Given that our team works all the islands in the San Juan archipelago, we are often on the inter-island ferry. Sometimes when showing property on one of the outer islands, we pause to ponder just how extraordinary this commute really is, yet how very typical of island life. We view this commute as a mini road trip – an adventure!
When you live and work in these dreamy green islands, the inter-island ferry really can be a fun thing and especially in the off season. There are many familiar faces and actually, most of us know each other as we often ride this boat for work.
Once boarded and underway, one by one, we make our way upstairs to the passenger deck where groups of islanders are discussing the topic of the day and solo riders are engrossed with their laptops or reading or just staring at the breathtaking scenery that we never quite seem to take for granted. There are jigsaw puzzles for our entertainment pleasure and indeed, many become obsessed with these going back to them over and over to do just one more piece of the puzzle. There are women in the ladies room applying make-up and sometimes even drying their hair. Every so often there are scheduled meetings in progress as this is an efficient manner in which to gather participants from all the islands in one central location.
On a recent trip from Lopez back to Friday Harbor at the end of the day, one of our team members had reason to return a call to a client in southern California while gliding by Flat Point. The client was sitting in traffic on I-5 in Los Angeles grumbling about the congestion. Our team member almost felt guilty when explaining that she was commuting by ferry on a dazzling Winter day…
Lopez Island is truly a magical place, eliciting in many an almost ethereal response to its sheer beauty, its substance, and its peace. It is a different way of life: the pace is slower, the world quieter, the people approachable. Many from near and far have discovered Lopez and found it irresistible.
A rural patchwork quilt of fields and pastures, interrupted by sections of velvety forest rolling down to the edge of the sea, with its quiet pace, reminiscent of days gone by, Lopez boasts a well-developed sense of community. To understand the present, you need to understand the past – understand the island’s history.
In the beginning, Northwest Coastal Indians spent Winters in cedar-planked loghouses and used the warmer months for hunting, fishing, and cultivating/gathering plants. Later people came to Lopez for a variety of reasons – prospectors returning from various gold rushes and passing through the islands, relatives and friends of residents, respondents to advertising – those hoping for a better life.
As people moved to the islands, three main communities formed: Port Stanley, Richardson, and Lopez Village. These communities all boasted steamer service, a store, and a post office. A smaller area known as Mud Bay also had a post office and a school. People were, by necessity, self-sufficient. Survival depended upon community; they bartered and shared. And now, as then, the best way to make a living on Lopez is to wrest it from the land or from the sea.
The story of Lopez is the story of community. Living self-reliant lives while helping friends, neighbors, and newcomers. Lopezians created a unique community character that abides today. It is this which has shaped the island’s history, far more powerfully and significantly than we may realize. The island continues to echo those early times.