When the producers of Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home were casting for the roles of coastal marine patrollers, they didn't look to the scores of hopeful actors in Hollywood, opting instead to find boating professionals with real experience. Their search led them to Orcas Island Eclipse Charters founders Dan and Denise Wilk, whose extensive knowledge of aquatic wildlife made them a serendipitous choice for sharing the camera with Hollywood's most famous orca.
Aboard their 56-foot vessel, Dan and Denise continue to share the passion that led them to the big screen in the first place. Their enthusiasm shines through to passengers while they guide tours into the habitats of killer whales and harbor seals. Occasionally, expert guides direct passengers to look up from the water to spot deer on nearby land or bald eagles soaring through the sky above. When asked how they happen upon so many natural specimens on their trips, Dan and Denise would tell you they don't leave their tours up to chance, coordinating excursions with a whale-watching service that pinpoints where the underwater mammals are feeding.
The tenure of US Coast Guard–certified Captain Brett as captain of the Island Whaler began as a dream. In the course of nine months, he had a recurring dream about an unusual flatbed boat, which replaced his normal dreams about beating up Napoleon with Horatio Hornblower. More than a year after the visions stopped, Brett discovered his fantasy boat sitting in a parking lot in Anacortes. He now owns that boat and pilots the open-topped Island Whaler through picturesque waters to view the multitudinous wildlife found in and around Deception Pass.
The open deck and low-slung cabin of the seafaring sloop grants easy, panoramic views of the steep, rocky landscape. Captain Brett chimes in against the breeze with educational details about the pass's historical significance, structures, and ecology. Throughout the tours, spritely fauna with unevolved senses of stage fright perform lively, natural ballets as visitors potentially lock eyes with bald eagles, seals, porpoises, gray whales, and Pacific Northwest giant squid.
Half a century ago, Orcas Island Golf Course was carved out of a 54-acre estate homestead from the 1800s, rendering a nine-hole course whose contours take advantage of the area’s gently rolling hills and natural water hazards. When developers began salivating over the scenic stretch of land five years ago, local contractor and golfer Kendall Taylor swooped in and saved the course from being transformed into a holding facility for wayward cereal-box mascots, and he has maintained it through the present day with the help of his wife and children. Covered in astoria bent grass, the course boasts a bucolic atmosphere that echoes the traditional fairways and greens of Scotland. Golfers can tackle the course from a choice of four tee stations, looping through twice for a satisfying 18-hole journey, or hone their skills at a driving range. Course at a Glance: * Nine-hole course * Length of 3,010 yards * Course rating of 67.8 * Slope rating of 115 * Four tee options * Link to scorecard
The veteran athletes at Peregrine Expeditions nurture their already intimate relationships with Mother Nature during skiing and climbing excursions into the icy peaks of Mount Baker or jagged rock faces of Mount Erie. Backcountry skiing courses hone snow-skimming techniques, and intense skiing tours toe the border between the United States and Canada on two-day treks that embark each morning from a hut at base camp. Adrenaline junkies foray into Forbidden Peak for two or three days, conquering the ins and outs of navigating ice, performing mountaintop rescues, and backpacking in challenging conditions. Kid-specific expeditions tone tiny muscles and teach bird calls used to ask eagles the way to the nearest latrine as youngsters grouped by age engage in courses that span one to five days.
Through its Monroe Service Dog Partnership, Summit Assistance Dogs recruits inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex to help increase its capacity to train service dogs. After being taught extensively in the art of animal training, carefully screened and supervised inmates work in pairs during two months of dog training, during which they help to groom, exercise, and train dogs from shelters, all the while evaluating the animals’ progress and temperament. In turn, the participating inmates get an opportunity to serve the community, take on new responsibilities, and earn incentives for good behavior. Summit Assistance Dogs funds training staff and prison administration time, as well as training equipment and treats for the dogs.
Orcas Island Trail Rides’ equine adventures lead beginning as well as veteran horsemen through mountainous terrain and old-growth forests in the depths of Orcas Island’s hinterlands. Donning long pants and sensible shoes, riders take in lush woods, verdant pastures, and rocky bluffs while atop one of nine amiable steeds. The South Arch Trail winds around craggy turf, thrilling riders with steep, narrow inclines and dive-bombing squirrels. A popular choice, the South Boundary Trail follows a similarly rugged path, though an extra hour is tacked on to drink in breathtaking views. The Island View trail carts riders to the peak of Mount Pickett, where panoramic bay scenes and photogenic mermen await. For safety, helmets are available on loan free of charge.