The nuns offer guest quarters for a few visitors at a time, from whom a reasonable donation is expected (the seven-member order gets no outside funding from the Catholic Church, and raises much of its own food on the farm). Guests may come to pray - the chapel is an architectural work of art, with stained glass of Mount Baker - or to help with farm chores, or both.
For campers, there are 11 simple sites at Shaw Island County Park, on sandy South Beach (for reservations, https://sanjuanco.com/CAMP/parkreservations ). Besides a nice view of the Olympics, I found one of the San Juans' fanciest privies, freshened inside with a swatch of dried lavender, decorated with artwork, and with a magazine rack offering Vanity Fair and Mother Jones.
Looking for a quiet picnic spot? Take a blanket to the grassy bluffs of Cedar Rock Biological Preserve, donated to the University of Washington by Robert Ellis, of the same family that gave the nuns their farm. Just beyond the south end of Hoffman Cove Road, a giant old madrona crowns a windy point among thickets of wild rose.
I finished my visit at the three-table Silver Bay Cafe; in the back of the Shaw store, watching herons landing in trees where they nest.
Proprietor Terri Mason said they enjoy preserving the store's look. "I love the kind of antique quality, and we try to make it feel like it's back in 1924."
But there are challenges on a small island where people can be set in their ways.
"When we first started a customer came right up to me and said, 'You've ruined my life!' And I replied, 'I've ruined your life?' And he said, 'Yes, the mayonnaise has been in the same place for 30 years, and you've moved it!' "
Overall, though, Shaw Island seems blessed by its sense of timelessness. Or just plain blessed. Some of its residents help see to that.
SAN JUANS? SEE THE OUTER ISLANDS
The San Juan archipelago includes almost 200 islands, some with trails and camping, others little more than rocks occupied by gulls or sea lions. Beyond the four islands served by Washington State Ferries, many islands attract pleasure boaters, kayakers and a few who come by water taxi or float plane. Here's a sampling of favorite "outer island" destinations:
Sucia Island: Probably the favorite of boaters, Sucia ("SOO-sha") is a 564-acre state park with miles of lovely trails, many deep bays and inlets, and scores of anchored and moored vessels on summer nights.
Stuart Island: Stuart is another boater favorite, with state-park buoys in Reid and Prevost harbors, and popular walks to the island school and Turn Point Light Station. Bonus: An island family's serve-yourself stands sell souvenir T-shirts.
Cypress Island: A forested treasure, most of it maintained as a preserve by the state Department of Natural Resources. Mooring buoys for big boats and beach campsites for kayakers. Hike up to 752-foot Eagle Cliff for one of the San Juans' best viewpoints.
Clark Island: Tiny Clark, another state park, is a favorite of kayakers, with front-seat views of Mount Baker, the Twin Sisters, and ships on Rosario Strait.
Jones Island: Jones Island State Park has a resident population of tame deer popular with visitors.
More information on marine state parks: http://www.parks.wa.gov/boating/moorage.
Water-taxi service to outer islands, from Skyline Marina in Anacortes: