A Fine New National Monument: Iceberg Point

David B crew member Christine Smith visits the new San Juan National Monument, Iceberg Point.

Iceberg Point

Christine Smith

President Obama recently declared Iceberg Point and about a thousand acres of land in the San Juan Islands a National Monument. This is great news for boating in the San Juan Islands. Besides protecting Iceberg Point, the designation also protects Watmough Bay, the Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island, Patos Island and several other places that boaters regularly visit—and where I recently enjoyed a great trail walk.

I’d been searching along the trail where the new spring grasses were growing. There was a certain flower I wanted to find. The rain was steady, but that just made the outing more fun. I soon spotted the brown and yellow bell shape of the chocolate lily. “Found it,” I said to the woman walking beside me. We talked for some time about how the natives used the plant’s corms as a starch, and how it was one of the plants collected by Lewis and Clark in 1806.

We moved along the trail and soon entered a tall stand of trees. Under the canopy of Douglas fir boughs, the rain filtered down to us in a light mist. I kept scanning the forest floor for one more special plant: the calypso orchid. In the reddish-brown humus, I found one. It stood only a few inches high and was easily lost among the dwarf dogwood and pine needles. The showy purple orchid with its checkered beard is one of my favorite native plants. We admired this often-overlooked beauty named after the Greek sea nymph.

Then we continued our walk and soon emerged at a rocky headland known as Iceberg Point. Here the trail and forest ended and a different environment presented itself. The low ground cover was dotted with the round pink blooms of sea blush. We walked to the edge of the headland, where the waters of Haro Strait meet Lopez Island. On the closest rock we spotted an oystercatcher prying with its long orange beak in the rockweed-covered crevices, and as we watched, a seal’s head broke the surface of the water. He watched us momentarily before tilting his head up, closing his nostrils and sliding back underwater.

Spring comes early in the Northwest. As I write, the chickadees, robins and juncos are already singing, and our daffodils are passing the torch to the tulips. Several of our friends have taken their boats to the San Juan Islands for extended weekends, and we will soon be on the water, too.

When I learned that the proposed San Juan Islands National Monument was signed into law, I was relieved to know that these special places would be forever protected, and that in the years to come I’ll be able to share the beauty of Iceberg Point and Watbough Bay with others.

Sealions on Whale Rock