So, picture this: five guys (and me) standing on a cliff at Lime Kiln Point State Park overlooking the Haro Straight in the San Juan Islands off Washington Coast. To our right is a pile of old lime discarded from the Lime Kiln Days. Below us is a seal skirting around and peeking at us through the kelp. The restored kiln behind is us. The dock the men used to load the lime in the 1920’s is gone but the pylons in the sea floor stick out enough to remind us of its ghostly existence. The air is crisp, the sky blue, it’s the perfect day to explore the lands that hold the key to a bit of our past… and then, just as we turn to continue on down the trail, a splash in the distance catches our eye… wait, what’s that?? It’s an orca! Lots of orcas!! I’ve never had the honor of seeing them in the San Juan Islands.
They weren’t there long – they were moving at a fast clip. You could tell the male orcas from the rest, their dorsal fins are much bigger than the others, standing stoically to as high as 6 feet. Oh, it was so exciting! Wildlife in nature is just breathtaking. The orca population has been lingering around 85 total orcas in the Puget Sound in the last 10 years… Seems like such a low number when you hear the probable height of orcas in Puget Sound was 300 in the 1960’s. They got a bad rap for being “Killer” whales when 1. They aren’t actually whales. And 2. Only some orcas are actual “killers.” These we saw were traveling in a large family – that’s our first clue that they aren’t Killers. They were resident orcas… they eat fish and travel in families… the Transient Orcas are the “killers.” They travel in 2’s and 3’s and eat mammals… they hunt. Both would have been fascinating to see… but their very presence today completed our experience… I hope the San Juan Islands stay quaint and country cottage-like… but I hope everyone gets this chance… it is a once in a lifetime…
Your friendly San Juan Island guide,
Learn more about Blair, visit her guide page: Blair Peck