Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Rainy Day

All the signs of spring are here.  The song birds are singing, the days light lingers on to late in the day and I have even seen a few Turkey Vultures back in the area.  But the ever present rain is here today.  Dark skies, a cool breeze and rain.  Soon the rains will dissipate and the San Juan's will become a sun haven for a few months.  Warm days and cools night will come in to replace the cold. The island will be covered with visitors.  Kayak tours will be going out daily

I am leaving for Seattle tonight and then off to Denver for the next few days.  I am taking advantage of my last chance to get off the island before I have to be here everyday.  

I start training new guides as soon as I get back from Denver.  So check back for some fun kayak photos.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More Images From Johnstone Strait

Here are a few more images from my trip.

A few Sea Stars.

Stuck in the tent looking over tides and chart.

Just a nice pic.

My buddy Kyle enjoying one of many Ferry rides.  I am in the background lounging on the car.

Getting ready to take off.

Hmmm, maybe we are lost. Just kidding.


It is a blurry image but I like it.

Lost of Urchin left overs on the beach.  Guess there are Otters around.  We never saw any.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Back Early

We arrived back on San Juan Island ahead of our scheduled time.  Mainly due to the weather in Johnston Strait and the limited amount of time my paddler partners Kyle and Katie had to enjoy their spring break.  Just to note for some reason SPOT, our tracking device did not record all of our kayaking route.  Not sure why but thought I would mention it.

We arrive on Quadra Island in BC Canada on the 22nd and made our way to Surge Narrows Road. This would lead us to an area where we could get the kayaks on the water.  It was a short but steep carry to get all the gear down to a tiny dock. This is where we loaded kayaks and took off.  We left the dock with little light left in the sky and headed toward the Octopus Islands.  We were luck that Surge Narrows was nice and calm when we passed.  Since we had just put on the water and were pushing to make camp before it got much later.  We moved along and the water conditions were fine. Beautiful views all around.  We made it to some unknown small rock of an island and it was decided this would be home for the night.  It was not the best place to set up tents, but would have to do.  Dinner was done and time for bed.  Rain came during the night and so did the wind.  

After waking and having a bit to eat and a scout mission for fresh water.  We decided the forecast as not that great but we needed a better camping spot.  As we headed out the wind died off and the water was great.  Nice current moving through, but overall the water was flat.  Light rain was off an on.   Along the way we found a nice place to camp with a few flat areas to set up tents. By the time we had the kayaks unloaded the rain started to get a bit heavy.  It was time to get the tents up fast and get all the gear we needed dry inside.  A bite to each for lunch and then wind had started to build and rain was not stopping.  So we headed off to our tents.  Laying in the tent there was not much to do.  I made a few journal entry's and snuggled deep into my sleeping bag.  As time passed I as in and out of a sleep.  Waking making wild guesses at what time it might be, but not really caring too much.  Eventually night time came and the rain and wind were still going strong.  No dinner that night, just slept right through.  I remember waking the next day to the sounds of wind and rain.  As many as 15 hours has past since I entered my tent for my hibernation.  It was time to get out.  Rain gear on and ready to go out to view the weather, yep, still raining and still windy.  We had some food and it was decided to kayak back to the car, regroup and head to Cortes Island.  

As we made our way back the winds backed to a light breeze and then stopped all together.  The gray skies reflecting gray off the water.  It gave you a sense of being caught between two layers, compressing down.  Fog draped over snow covered tress and the sounds of streams running on the Strait.  As we approached Surge Narrows we could hear the accelerated water generating waves as it passed though the narrow slot.  We made a plan, not a very organized plan, as we were being pulled into the waves.  We all headed for what we thought was out best route.  Heavy loaded kayaks getting smashed into a rock would be very  bad.  It was exciting and fun bringing smiles to our faces.  We all passed though safely.

