Exploring Washington's Pristine Orcas Island by Sea and Air

The perfect weekend of camping and sea kayaking in the San Juans, plus a tour of Seattle's Therm-a-Rest factory

Exploring Washington's Pristine Orcas Island by Sea and Air

Author

Graham Hiemstra

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Canon 5D MKii, iPhone 6s

Film

Moment Wide + Tele Lenses

An archipelago between the mainland of Washington state and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, the San Juan Islands are easily one of the more beautiful and untouched ecosystems within a hundred miles or so of dense population. The island chain boasts the highest population of bald eagles in the US, is legendary for whale watching, and hosts a range of small communities of both trustafarian farmers living off the land and weirdo locals who've rarely left the islands they were born onto.

It's a beautiful place in every sense of the word. We recently had the opportunity to take in the region by float plane and then explore by kayak, SUP, and on foot. On Orcas Island we tasted local flavors of oyster, sea run salmon, and even aging hippy at a clothing-optional hot spring. But not before a day of details and information at the Therm-a-Rest factory back on the mainland.

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Cascade Designs (parent company of Therm-a-Rest, MSR, Platypus, PackTowl, E-Case, SealLine) holds their headquarters in Seattle’s industrial SoDo neighborhood. There they manufacture most all Therm-a-Rest mattress and pillow products, from the iconic Z Light closed cell pad to the tech-heavy yet ultra lightweight NeoAir mattress.

The reigning champion of air and foam mattresses is now interested in supplying a total camp experience, from sleep to shelter, and the purpose of our trip expanded from focusing on new sleeping pads and bags to testing hammocks, camp chairs, and a whole new tent lineup focused on the increasingly popular car camping market.

We’ll spare you the product details for now—though there are some really great products in the lineup—and instead simply say, if you ever get the chance to visit Orcas Island, do it. Who knows, you might luck out and have a pod of transient orcas decide to swim within an arms reach of you simply to say hello, like we did.

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Exploring Washington's Pristine Orcas Island by Sea and Air

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Canon 5D MKii, iPhone 6s

Film

Moment Wide + Tele Lenses

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