Touching Lives ~ Final Thoughts on Lopez Island

Our time on Lopez Island has passed, giving me time to reflect on this magical little island. Being camp hosts at Spencer Spit State Park for the past six weeks gave us time to get to know the island at a leisurely pace.  This is unlike what many of us are faced with when we pull into a new destination, having only a few days or a week to explore, and a list a page long of all we want to see.

Volunteering has given us that luxury, for which we are grateful.  For us it is not just about having more leisure time to explore or getting a free site in exchange for work, although that is pretty sweet.  It is important for us to give back in some way while on the road, as we feel so blessed to have the time and resources to travel this beautiful country of ours.  Lopez Island has been a wonderful place to give back, and staff and park visitors alike often expressed their appreciation for the work we did.

As I perused photos capturing the wonderful memories we made on Lopez, I felt compelled to write this short post.  Time and again we saw how one couple touched lives here on the island, both with the locals and park visitors alike.  That couple was Laurel and Eric, two people who we are pleased to call our friends.

Laurel and Eric acted as the park’s Interpretive Hosts, planning and facilitating the Junior Ranger Program and a program they developed called Coffee with the Birds, geared towards adults.  For those who have seen a child being sworn in as a Junior Ranger or watched as they ran around a park completing their workbooks, you know what a heartwarming experience it is.  They are fully engaged, serious about their assignment.

As I watched Laurel and Eric conducting their weekly programs, pure delight is what I saw on the faces.  These two touched lives each time they gathered visitors together around the tables.

And we saw first-hand the connection they’ve made with the local community as well, when we sat in on some of the jam sessions they had with other musicians on the island.  They have touched many lives, ours as well. We are so grateful our paths have crossed.

Discovering Lopez Island

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe that the heartbeat of a community can be found in the values embodied by the locals and how well they nurture their land.  Lopez Island’s heartbeat is strong, pure, vibrant.

There is a distinctive chill to the air, signaling the approach of a new season.  Dusk creeps in early and brings the darkness with it.  Summer is waning, and with it our time on Lopez Island.  I can only imagine how lovely this island looks with her landscape splashed with reds and golds – perhaps another time.

For the past six weeks we’ve been camp hosting at Spencer Spit State Park, and an amazing six weeks it has been, from the moment we drove off the ferry. The staff here has been so welcoming, and we feel blessed to have spent time with each and every one of them.   And the opportunity to co-host with our friends Laurel and Eric made this experience darn near perfect.

Lopez Island is the least hilly of the four main islands comprising the San Juans.  Its high cliffs, beautiful coastline, and rolling farmland make it very popular with both kayakers and cyclists.  We have enjoyed both while here.

Countless farms dot the landscape, a dream for painters and landscape photographers. The wonderful pastured meats and organic fruits and vegetables they produce for the local groceries, restaurants and farmstands on the island are incredible.  There has even been a seed library created to further strengthen the local food system.  These folks know a thing or two about land stewardship.  With all this delicious, healthy food being lovingly raised, it is no wonder Lopez has a wonderful little farmers’ market each week.

Lopez Village, no more than a few blocks square, contains at least four farm-to-table restaurants, a phenomenal bakery, gourmet ice cream produced from their local creamery, bookstore, shops, and galleries.  And this small community sports two grocery stores, both focused on organic fare.

The library, once the old red schoolhouse, carries an amazing variety of books and DVD’s. They have an online learning center and even rent out musical instruments. When being presented with my library card, I was warmly greeted with “consider this your second home”.

Lopez Island is filled with a talented array of musicians and artists, encompassing many genres.  Thanks to an invite by Laurel and Eric, we sat in on a rehearsal for one local group, Super Wide Groove, whose members have become close friends of theirs. These are some seriously talented musicians.  Along with the many musicians on the island, there are an equal number of artists.  We were on Lopez to attend the annual Studio Tour, featuring 28 of these creative souls, and I’m sure there is much more talent out there.  After what we had seen, I was beginning to wonder if anyone is allowed to live here if they are not artistically inclined…unbelievable.

Our last little adventure on Lopez was a visit to the island’s winery, Lopez Island Winery, where we enjoyed a glass of their Madeleine Angevine in a garden overflowing with flowers.  This is also where we met  Dante and Lisa, a lovely couple from Fort Collins, CO who had ferried over from Anacortes, then biked to the winery.

A special thanks to Z and Tom, our newfound friends we met earlier this year, who ferried over from Anacortes to join us for lunch.  We look forward to seeing them again this winter.

We have been enriched by our time on Lopez, thanks to the locals and the beauty we found in nature.  I see return trips in our future. 🙂

Watch the slideshow below for a tour of this magical little island.

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