We Travel Through History: English/American Camp

It was our fifth day on San Juan Island and the rain from the previous day had finally stopped! That meant that it was time to explore English/American Camp National Park that we had stopped by the first day in order to pick up my Junior Ranger booklet.

The park is named English Camp and American Camp due to disagreements over a water boundary by both American and British troops in 1859. Both troops decided on joint occupation of San Juan Island until the disagreement was solved, and so it was decided that the two camps would be placed on opposite ends of the island.

There is so much history behind this park that I cannot do the entire story justice! We spent most of our time at English Camp just trying to get all of the historical aspects straight. We even got to  watch a ten minute video about the history of these two camps (as it was a required video to watch according to my Junior Ranger packet). I will, of course, include a link to the National Park’s website down below so that any history buffs can read all about the dispute between the United States of America and Great Britain in the San Juan Islands.

After watching the video, we hiked out onto the actual camp ground of the British troops on the English Camp side. Some of the buildings that were built here in 1859 are still standing, although you cannot actually walk inside any of them. Some buildings, though, such as the hospital, have windows that you can peek into and see an example of what the inside of the hospital looked like during British occupation of the island. Another building that was still standing was the dry storage building to house grains and feed. However, this building was also used by British troops as a secret hideout to watch the shore across the way in order to keep an eye out for approaching American ships. There were also a few buildings that would have been officers’ quarters, and an example of what a farm would have looked like when the camp was occupied in order to provide for the entire little “town” in 1859.

We spent a lot of time wandering around English/American Camp in order for me to complete my entire Junior Ranger program! There was a bingo game that required me to cross off squares once I saw a specific building, landmark, or creature; a spot for me to draw my depiction of the history behind the camps; a page where I had to write down what I learned from the short video; and a place for me to keep track of all of the different sounds, smells, and sights that I experienced throughout my day at the park.

With all of that done, I was able to earn my Junior Ranger badge, which is now proudly displayed in my room at home, along with all of my other badges! I already mentioned this, but I believe that participating in the Junior Ranger program is always worth it, if only because this program allows you to take in your surroundings and gain more knowledge as you visit National Parks across the country.

Since it was a beautiful day outside, we decided to head back to South Beach! While the water was still freezing cold, it was much better than our first day on the island since the weather was so much nicer. After spending over two hours at the beach, I am pretty sure that we are all rock-skipping legends!


Skipping rocks on South Beach

After South Beach, we went back again to the Lime Kiln lighthouse too, in order to watch the sunset. It was this night that we actually had the opportunity to see porpoises out in the water! Unfortunately, we never did get to see Orca whales during our time on San Juan Island, but it was crazy cool to see an entire pod of porpoise swim by! I have never seen anything like that before.

As I mentioned in my post about our first day on the island, the Lime Kiln lighthouse is in the best place possible to take some gorgeous pictures, and with the sunset behind it, it was even more picturesque (if you can believe it). We spent a long time just sitting in a little niche in the rocks taking pictures, time lapse videos, and just enjoying the amazing view.


While we were watching the sun continue to set, my friend told us that there was another beach along a little trail behind Lime Kiln, so we decided to head down that trail to find Dead Men’s Bay (which, unfortunately, holds no remnants of ship wrecks or pirate’s booty. It sure sounds like it would though). At this point, I should just tell you that if you’re heading to a beach on San Juan Island, you should be wearing tennis shoes, because the ground is completely covered in rocks. Also, tennis shoes are once again way better to climb out on rocks with, and they also perform better on a dirt trail with than flip flops do. One of my flip flops actually got stuck in the ground on the way back up the trail that night after getting it wet. There was just danger everywhere!

Dead Men’s Bay was similar to South Beach, so of course, we had to wade out into the water and find some smooth rocks to skip. By the time we got to the bay, the sun had almost set completely, so we just about froze our feet off! But we did get some more rock-skipping in before it was so dark that we really had to hoof it back to the house.

Our fifth day was full of crazy adventures, which is what San Juan is all about! We got to hike around and learn about the island’s history at English/American Camp, I earned myself a Junior Ranger badge, and we got to skip rocks at South Beach and Dead Men’s Bay while experiencing the sunset and porpoise at Lime Kiln! What an amazing end to an even better day.

I hope you had as much reading this post as I had writing it. If you did…

Don’t Forget to Make It Meghan!



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