Lobster Beach to Dumas Bay

Sometimes, winter in the 253 is blustery and dark and encourages you to explore activities like sitting by the fire, drinking cocoa, and reading books. But sometimes, winter just means that the temperatures will hover in the 30s and 40s, but the sun will shine and the Puget Sound will look like an impressionist painter’s dream. Saturday was that sort of day.

We only had a couple of hours in the middle of the day, so we chose a short loop from Dash Point Park, North to Dumas Bay. It was overcast as we launched, but the sun broke through fairly soon to make a gorgeous day.

Friends met us at the beach with refreshments, which was extremely nice. Thank you, Florentine, for the treats – they were perfect after paddling!

“Lobster Beach,” as a 4-year-old friend calls it, is the perfect scenario to get some practice in. So I donned my dry suit and tried the Heel Hook Rescue for the first (and second) time. It went as well as I could have hoped, and I felt like a badass. I hope to never need this skill, but I’m really excited that I was able to get back in my boat quickly, and with reasonable support from my friends. Thanks to the Hubby for spotting and Lara for the assist my second time around. Thanks also to Carrie for encouraging me to do it one more time. I felt even more accomplished after that one. I’m looking forward to some more practice sessions at Lobster Beach in the near future!

A Quick Saturday Paddle to Olalla Bay

Once upon a time, the Hubby thought it would be great to get me into kayaking. So we went down to Point Defiance and rented some kayaks at Owen Beach for a leisurely paddle along the shore. We were meandering our way back from the end of the promenade when we heard something that sounded incredibly similar to a whale. Of course, it’s impossible that there are whales in the tiny, mile-and-a-half stretch of water between Point Defiance and Vashon Island, right? I mean, they’re giant creatures that MUST want more room to swim, right…? Right?!?

Uh, no. Because while I was still busy doubting that there might possibly be a whale there, a humpback (!!!) decided to surface again, complete with fluke show. You know, in case anyone might disbelieve that such a thing might happen. Score one for you, Mother Nature.

Fast forward several years and multiple kayaks later, to this Saturday. We’re on Owen Beach, preparing for another Seventy48 training paddle. The tide was higher than we’d experienced before, but we had managed to find a launch point that would allow me to keep my feet dry, and we were just about ready to hop in the boats.

Owen Beach at high tide - ready to launch for our Saturday morning paddle.

Right at that moment, some friendly folks stopped by and said, “I’m not sure how far out you’re heading, but there are some whales just over there,” and pointed to the Vashon ferry terminal. Sure enough, when we looked that direction, the orcas (!!!) decided to show themselves. I may have spent some moments freaking out before gearing myself up to get into a tiny kayak to paddle in the middle of freezing cold water with a pod of GIANT PREDATORS. But then I went for it.

At that point, I didn’t know if these were Residents (who eat salmon) or Transients (who eat marine mammals), so I did tell some harbor seals nearby that my kayak was not a safe place to hang out if they needed refuge. I doubt they spoke English, but they didn’t jump on my kayak, so I consider that a win. Later in the day, I logged onto the Orca Network‘s facebook page, where they were identified as K pod (Residents), and it suddenly made more sense why the seals were just kind of lounging in the water nearby.

I stayed calm enough (temporarily) to snap some grainy cell phone photos of the orcas frolicking near the Vashon shore. These aren’t very high quality, but the black and white smudges near the top of the water are orca whales. The small white smudges in front of the shoreline are whale breath – or you know, spouts, if you want to get technical.

Orca spouting near Vashon IslandOrca spouting near Vashon IslandOrca whale diving near Vashon Island

After these photos, I got even more freaked out. You know, because the whales were EVERYWHERE. They were pretty well spread out between Gig Harbor and the Tahlequah ferry dock. They were minding their own business for a while, but then it was apparently time to head downtown, because one of the whales that had been playing near Gig Harbor started to head RIGHT FOR US. I mean, I’m sure that it wasn’t heading for us, so much as it was heading beyond us. But it was on a beeline path in our direction for a non-zero amount of time. At that point, I said a quick prayer to the orca, “Dear Orca, please notice that we are here and decide that you want nothing to do with us.”

I get that these whales are not interested in eating us. I just also understand that we’re tiny specks on their radar, and I suspect that they might not know their own strength. Also, I don’t really trust that if they startle me, I’ll react calmly enough to stay upright. I’m easily startled, after all.  Luckily, Laura reminded me that I should be doing some zen breathing. And they eventually took off for another area. I definitely had more adrenaline than I need for good kayaking technique, but that’s another story.

