Free JoeyJuly 31, 2017 in the United States
Today marked the final travel separation from my dear friend and travel companion Kate. Kate has been the most wonderful friend and travel companion a girl could ask for. When life hit a major bump in the road at the start of the year the possibility of joining Kate on her loosely planned adventures helped see me through some really dark days. I said from the outset that I didn't know for sure if i would get to embark on such an adventure but boy am I glad that I did. I'm not usually one for believing in 'things happen for a reason' but events of this year may just sway me on that. Kate is incredibly wise and thoughtful as well as being funny and kind. We have had such an amazing time together. Nothing quite prepared me for the shock wave of emotion that hit when we said goodbye from our last Uber together at Pier 69. I kid you not, I didn't stop crying for nearly an hour. I'm tearing up again now just thinking about it. Neither of us would have been on this very adventure without the other. Kate's original plans entailed several Trek America tours but having a buddy who was willing to drive opened up the possibilities and we did far more together than either one of us would have done separately. Kate was now off to Vancouver to pick up her 3 week tour across Canada. I was originally supposed to fly home from Seattle. However, when it came to booking flights a little monkey on my shoulder (let's call her Jane!) started pondering the possibilities of travelling solo back across Canada on the trains and back to NY where I started. This would be the least prepared and itinerarised segment of the adventure but I was equally excited about it. They say travelling solo is something everyone should do once in their life so this would be my go at it.
I had a very special day planned today. I was off to the San Juan Islands in search of Orcas. I can't lie, I have been a little obsessed with the fear inducing but beautiful whales since Free Willy hit the cinemas in the early 90s. The obsession continued long into adulthood whilst I avidly followed the campaigns against Sea World and went to the cinema alone (something I do rarely) to see Black Fish which documents the life of the Orcas in captivity that have attacked their trainers - fatally or otherwise. Needless to say it has been a life long dream of mine to see them in the wild so I had high hopes for today.
The journey to San Juan was just short of three hours. Once the none whale watching passengers disembarked at Friday Harhor we set off on our whale watching adventures. I was fortunate to make two new friends - Maggie and Alison whilst securing our spots on the top deck. The San Juan Islands are stunning. If anyone saw Free Willy 2 - this is where it was shot. It wasn't long before our boat found a pod of transient Orcas. I could barely breathe. They were so majestic the way they glid through the water. Of course, unlike all the photographs we see, it is rare that we get to see the whales venture far out of the water. However after taking over 800 photos I did manage to get a couple which 'showed their faces'. We were fortunate enough to see a couple of calves too. Sadly no breaches or spy hops though. That being said, we did watch a seal basking in the sun to find moments later it was gone and was subsequently shared amongst the pod for lunch. Nothing like a live David Attenbrough show to keep you entertained.
After over 2 hours of watching the Orcas we returned to Friday Harbor for a few hours onshore to browse the shops and enjoy the local ice cream. I indulged in a scoop of 'Moose Tracks' which was only slightly regretted as it contained mini reeses peanut butter cups and I do not to peanuts. Somehow I survived.
Being one of the first to reboard the vessel I grabbed a good table seat and kept an eye out for Maggie and Alison to join me. Meanwhile I was joined by Nathan who had spent time with family on the Island and was returning back to work in Seattle. The girls and I decided as we had a 3 hour trip back to the Emerald City we would indulge in the very reasonable on board wine and discounted snacks. By the time we hit the second bottle, Nathan had put down his book and joined in too.
We met a group of girls from Boston that had just spent 5 days on the Island kayaking in search of the resident pods and had not seen a single whale. We couldn't help but feel a little guilty! Not long after we cast off and were heading back through the islands, the boat stopped it's engines and we were called to the deck. Another pod had surfaced and was heading right for us. These came far closer than the previous pods and we even got a little spy hop out of one. Sadly despite the image count on my camera I somehow missed it. Still we were really pleased that the Boston girls got to see some at last!
On getting back to Seattle, our little crew decided to go and grab dinner together. It transpired we were all living/staying near Green Lake so we grabbed an Uber and enjoyed some more wine and some delicious food before I headed back to our Air BnB minus Kate.
I was pleased to finally meet our other host, Kailie who I had been communicating with prior to the trip and had kindly arranged for me to be able to stay an extra night in their office to stop me finding alternative accommodation for my last night in Seattle. I also had the pleasure of meeting their pooch - Mr Brojangles! I was sad to see my Seattle adventures drawing to a close but I'd be seeing it off in style the next morning.Read more