Exploring The San Juan Islands by Sea and Air
Inside the Seattle Therm-a-Rest factory and out to Orcas Island to camp and kayak
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago between the mainland of Washington state and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. As such, it's one of the more beautiful and untouched ecosystems within a hundred miles or so of dense population. The San Juans boast the highest population of Bald Eagles in the US, are legendary for wale watching, and host 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. And in early July we 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.
Cascade Designs (parent company of Therm-a-Rest, MSR, Platypus, PackTowl, E-Case, SealLine) holds their headquarters in Seattle’s industrial SoDo neighborhood. Here 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. But as we learned, the reigning champion of air and foam mattresses is now interested in supplying a holistic 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. But we won’t bore you with that news now—though there are some really great products coming this fall/winter—stay tuned for more gear news and reviews as the summer rolls on. Until then, flip through the images above and try and wrap your head around the fact that a pod of transient orcas decided to swim within an arms reach of us simply to say hello.
additional photography by Hans Aschim