Updated: May 26, 2022
There are 172 named islands in the San Juan Islands, an archipelago nestled in the Salish Sea in the far northwest corner of Washington state. Out of those, only four islands are serviced by the Washington State Ferry system, meaning there are 168 islands that can only be seen, explored and enjoyed if you have a boat. Or know someone who has a boat.
We love exploring these outer islands, as they are called. Some are wild and are nature preserves, some have houses speckled across the shorelines, and some, like Yellow Island, are part of the Nature Conservancy with a beautiful history of native ecology and preservation.
We anchored just to the south of Yellow Island and skiffed in with our guests. We pulled our dinghy up on the pebble beach and began the circular walk around the island, stopping to see Indian Paintbrush and Chocolate Lilies, only two among the over 50 native wildflowers that have been carefully propagated. Halfway down the trail we met the caretaker, who I may think has one of the best jobs in existence: live in a beautiful cabin made of driftwood, do light gardening and talk to people when they arrive. Yes, occasionally this job is open to applicants. And yes, last time the Nature Conservancy got over 3,000 applications for the one opening. But hey, it's worth a shot.