Saturday, July 9, 2016

San Juan Expedition Part 2

Turning the Corner (Blind Island to Clark Island) - Sunday May 1st (Day #3)

After a fitful sleep on Blind Island due to our site not being level we woke up to another day of sunshine and no winds. Our plan was to be on the water by no later than 9:00am and head east through Harney Channel towards Obstruction Pass 4nm in the distance. We really didn’t have a particular camping destination planned for today but knew that there were a couple of sites to check out before we would turn the corner at Lawrence Point towards Clark, Matia, Sucia and Petos Islands.

Leaving Blind Island only the Washington State Ferries were on the water with us this morning.

Lynn and Michael as a ferry leaves Orcas Island

Other than several Washington State ferries crossing between the islands there wasn’t any marine traffic to speak about as we crossed East Sound and located the state recreation site just before Obstruction Pass. Feeling pretty good about ourselves Michael and I got into a rendition of the theme from Gilligan’s Island and the wreck of the S.S. Minnow just as we about to land at the state park. Sure enough I ran up onto a rock and heard an unfavorable cracking sound somewhere below the waterline of my kayak. Karma?? 

The beach at Obstruction Pass park

After the rest of group landed I rolled over my fully loaded kayak for a quick inspection and thankfully saw no signs of damage. I came to the conclusion that it probably was a few barnacles that I crunched while running aground. In any case I would do a proper inspection at our next camp location hoping that my front hatch wouldn’t be taking water on.

The Obstruction Pass park is situated high above the water on a bluff with campsites nicely spaced offering views of Lopez Island and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. If it wasn’t for San Juan Island blocking our view, we would have been able to see Victoria only about 18nm SW from this location.

Great view of the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

Since it was still early in the day we decided to take advantage of the last of the slack and make our way through Obstruction Pass towards the next possible campsite located on Doe Island about 3nm NE of us. While paddling through the pass, which was starting to show the beginning of an ebb flowing against us, we came across several NDK kayaks playing in the rock gardens and sure enough we discovered they were part of a group from Body Boat and Blade, Eastsound, Orcas Island.

Leaving Obstruction Pass we spotted a few tankers in Rosario Strait as we were carried on a back eddy towards a campsite situated in Doe Bay. The Doe Island State Park has limited landing areas due to the steepness of the island but does have a few primitive campsites facing south east. We decided to make this our lunch stop and press on towards Clark Island to make camp for the night.

Lunch stop on Doe Island

As we approached Lawrence Point we noticed that the water was very confused as a number of power boats were coming close to the headland churning up the water. Rounding the point, we were a little surprised to feel a very brisk NW headland wind which, combined with current, created a bit of a rip tide. A couple of sea lions seemed to enjoy playing in the waves as they swam around and under us as we tried to punch through the confused water. For several minutes we made absolutely no head way at all and the thought crossed my mind a few times that we might just have to head back to Doe Island for the night. Once we moved away from the point we slowly started making progress towards Clark Island but it was a slog to say the least taking over two hours to make the 2nm transit from Lawrence Point. It was a long day on the water as we finally landed at the campground a few minutes before 4:00pm and went to work setting up camp on the smooth gravel beach facing east.

That evening we decided we would head towards Matia Island in the morning but would give ourselves a later start as the forecast was favorable and we could take advantage of the currents. From our campsite on Clark the view of Mt. Baker was spectacular but there was a constant drone of noise coming from what we thought was the Cherry Point refinery on the mainland USA.  As the sun set we watched the Seattle to Alaska ferry heading north and then a huge oil tanker heading south towards Rosario Strait.  Oh, yeah ... the outhouse is typical of many of the Washington State Parks we visited. Pretty nice huh?

Clark Island camp on the beach

Our view from the beach of Mt. Baker at sunset ... stunning!!

2016 Paddle #19 - Blind Bay Island to Clark Island
Distance: 14.59 nm (27.02 km)
Trip: 40.54 nm (75.08 km)
YTD: 145.89 nm (270.18km)

Emerald of the San Juan's (Clark Island to Sucia Island) - Monday May 2nd. (Day #4)

We woke up to brilliant sunshine and no wind and the ever present constant drone from Cherry Point. Since we were waiting for the slack time, Michael headed out to explore the island a bit while Robyn, Kari and I went searching for a couple of geocaches and the group sites that were supposed to be around here somewhere. As we were zeroing in on our first cache we came across the group sites located at the southern tip of the island nestled in the forest with views southeast towards Lawrence Point. 

Good morning from Clark Island

And yes we even found some geocaches on the trip. Kayaking Kare Bear and RVTraveller

Just after 10:00am we were on the water heading towards Matia Island in absolute glassy conditions. We managed to spot a few porpoises along the way and a number of sea birds such as rhinoceros auklets, guillemots and gulls. Receiving a gentle flood push we completed the 4.5nm transit to Puffin Island just off the south end of Matia in less than 2 hours but sadly didn’t see any puffins at this time of year.

Perfect conditions heading towards Puffin and Matia Islands

Michael checking the rocky slopes of Puffin Island.

The terrain of both Puffin and Matia Island was very steep making landing virtually impossible except for Rolfe Cove on Matia where the campsite is located. We decided to check out the campsite which faces NW and found that even by noon it was just starting to receive sunlight on the beach. The campsite itself is nestled just above the beach in the forest but we felt that we would be better off heading towards Sucia Island only 1.5nm in the distance rather than spending a night here.

Looking like several islands, Sucia Island consists of many fingers of land and a few smaller islands.

Paddling towards Sucia from the SE you realize how expansive the island is with its many bays, finger islands and noted 10 miles of hiking trails. As we approached the island we decided to head along the west side of the island towards the Shallow Bay campsites but as we got closer to Fox Cove we could see a campsite situated on a grassy tombolo. We paddled into Fox Cove which is protected from the open water and after checking out the campsites there decided that this would be our home for the next couple of nights. It didn’t take long for us to discover that Sucia was indeed the emerald of the San Juan’s with over 60 mooring buoys, dock facilities for pleasure craft, over 60 campsites situated all over the island and several fossil beds which we explored. 

The Fox Cove campsite on the tombolo just ahead and nobody was there!

Paddling into Fox Cove

We set up camp in a site that had to be at least 75’ x 75’ and at bargain price of only $12 for all 5 of us. As the day progressed we checked the forecast and although it was sunny it was calling for possible thunder showers later in the evening so just as a precaution we set up our tarps in the warm sunshine. Later in the evening the clear skies started to give way to clouds rolling in from the west and it wasn’t long before we heard the rumblings of thunder somewhere in the Cascade foothills as we sat around the campfire. Just before bedtime that we felt the first raindrops. There’s something magical about listening to rain falling while you're bundled up in your tent.

Yup ... all this for $12 per night for up to 8 people.

Collecting driftwood for our fire later in the evening.

The clouds start to arrive as the sun starts to set.

Who brought the marshmallows?? 

2016 Paddle #20 - Clark Island to Sucia Island
Distance: 9.40 nm (17.40 km)
Trip: 49.94 nm (92.48 km)
YTD: 195.83 nm (362.67km)

Note: More pictures of the entire San Juan Islands trip can be found by following the link HERE

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