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Friday Harbor — Ferries, 4th Graders and Wooden Boats

The old cliché that it’s the journey not the destination describes perfectly our visit to Friday Harbor located on San Juan Island. The only way to reach Friday Harbor is to across the San Juan Channel on a Washington State Ferry (the largest ferry system in the United States).

After educating ourselves on the practicalities such as schedules and parking, we, along with seventy 4th graders on a field trip, boarded the 1200 passenger Chelan. As we leaned over the green iron railing watching the blue-green water gliding by below, it was hard to imagine a better place to be.

As we entered Friday Harbor we were greeted with a sweeping vista of a harbor alive with boats of all shapes and sizes, seaplanes, kayaks and a town that looked like a 19th century fishing village. We missed the call for walk-on passengers to exit. As a consequence, we were cordoned off and directed to wait until all the vehicles departed. As we watched the parade of trucks carrying gasoline, hardware, produce as well as a Fed Ex van roll off the ferry, we were reminded of the reality of island life … everything comes in by ferry.

We had originally planned to spend our limited time on the island visiting the Whale Museum (San Juan Island is home to several pods of Orca whales). But after learning that the museum was the destination of the of fourth graders field trip, we decided to forego the museum in favor of just strolling around town.

Most streets are lined with restored 19th century wooden buildings that stand as remnants of the towns fishing village roots. Tucked away among the art galleries, gift shops and restaurants we found a small exhibit of photographs of the high school graduating classes from 1912 to 1950. The photos were a virtual time capsule of fashion over the decades. There were twins and some of the most dire and oldest looking eighteen year olds imaginable. One exception was the class of 1926. ... they looked like a lot of fun. With their dapper clothes and cocky poses, they seemed right out of the Great Gatsby era.

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