Sea Kayaking the San Juan Islands

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We’ve spent the last three days kayaking among the beautiful San Juan Islands in Puget Sound.  Because the islands are so isolated it took us almost an entire day to travel to them from the Olympic Beaches. The trip involved two ferry rides and some driving. Upon arrival at Friday Harbor we visited the Whale Museum and learned about the San Juan Island pod of resident orcas. We also had some time to explore the town and buy souvenirs before getting paninis at Brendan’s parents’ cheese shop (San Juan Island Cheese). We took our delicious sandwiches to Lime Kiln State Park (the premier spot on the island to view transient orcas) and enjoyed dinner on the coast with our sea kayaking guide Erin. Once we arrived at camp our leader of the day Henry helped organize the backcountry food and gear that we would be loading into our kayaks the next morning.

 

Monday morning we woke up early and after a quick breakfast we drove to the kayak launch area where Erin taught us how to load our two person kayaks, as well as proper paddling techniques. We were in the water by midmorning and paddling under a beautiful sunny sky. As leader of the day Alex E. paddled as point person at the front of the group with his partner John. They led the group about 9.5 miles, crossing two channels and following the rocky shores of several other islands. Ellie in particular mastered the art of paddling and steering her kayak. We camped on Blind Island, and after a day of paddling everyone was pretty tired. Alex M. still had some energy left and he led a tide pooling expedition in which he found an enormous pink sea star on the rocky shore of the island. Justin took the lead in his cook crew and prepared tasty pesto grilled cheese sandwiches for the group. After dinner we all shared our five minute life stories and learned more about each other before heading to bed early.

 

On Tuesday morning we woke up at 5am to get on the water before the tides changed. The morning fog gradually burned off and the ethereal mist turned to sunshine. Martha took the lead as point person and led the group about 8 miles. Most of the paddle was through calm water, until a channel crossing at the end of the route, which tired everyone out. Despite the challenging current Tara kept paddling and worked hard to cross the channel. Soon after the crossing we set up camp near a sandy beach on Turn Island. After enjoying a relaxing afternoon napping and reading on the beach John led his cook crew in making homemade pizza dough. The entire process of making the dough, letting it rise, and cooking personal pizzas took about three hours, but I think the group agreed that the wait was worth it!

 

On Wednesday we again woke up early, packed boats, and paddled about an hour back to Friday Harbor. It’s hard to believe that the trip is almost over. Tomorrow we are planning to spend some time exploring Seattle and enjoying our end of trip banquet.