Feature

Getting the flavor of ... The Northwest’s magical isle

Orcas Island, which lies just off the coast of Washington, is the largest of the 450 San Juan Islands.

The Northwest’s magical isleOrcas Island lies just off the coast of Washington state, yet it “feels worlds farther,” said Laura Kiniry in National Geographic Traveler. The “intrinsic beauty” of Orcas, the largest of the 450 San Juan Islands, is unmistakable no matter what time of year you visit. But come spring, the 57-square-mile island appears magical. As the “thin mist shrouding” its edges lifts, it seems as if the isle is waking from a “long winter nap.” Hikers, cyclists, and kayakers fill the “handful of streets” in Eastsound, the hub of the “horseshoe-shaped” island. There, they load up supplies before heading out for the day. Cyclists mount the “twisty roads” that lead to the summit of 2,400-foot Mount Constitution, while hikers are drawn to 1,500-foot Turtleback Mountain, which only opened to the public in 2007. At day’s end, everyone heads to Kingfish Inn for a pint of beer and unbeatable views of West Sound.Contact: Orcasislandchamber.com

California’s desert lifeSomething about Death Valley frees a person, said Jessica Gelt in the Los Angeles Times. After one particularly long week, I felt myself drawn to its vast open spaces, “quiet lack of inhibition,” and total lack of cell phone reception. I arrived at China Ranch, a date farm in the tiny town of Tecopa, Calif., after the sun had set. I got settled in one of the ranch’s teepees, but before turning in, I went outside to admire the “milky fan of shockingly bright stars” that hung in the desert sky. In the distance, coyotes howled at a pearly white new moon. The next morning, I stopped at one of the town’s famous mineral baths. The water was as “soft as silk,” and I wanted to stay there forever. On my way out of town, I dropped in for lunch at Pastels Bistro, a “lovely desert flower of a restaurant.” I devoured their divine banana cheesecake, then took my time returning to real life.Contact: Tecopaca.com

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