Lopez, “Slowpez”

Ahhh, Lopez Island… Two years ago, Lopez was my very first bike camping trip. I was excited by the idea of being able to travel and “live” off my bike. That first trip was a perfect introduction. The hills not too bad (just a slow climb at the start), and our campsite at Spencer Spit State Park was a mere 4.5 miles away and we easily grabbed a campsite, no reservations, for $12.00. There was a short walk to the beach and we were watching the water and the sunset in no time. Unbelievable! We visited the other side of the island where we could see the Cattlepoint Lighthouse in the distance and a ton of bald eagles hanging out on a rock in the middle of the water. Even though we weren’t doing many miles on this trip, Marty and I were eager to take a break from the tourists on San Juan Island, to relax and enjoy the roads of Lopez.

Marty refers to Lopez as “Slowpez” simply because the ferry often goes to Lopez before heading to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) and it always feels like it takes forreeeevvvvverrrrrr. But I would say that the flavor of Lopez is slow in a really wonderful way. There aren’t bike lanes on every road, but the roads are quiet and peaceful, they twist and turn around farms and water views, the driver’s wave to you, and the cows are mellow. It definitely feels relaxed.

This time around our trip started with an hour ferry delay (typical summer stuff), but we were joined by quite a few bike campers. When we arrived, I grew slightly nervous when one of the other campers, upon hearing we were also going to Spencer Spit to camp, asked if we had reservations. As hiker/biker types we have never made reservations for a campsite, not once, not even for Coulter Bay in Yellowstone in the peak summer season. But being that we are living in the time of Covid, I wasn’t so sure we would find a space. We took off and arrived to a sign saying Campsite Full (typical) and then hiker/bikers go to Group Site 2, Primitive sites closed. Okay, so far, we can go to Group Site 2 at least. Then we arrived at Group Site 2 and it’s sign said, “Full, go to Primitive Sites”. Okay, fortunately we did find an empty spot! I set up camp and wondered how we managed to sleep in this little tent for over a month, while Marty went to register and pay our 12 bucks. We walked down to the beach and noticed, entire sections were closed. I guess it’s part of operating at 50% capacity?

That night Marty cooked up a new-to-us dehydrated meal of Kung Pao Chicken (AlpineAire). Marty gives 7 out of 10 stars. I brought out a bag salad with tangerine dressing, a nice pairing I thought. Both were delicious and we topped it with dehydrated chocolate mousse pudding (also AlpineAire) Marty gives it a 9! This one is a winner and definitely repeatable! As per the norm, I fell asleep early and Marty walked around camp a bit.

The next morning we got up around 6:30, packed up camp and rode a pleasantly flattish 3 miles into Lopez Village. I love this little place, there’s a ton of charm and some great places to eat. It’s small, it’s quiet, but and it just feels artistic and cozy. We had breakfast on the patio at Holly B’s bakery. Love this place! We split a fantastic cinnamon roll and a rueben roll. Yep, a rueben roll, looks like a cinnamon roll but has corned beef and sauerkraut mixin’s. We both recommend it! After our tasty breakfast and lattes, we took a short bike stroll along Fisherman Bay road just to digest a bit and take in some salt air. We didn’t go too far since we planned to take the 10:15 ferry back to Friday Harbor. We backtracked into town and took Lopez road to the ferry terminal. On a downhill we noticed a bike camping family coming on the uphill… Talk about impressive! There was a girl who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old walking and crying her own bike up the hill with rubber garden boots on (I’m thinking this was a morning argument with mom that maybe she wishes she hadn’t won!). Overall I wouldn’t consider Lopez particularly hilly, not in the sense of Orcas Island, or even some places in San Juan; but there are steady climbs. They aren’t miles long, and they kind of feel good in that making effort kind of way, unless maybe you’ve got some uncomfy clothing and you’re five. I should have stopped and assured her a long downhill awaited!!

We arrived at the ferry terminal to learn that, yep, you got it… the late ferry struck again! You’d think by now we would just check the website. Instead we arrived super early and passed the time chatting with some fellow cyclists from the Seattle area. The one thing I really enjoy with bike camping, you always meet some cool people and they give you great advice on other routes!! The thing Marty and I have both noticed, is a definite increase in bike campers. As our ferry arrived, there must have been 35-50 cyclists walking off! I’ve never seen that many (other than races of course). It seems quite a few people set up camp on Lopez for a few nights and then island hop and day ride the others. Not a bad idea considering Lopez has the closest hiker/biker site from the ferry… Might try that some time. Though I think our next bike trip might be to Orcas, Obstruction Pass. All in all we only did 16 miles over two days, but it was nice to just take it easy.

We arrived back at Friday Harbor by 12:30, chilled out with a Moscow Mule and got back to work on boat chores. Fingers crossed, we’ll be sailing soon!!