October 22, 2011
Lime Kiln State Park is perhaps the most iconic spot on San Juan Island, and during the summer months the easy walking trail to the killer views and the killer whales is padded with polite throngs of blissed-out tourists. When I happen to be there, I’m one of them, too. Tourism begins at home. After all, every time I get on a Kenmore puddle jumper to catch a flight out of Seattle, I look more like a newbie tourist than the newbie tourists, as I gape wide-eyed out the window, clutching my point-‘n-shoot camera that’s poised for any great moments on the other side of the thin plastic plane window. Which is to say, all of them.
Tourism has its sonic aspects, which never cease to amuse the musician in me. The sudden oohs and ahhs spewing from the visitors each time an orca whale spyhops or breaches, probably lead the whales to assume that this is in fact the full vocabulary of the human species. I suspect they pop up to the surface just to check us out, viewing us all like some land-based zoo exhibit. Then they go down below and report back to the pod that really, there’s nothing particularly worth leaving the water for. Ain’t that right.
Last month one of my many, many (did I mention, many) visiting friends arrived on San Juan Island at the very end of the season: the final day of September. We ended up at Lime Kiln at sunset, met up with another friend who volunteers there, and were treated to guest access atop the old lighthouse.
It was special to be there during this exceptionally quiet, graceful time, enjoying the grounds without other people sharing the space. The three of us broke the silence of the sea air with our own zoo exhibit-worthy oohs and ahhs, however, as a pod of orcas decided to take a twilight swim just beyond our toes. The white spray of each exhalation floated in the dusk sky. The whales stayed for a long time, as did we, until it was nearly too dark to see our way back.
The photos describe the vista far better than my words, so I’ll just stop here. Suffice it to say, it was perfect.