyone was enthralled with watching them.  I exhausted the battery on my camera taking pictures; I did get a couple of good shots but mostly just splashes and fins.  What a way to spend our first day on Patos.  It was hard to get to sleep that night after such an exciting day.

Back to our little group:  two of us enjoyed getting up with the sun and three of us liked sleeping later and one of us wanted to sleep until noon.  I think Pardis knows who that is.  Tuesday morning we all set about doing our tasks.  Diane and I hit the beach early, Linda opened the lighthouse for visitors and Parvin, Pardis and Parvaneh raked and pruned the trail.  Diane and I worked our way down the beach past Toe Point to Duck Rock.  At Toe Point we watched some seals and enjoyed the tidal pools.  In one tidal pool we saw a purple starfish with a baby starfish snuggled between two of her arms. I was upset because my camera battery was dead but I enjoyed the moment. 

Tuesday evening after another of Parvin’s excellent dinners we all walked to the lighthouse to enjoy the sunset.  We were discussing Monday’s orca performance with a couple who had their sailboat anchored in Active Cove and I mentioned that I depleted my camera battery trying to capture the orca antics.  They asked if I had my battery charger with me and I did so they offered to take it back to their boat and charge it up overnight.  What nice people.  We went back to camp and sat around the campfire drinking wine and just relaxing.  That night, as I lay in my tent, I remember listening to the surf, soft music from the boats anchored in Active Cove and, best of all, the whooping of the Great Blue Heron that hung out fishing in the cove.  As I recall, the sound was similar to a turkey’s gobble but softer and more elegant.  During the night we were all awakened by a windstorm.  At first I thought it was raining but then I realized that it was just the wind blowing leaves, pine needles and twigs out of the trees and onto the tent.  I looked outside and saw that the sky was clear and the moon was bright.  Back to sleep. 

Wednesday morning Diane and I were up early as usual so we could take advantage of a low tide.  This time we stayed on the south and east side of the island.  Our goal was to clean the beach around the entire island but we weren’t sure if you could walk the beach all the way around the island.  We knew that, if it were possible, it would have to be at low tide.  We had only been out a couple of hours when we realized the tide was not low enough so we had to turn back.  That afternoon we decided to work on the trail.  The trail is a loop that goes around about a third of the island.  I decided to carry some garbage bags down to the beach landing and head inland from there to meet up with the rest of the group doing trail-brushing.  As I was walking along the trail with my tools I almost stepped on a snake.  There are no dangerous snakes on Patos, this was a garter snake.  I stepped back and set my tools down and grabbed my camera.  Thanks to the friendly boat-campers, my battery was freshly charged.  I took my picture and then I began to wonder why the snake was still there, like it was frozen in place- unusual behavior for a snake, to say the least.  When I looked closer I saw a big yellow glob of something at his head and I thought, ‘oh no, the snake is injured!’ So I went to step over it and take a closer look and when I did the snake picked up the yellow glob and took off very fast- usual snake behavior.  Finally it dawned on me that the snake was eating a banana slug.  I zoomed the picture I had taken and sure enough, there it was.  I had captured the shot of the snake enjoying his gourmet snack.  (Must have been a French snake)  I’m sure my grandkids will be impressed with that picture.

 

Wednesday ended with another of Parvin’s gourmet dinners, another gorgeous sunset, another campfire and another wine sipping evening of fun and laughter.  I would explain Parvin’s cooking and tell you about the meals she prepared but I can’t.  Parvin is Iranian and her cooking is Persian and very good and very spicy but the dishes are unpronounceable by me. 

Thursday Morning the entire group sans Linda, who was in charge of the lighthouse, decided to get up early to take advantage of a negative tide.  Parvaneh and Pardis (the one who likes to sleep ‘till noon) were visiting from Dubai and were our novice campers.  Pardis is 16 or 17 and so it took all the rest of us to get her up early enough to walk down the north beach to see Toe Point and Duck Rock.  Exploring the beach and tidal pools was going to be part of the fun.  Of course, waking Pardis up early was also part of the fun for us (not Pardis).  We headed down the beach with our garbage bags just in case Diane and I had missed some garbage-doubtful. 

Along the way we taught Pardis many important skills, such as- how to stomp on kelp bulbs to hear them pop like balloons and how to stick your finger in a sea anemone to make them close up.  I don’t know how you could spend a day on the beach without those skills.  We also saw the purple starfish with her baby and I got my picture.  We made it to Toe Point and into the cove where you can see Duck Rock.  Pardis was not impressed and regretted giving up her cozy sleeping bag for this.  We were all watching the seals out on the point when Parvaneh decided to get up close and personal with the seals for a better picture.  In order to do that she had to do a little rock-climbing.  Unfortunately she slid down the rock and scraped her arm, luckily she didn’t fall into the ocean.  We combined all our first-aid skills and supplies to patch her up and headed back to camp.  Amazingly we ended up with two or three bags of garbage (it must have washed in overnight since Diane and I had already cleaned that beach).

