Guemes Island is a 7-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, Washington. Twenty vehicles filled the open-deck vessel the sunny Saturday we set off to visit this tiny close neighbor. The ferry has a small passenger cabin, but I enjoyed walking between the cars, feeling the gentle breezes, and taking photos from the deck. This is a very different ride from the one most folks experience leaving Anacortes on one of the 800- to 2500-passenger ferries going to the San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island.
Approaching the other shore we were surprised to see bales of hay on a golden field next to the Anderson’s General Store/Gas Station. We’d thought to stop there to visit the little cafe, but it was closed; we’ve learned it’s soon to open with new management. We’ll try again another day. The fella who sold us our tickets ($12 round trip for two seniors and the car) said the General Store was closed right now and there was a resort with food available on the “other side” of the island.
Driving straight ahead from the ferry ramp we passed several small farms with outbuildings set on grassy fields. A bright yellow traffic sign with the graphic of a child on either end of a teeter-totter warned us to slow down, and soon we saw children playing tennis at Schoolhouse Park. There are said to be 605 people, 292 households, and 180 families on the island.
Small deciduous trees and tall evergreens framed our drive, and within just a few minutes we were at the North Shore area. We followed the road to the left and one of the public beaches was on our right with picturesque beach grasses, small boats, driftwood, and a lovely sky.
Small older homes, beach cottages, and newer homes were close to the road; some with lovely gardens and creative fences and art.
In another few minutes we turned right into the Guemes Island Resort and continued into a parking lot for Young’s Park. A sign informed us the whole island was the location of the Samish tribe’s traditional winter villages from about 1873. Because they lived near the only natural spring, they were forced off the island in 1912 by their white neighbor’s. Guemes was discovered by the Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza in 1791 and named for the Viceroy of Mexico.
There have been several name changes: “Lawrence Island” in honor of American naval officer James Lawrence who named Guemes Channel and “Hornet Harbor” in honor of the USS Hornet; the name changed again when a British captain reorganized the British Admiralty charts, putting aside the “pro-American” names and affirming pro-British and Spanish names.
The shape of the island has been construed as a dog drowning, and the “Dog Days of Summer Show (said to be a “howl” for all) is held annually in August at Schoolhouse Park. There is also a “Dog Island Run” to benefit the Guemes Island Library, last held in June of 2016. You will find many interesting aspects of the “dog island” nickname at Google’s “Images of Guemes (Dog) Island.” Geocaching locations are available at geocaching.com. The original reason for the island’s “dog island” name is said to be because of the extinct Salish Wool Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) developed by native peoples. The dog was said to resemble the Spitz and was used to create the “Salish blanket” used when there were no sheep available. Learn more about the “History of the Salish Wool Dog” at: dogknowledge.net/general-dog-info/dog-history/history-of-the-salish-wool-dog.php
We will be going back again–for the 7-minute ferry ride, the beaches the old farms, the quiet roads, and to try Dig’s kitchen–a food truck parked near the resort. Maybe this time we can also try the quaint General Store and see all it has to offer.
PS There are other “Dog Islands” in Florida and the Carribean.