A year ago I experienced my first Backroads Cycling Trip in Vermont. Deciding one trip was not enough, the Biking Belles chose another trip for 2016: the San Juan Islands in Washington state.
Backroads‘ formula for a fabulous biking adventure in cycling-friendly destinations held true for our trip:
lovely accommodations and
challenging at-your-own-pace cycling daily
in beautiful locales
with engaging guides. Backroads carefully selects experiences to acquaint you with the local culture, each one with a takeaway of useful and interesting tidbits of knowledge. I couldn’t wait to share the following morsels with you.
The highlight of our two-day stay on Orcas Island was a farm-to-table dinner
at Red Rabbit Farm.
on making Chevre in Phyllo Cups, our appetizer (the simple recipe follows at the end of the post).
Take two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. I was glad to learn that although the phyllo sheets might look crumbly and unusable when pulled from an existing package in the freezer, they’ll be perfectly serviceable with coats of butter. (If only melted butter fixed all of life’s other crumbly situations.) Next cut the phyllo sheets into 3″ squares and place them in a mini-muffin tin.
Drop a dollop of chèvre in each cup then top with a half-teaspoon of red pepper sauce.
As I gobbled up the tasty two-bite morsel, I resolved to make this easy and attractive appetizer post haste.
A whale-watching cruise from Orcas Island to San Juan Island checked another item off my bucket list. Billed as a wildlife watching excursion so as to set proper expectations – we weren’t watching a Sea World show after all – we crossed our fingers and brandished our cameras in hopes we’d get a glimpse.
The tell-tale spout signals the resurfacing of the humpback. As the whale exhales its breath, which is under tremendous pressure from being underwater for up to 30 minutes, the resulting spout extends up to 13 feet in the air.
Next the hump appears,
and finally the grand finale, the unmistakable tail.
(image from Wikipedia – whale-watching etiquette prohibits the boats from coming any closer than 200 yards to the whales)
Orcas (a/k/a killer whales), on the other hand, travel in pods, akin to an extended family.
Not named for Orcas Island, orcas are members of the dolphin family. The unique white mark on the dorsal fin identifies each named whale in the pod (three pods reside in the region: J, K and L). Orcas can live for a long time. Scientists believe Granny of the J pod was born in 1911, making her 105 years old.
We spotted Cookie, Double Stuff and Oreo with the help of the naturalist on board our excursion. Blessed with sightings of numerous orcas, seals, bald eagles and exotic wildlife on the smaller islands, the wildlife excursion exceeded our wildest expectations.
Kayaks and Kelp
Another exploration into local culture involved kayaks. Paddling out of picturesque Roche Harbor on San Juan Island,
we enjoyed a gorgeous day getting to know our vessels and adding new skills to our repertoire. None of us had used foot pedals to steer a kayak’s rudder, so those of us in the back had to engage our brains, feet and arms to steer and paddle, while those in front exercised great patience with the rookie skippers.
Moving farther into the harbor, our guides directed us into a bed of bullwhip kelp, a rather disgusting sight because the kelp resembled a bed of snakes.
When our guide directed us to reach into the water, pick up the kelp by the stalk, pull a frond out from the bulb and — TAKE A BITE — we looked at him like he had a Medusa head of kelp.
Shockingly the blades tasted like a salty green vegetable. Turns out, locals like to harvest, dry and pickle kelp for its nutritional properties. It makes a tasty snack, too!
- 2 sheets phyllo, defrosted
- 1 cup good quality chévre (goat cheese)
- ½ cup butter
- mini muffin tin
- Topping: ¾ cup red pepper jelly
- Beginning with two sheets of phyllo placed on top of each other, brush thoroughly with melted butter.
- Cut the phyllo sheets into 3" squares and placed them in the mini muffin tin.
- Place approximately one heaping teaspoon of chévre in each cup.
- Heat pepper jelly on stove, thinning with 1 tablespoon of water.
- Place approximately ½ teaspoon of diluted pepper jelly on top of each chévre pocket.
- Cook at 350 for 2 to 5 minutes. Watch closely as each oven is different.
Perhaps the best and most surprising souvenir of all from the trip was a timely reminder of America’s glorious natural resources and its diverse melting-pot culture. Given today’s political turmoil I think our citizenry could benefit from a walk in a park, a breezy bike ride or a hike through the woods to refocus on what’s right about our grand country!
October 13, 2016
p.s. Many thanks to the Biking Belles for sharing their pictures with me to use on this post.