Off to Cortes Island, a small wonderful island.  We drove around looking for a place to get more fresh water and camp for the night.  Water was easy, we got it from the tap at the local Co-op in town.  We camped at Smelt Bay and the forecast was for clear skies with increasing winds.  The next morning was a bit cold and a strong wind.  A bit of discussion was made and it was decided to make the long journey back to San Juan Island.  After 4 ferries and a day of travel we landed on San Juan Island around 1030pm.  I set off to grab a beer and catch a few laughs with friends. One of the nice things about small island towns, you can show up from camping and smell like hell and it is ok.  A few of us made it back to the house where it was shower and bed time for me.

Today Kyle and Katie are off kayak near Cattle Pass.  It is Kyle's birthday so we will be having a bit of fun tonight and they plan on leaving tomorrow.  

You never know what a trip to nature will be like.  I know it is always fun and I learn new things every time.  Though it was not as long as we planned it was still a great time.

Here are some of my photos.  I will post some photos from Kyle and Katie soon.

In my home town of Friday Harbor Wa waiting for the ferry with all of our gear to start the trip.

Kayaks on the front deck of the Wa State Ferry.

Hmmmm, A weak battery never makes it when listening to music waiting for the ferry.  Horseshoe Bay.

Leaving Horseshoe Bay.

Packing up.

Here is the start of the paddle.  Nice calm water.  Too bad the winds had to pick up.

My trusty MSR FURY tent.  Amazing, all I can say!

Kayaks pulled high on the island for the night.

On a small island in Johnston Strait.

Getting ready to head out on the water.

No wind and flat water.  Surge Narrows is just ahead around the point.

Katie just after we passed through Surge.

Kyle getting the camp stove ready.

If I look cold it is because I am.

Ah, snow in the Mountains.
A view from Cortes ferry dock.

Whaletown on Cortes Island.
On the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver BC.

Well that is all I have for now.  Anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed the images and I will post some more when I get them from Kyle and Katie.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Heading Out Of Town

Just wanted to post that I am heading out of town to do a bit of kayaking in the Johnstone Strait region in British Columbia.  I leave Saturday March 21st and hope to be on the water by Sunday March 22nd.  Once I am on the water I will activate my Spot Satellite Tracker.  I will have it on during the times I am paddling and you can follow along at home by following this link.

I should return back to San Juan Island March 27th.  I hope to return with great new photos and stories to share.

Have a great weekend and next week.  Check and see where we are and come back to see some cool images from my kayak trip.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TideRace Kayaks Coming to Washington State

Today I had a short chat with my good friend Matthew Ross of in Anacortes Wa.  He was excited to inform me that he will be a dealer of TideRace Kayaks out of the UK.  I had a chance last fall to demo the TideRace Xcite.  It was an impressive kayak.  I hope to have the opportunity to paddle the Xplore as well.  It was defiantly a kayak I put on my wish list.

He is thinking he will get some of the kayaks in the his shop, located at 2515 Commercial Ave in Anacortes Wa, by May.  This is a pretty awesome kayak to have available to paddlers in the region. There are a lot of high performance kayaks out there and to add this to the list is exciting.  

If you are searching for a high performance kayak and have been looking at NDK's, Valley, or P&H kayaks.  Check out the TideRace kayaks when they come in.  

For more info on TideRace Kayaks visit their site.

For more info on Matthew Ross and visit his site at

Spring is near and before you know it summer sea kayak weather will be calling you to the water.  So if you are gear up and get ready.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seattle, Brett Dennen Show

Over the weekend I left for Seattle.  It was a quick trip, just one night.  But I was heading down to catch a show at the Show Box.  With the current Ferry schedule to get off the island, it is hard if you miss a 10:00 ferry then you have to wait until 1:30.  It pretty much rained the whole drive down.  But once in Seattle is was a good time catching up with some friends and seeing what was new with them.  Two of my friends which are a couple, have sold everything they own and bought a 1976 VW Bus and are getting ready to embark on a 1 year journey of travel with no certain direction.  The old bus needs work but looks like a great project.  I love having friends that will just up root and go against the grain of the usual fabrics of life.  You go guys!

