San Juan Islands Kayak Trip
Aug 7-10, 2000

(Click on any picture for a larger image).

In August, my daughter and I took a four day kayak trip with Crystal Seas Kayaking (San Juan Island, Washington).  They provided 2-person expedition kayaks and all paddling equipment, tents, all meals and two excellent guides: Nate and Scott.  There were 10 guests in our group of varing ages and from all over the country -- all had previous kayaking experience.  Nate and Scott's food and cooking was wonderful -- much fancier than I expected on a camping trip, with sea food stews served over rice, smoked salmon omlets, freshly baked corn bread and cinnaman rolls, etc and always more than we could eat.
Day 1 (Aug 7):

The guides pick us up at the ferry landing in Friday Habor, San Juan Island.  We drive across the island to Mitchell Bay to load the kayaks with our gear and launch.  Each kayak holds our personal gear (clothes, sleeping bags and provided tents) as well as a share of the group gear (cooking equipment and food).

We paddle out of the bay, across a small pass to Henry Island and along the outside (West) of Henry.  We lunch on a small beach on Henry.  Lunches always included cheese and cold cuts for sandwiches (from the ice chest in one kayak) and fruit.

After lunch we then cross Spieden Channel and on to Stuart Island.  Along the way we see Harbor Seals and try to avoid the larger ships.

We camp the first night at Reid Habor on Stuart Island (where we spend two nights).  We pull the kayaks up on the beach far enough to be above high tide and pitch our tents in one of the Cascadia Marine Trail camp sites.  The guides, Scott and Nate, setup the cooking facilities and begin preparing dinner as we explore the area.
After dinner most of us walked to Turn Point at the other end of the island.  We walk past the school on the island where Tshirts and postcards designed by the students are for sale.  The profits go to aid the school. 
Along the walk we saw many of the beautiful Madrona trees with their peeling bark and red wood, common all along the Pacific coast, and a few deer.
We look out over the Haro Strait from Turn Point, watching harbor seals and other wild life, finally watching the sun set over the Canadian Gulf Islands.
Day 2 (Aug 8):

The next morning after breakfast, we climb the hill over the harbor and get a view of the yachts in the marina.

We can look back at our beach and the kayaks of another group camped at the other end of the beach.
Today we circumnavigate Stuart Island.  While we paddle, two harbor seals come to visit.  We quit paddling but they dive and come up even nearer to our kayaks, only a few yards away.
At the far end of Stuart Island, we see Turn Point Lighthouse (to which we hiked the night before).
We pause in the kelp beds off Turn Point and watch the shipping in Haro Strait.  We see the whale watching boats following something arching out of the water repeatedly.  Several thought that they were Orcas ("Killer Whales"), but the guides tell us they are Dall's Porpoises, which have very similar markings (black with white on the belly, fin on back).  However, Dall's porpoises are never larger than 2m and these look larger so they may have been Orcas.
Scott and Nate helped us spot wild life as we paddled such as the bald eagle near the top of the tree in this picture.  We saw 10 to 12 bald eagles in the four days.  Sometimes soaring.  Sometimes in trees along the shore. 

We stop for lunch on the south side of Stuart and then return to camp in Ried Harbor for a second night.

After dark, several of us paddle to the other end of the Reid Harbor inlet, to Gossip Island.  One of the guides surprises us with hot chocolate (he brought a small stove, water and chocolate) and we watched the meteors (it was only a few days before maximum of the Perseid meteor shower).

One the way back we observe the bioluminescence in the water.  There is a tiny organism in the water that emits a faint blue light when disturbed.  Our paddle strokes glow as they drift to the back of the kayak.  I have seen this before, but what I did not expect was to see fish swimming as I looked over the side and each fish left a glowing trail.  It reminded me of  cloud chambers used to illuminate the paths of charged radiation particles in the physics lab.

Day 3 (Aug 9):
In the early morning, I wake and looking out of the tent see a heron feeding near the beach.
Today we break camp today.  As we pack up our gear, some try to stuff sleeping bags UP into the bag.

We paddle along the north shore of Spieden Island.  There is more shipping in this channel than we have seen previously.  The waves are bit larger due to the ship traffic and the wind.  We encounter swells of several feet - occasionally we cannot see over the top from the trough, but our kayaks ride over or cut through them smoothly.  A couple of times we find a wake from a passing ship that we can surf, paddling like crazy to catch up with the wave and then ridding the front of a wave for a "free ride" (well we worked hard enough catching it to more than make up for any savings, but it is fun).

We stop at a beach on the east end of Spieden Island for lunch.
After lunch, many take a nap in the sun while we rest and wait for more favorable currents.

After lunch we paddle on to Jones Island for our 3rd night.  All of Jones Island is a state park.  We camp in the paddler's camp, but there is a marina for wind and fuel powered boats on the other side of the island.


After another wonder dinner, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over Spieden Island.  Then after dark we circumnavigated Jones Island by moonlight.  One north side of the island we are in the shadow of the island and again observe wonderful bioluminescence. 
Day 4 (Aug 10):

Today is our last day - sadly.  We paddle into the wind most of the day, working harder than on previous days.

But part of the time was behind smaller islands out of the wind and then along the west side of Shaw Island, stopping at a beach on Shaw for lunch.


Our guides, Nate and Scott used one-person kayaks.


We paddled to the south end of Shaw before making the crossing of San Juan Channel and behind Turn Island to Turn Point for our takeout point.  There we unloaded our kayaks, carried them and the gear a few yards to the waiting trailer ...
and traveled back to Friday Harbor.  We wait for one last picture and then say goodbye.  Some caught the ferry back to the mainland to find their cars or catch shuttles to the airport.

All good things come to an end.

My daughter and I met my wife and other friends and spend several more days on San Juan Island, enjoying the coves and restaurants.

One evening at Lime Kiln State Park we enjoyed a beautiful sunset near the lighthouse.

Then as we were leaving we saw a nearly tame fox.  A local who comes to the park often, says that the fox comes nearly every night to look for food left by picnicers.

Later we drove south along the road to a high lookout and watched the stars and more meteors until the park ranger made us leave.

We later watched a pod of Orcas go by from the cliffs above Grandma's Cove, American Camp and later watched purse seiners setting their nets but catching no salmon near shore in the San Juan de Fuca Strait.