Back in camp Diane received a call from friends who were sail boating around the islands.  They anchored in Active Cove and invited all of us aboard their boat.  Then they graciously offered to sail around the island so we could get a different perspective of our beautiful little island.  In less than half an hour we were rounding Toe Point and you could see Duck Rock.  As we pointed this out to Pardis her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew bigger as she exclaimed, ‘Why did we get up before dawn and walk for hours to see this when we could have waited to see it from this lovely boat?’  Let’s be honest now, four of us got up before dawn and one of us slept until the last minute (after dawn to be sure, but before noon)  and then we learned those important beach-combing skills and practiced our first-aid skills.  We would have missed all that from the boat.  It was an enjoyable and uneventful sail around the island except when I almost got seasick because the three Iranians were taking turns learning to steer the boat.  Maybe they don’t travel in straight lines in Iran. 

More fun and laughter as we made our way back to camp.  At this point you may be wondering how six women could live on an island for a week with no running water and all that entails; such as flushing toilets, showers and clean clothes.  You must be thinking of some big city women that live in places like Seattle or Dubai and don’t know how to cope in the wilderness.  With our outdoor skills and survival instincts, we were doing fine.  The island has two nice outdoor privies which work nice when you add some fresh air and some wipies.  We brought plenty of water with us and a big shower curtain.  One of the first things we did when we set up camp was establish our pump and solar showers inside the shower curtain – mostly.  The shower was adequate if the wind wasn’t blowing too hard.  We also brought a clothesline so we could dry clothes.  So, here it was Thursday and we were fairly clean with clean hair and clean undies.  What more could an adventurous woman ask for? 

As we were sitting around the campfire that night laughing and drinking as usual, Parvaneh mentioned she was having trouble sleeping.  With further discussion, we discovered that Parvaneh and Pardis, our two camping novices, had not blown up their air mattresses properly and were not very comfortable.  We quickly solved that problem and “all” had a good night’s sleep. 

Friday morning we had to finish as much of the trail as possible so everything would be ready for the big party planned for Saturday (more about this later).  Diane and I headed down to the lower end of the trail to work our way back to the rest of the crew.  As we were working I heard something and looked up to see three eagles flying overhead.  I can’t really describe the sound an eagle makes, it’s not like the scream of a hawk and not as dramatic as you might imagine but once you hear it, you can pick it up easily.  Anyway, I heard it and looked up in time to see them.  I got a picture as two of them landed in a nearby tree.  What an enjoyable workplace!

We worked hard all day Friday and when we got back to camp we wanted to wash and get all clean.  I volunteered to go get water we had stored in the lighthouse.  Remember the spicy food that I mentioned earlier?  Well, I am not used to spicy food and it was really giving my system a workout.  When Parvin mentioned that walking to the lighthouse and back carrying that much water would be tough, I just told her not to worry, I was gas powered thanks to her spicy food.  It took about 30 seconds and then the entire camp cracked up laughing as I powered my way to the lighthouse.

Once we were all cleaned up and Parvin was fixing yet another indescribable dinner with all our leftovers, she had a brilliant idea.  She had noticed 2 campers in the campsite next to us and decided to invite them to share our Persian feast.  I wish I had accompanied Parvin, Parvaneh, and Pardis on this mission because the story was pretty funny as related later by Pardis.  Parvin invited the campers to join us for dinner and all they had to do was bring some “COLD” drinks.  Apparently, she mentioned the “COLD” drinks about 6 times.  She told them that dinner would be ready at 7:00 so we were a little surprised when they weren’t there on time.  They finally arrived at  7:30 with the “COLD” drinks.  They had to boat over to Orcas Island to get the “COLD” drinks so they could join us for dinner.  It was a treat to have company for dinner and it was a treat to have a ‘cold’ drink. I don’t know how you could go camping without Parvin along.  Another perfect ending to another perfect day on Patos Island. 

Saturday morning we had to get up early and get the camp all packed up, the lighthouse cleaned up and the garbage carried down to the beach landing.  The party was a combination birthday party for the lighthouse and a family reunion for the Glidden family.  Helene Glidden wrote the book ‘Light on the Island’ and about 30 of her relatives were coming to the island, most for the first time.  They arrived on a boat from Eclipse Charters and toured the lighthouse and explored the island they had heard so much about over their lifetimes.  Helene had lived here as a child when her dad was the first lightkeeper of Patos Lighthouse.  Helene’s brother, Joe, and four generations of relatives joined in the festivities. 

The island held one final surprise for us as we were packing up after the party.  On one of the many trips from our camp down to the beach landing spot, one of our dinner guests showed us a Great Horned Owl.  He was hidden in the trees and was just sitting there watching all the activity.  Of course, I got a picture in case you were wondering. 

Some people spend a lot of money to take an eco-vacation that really couldn’t compare to the experience and satisfaction that I had from this time. I can’t convey what a pleasure it was to spend a week camping on Patos Island with such congenial companions.  When I look back, it is hard to recall the work, but easy to recall the fun and good times of that week.  These are just a few of the moments that linger as I reflect on that magical week this summer.    

  

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2 Comments on “A WEEK ON PATOS ISLAND by Patty”


  1. […] A WEEK ON PATOS ISLAND by Patty September 26, 2010 Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Adventures of Power returns to […]


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