I’m sitting outside in the wee hours because I can’t bear to go to bed and miss a moment of this night. The air is cool—no, frigid—but the balcony is heated, and I’m holding a warming glass of red wine, Lance beside me and our son asleep in the hotel suite behind us.
And what I hear is … nothing. It’s a silence unlike any I’ve ever experienced, the most peaceful stillness I can possibly put into words. It folds out endlessly, so thick it very nearly has weight. Even the water directly in front of us is quiet, no soft lapping of waves against the shore. How is it possible for a body of water this big to not make noise? It’s as if God himself has stilled the sound, knowing just how badly we need this night, this time out from the cacophony of life to enjoy the vast beauty He’s created here.
A car’s engine eventually breaks the impossible silence – even more impossible that it takes a full 10 minutes for the headlights to follow the sound. That’s how quiet it is: we can hear the purr of a single engine from several miles away. I paint this verbal picture because it, more than anything, tells the story for me of what it’s like to spend a night at Outlook Inn on Orcas Island, Washington.
We found ourselves at Outlook Inn because of me. Because 10 years earlier, we’d zipped into the San Juan Islands (as fast as you can “zip” on a massive ferry) for a quick day trip that was just enough to whet my palate, but not enough to satisfy my hunger for this place. I’d been wanting to go back and spend more time in the islands ever since, and so when we planned a family trip to the Pacific Northwest over our son’s fall break, I insisted – insisted, even though it wrecked my uber-organized, trip planning extraordinaire husband’s itinerary and made the logistics of our trip far more complicated – that we squeeze a visit to the San Juans between our stints in Seattle and Vancouver.
I think he’ll admit now that it was the right call. We arrived at Outlook Inn after waking up in Mukilteo, Washington, driving to Anacortes to catch the same ferry line we’d traveled 10 years earlier, and staying on board a little bit father until we reached Orcas. This time we had a car, so travel to the hotel on the winding road that encircles the island was a breeze – for me at least, though maybe not for Lance, because every few minutes I’d ask him to stop the car so I could snap another picture of another mind-boggling view.
You’re welcome for that, by the way:
During check-in, our son explored and ran and danced and made his customary explosion of sound while I ducked into the hotel gift shop. I spent more time there than expected because the shop carries a well-edited selection of unique local products, not your standard hotel lobby stock. I thumbed through a book I regret leaving behind and admired some adorable throw pillows. And then we were checked in, and it was time to head to our room.
Entering a guest room at a unique property is always a fun, anticipation-filled experience, because you never know what you’ll find behind the door. As soon as we entered our suite, I remember thinking it was a terrible shame we were only on the island for one night, because I could easily have spent a week lounging in front of the fireplace, bathing in the luxurious tub, sleeping in what turned out to be one of the softest beds I’ve ever experienced and, of course, sitting on that balcony overlooking the sound until the wee, silent hours of Every Single Morning.
The décor of the room mirrored the vibe of the island – laid back and welcoming and effortlessly charming. The bathroom had a nebulous Victorian quality, all tile and glass and chrome, with antique-y fixtures and little luxuries like a heated towel rack and curtained, mirrored tub. The sunny yellow décor was intentional, I’m sure, to combat the shroud-like island cloud cover and the gray haze that hangs above Orcas three quarters of the year and probably at least that much of every day. We enjoyed a few hours of brilliant sunshine during our stay on the island, another treat and the only natural phenomenon that could possibly rival that beautiful, breathtaking nighttime silence.
The room itself was bi-level, with the bedroom a couple steps above a sunken living room with a pull-out couch, a fireplace and a corner table and chairs where we ate our take-out fish and chips from a dive bar up the street (food on the island is fabulous, by the way). TV reception wasn’t great, but honestly, who wants to watch TV in a place like this, especially when you’re only here for one day? We did have wireless access on the property, but again, I didn’t waste much precious time staring at my phone’s screen while at Outlook Inn.
We’re night owls, so we chose to enjoy the balcony (on the south side of the property so it looked out onto the hotel’s impressive water view – hence the name, Outlook Inn) well after sunset, and because of that we didn’t catch the sunrise. However, when we woke around 8 a.m., we were greeted with this view, better than any sunrise I’ve yet witnessed:
The only problem with our stay at Outlook Inn? Duh. It was too short! If our first visit to the San Juan Islands was the appetizer, this trip was the first course. I want to go back for the main entrée, the dessert, the after-dinner drink. It might take a long, long time and many trips over the course of a lifetime for me to get my fill of this amazing place.