In May I visited Sammamish River for the third time, tried out three different crossover boats at Lake Sammamish State Park, visited Deception Island from Bowman Bay for the first time, explored Ebey Slough and Quilceda Creek for a second time, and a took a great walk out to Craft Island.
Sunday, May 3rd
By the time I'd paddled five minutes downstream, the charm of the river had begun to work. A few more minutes, and I was in the glassy water of Squak Slough and the yellow iris marsh that forms the little delta at Lake Washington. I stripped down to life jacket and shorts to join the turtles basking in the sun.
In Spring's high water, I drifted through the marsh surrounded by yellow iris. I shot over a hundred pictures before the day was done -- of ducklings, herons, a bald eagle, turtles, other kayaks, and everywhere irises in bloom.
Finally wanting some movement, I paddled out into a fresh breeze on Lake Washington and paced a lovely little sailboat for a few minutes, then relaxed to let the wind push me into shore, to discover a big old beaver lodge.
After two hours, I headed upstream, passed the boat ramp and the Lakewood Villa trailer park, and paddled up a backwater on the north side of what I mistook for an island. As the backwater seemed to go on forever, I headed back down.
Later, it turned out that it wasn't a backwater -- it was Swamp Creek, which would end under the Bothell Hiway, only a little way up from where I turned around. Thank you, GoogleMaps.
It was a near perfect day on the water, only ten miles and twenty minutes from home.
Friday, the 8th
I went to the NW Paddling Festival on Lake Sammamish to try out crossover kayaks. After falling off an inflatable paddle board a couple of times, I tried out a Pyranha Fusion (small 9'8"), Dagger Katana 9.7, and Jackson Rogue 10 (should have been the 9). The Jackson is sold by Kayak Academy outside of Issaquah, and the Pyranha and Dagger at Cascade Paddlesports in Redmond. Fusion reviews. Dagger Katana. Rogue reviews.
An update of the same three boats, a year later, but from inspection only:
The Dagger Katana seems like the winner -- front adjustable bulkhead removes fairly easily for overnight packing; one softened chine fairly high on the side and a slightly rounded bottom should make for a stable boat on edge. A very favorable Katana review.
Dagger also makes the Axis 10.5 crossover (wide at 28.5 inches).
Pyranha Fusion has one hard chine low down, flat bottom in the middle with two grooves. Packing, I forget.
The Jackson Karma Traverse, the replacement for the Rogue, has three chines and would be hard to pack up front.
There is also a LiquidLogic Remix XP9, which I didn't see.
Saturday, May 9th
I sat eating my sandwich as other boats passed by -- sailboats, working boats, pleasure boats, other kayaks. Three harlequin ducks played coy at my attempts to photograph them. After brunch I paddled the short bit out to Coffin Rocks and again paused to bask in the day, admire the low-tide bottom, and just enjoy the world around me.
The sea-floor through Urchin Rocks was a garden of different seaweeds. The passage through the rocks popped me out at Rosario Beach, where families tide-pooled and played in the sun. Back through the rocks, I headed for Northwest Island, another quarter mile on.
I landed on the rocks of the island's northwestern-most cove, below a low headland with two wind-pruned spruce trees. Once ashore on my land-legs, I found that the layered rock provided a staircase up twenty feet to the flowered meadow above. (As near as I could tell, it was the island's only landing site that did.)
Finally back on the water, I poked along the coves of the north shore of Deception Island, the bridge of Deception Pass visible in the distance.
The incoming tide and gentle swell helped me along as I paddled across Northwest Pass to Coffin Rocks, through them to Gull Rocks and the rocky shore back into Bowman Bay. There food, coffee, and a bathroom waited. All told, I'd gone only about four glorious miles.
Across Deception Pass from Pass Island, the so-called Room of Doom lay against Whidbey Island's north shore. On today's building flood tide, that nasty eddy seemed more boil than whirlpool.
Back on Whidbey Island, I drove west past Cranberry Lake to the beach and campground.
Sunday, May 17th
I was looking for the side-slough from Ebey Slough that headed across the marsh to connect with Quilceda Creek. It came in from the north, so after a bit I ferried over to the north shore and into the first backwater that I saw. It dead-ended soon enough, so I came back out into Ebey Slough, and tried the next one down.
That looked good, but it soon forked. The scenic right fork soon proved to be blocked by a down tree. The left fork was the likely route to Quilceda Creek that I was looking for, but just a few yards up it was also blocked by a fallen tree.
Then, near Quilceda Creek, it all opened up into a water-world of reeds, cattails, and marsh grasses seeming to float on the high-tide. As I paddled the flats, the kayak swished through islands of grass.
Looking for solid earth, on the third try I grounded the boat for pictures and a pee. I was standing next to a huge water-worn tree stump, the first in a line of half a dozen, all tipped on their sides, their gnarled roots polished like bone.
Back in the boat, I wandered up Quilceda Creek, the flood current helping some. After a bit I realized I had likely arrived at the entrance to Quilceda Slough, the other end of the waterway where I'd earlier balked at the log. I headed up it.
I knew that if I was where I hoped to be, I'd eventually hit that downed tree blocking the other end of the slough. And after a little while longer, I did. Relieved that I was actually where I wanted to be, I was also unsure of what to do next. I sat and thought for a minute.
Then, I poked the nose of the boat into the bank of wet grasses and carefully climbed out onto the log. Balancing on the log and using the paddle to brace off the mucky bottom, I wrestled the kayak to the other side of the log. Then I climbed back in, dry shod -- a successful portage!
I paddled the last few yards out into Ebey Slough and headed back upstream with the tide to the boat ramp, and home.
Thursday, May 21st
I backtracked and tried south down the dike. That short foray demonstrated that from there I'd probably never even reach the beach, yet alone the island. A third brisk walk north along the dike, trying to get to the river's bank, proved equally futile.
The path angled toward the North Fork, where it looked like it would reach drier ground, but then it turned, staying in the wet sedge marsh most of the way, heading for, but never getting to, what looked to me like higher, drier ground. Ah, but it did get to the island.
When the path reaches the island, go right for a few feet while looking left to find the narrow path climbing up across rocks into the trees. Easily follow this path a short bit up onto the island and around to the west.
As I watched, two men walked south from the island down the low-tide sand beach, seeming oblivious as they talked. Far down the beach they splashed through the waters of shallow, sun-warmed channels and bays, and across sand bars and spits. Walking back up the beach by the island, they were still talking, still seeming to be unaware of their surroundings.
After the wet marsh, the arid quality of the island was a relief. I don't know what the annual rainfall here is, but since the island's in the rain shadow of the Olympics, it's low for sure. This is banana-belt country, just up from Camano Island and across Skagit Bay from Whidbey Island. Especially with their thin, bedrock soils, these islands, and not just Craft Island, show water stress, too.
It seems that the rock making up the island is some kind of conglomerate, like large cobbles in a mud matrix. I wouldn't have thought that it could have resisted the water's pounding, let alone the thousand feet of glacial ice that once covered the Puget Sound trough.
Compared to aerial and satellite shots taken in 2006, it looks like the North Fork moved one of its major outlets to now go right past the island.
From Blake's down the North Fork to Craft Island should be about a mile, or thirty minutes of leisurely paddling. On a near low tide, you could then beach the boat and enjoy the island and sand flats for two or three hours until returning upstream with the flood tide.
Thursday, May 28th
Here's the journal for the equally busy month of June 2015.