Is it a van or is it a rollercoaster?

Getting to Blakely Island by boat is only half of the adventure of getting to the SPU field station.

After spending some time on the water getting to the private island that lies in the cluster of the San Juan Islands, visitors are met once they set foot on the docks by the facilitator of Blakely Island Field Station. LeRoy Hubbert, as well as two large vans waiting to shuttle them and their classmates to where they’ll be staying during their time on Blakely.

The grey Ford E350 four-wheel drive quad vans, with their Florida licenses plates, are in charge of shuttling all the students and teachers who spend their time on Blakely, taking them to and from the field station down to the docks, tide pools, hikes, Spencer cabin, as well as the old schoolhouse.

When meeting LeRoy, the first thing visitors do is throw their belongings in the back of the van. After, the teacher leading the trip as well as their aid, will then get behind the wheel of the grey beasts, and prepare to drive them.

In some cases, many of the teachers have had experience driving the vans on the island so getting to the station is no problem. For others though, it may be their first time driving the van therefore they are not familiar with the roads on the island– or, like in the case of Dr. Brezynski’s TA, they may not know how to even start the van.

Once the vans are started and are on their way to the field station that’s when the real fun begins. The roads leading to the docks are smoothly paved, making for an initial smooth ride. However, but once passengers turn to head deeper into the island, that’s when things get a little interesting.

For most of the ride, once the vans start to travel away from the main port, there are no longer paved roads, but rather, open dirt roads. At this point, you might want to watch out for your belongings as well as your head because things can get a little bumpy.

A sticker outside the front windshield reminds drivers to take precaution while driving due to the unpaved roads. This sticker isn’t just a suggestion.

Though it’s a bumpy car ride, many students find that to be the one of the many fun parts about the trip to the station.

During the ride, passengers are surrounded by the beautiful scenery that the island has to offer. They might even spot a few deer, depending on the time of day or year.

In some cases, many of the students in the car will make the van ride an interesting experience by playing games, trying to spot out different plant or life forms on the way, or in the case of some elementary education students, I shadowed, act like the whole ride was just one big rollercoaster.

At the end of the day there are many memorable moments being on Blakely, and the van ride is just one of those moments that students will always remember.


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