The show its self was amazing.  If you ever get a chance to see Brett Dennen live, DO IT.  It was a sold out show and that was a bummer since some of my buddies were going to buy tickets at the door.  I had purchased mine early online.  It was great to stand in a crowd of stranger and see everyone tuned in and having a great time.  Brett's music puts out a wonderful vibe that brings a smile to your face.

Check out Brett Dennen's website for information and tour dates.

We stayed in North Bend at a friends brothers house.  It was nice to have a place to crash after a night on the town.. Many Thanks!  The next morning the drive was a mix of rain and snow, finally giving way to just rain.  The ferry ride home was windy.  We kind of wished for more wind that what we had, but it was still nice.  Crossing Rosario Strait we had strong winds with white caps stretching as far as you could see.  There was a rainbow over the water that you could see where it landed on both ends in the water.  It was a nice welcome home.  Being in the city is lots of fun.  The great food, walking the downtown streets and all the people.  But for me it is nice to return to a nice place, tucked away from the business of the city.  A place where nature rules the scenery and not high rise buildings and massive highways.  

I have a couple of photos to share.

You can see the texture of the surface of the water.  The wind is sweeping along the surface leaving visible streaks.

So we traveled in the best road trip/kayak vehicle ever. The Toyota Previa.  Here I am kicked back catching some ZZZZ's waiting on the ferry.

As you can see the Previa offers a nice amount of room for sleeping.  I like to call it the PKTV, Personal Kayak Transport Vehicle.  Ahh, waiting on the ferry. If you live here and travel enough, this is what you do all the time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Last Few Days

Over the past few days I have been busy doing a bit of work and having fun.  Well work is fun since it is kayaking, but we will call it work.  After the snow the weather got much nicer.  It took a bit of time but the day time temps were on the rise.

Tuesday I met up with my friend Monika and headed out the our typical area to check out some birds.  It was nice and sunny and at first we did not have much to see.  We were searching for the Red Tailed Hawks (RTH's) that we have been watching. We spent our time basking in the sun and thumbing through this wonderful book of mine.  Raptors of Western North America, it was gift I was given for my 32nd birthday.  It is full of wonderful information and tons of color photos. Which great since there are so many variation in Red Tail Hawks, it is nice to see them all.  Out of know where a Norther Shriek flutters along and land near by in a shrub.  I was able to get the scope on it and get good detailed views.  This was the first time I have ever heard a Northern Shriek vocalize.  It was pretty amazing.  At the same time a fox was hunting in an area of tall grass.  We observed with anticipation of a kill, but after a nice pounce and no success we turned back to looking for the hawks.  Just at that moment one of the RTH's makes a low pass. Were lucking and got to see some really nice aerial display and a great view through the scope when it perched.

Thursday I had kayak lesson to teach.  A student of mine who has been working really hard and I decided we would head to the West Side of San Juan Island to enjoy some paddling time. Sometimes taking a break from all the learning and simply going on a small journey helps in seeing the success they are having.  It was a day with a light breeze, warm air and a good tidal exchange.  So we had good moving water and a bit of chop.  It was a good experience to get her out in and let her use some of her new tools.  They day was a nice success and since she was set to have another lesson Friday we took it a bit easy.  Later I went out for sunset and it was amazing.  The mountains were clear and packed with snow.  The sky with different shades of orange. I could not of asked more out of a day than Thursdays.

Friday was kayak class again.  Today was set to be a wet day on the water. Some high clouds and bit cooler temp than the previous day.  We worked on support strokes (bracing and sculling). Set some partner rescues and went over the details to get a paddler back in the kayak quickly. It was lots of fun and exciting for her when I taught her how to static brace.  After a short paddle we called it a day and headed for home.

