Orcas Island Camping

Around the time Evie turned 5 months old, I was getting antsy. The weather was cool and drizzly and we hadn’t been getting out as much I’d like. My husband was out of town and there were just a few days when the weather would be nice. I thought it would be fun to take Evie on the ferry and camp on Orcas Island. And then I thought about how much effort that would require and it made me very tired. I took a nap instead.

The next morning I woke up feeling energized. I thought maybe I could pack everything and make it to Anacortes in time for the afternoon ferry. I went into turbo mode and ran around the house packing stuff like a madwoman. I put everything outside next to the car and then puzzled it all into the back of my little VW Golf. It was so much more than I’ve ever needed on a camping trip, but it all fit perfectly with no room to spare. Nali got the backseat next to Evie and we were off.

Leaving on a Sunday afternoon, we basically had the ferry to ourselves. I played it cool among the locals heading back to the island from Seattle. Evie watched out the big window to see islands floating by. We went outside to feel the rush of the wind from the upper deck. First ferry ride: check.

Once we got to Orcas I found a lovely and lonely campsite on Cascade Lake. I set up camp and put Evie in the bumbo which she loves. I sang head, shoulders, knees and toes to get her to smile as I reheated some leftovers for dinner. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself for thinking of bringing leftovers to eat while camping. Gotta celebrate the small victories.

Later, as the sun was beginning to go down, I packed up baby and dog and headed up the long windy road to the top of Mount Constitution. There was just one couple that pulled in ahead of me and a single deer. I exchanged pleasantries with the couple and the deer, and we watched the sun setting on the nearby islands.


It was a long night full of feeding Evie, making sure Evie was still alive, and wondering if Evie was warm enough. It was so calm outside with not even the faintest rustle of a breeze. So I was surprised when I heard a long vrooooom sound like a stealth airplane and then a minute later I heard a splash and a little screeching cry. Then dead silence. Literally. I sat straight up, eyes wide, and didn’t move for a long time. I was listening for a clue to what just happened and I thought to myself, dude, something just got murdered.

I racked my brain to think of what predators might live on the island. It had to be an owl right? Yeah, owl sounds right. But could it have been a bear? Definitely not a bear. A cougar? Maybe… No, cougars don’t live on the island. Do they? Was it a raccoon or a possum? I don’t think they are predators. It was definitely an owl. It had to be. Or could it have been a cougar? This cycle continued on until dawn.

Needless to say, Evie, Nali and I slept in that morning. When we (I) mustered up the energy, we headed to Turtleback Mountain for a hike. The trail starts on an old logging road through the forest. It felt good to be out, Evie in the carrier and Nali at my feet. Evie didn’t make a sound, she just looked up at the tall cedars and Douglas firs. It made me think of when I moved to Seattle and couldn’t believe that there were so many tall trees along the highway. I had never seen trees so tall in my life. This will be Evie’s normal.

The trail left the road and continued through a hardwood forest carpeted in green. It felt like we were in a fairy tale. We lingered at the summit watching hawks glide back and forth in front of us. It felt like we had the whole island to ourselves. After the hike I drove into town and we visited the Brown Bear Bakery for lunch and then browsed the books at the charming Darvill’s bookstore. I picked out a picture book about a girl and a whale for Evie to read when she gets older.

I wanted to take Evie to a beach so I drove out to Obstruction Pass. The tide was high and there was a small amount of rocky beach to explore. The sun was just beginning to get lower in the sky. The blue water sparkled and the madrona trees glowed orange in the sunlight. It was a beautiful day. When we got back to the campsite we watched the sunset on the lake while Evie sat in her bumbo smiling away while I sang. I slept good that night.

Hikes Featured in this Post:
Turtleback Mountain
Obstruction Pass

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4 Replies to “Orcas Island Camping”

  1. You are my hero for taking a baby (and dog) camping by yourself! Evie isn’t going to remember this trip but you will treasure these memories forever.

  2. okay, trying again. Love this post and I second what Ingunn said! Makes me miss Orcas too. Haven’t been this year, used to go several times a year up until last year. All those places you mentioned! Homesick for the islands. And your photos, lovely as usual.

  3. Where did you get the mama bear and baby bear shirts?

    1. Etsy! 🙂

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