Monday-- The Fossil Search & Walk

Published: Sep. 24, 2018 at 8:58 PM EDT
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Monday-- The Fossil Chase

This is my personal blog, and is NOT a news story. As such it is my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the station, my family nor anyone else.

Our final day on the San Juan Island Cruise circled several islands and involved seeing lots of wildlife, sea lions and proposes.

First, we set off north, and moved up to very near the Canadian border that falls across the US at the 49th parallel. By treaty, it follows the Georgia Channel, across the San Juan Islands, and out the Straights of Juan de Fuco.

However, in the mid-1860s although most of the border had been settled, the San Juan Islands were still in dispute with Great Britain. The wording in the treaty said the border would follow the channel through the island chain…but which channel? The west, east or central? The question was decided by the German Chancellor, a third party, who said, “Which channel is deepest?” The western channel is, and so, virtually all the San Juan Islands became US property.

We are close to that northern border, and stop at Sucia Island for a nature walk. Sucia is the Spanish term for “dirty”, thus “dirty island”… because there were rocks and shoals preventing a “clean landing”. But after negotiating a narrow channel marked to the dock, we gathered for our group photo, and then followed Asst Captain Trevor acting as naturist. He was a good nature guide, pointing out items to us.

We walked through the beautiful state park over grasses as fine as a golf green, and along a slip of land to a crescent beach that features two mushroom shaped rocks. There, we assembled for our group photos, and resumed our walk to a beach filled with fossils. I did a Facebook Live update standing on the fossil record in the bright sunshine, but after a minute of puzzling over why I couldn’t see anything, flipped the camera from front to back, and discovered that I had left a case on the phone, blocking the view. Silly me. I restarted after removing the case, and all went well. I was able to share the fossils embedded in the frozen mud flow, horseshoe crabs, bi-valves, segmented worms, mud-puppies, and more. A panoramic view of the cliff above us, and a pan of the ocean included our fellow travelers discovering their own fossils and more.

Safety is paramount, and I’m pleased to note that the crew not only carried an AED as well as a first aid kit, but also assisted our older guests down slopes, over tree trunks, and warned them of slippery tidal flats. High marks to the crew of the Chinook and San Juan Cruises!

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to remove any fossils nor other keepsakes from the beach, so we began our walk back to the ship dock. I watched for the dried out berries that would help seed the false Magnolia trees. I had hoped to try planting one in the MOV, but suspect the climate is too warm, too dry and too cold at times for the species to survive. They run down the coast to about Mendocino, California before stopping there. I could find no berries, so the option to try to transplant one is not good.

We boarded and were treated to a lunch of vegetable wraps, orange slices, thick potato chips, macaroni salad, and choice of sparkling cider or Campaign in tiny bottles. Each bottle bore a sticker for a 10 cent Michigan deposit. Most chose the cider. A few fell asleep later in the afternoon as we rolled in the waves.

The captain circled the northern-most island to give us an opportunity to snap pictures of the Patos Island Lighthouse, location of the book “Light of the Island”, a tale of ten years in the life of the lighthouse keeper. You can find both of the photos of the Patos Lighthouse and Sucia Island through a Google search if you like.

We motored past reefs full of Stellar Sea Lions and Harbor Seals, but never saw any Humpback Whales today. We returned to the port of Bellingham where we off-loaded and said farewell to the three man crew that had so entertained us on this journey. Next, we motored to the Oxford Suites hotel for some rest and dinner on our own before we leave for the Cascade Mountains tomorrow.

10,000 foot tall Mount Baker stands above and its snow-capped peak beacons us to our next adventure in the second half of our trip.