I am set to leave the island tomorrow to head to Seattle.  Not often that I have been off the island this winter.  But I am going to see Brett Dennen at the Show Box and meet up with some friends.  It will be nice to be off the island, but it will be a quick trip.  I am back Sunday as  I have to be on the water early Monday to lead a tour.  

I have some images to share and I hope you like them. 


A cargo ship making a close pass by San Juan Island.

Ahh.  Her first Static Brace.  NICE!

Look towards the North from the West Side of San Juan Island.

Just another nice view.

Heading back to Small Pox Bay after a short paddle to the the lesson.

Lichen growing on a rock.  I just liked the colors.

Calm water and blue sky!

Hmmm.  Can you really say anything to this image.  Beautiful Sunset!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Update From Today

When Monika was out taking photos she snapped off an amazing image of the Cattle Point Lighthouse.  You can see me and Guinness in the distance. 

Check out Monika's Blog

It is the top image from todays post.  You will see us out in the open hiking along.  Plus there are other great images to enjoy!


This morning was once again a surprise with snow wisping through the air and a cold wind.  I kind of thought that the snow was over since yesterday afternoon was nothing but sunshine.  But I was wrong.  After spending time in doors getting a few work related things done I headed to town for lunch and then off to the outdoors.

A nice cup of soup from The Market Chef and back by the house to pick up Guinness.  We arrived at the trail head at the south end of San Juan with snow patched trails.  One of the Red Tail Hawks was kiting in the wind near the parking area.  A good start to the hike.  While I was at lunch I was asked how my day was.  I took a minute and thought, humm nothing has really happened, good or bad.  So I asked if it were ok if I answered with indifferent.  We kind of laughed and I said the day was not over and I am sure by then end it will have been a great day. I was in a nature wonderland for awhile.  Tracks on the trail give way to the fact that others where ahead of me somewhere.  As I progressed along I could see track from fox and the many deer that have crossed that hiking path.  Some areas of the path had more snow that others, though all the trees seemed to be covered in the decorative white.  Out to the Southwest looking of the Strait you could see dense clouds covering the Olympic Mountains.  I am sure there were getting lots of snow.  But high above my head was blue sky.  A cold Northeast wind has set in and when you reached and area where there was little cover protecting me from the NE, the wind cut right through.

I did not see any much wildlife as I hiked.  Main the signs left in the snow that they have already passed by.  I did spot two Bald Eagles soaring circular patterns around each other.  I laughed and wondered if they ever get dizzy.  I am sure they don't, but it was a funny thought.  As I was lost in my mind I started to think that everyone that reads my blog must think I spend a good deal of time alone.  Well my day time hours during the week are pretty much that way.  It is enjoyable to hike trails with conversation of others.  But I must admit I cherish my time alone on the trail.  Guinness does not offer much conversation, but is a great trail companion.  So it works. My summers are spent with people everyday.  Often meeting groups of new people everyday and then spending either the day with them or the whole week.  So finding time to be alone is a winter thing.  

My thoughts moving on I notices some small birds deep in the thickets near the ground.  As I got a bit closer I could see Spotted Towhee's hopping about.  Cresting the back side of Finlayson I could see Cattle Pass and the Lighthouse.  Snow covered the grasslands below and the wind was cold.  Crossing over the water side of the road I make my way back toward the trail head.  Not using any trail I just made my own path through the briers and snow.  Guinness wildly sniffed the ground whenever we crossed fox tracks.  I could see he was having a great time.  As I reached the area I usually park and watch for Red Tail Hawks, I bump in to Monika.  She was just out for a drive and checking out what the scenery.  We chatted for a bit and a few clouds moved over the sun dropping the temperature a bit.  I added a quick layer and said my good byes and headed on.  Making my way back to the car I could now confirm today has been a great day.  Fresh air, beautiful view with patches of snow, a bit of wildlife and time to just take in the sound and smell of nature. Yeap...  A great day!

ANYWAY, here are some photos from my day.  Don't for get you can click on the images to view them larger.

Snow starting to fall.

The trail head.  Nice covering of snow.

