Watching Dogs Herd Sheep

We attended the Vashon Sheepdog Classic yesterday.  For real.  It was quite accidental.

The last few weekends have been spent out in the yard cleaning up and planting, as is common in May in the Pacific Northwest.  However, in Friday it started raining.  For the first time in a few weeks.  The weather report for Saturday was sketchy…a mix of rain and sun…so I suggested that we go on a little day trip.  Destination:  Vashon Island.

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I have now lived in Olympia for…I dunno…close to twenty years now?  Is that possible?  Wait…am I that old?  Holy crap.  Sorry, got distracted by my wrinkles.  Anyways, as I was saying, I’ve lived in Oly for many years and have never been to Vashon Island.  Which is surprising because it’s very easy to get to:  drive to Point Defiance up in Tacoma, board the ferry, ride the ferry for 10 minutes, arrive at Vashon Island.  Easy peasy.  And, yet…

But, yesterday was the day!  The trip was embarked with very little planning…I had googled enough to identify a lighthouse and a cidery, both of which I wanted to visit.  Oh, and I wanted to see the bicycle tree.  You think I jest?

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We arrived at the terminal only 15 minutes before the ferry left and were lucky to get a spot on board.  We shimmied out of the car (vehicles are parked close together on the ferry, requiring one to suck it in should they want to get out) and headed up top.  Actually, we didn’t realize just how short the ferry trip is from Point Defiance to Tahlequah, the stop on the south shore of Vashon.  I’m not sure how to pronounce Tahlequah, but I want to say tequila…and now you do, too.

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Sheep…being herded.

As we waited to drive off the ferry I set the navigation system to guide us to the bicycle tree.  See, it is too a real thing.  Our first impression of Vashon was a good one.  Washington islands…they’re just so pretty.  Rural feeling.  Green.  Green.  Green.  As we approached our initial destination we noticed signs proclaiming “Sheepdog Classic.”


I understand that the words “Sheepdog Classic” should be self-explanatory.  But, we live in Washington.  In the Pacific Northwest.  It can be a little weird here.  One should never take words on a sign at face value.  Therefore, the husband Googled “Sheepdog Classic” and confirmed that it was, in fact, what it said:  sheepdog trials.  Dogs herding sheep over rolling hills.  Competitively.  We laughed…and proceeded on to the bicycle tree.  The husband stood, staring at the bicycle tree, and stated that only I would come to Vashon Island to see a bicycle tree.  Well, I saw it on the Google map.

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More sheep…more herding.

The tree didn’t hold our attention for very long.  As we walked back to the car we talked about the Sheepdog Classic.  Should we go?  Should we skip it?  The husband noted that the country store that we were parked next to had a sign proclaiming that tickets were available there.  We looked at each other.  When is the next time that we’ll have an opportunity to go to a sheepdog herding competition?  When on Vashon Island…

Tickets in hand, we hopped on a shuttle and headed to the venue.  This was not some rinky-dink event.  There was a handful of food trucks and other food vendors, a double-row of artisans (most specializing in…you guessed it…sheep fiber products), and a number of other large open-sided tents to protect viewers when the rain showers moved through.  Many were obviously there for the day (it’s actually a three-day event), settled into lawn chairs, picnics at their sides.

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Lucky sheep sleeping in a pen amongst the vendors.

We stood in the viewing area and watched the dogs work.  It was actually really cool.  There was a set course that they had to run, herding four sheep in the process.  There were half dozen specific skill sets that they had to work through, including herding the sheep through gates, on a specific course down the field and into a pen…all within a certain amount of time.  Their trainer would stand at one end of the field using a whistle to communicate with their dog (and voice when the dog got close enough).  Sounds relatively easy, but the sheep used were “fresh” and had not been herded much and the course was huge.  The the announcer summed it up when she said that the sheep were currently winning.  Though certainly not for lack of trying on the part of the dogs.

After getting our fill of the sheep classic (it really was fun) we headed back to our car.  We still had island to see!

The schizophrenic sun-rain combination continued as we made our way to the Point Robinson Lighthouse.  It took longer than anticipated as we took a wrong turn.  Vashon Island is larger than expected, by the way.  I’d just like to say that.  But, finally we reached the lighthouse.

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Sunshine!  The photo up top with the dark skies was taken a mere 15 minutes later.

Vashon Island sits crammed between the mainland and the peninsula.  There is no water view that does not include a view of land.  And, yet, as we stood on the beach at Point Robinson, and stared across at Des Moines and, to the North, could pick out the skyscrapers of Seattle, we marveled again at the feeling of remoteness.

We wandered on down the beach before turning back and realizing that the blue sky was once again being overtaken by storm clouds.  The husband, sans raincoat, hoofed it to the car.  I paused, not wanting to miss my shot.  We made it back to the car just as the heavens opened, pouring not only rain but hail for good measure.

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Spotted on the trail…we did not carve up the tree!

From the lighthouse we headed to Dragon’s Head Cider, passing through the small town of Vashon on our way.  Dragon’s Head sits on a dead-end road.  The small cidery sits next to an impressive house (the median house price on Vashon is $650,000…yikes).  The even smaller tasting room was run by friendly employees who walked us through a number of tasty tastes.

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Chandelier in a tree?  All things are possible at Dragon’s Head.

We then felt it our obligation to compare Dragon’s Head against the other cidery on the island, Nashi Orchards.  Nashi sits relatively close to the ferry dock, and it was only 4 pm. With the next ferry arriving at 5 pm we figured we had plenty of time.  Actually, it was a bit of a game of chicken because the Sheepdog Classic also wrapped for the day at 5 pm, meaning it was likely the ferry would be flooded with cars about that time.  But, we figured that the worst that would happen would be having to wait for the 6 pm ferry.

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Nashi has a great outdoor patio space, which we and quite a few others enjoyed.  We sipped both pear and apple ciders and met Franz, the very large cidery dog.  Very large.  I believe one would need a snow shovel to clean up after Franz.  And, he looked like a shedder.

Dog in photo is much larger than he appears.

Leaving Nashi, we made the short trek to the ferry, taking our place in line and making bets about if we would actually make it on the boat.  It was difficult betting when both of us wanted to bet the same way (nope…not gonna make it).  Loading began and we wound our way down the hill.  We were stopped with just one car in front of us…and then were waved on the ferry.  There may have been cheering.

We’ve concluded that our first trip to Vashon will not be our last.  And, that some time we may go to the Sheepdog Classic deliberately with our chairs and other accoutrements.

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