Posts Tagged With: San Juan Islands

Bad hair

On the fifth day of the ten-day solo kayak tour, only able to rinse off in the frigid ocean, my hair had now turned into a living form or perhaps had something living in it.


Day 5: my hair is starting to gain volume


Day 6: my hair begins to take on chameleon-like powers, imitating the landscape around it.


Day 7: ? !


Day 8: Medusa


Day 9: Getting nappy; dreadlocks forming


Day 10: A little drizzle added to the wet and wild look

10 days.  70 miles kayaked. 0 showers.

It’s odd what  you up do to keep amused when you’re alone for ten days.

Categories: San Juan Islands, WA - May 2013 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

All teenagers are dumb

Tried to get on the water early to catch slack tide, but I was a little late. No problem,  the tide was with me flowing like a fast-moving river through the shallows and tiny rocky islands just off of John’s Island.

It was a rather large ten foot tide on this morning; a lot of water on the move and I had to concentrate on the unpredictable tidal flow.  Up ahead I noticed what I thought were two oddly shaped dorsal fins in the water. Turns out it wasn’t fins; it was the ears of a deer trying to swim across the one mile wide channel during this large tidal transfer.  Clearly he had no chance.



Miraculously he did somehow manage to scramble onto the last small rocky island; too bad for him it was a flood tide and his island would soon be underwater.  He was a young buck with small nubs for antlers. What was he thinking? I guess teenagers are the same throughout the animal kingdom.

Categories: San Juan Islands, WA - May 2013 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Safari island

Break camp, pack kayak and on the water by 8am. The tide was favorable and the weather always better in the morning as the southerly wind builds as the day grows.  I crossed Spieden Channel at slack tide to avoid the swift currents that plague the area on ebb and flow tides. Spieden Island has a colorful history like many islands in the San Juan archipelago. These islands, far from Washington DC authority, were populated with the independently minded or those on the run;  Civil war vets, rum runners, families, farmers.

Spieden Island was bought in the ’70’s by the Jones brothers,  who were taxidermists from Seattle. The brothers renamed the island Safari island and they imported exotic animals from around the world. They then spent their free time with friends hunting these imports. Sadly they were soon shut down.

It is said that the animals still roam the island,  but I’ve seen the island from afar before, and didn’t believe the rumors.

But, as I now approached the steep grass shores of Spieden Island, I immediately saw a herd of animals; Small deer with white spots like oversized bambis and a large group of  scruffy looking goats, looking a little out-of-place on the steep grassy knoll above the shoreline. Rumors could be true!






















A few miles past ‘Safari Island’, I cruised the long harbor of Stuart Island to my spot for the next two nights. I set up camp at the end of Reid Harbor and wandered the dirt path to the historic lighthouse on the other end of the island. I walked past the one-room schoolhouse built in the late 1800’s and the old town cemetery with tombstone names like Littlewolf. The lighthouse and massive lightkeeper’s house was on turn point with sweeping views north to Canada.


lightkeeper’s “cottage”












With safari island and its strange inhabitants far in the distance and with dusk approaching I started a fire. The fire started easily with the sun-baked driftwood from the beach.I usually have problems starting fires which is strange, since I was a little pyro when I was young.




End of a stunning day.

Categories: San Juan Islands, WA - May 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Juan kayak tour: 2013

The first day was crucial in my seventy-mile, ten-day kayak camping tour of the San Juan Islands, WA. It was a seventeen mile kayak to the first campsite along the rugged western coast of San Juan Island, open to the southerly winds and swells off the Pacific. If I was unable to reach the campsite that day, it could derail my carefully laid plans for the rest of the trip.

To complete this leg of the trip I would need calm seas, mild winds and a small tide.  The weather is usually best in the morning and slack tide  on this day was at 6.30 am.  This was going to be the best time to launch and round dangerous Cattle Point and the shallows past it,  before the wind and tides increased causing tide rips and currents and  terrifying whirlpools.  Not ideal since I am not the most organized person and this would mean I have to break camp, drive to the sneaky, secret launch site,  load the kayak with equipment and supplies for ten days and then launch by 6:30 am  latest. Luckily, for once I had it together and launched right on the money.


Cattle Point

The skies were dark with a low ceiling of clouds , no wind, water like glass: perfect.  I paddled hard and made good time.  A light rain started to fall as I passed Cattle Point and powered through the shallows and up the west coast of San Juan Island. The resident orca pods frequent this coast, hunting salmon, and I was hoping to run into them. I glided over huge kelp beds, along wind-swept rocky shores, with the sky, ocean and shore all different shades of gray under the cloud-filled skies.


Small Pox Bay; with a view of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

At 2:30 pm I finally landed at the County Campsite at Small Pox Bay; a full eight hours after launch, with sadly, no orca.  I set up camp on the field on the bluff overlooking Haro Straight and took a  quick nap. When I awoke, just after sunset, a pod of orca passed off-shore, a good omen for the trip to come.

Categories: San Juan Islands, WA - May 2013 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment


Helen signed up for a three-day seaweed foraging and cooking weekend seminar, taking place on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington. Camping in a group site, the idea was they would collect seaweed during the day and then cook delicious seaweed cuisine at night. I was skeptical but decided to come along and kayak while Helen did the seaweed thing; I haven’t been to the San Juans for a while and it’s a great kayaking area.

Early the following morning, I was up and on the water early for the 12 mile circumnavigation of Shaw Island. Calm seas and full sun, a great day to explore the undeveloped rocky shores of Shaw. A wonderful leisurely paddle dodging pleasure boats sneaking in and out of the harbors and inlet along the coast. I made good time and was back on shore by mid afternoon.

Kayaking lopez with harbor seal in the background.

Kayaking lopez with harbor seal in the background.

When I arrived back at the campsite, it was a-buzz with activity as the foragers prepared for another excursion; apparently it was low tide, prime time to find the elusive nori seaweed. As Helen ran from the campsite she yelled, “can you hang up the rest of the kelp?”. I wandered over to the tent to find a sagging clothes line with a few pieces of kelp on it and a big wet trash bag of seaweed sitting in front of the tent door. Alone in the campsite, like a good boy scout I strung up the line properly and began to hang up the slimy kelp thinking, “how did this happen?”

I got screwed.

the kelp clothes line

the kelp clothes line

On the final day we began to load up the car with multiple hefty bags full of seaweed. Helen informed me that she’d been told it was beneficial to put ground up seaweed in your condiments. I said ” you’re not putting seaweed in the ketchup.” I love my ketchup. She replied, “But it’s good for you and you won’t even notice.”

We had to wait a few hours for the ferry and took a walk along the beach. It was a clear and hot day, and the sun was beating down on our car full of trash bags of seaweed. As the ferry approached, we returned to the car and opened the door, the smell was overpowering, like a fish cannery.

The following day back at the house we set up a large blue tarp in the backyard and laid out the seaweed to dry in the sun. We hung a twenty-foot line to hang the kelp. The neighbors must have wondered what we were up to now; luckily, they think we are crazy anyway.

And yes, I spotted some foreign particles in the Heinz the other day, small black flakes!

Categories: Lopez Island , WA - August 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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