This image for some reason was really dark.  Guess that is what I get for using a point and shoot. Oh well, it is still pretty.

If you check my post from yesterday you can see this exact image but without snow.  The snow was covering the beach right down to the waters edge.

I was almost back to my car and  I could not resist these wonderful clouds.  The snow covered rock and tall grass just made it a great scene.

Hope everyone is enjoying their day.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

San Juan's Wild Weather

The forecast called for snow and we did see some snow falling at my house.  With no accumulation on the ground.  But when I was in town there were cars coming in from other parts of the island with a few inches on top of their cars.  The sun soon came out and blue skies were all you could see. I decided I was going to head out to the south end to see if I could find a hawk or two.  I called Monika and she was ready to get out as well.  

On our way out we passed through an area where snow covered the ground.  When we arrived at the south end of San Juan there was no snow.  It was actually really nice outside.  We made our way to Cattle Point pull out and took advantage of the nice warm sun and went for a short walk.  We did spot one of the Red Tail Hawks.  It was soaring high above then out of sight.  We watched from the top of the bluff as a male Merganser was doing his best to woo the females around him.  It was pretty fun to watch.  Moving along we bumped into Richard as he was out enjoying the sun.  

We soon moved to the other location where there was lots of warm sun.  Not much bird activity but we sat there with beautiful views of the water with sun showering us with warmth.  Soon my friend Kerri pulled up and joined us.  After awhile we did see the Red Tail we call RTH1.  But he soon disappeared on his way.  We sat there laughing and generally taking in the sun and the fun loving company.  A Northern Harrier then appeared.  Landed in a small tree right in front of us. It was one if the best views I have ever had of a Harrier.  The sunlight was just right and enhanced the colors of its feathers.

Soon it was time to head home.  We all had plans with either friends or significant others.  It was a simple time, with easy going conversation and lots of laughs.  The short amount of time in the day that makes it all worth while.  Spending time with friends in the beauty of nature sharing laughs.  Sometimes it is truly a simple life.  But only sometimes.  ANYWAY, enjoy the two images.

Looking over South Beach.

Erosion is taking its toll along the south end.  But it is a beautiful view.

Friday, March 6, 2009

San Juan Days

Just wanted to put up a quick post to catch everyone up.  I have been delayed in getting information post due to a friend from out of town visiting.  We did lots of hanging out and just having fun.  So that is the main reason I have not posted recently.

I was teaching kayak class today and it was a nice time on the water.  I had return student who had been struggling with some of the kayak skills and today she really seemed to be putting it together. I gave her a few simple home exercises to do to help gain muscle coordination and memory. It seems to have helped and she agrees.  

Just letting all of my friends back home that even though I live in the Pacific Northwest.  I still have the home state represented with a Razorback on the bow and stern of my two personal kayaks!  The is the bow view

Here is the stern view.


Now that things are getting back to normal for me and my friend got on the ferry today.  You can expect to see more wonderful photos of San Juan Island and more kayak information coming out most every day!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why Choose A Kayak Outfitter When Going On Vacation

When planning your vacation to San Juan Island there are a lot of things to consider.  If you are coming from out of state you have to look a plane tickets and what sort of transportation you will be taking to the island once you land in Seattle.  If you are driving to the island you have to look at what times are best to get out of the city to get in line for the ferry.  Ferry lines can often get backed up and throw your travel plans off.  So if you want to do a kayak trip on San Juan Island and not use and Outfitter, imagine all the other details you will have to cover.  Things such as kayak route plan, weather, tides and currents.  If you plan on doing a kayak camping trip you have to account for places to camp, camping equipment, meal planning and much more.

So this brings me to the subject of this article. What are the benefits of choosing to go with a Kayak Outfitter such as Discovery Sea Kayaks.

Taking the load off is what you are doing when you book with a quality Kayak Outfitter.  You are passing the challenge of getting all of the kayak details taken care of.  This can be a huge release to your mind while you are traveling to be on San Juan Island.  To have peace of mind that once you arrive on San Juan Island, your kayak adventure is all ready to go.

