Fall Color on Orcas Island and a Couple of Seals

Madrona trees in the fading sunlight along the bluff above Deer Harbor.
Madrona trees in the fading sunlight along the bluff above Deer Harbor.

October 2019

Orcas Island,

Salish Sea

An October family gathering at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island was met with three days of rain and about a half an hour of glorious sun on Saturday. For the most part, the heavy cloud cover muted the usually brighter fall colors but they were great anyway.

Getting to Orcas Island is always a pleasant trip. The ferry leaves from Anacortes and stops as Lopez and Shaw Islands before depositing  us on Orcas. The ride is about one hour total.

Although most of the color was the Big Leaf Maples, I was particularly attracted to the Madrone/Madrona (Arbutus menziesii) as they were shedding their red bark and exposing their yellow for the winter. Also they appeared to having a bumper crop of red berries this year.


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Big Leaf Maples at Orcas Landing


      The sun appeared briefly just before it went down and I grabbed my camera and took off
      to catch some of it on the trees. I was richly rewarded with the following series
      of photos taken along a path that overlooks Deer Harbor from a bluff above.


Madrona along bluff above Deer Harbor


Piece of peeled red Madrona bark.



More Madrona showing their skin colors


      As I noted above, most of the time there was cloudy and wet. But this makes for some interest as well.
      I think it shows the tree structure better against the grey sky.


Madrona against a grey drizzly sky


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View of Deer Harbor from our cabin deck. San Juan Island sits across the water on the left.


I did say there were seals

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A seal was out fishing and came by to check us out on the docks. This photo looks backs across the harbor to the bluff with the Madrona stand.

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This seal was successful having come up with a fish. The gulls were hoping for a free lunch but no such luck for them.



The view from atop Mt. Constitution.  Compare this to what it looks like from there when clear 



Color and clouds in East Sound


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A bumper crop of red Madrona berries., The tree was full of birds.


Last are a few photos of the ferry ride home

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Leaving Orcas island at Orcas Landing


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Shaw Island terminal with a bit of color


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Some pelagic Cormorants at the Shaw Is. dock.



Lopez Island terminal


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More Madronas from Lopez Is. to the right of the terminal.


So thanks for coming along on my little tour of the San Juan Islands on a wet October weekend. It was a good trip and we enjoyed the short excursion and the few minutes of sunlight.


  1. Love seeing the sunlight shinning on the madrona trees. As you know I’ve long wanted to add a madrona tree to our garden, but they prefer to grow on the edges of cliff in the San Juan Islands. So we enjoy visiting them.

  2. I hope the Moose people enjoy tagging along on our family trip to the islands, rain and all.
    I apologize for some of the format problems that cuts off some text at the left column. Perhaps JanF can give me a hint of how to fix that.

    • Thank you for this post! The fall colors here in south central and southeastern Wisconsin are the best I have seen in a long time – the maples are particularly stunning, almost dangerous as I keep gazing at them when I should be paying attention to the road!!

      (I see the problem html but my quick “fix” – simply removing it – made it worse so I put it back in and will look more closely at the code. An instruction related to columns telling WordPress to limit the width is making some assumptions about the columns that the Moose format is using. I want to make sure I understand what it is doing before I barge in!)

        • I can’t find it – it has to do with using a grid for the photos and my “degridding” only part of the post caused serious formatting issues, like wiping out the entire right hand column of the Moose! The problem text was simply not wrapping properly so I wrapped it manually by breaking after each line and inserting six spaces in front. My guess is that it will not look nice on any browser except the one I am using but at least the words are all there.

  3. It was a lovely visit. thank you for taking us along. My feet and hands would probably be loudly complaining if I were actually there, but should I ever get the opportunity I will chance it. {{{HUGS}}}

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