Paddling North into Colvos Passage

All’s well that ends well, and all four of us landed safely in Olalla Bay just two hours after first hitting the water. This in spite of spare adrenaline, gazing at orcas, whitecaps, wind, and employing my “very distinctive” panic paddle technique. Once again, we did things that were more difficult than I thought I could handle. And we came out the other side just fine, albeit a little muscle-sore. You do that enough, and you start feeling like a total bad-ass.

Landing in Olalla Bay

Eleven in 2017

Although I read more than eleven books this year, many of them were “oldies but goodies” – where I hung out with book friends I already know, rather than meeting anyone new. I didn’t set a goal for myself in 2017, and I think it shows.

  1. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston
  2. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
  3. A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Ghokshi
  4. The Call of Earth by Orson Scott Card
  5. The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card
  6. The Ships of Earth by Orson Scott Card
  7. Homecoming: Earth by Orson Scott Card
  8. Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
  9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  10. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  11. Managers As Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning

I have just one book checked out from the library, none on hold, and a ridiculous 572 that I’ve listed as something I’ll want to read later.  Since I increased my “later” list by a cool 150 titles, but only managed to read eleven new books this year… It must be time to challenge myself to get more reading done in 2018.

#OptOutside: 2017 Edition

Our traditional Black Friday #OptOutside was our first time on the water since hearing about https://www.seventy48.com/… and trying to figure out if we have what it takes to join in that race. Seventy miles in 48 hours or less, including sleeping, eating, and bathroom breaks. This challenge has me looking at charts, trying to figure out which waterfront park restrooms are closest to their kayak launch, and plotting potential picnic and camping spots along the way.

This was also our third Black Friday spent on the water. The first time REI promoted #OptOutside, Little Baby Laura worked there, and got us excited about it. Last year, I think we grumbled around the house for half the day before finally making it out to float the Narrows. This year, I had a goal to map our journey and figure out how quickly we eat up the miles. Well… how quickly we cover the miles at a leisurely pace. I’m not looking to paddle as hard as I can for 48 hours straight, after all.

The verdict? 3.7 nautical/4.25 good, old-fashioned, regular miles in 1 hour & 42 minutes. First, we did 2.1 miles from Owen Beach to Point Ruston in one hour and one minute…
Looking towards the Marina from Owen Beach #OptOutsideLooking towards Vashon Island on the way from Owen Beach #OptOutsideView of the marina towards the end of the Promenade #OptOutsideLooking towards the Point Ruston Ferry as The Hubby kayaks approaches the first walkway #OptOutside
…and then we paddled the 2.1 miles back in just 41 minutes.
Raindrops in the foreground and Baby Laura Kayaking with Vashon Island in the background #OptOutsideView of the Promenade and Owen Beach from the water #OptOutsideAutumn leaves on the hillside above the Owen Beach Promenade as viewed from the water #OptOutsideFinal approach to Owen Beach with a bald eagle flying over Point Defiance #OptOutside

Were we faster on the return trip because we had the wind at our back? Because we were more in sync with the ebb tide? Because it started to rain and we had more motivation to hustle back to shore? Difficult to say. But I am certain that we’ll want to do several more practice runs and examine the weather, wind, and currents along the path as we approach the application deadline. It doesn’t seem impossible, but as I mentioned to my kayaking buddies this morning: I’m not yet #InItToWinIt. I’m more #MaybeInItToPotentiallyFinishIt. More training, more research, and more kayaking to follow.

CSA Share June 20, 2017

It’s CSA time!!!

Our first share from Zestful Gardens for 2017 has:

  • 1/2 pound Peas
  • 1 head Bok Choi
  • 1 head Chinese Cabbage
  • 1 head Endive
  • 1 bunch Chard
  • 1 bunch Garlic Scapes
  • 1 head Lettuce
  • 1 pint Strawberries
  • 1 bunch Basil

Recipes we tried out:

Ross Lake Dam Trail

On our way back from a fun weekend in Mazama, the Hubby and I decided to check out the Ross Lake Dam Trail. I’d heard about it originally in an article from Sunset Magazine, and since we were so close, we decided to add the hike onto our trip home. Given my druthers, I probably would never hike on an 86° day. Especially not an 86° day at the end of a three-day weekend full of rafting and adult beverages. The hike down the hill was pretty nice, but when you have to turn around and do that same mile UPhill… let’s just say that I’m proud that I made it back okay, and I was very grateful when the Hubby dipped my hat in Happy Creek on the way back. That ice-cold water really helped get me through the last little bit!

Pictures from the hike are below – mostly taken on the way down, when I could think about photos. The way back up took most of my brainpower to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Well… maybe not most of my brainpower… but far too much to think about pictures!