Some of the Key Benefits.

First you have the availability of office staff that will help you with your travel options to San Juan Island from Seattle.  The office staff coordinates flawlessly with guides to do the best they can do at making sure time of departure and return from you kayak adventure gives you the time necessary to pack for and unpack after the tour.  In the event of an emergency the guides have communication with the office at anytime to attend to needs.  Office staff will also make sure that you arrive well prepared for your trip.  That you have all the information needed to pack the proper clothing and what you can expect from you adventure.

Equipment is a huge factor when deciding to go with a Kayak Outfitter.  Quality Outfitters will make sure you have the best equipment while on your adventure.  From the best kayaks and kayak equipment to the best camping equipment.  Outfitters can set you up with a kayak camping tour that will provide all your camp needs from tents, sleeping bag and pad, mess kits, dry bags, and much more.  Quality food will be prepared.  All of the items you would have to somehow pack and bring with you will be waiting for you when you arrive.

As a guide, I feel the most important part of going with a Kayak Outfitter is your guide.  A good guide works hard to ensure you have the best possible kayak adventure.  Guides are special people that have a certain set of skill sets that allow them to work in such an environment.  Many guest look at guides as having the best job ever and most guides will agree.  But it does take a certain type of person to be a strong leader with excellent judgment and be patient with new paddlers in adverse conditions.  Remember a guide is doing this all season.  When you show up for your kayak tour, your guide may have been working for weeks or more already.  So when you see the level of energy your guide has when you arrive, you begin to appreciate how hard they work and maintain such high and exciting energy. Having a guide along you get the benefit of amazing local knowledge from water safety, wildlife and you also gain a great camp buddy.  Guides will prepare meals and coordinate your day.  Things such as route planning, weather assessment, tides and currents are taken care of.  Routes can be complex at times given the tides on certain days.  So having the knowledge to know when you need to get across a channel or around a point before the currents get to strong is very important.

Guides at Discovery Sea Kayaks are well trained and prepared.  All guides go through a period of in house training for kayak skills. Guides are trained to not only to be great kayakers but to use great judgment.  We use various scenarios to test the level judgment skills in our training process.  Guides are taught how to interpret variables of the environment to aid in developing safe routes or times you may not want to be on the water. Many of our guides have science back ground college degrees.  Even so they all have to go through another period of training on natural history and local human history.  When all of this is complete we send guides to various kayak instructors so that they can further their skills and gain diversity of kayaking concepts. Once guides return from the training they shadow senior guides to get an idea of the flow of tours.  Senior guides will provide feedback and once positive feedback is received.  The new guide is set to lead kayak tours.  It is a process and in this process you can see why your guide is such a valuable asset to have with you.

From office staff to highly skilled guides, going with a Kayak Outfitter can really enrich your vacation.   Travel with the peace of mind knowing your kayak tour is being planned and setup.  That you can arrive and be assured that your experience kayaking in the San Juan Islands will not only be safe but adventurous and educational.  The San Juan Islands are truly a magical place; this is why I choose to live here.  The distant views of mountains to the incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, you really cannot ask for more.  It is one of the most gratifying parts of my life sharing San Juan Island kayak adventures with people looking to connect not just with their traveling partners, but with nature as well.

If you are interested in kayaking in the San Juan Islands of Washington State and would like to be accompanied by a highly skilled kayak guide from one of the Highest Quality Kayak Outfitters on San Juan Island, visit Discovery Sea Kayaks Website.

I would be more than happy to take all of you kayaking and share in the kayak adventures here on San Juan Island.


Packing up and heading out!

San Juan Island sunsets are more than worth the visit.

Nice campsite with beautiful views.

Your guide will make sure to keep you away from rips such as this.

Pristine paddling waters in calm conditions! San Juan Island is one of the best sea kayak tour destinations.