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  • Radford Bean

Four-Day Kayaking Expedition in the San Juan Islands - Day 1

I was joined on this four-day sea kayaking expedition by my best friend, Stephanie Cowles, and trip leaders from Next Adventure in Portland, Michael Bowersox and Dan Numbers. We set out just before 3 p.m. and headed out of Friday Harbor. Our paddle took us northwest past the Wasp Islands Archipelago to Jones Island.

The trip started off on a high note when shortly outside of Friday Harbor we encountered a pod of transient killer whales (Orcinus orca). The sight was so amazing! We hadn't expected to see killer whales in the channel between San Juan and Shaw Islands. Just that encounter pretty much made the whole trip. We could have gone home at that point and would have left totally satisfied.

The pod, consisting of one male and two females, were heading south. Transient killer whales feed on seals and sea lions as opposed to the resident J, K, and L pods that feed on salmon. Due to declining salmon populations in the region, it's becoming harder to see resident killer whales. The pod appeared so quickly and unexpectedly that I had no time to get out my camcorder to videotape the encounter. All I could do was hope that I would see more killer whales on our paddle to Stuart Island on day 3.

The water conditions were just about perfect. We encountered swells from passing boats—the fun type of waves you like to plow through—but winds were very light and really no waves to cause us any grief, certainly none with whitecaps.

We arrived at the southern end of Jones Island and, after unloading all the gear and food from our boats and tucking our kayaks away above the high-tide zone for the day, set up camp.

While setting up my tent, a young buck walked out of the woods near me. He seemed unconcerned about my presence and proceeded to feast on the grass near my tent.

Following a dinner of bean tacos prepared by Michael and Dan and washing dishes, I hiked the trail that wraps around the entire island to find a good vantage point from which to capture some nice sunset pictures. Those pictures taken, it was time to head back to camp and turn in. On the way back, I passed the harbor where we had tucked away our boats for the evening and discovered the potential for a nice photo of the harbor with a couple of anchored sailboats. I hoped they would be there tomorrow evening.

Raccoons are a consistent visitor to the campground and required that we suspend our food from a tree and keep any foods out of our tents. Good thing, too, because in the twilight hours we heard the raccoons and fighting and hissing as they tried to get to our food.

I hadn't realized I set my tent up next to an active deer trail, so all through the night I heard deer crashing through the salal near my tent. It was great! I was truly camping in the wilderness.

So far my trip to the San Juan Islands is off to a great start.

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