Author Topic: San Juan Islands - what's to like?  (Read 646 times)

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Offline neil

San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« on: September 12, 2018, 02:53:10 am »
OK, I'm from England, but have cycled and led groups for over a year in the States. There are many many places I've enjoyed and would return. I've also had the good fortune to cycle maybe 60 countries around the world.
but....
San Juan Islands??
San Juan itself was a disappointment. There are a few State Parks with beach and coastal access, a stretch of maybe 1/2 mile where the island has bought the coast. The rest is all trees and rooftops and fences of folks who have staked out their piece of land with all sorts of signage. It was pretty dull
Lopez was better, at least you could see a bit more coast
Orcas, up the middle, no shoulder, through farmland, saved only by a great climb up o Mount Constitution.

The area has been described as in the best 50 places to cycle, whoever coined that hasn't been very far in my opinion, Montana for example is far better

As a group we have spent 3 weeks cycling Seattle to Vancouver. In my honest opinion the process of people buying up coastal land, erecting high fences or hedges and stealing the views is seemingly everywhere. Combined with lots of Douglas Firs has in my opinion spoilt an area that should be great for cycling. I take maybe 40 images a day, on several days I took 1 maybe 2 that's how dull it was.

A few months ago there was a great article in Adventure cycling where the hyperbole of touristic prose was questioned, simply saying 'we were disappointed' We need more journalism like that because time is short and we need honesty to choose the best places

   

« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 03:03:15 am by neil »

Offline John Nettles

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2018, 04:09:20 am »
I agree with the vast majority of what you say.  It was mostly like this the last time I rode this back in 2001 but with a lot less houses I would guess compared to today.  From 1987 to 2001 it had not "developed" that much but, to me, was a bit boring.
I would say one of the appeals is the lack of much traffic.  Both times I was there, a car passed less than a dozen times over a few days so that was quite nice.
If you have not ridden it, the Icefields Highway from Jasper to Banff is, to me, probably the best road I have had in my 40 years & at least 50k miles of touring.
Best, John
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline jamawani

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2018, 09:19:12 am »
Dear Neil -

You say you're from England, eh?

I am sorry if the natives did not make sufficient preparation for your arrival.
The initial road network was probably laid out for farmers to bring their produce to market.
Rather than hug the coastline, the roads were built across the islands on direct and cheaper routes.
And although many of the islands have been logged, deep forests are natural to the Pacific Northwest.
I regret that the logging companies failed to remove all of the trees - esp. those blocking the view.

May I suggest a scenic tour of Blackpool & Margate?

Offline neil

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2018, 10:34:17 am »
Which is just the type of touristic hyperbole that forums/magazines/tourist information sites promote.
Ice field Parkway is a fabulous ride, as is Yellowstone, yes lots of trees but a bit of wildlife to liven it up. New England has trees, but also has the occasional covered bridge and beautiful villages to liven it up. The outer Banks has miles of lovely beaches with Jamestown on the end. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts are lovely rides. (Yes done those and would repeat)
I guess you're a local or don't want negatives about an area. I had a similar response when from a local when I said that New Zealand had drivers that needed attention and strong Southerly winds.
Never mind you may get the place to yourself  ;)
   Neil

Offline jamawani

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2018, 11:29:03 am »
Neil -

One of the criticisms that I have about my own favorite avocation - bicycle touring - is the all-too-frequent view that the shape of the world ought to be molded to our expectations as cyclists. I do agree that automobiles reign supreme in the U.S. and Canada and that places like Yellowstone and Yosemite are swamped with traffic, but I recognize that is how most Americans and foreign tourists visit these places. Similarly, shoreline properties - whether in the San Juan Islands or along Lake Huron - are increasingly developed, often with "No Trespassing" signs galore.

When I tour I try to learn about the places I visit. I am, after all, a visitor. Although the San Juans are generally affluent, other places - especially the remote, scenic places - are often struggling. In the latter case, for me to have the luxury of riding a bicycle for 3 months is something that locals cannot imagine and may actually resent. I am reminded of a disparaging comment a cyclist made about a c-store clerk in western Kansas who had never traveled beyond Wichita. That cyclist had no clue about his own privilege.

Similarly, the San Juans have their own history and challenges. Up until the 1970s, they were a backwater - farming and fishing - but unable to compete with larger operations on the mainland. Then they were "discovered" by affluent and not-so-affluent people from the Seattle metro and places more distant. Within a decade they were swamped throughout the summer - mercifully empty in the winter. People who owned land did sell - for what they thought were fabulous prices that have only escalated further. You are simply one of the millions who go to the San Juans. That is the reality when you get on board the ferry - whether by car, by foot, or by bicycle.

