Names: Steve Jung and Susan McBain
Gann Society members since: 2011 (Charter Members)
Place of residence: Eagle Lake, Orcas Island
Favorite Island Place: It’s hard to pick a favorite, given the beauty and diversity of the protected lands in the San Juans. Clearly there are showplaces: Turtleback Mountain Preserve and Vendovi Island for example—places that attract locals and visitors from all over the world. But given the need to name one, we will go with the Preservation Trust’s Hogback Preserve on the southeastern shoulder of Mt. Pickett, adjacent to Moran State Park on Orcas Island. Accessible via Moran’s network of hiking trails, the Hogback Preserve contains a classic island “bald,” an open meadow filled with native grasses, wildflowers, and moss, with eastern vistas that on clear days stretch out over Lummi and Cypress Islands as far as Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier.
Quote: “We care about land conservation and stewardship because they represent the essence of what brought us to the San Juan Islands. Uncrowded, quiet places, with great hiking, incredible vistas, clean air and water, and profusions of wildflowers. And more importantly, we know that the future of humanity depends on the health of the planet and its web of interdependent ecosystems.”
Steve’s and Susan’s Story
After a family vacation to the San Juans in summer 1998, we decided the islands would be the ideal spot for a retreat—a place to get away from the crowds and stresses of the San Francisco Bay Area, where we’d lived and worked since graduation from college. In 1999, we flew up to Orcas Island to view the homestead of a long-time family friend, which he’d put up for sale after three decades of trying, without much success, to complete a vacation home. The place was overgrown and underwhelming, but after seeing it, we ventured out to the new Eagle Lake development on the far northeastern shore of the island. We found it much to our liking, with lots of open space and hiking trails arrayed around a tree-lined, trout-filled 17-acre lake, with fantastic views over the Strait of Georgia to the Canadian Cascades, and small enough and far enough out from the hamlet of Eastsound and the ferry terminal that it promised lots of peace and quiet. While flying back home that afternoon, we decided to purchase a parcel with the notion of building a vacation cabin.
From that moment, we began a learning process about the islands and life here that has continued to this day. Of course, we immediately discovered that building a cabin in a remote outpost is more difficult and costly than we’d anticipated, and that peace and quiet can under some circumstances turn into isolation. But overall, we adapted to island life and became sufficiently comfortable with it that we decided to move full-time to our Eagle Lake cabin after Steve’s retirement from Stanford University in 2008.
Importantly, we learned about the nonprofit organizations that have been and are instrumental in making life in the San Juans so satisfying. Prominent among those is the San Juan Preservation Trust, whose mission of land conservation and stewardship we found remarkably close to that of the beloved Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) on the San Francisco peninsula. POST and its governmental partner, the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District, are responsible for the remarkable string of preserves that line the peninsula, providing world-class hiking and recreation for the residents of the crowded cities strung along the shores of San Francisco Bay.
Over the past 10 years, Steve and Susan have both served as stewards for Preservation Trust and County Land Bank preserves, and Steve recently completed a term as a member of the Preservation Trust Board of Trustees. Just as we had decided to leave a bequest in gratitude to POST while residing in the Bay Area, we decided in 2011 to modify our legacy giving documents to include a bequest to SJPT payable upon our passing.
Our modest bequest will not cause much of a ripple in the everyday flow of Trust operations. But we are pleased to know that if well invested, it might just provide sufficient funds to pay for stewardship of some small gem, such as that wonderful Hogback Preserve on Mt. Pickett, in perpetuity. It is a comforting thought. —Steve Jung and Susan McBain