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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Is Lopez Island paradise? We think so

Imagine a place so friendly that the residents take pride in waving hello to everyone, including complete strangers.

A place so trusting that cash is left out at roadside farm stands -- why? So people can make their own change if they’re buying something, of course.

Add to these idyllic images a place so beautiful that it feels like fairies and elves live amid the dense, mossy forest.

It’s real. This is what life is like on Lopez Island.

The first night we spent on Lopez Island in early May, we locked up our bikes because -- hey -- it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? Turns out we needn’t have worried.

“Nobody locks up anything here,” said our fellow camp host at Spencer Spit State Park, where we’ve been volunteering for the month of May.

Of all the San Juan Islands in Washington, Lopez is the most laid back. This place takes “island time” to a new level, where nobody’s in a huge hurry and everyone seems to get along and support each other.

Riding a bike along the island’s low-traffic roads is a dream. Drivers are courteous and careful — that’s if you see any cars at all. And if you do see another islander driving along, be ready to wave hello. Everyone takes the island’s motto — “The Friendly Isle” — to heart.

We’ve even made some wonderful connections. John scored a long-term kayak rental from Outdoors Adventures, the friendly business that supplies campers with bikes and boats at Spencer Spit State Park. Leslie has met countless farmers, producers and chefs on the island.

Sometimes, we wonder how we got so lucky to land in this magical spot.

We recently got a different view of San Juan Island life when we spent two days in the “big city” of Friday Harbor, walking on the inter-island ferry with our bikes. We had nice meals around town, stopped in for a beer at San Juan Island Brewing  and had a lovely stay at Friday Harbor House, where the knockout views made it tempting to never leave the room.

While it was nice to be in a place with lots of activity, we found ourselves thinking about getting back to the simple life on Lopez Island, where instead of vacation condos, we have a lovely state park in the middle of a pretty forest, and the locals are progressive and friendly.

Our stay has been downright dreamy. Some days, in between the increasingly busy weekends, we’ve had the park completely to ourselves, and it’s a quiet, beautiful place where we swear we’ve actually heard those fairies and elves talking amongst themselves in the mossy forest.

As confirmed RVers, we’re embraced life on the road over the last few years. This new chapter shows us the road trip journey can hit pause and include a quiet detour to a corner of the state that most people never get to experience. (Maybe we’re blowing it by telling everyone!)

Best of all, we are serving one of Washington’s nicest state parks in a meaningful way, which is rewarding. And it doesn’t hurt that we get to plug into a pretty site in exchange for our sweat equity.

As our time winds down here, we’re really hoping to get back for a second helping as camp hosts next summer. Come see us and check out the Lopez magic for yourself.



Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.