The most famous Orcas Island regular not named Oprah is a folk hero to many on the mainland.
It’s understandable. The guy’s story reads like a script: A teenager from a broken home tumbles into trouble with the law. He escapes a halfway house at 15 and promptly launches into an epic sequence that involves stealing fast cars; evading the police with style and upraised middle fingers; robbing the rich while wearing no shoes; and teaching himself to fly planes he steals from airports across the San Juan Islands and crash lands in the forest.
Fly Colt Fly: Legend of The Barefoot Bandit is a feature-length documentary about teenage fugitive Colton Harris-Moore that is almost too wild to believe. His superhuman ability to evade capture by stealing watercraft and aircraft alike—and living in the wilderness—made him the modern-day folk hero.
Multiple times authorities had him tracked within a few hundred feet and came up with a sleeping bag. His knowledge of the woods on his native Camano Island and ability to survive was that good.
“Authorities describe him as a ghost,” the narrator of Fly Colt Fly says, “with an uncanny ability to run from the law.”
While he ducked the fuzz and posted on social media, thousands flocked to buy T-shirts with his face on it. On Orcas Island, though—where he burglarized shops and homes and left irreverent messages in his wake—he was almost entirely despised, cursed and called a “cockroach."
Meanwhile the story that reads like a script is becoming one. After he was ultimately caught after flying a stolen plane from Indiana all the way to the Caribbean—exactly 10 years ago this summer—he and his lawyer negotiated to have the $1.3 million pledged for his story’s movie rights to the people he robbed.
"I did things that were not only a violation of law, but also of trust," Harris-Moore said a written statement released by his attorneys. "I can't undo what I did. I can only try to make things better." He said he wanted the statement to be read by the people of Camano Island and the San Juan Islands, "where I was born and raised." He added he would only ink the deal if his victims would be repaid. "I am humbled to know I can now help the people I hurt, at least for the financial damage I caused them," he wrote. "I have absolutely zero interest in profiting from any of this and I won't make a dime off it. It all goes to restitution. That's what I insisted on from the beginning and the contract I signed guarantees it."
Orcas Hotel Beverage Director Kyle Odell lives adjacent to the Orcas Island Airport where Harris-Moore flew off in at least one stolen plane.
There Odell shares a multifaceted and multi-unit property with much of the Orcas Hotel team, at the former Golden Tree Hostel, which also is home for hotel chef-owners Julia Felder and John Cox and their newborn Stanley Norfleet.
But that’s not why Odell is relevant here. He comes into play because, not unlike the Barefoot Bandit, has a knack for creative fixes.
Across a career as a chef, line cook, manager and bartender, he has learned to do it all when it comes to epicurean endeavors.
He does just that (and then some) at Orcas Hotel, leading the front-of-house team, running the wine list and cocktail program, cooking and serving private dinners, helping on housekeeping, and working the line in the kitchen. When asked to cite his position, he deflects.
"I'm not one for titles," he says. "Head of maintenance?"
When I told him about the Barefoot Bandit he clicked into inventive mode .
“We should do a cocktail—a take on the Paper Plane!” he said.
The Paper Plane is a classic, albeit uncommon, cocktail created by celebrated bartender Sam Ross that deploys equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice.
Odell’s version works in similar bitters, mezcal and some magic. (The recipe appears below.)
It's simultaneously fresh, round, balanced, subtle, unexpected and intriguing.
"It's all about taking calculated risks and having fun," Odell says. "Barefoot Bandit put time in studying to achieve his goal of experiencing the freedom of flight. This riff on a modern classic cocktail follows that same spirit—it's based on a balanced formula and learned skill set, but with me having fun with it and making it our own."
One of the most popular ways to enjoy hand-crafted drinks like this—and the gifts of the award-winning Orcas Hotel chef team—is to book a private dinner in the Whiskey Room, where a vast library of chef-driven books and nerd-friendly bourbons and Scotches contribute to a beautiful setting.
That's also where guests can dial in a customized menu for food, drinks and more. At $75/person for a multiple-course chef's dinner, it presents a fierce value.
As this piece publishes, rumor has it that the movie whose rights earned more than $1 million for Harris-Moore's victims is finally inching closer to completion.
In the meantime, a cinematic experience awaits anyone who books a private dinner at Orcas.
The Barefoot Bandit by Kyle Odell
3/4 oz Espadin Mezcal
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz Nonino Amaro
3/4 oz Bruto Americano
1 orange peel
Shake all ingredients vigorously, but for only 4 or 5 seconds.
Double strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
Garnish with an express of orange peel.