Scenic spots near large metro areas have experienced mixed blessings over the past 50 years. Interstate 70 is a parking lot on Friday afternoons in summer and winter as Denverites head out to the mountains. Communities like Breckenridge and Vail are unrecognizable - with service workers and poorer residents priced out of housing. The same applies to the near-countryside of London. The realitiies of the San Juan Islands are far more complex than you appear to want to understand. Are you aware that poorer families who had lived in the San Juans for generations have been forced out long ago? Are you aware of the trash and human waste that these small islands have to deal with each summer? I don't think so.

https://www.sanjuanco.com/DocumentCenter/View/15767/06042018-Final-San-Juan-Islands-Visitor-Study-June-2018-with-cover?bidId=

BTW - I am not a resident of the San Juans, although I have friends who have lived on the islands. I have done research in Cathlamet, Washington - a small, struggling community on the Columbia river far fro the San Juans. But I live in Wyoming. I would strongly urge you to look at more than the scenery on your next tour.

Offline neil

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2018, 01:35:53 am »
Quite some response.
I have my opinion and you have yours, but to personalise it so much? You have no idea of my experience, education, lifestyle or upbringing. I could be the son of a multimillionaire, I could be from a working class background who has seen the effects of influx of capital, rise of house prices and alteration in demographics.

Your interesting opener confirms much that I experienced, the gentrification of coastal communities which happens to be where the cycling is which does affect the experience and so yes the San Juan Islands have changed, as have many Gulf Islands if you talk to the locals as I have.
Dig a little deeper you say. Interesting comment. So my conversation with the lady who sold organic plums and came from Cheltenham, my chat with a Romanian summer worker about the American healthcare system, or with the Inn worker about the price of food and buy local, all this was for nothing then.

 

Offline jamawani

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2018, 11:37:39 am »
This is my favorite:

"Combined with lots of Douglas Firs has in my opinion spoilt an area that should be great for cycling."

As I stated earlier, the sole purpose of the San Juan Islands is not cycling.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2018, 11:39:58 am »
The area has been described as in the best 50 places to cycle, whoever coined that hasn't been very far in my opinion, Montana for example is far better

...

A few months ago there was a great article in Adventure cycling where the hyperbole of touristic prose was questioned, simply saying 'we were disappointed' We need more journalism like that because time is short and we need honesty to choose the best places

I, for one, have to agree with Neil's point on travel writers' hyperbole.  Perhaps the title/subtitle of the article should have been, "50 Best Places to Cycle/Out of the 54 Places I've Actually Been."  Unlike some, I can't claim to have biked half the roads in my own state, much less larger areas of the country, so I rely on recommendations from other people to decide where I want to vacation.

To be fair, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I love riding the Blue Ridge Parkway, but at least one person described it as "a bunch of pine trees and rhododendron."  Likewise, a well-traveled cycle tourist rode the Great Plains from Texas to the Canadian border; I'd have been looking for an insane asylum to escape the boredom by the time I got to Nebraska if I'd tried that trip.  In that vein, I found just reading jamawami's description of the creeping gentrification of the San Juan's depressing.

It does make me wonder, though.  Several companies operate San Juan bicycle tours; why?  Is it simply lower-traffic roads, close to major metropolitan areas, and they're selling more-or-less supported tours to a local, inexperienced clientele?

Offline John Nettles

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2018, 11:50:56 am »
It does make me wonder, though.  Several companies operate San Juan bicycle tours; why?  Is it simply lower-traffic roads, close to major metropolitan areas, and they're selling more-or-less supported tours to a local, inexperienced clientele?
I would guess this is the primary reason it is popular.  I would only omit the word local from "local, inexperienced clientele".  While no one has said the Juan Sans are SOLELY for cycling, it is a popular destination because of what you stated.

I too would like to see less trees along "scenic" rivers, coasts, mountain passes, etc. so I can acually see the thing that is scenic.  Not saying we should clear cut all the trees but an occasional clearing/turnout would be nice so we can actually see the scenery instead of trees only.  That is sort of why I do not love rail trails as they tend to be tree tunnels where you can't see anything other than the trail and trees.  Don't get me wrong, I love trees but I also like stuff other than trees and do not have an issue to gently modify the landscape to better see things.
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline neil

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2018, 01:30:32 am »
This is my favorite:

"Combined with lots of Douglas Firs has in my opinion spoilt an area that should be great for cycling."

As I stated earlier, the sole purpose of the San Juan Islands is not cycling.
But it's not natural is it?
There are old standings, particularly in the Olympic Range, but timber harvesting has encouraged a monospecies (ref https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudotsuga_menziesii_var._menziesii - a piece from this ..... 'The logging practices of the last 200 years created artificial disturbances that allowed Douglas-fir to thrive. The Douglas-fir's useful wood and its quick growth make it the crop of choice for many timber companies, which typically replant a clear-cut area with Douglas-fir seedlings.'
In effect what we are looking at isn't natural, it's man made

In the UK, cycle routes are cleared in part on either side to provide wildlife corridors, and a better degree of biodiversity. The upshot is that we retain the views in part, it's a win win position.
 
   Neil

Offline jamawani

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2018, 08:58:16 am »
The days are long over when forests were cut down to provide views for the touring public.
That was the case with mid-20th century national parks - esp. the Blue Ridge Parkway.

And, no. The Douglas Fir is natural to the ecology of the Pacific Northwest.
Although it is a first succession tree species, it is native, not invasive.
Moreover, it provides a food source and shelter to numerous species - incl. the spotted owl.

Further, most of the land on the San Juan Islands is privately held.
There is about a .001% chance landholders would consent to any cutting.

I have always enjoyed my time riding in the San Juans.

Offline John Nettles

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2018, 09:25:40 am »
Jamawani (John),
Your points do not change my OPINION.  You recently have been trying to make people's opinions as facts and that is not always the case.  The USFS (or whomever) may have changed policy about turnouts & view points but that doesn't mean I (and others) like the new policy.  I agree about the chances of cutting in the San Juans.

To me, humans are more important than animals push come to shove.  However, humans do need to greatly improve our stewardship of the planet.
You started this pissing contest by replying with a snarky comment to Neil's OPINION.  Neil stated his opinion why he thought the San Juans are over-rated, not stating as fact how the San Juans became what they are.  Another example, I don't like riding in pot-hole riddled chip sealed roads but my reasons have nothing at all to do with WHY or HOW the roads became pot-hole riddled chip sealed roads. 

You seem to be trying to make a person's opinions as facts that may (or may not) be correct.

Sometimes you just have to agree to have different opinions.  You do not have to like their opinion, just accept the other person has a different one.
John, I have known you for over a decade between here, CGOAB, etc., and you have always been a knowledgeable, well-reasoned, and caring person.  However, I have noticed you have become more argumentative (versus just stating the facts like you used to and let others make their own decisions) and bitter over the past couple of years.  I hope you return to your former ways.  Best, John
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline jamawani

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2018, 10:04:17 am »
Snarky language, perhaps - but not vulgar.

I grew up in Puerto Rico - and although not native Puerto Rican - I feel Puerto Rican.
One thing that used to always gall us about American tourists
was when they complained about Puerto Ricans not speaking English.
The typical ugly American asking, "How do you get to Ponce?" - -
And when the Puerto Rican person does not understand, simply yelling it out louder.
Nowhere have I seen a requirement that everybody in the world must speak English.
But far too many Americans (and Brits, too?) travel with such a mindset.

I am an environmental historian with considerable cycling experience.
Increasingly, tourism is seen as a consumptive industry - not unlike mining or logging.
And increasingly, hard-hit tourists areas - like Barcelona - are seeking to reduce tourism.

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/barcelona-locals-hate-tourists-why-reasons-spain-protests-arran-airbnb-locals-attacks-graffiti-a7883021.html

Bicycle tourers are tourists - often trying to stealth camp if you've read the many threads about it.
(Or they need to have a place to park their cars for a month.)
Increasingly, if communities are going to be swamped with tourists, they want the ones with lots of money.
In today's info age, even if I am from France I should realize that Aspen, Sedona, or the San Juans are "destinations".

I have no problem with someone saying that they didn't enjoy riding in the San Juans.
But I do disagree and will disagree when someone says -

"San Juan itself was a disappointment. There are a few State Parks with beach and coastal access, a stretch of maybe 1/2 mile where the island has bought the coast. The rest is all trees and rooftops and fences of folks who have staked out their piece of land with all sorts of signage. It was pretty dull"

And

"In my honest opinion the process of people buying up coastal land, erecting high fences or hedges and stealing the views is seemingly everywhere. Combined with lots of Douglas Firs has in my opinion spoilt an area that should be great for cycling."

Neil is acting very much the way American tourists acted when I was growing up in Puerto Rico.
The San Juans are a small, somewhat rural enclave in a huge metropolitan region.
They are not a national park or a few communities out in the High Plains of Montana.
In Neil's original post and in his follow-ups he seems to have an ax to grind with landowners.
I would counter that landowners on the San Juans are pretty darn tolerant of the swarms of tourists.
And I would suspect that they tolerate a significant amount of litter, noise, and trespass, too.

You may have your opinion and I have mine.
It is not a p------ match - it is a disagreement.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 10:42:09 am by jamawani »

Offline PNWRider92

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2018, 04:33:10 pm »
Everything.... The San Juans are one the most beautiful place in the country in my opinion. A friend owns a home on Vashon (not part of the San Juans but a short distance away) and have spent a lot of time cycling up there.

Therefore why opinions are great, everyone is entitled to his/her own.
Instagram: Portland_2_Portland

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: San Juan Islands - what's to like?
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2018, 11:21:32 pm »
Everything.... The San Juans are one the most beautiful place in the country in my opinion. A friend owns a home on Vashon (not part of the San Juans but a short distance away) and have spent a lot of time cycling up there.

PNWRider92, could you explain why you think it's beautiful and why you like cycling there?  Is the cycling beautiful, or is it the friend's home that makes you like the area?  (IOW, would you like it so much without a landing pad there?)