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

#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.

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!



Board Body Workout

Once upon a time, the Hubby and I snowboarded ALL. THE. TIME. As in, we would purchase season passes when they went on sale in the Spring. And we would make sure we got our money’s worth. We would head to the mountains any weekday we had off work and at least one day each weekend. We would snowboard on Christmas Day. One year, when our local mountains were low on the white stuff, we even drove across the state and back for a few hours of snowboarding.

Then our lives changed. We no longer had weekends quite as available for snowboarding. Season passes stopped being the economical choice. Snowboarding became an every-once-in-a-while occurrence, although I think we’ve managed to make it to the slopes at least once each year. But that one time isn’t as fun as it used to be. Instead of experiencing the freedom of flowing down smooth runs, we’re re-learning how to control our boards (and our bodies). It’s a lot of work, and not necessarily very enjoyable. More frustrating, actually. For us and for those that ride with us.

When the Hubby took me on my first snowboarding adventure, he told me that you cannot tell if you like it or not on the first day. Or the second. The third day is when you can tell if you’re having fun or not. He said that this works exceptionally well if you are able to ride three days in a row. I trusted him, and I gave it three good tries, and I was hooked.

But now? Now we don’t often have three tries in a year. Now we have other priorities and other activities that compete for our time and resources. Now, snowboarding feels like work MOST of the time we’re doing it.

But we used to really love it. The Hubby might still really love it, even through all the work and frustration and leg pain. Me? I’m on the fence. But not quite ready to give up on it. So this year, we’re trying something new. We’re trying to get into snowboarding shape first, and then hit the slopes.

So I did some googling and found this snowboarding workout. And we gave it a shot for the first time last night. We cannot manage it. Literally – we can’t do all of the exercises in the set. If you’re interested, you can read through my bullets on what I did & didn’t do – I won’t be offended if you skip those, though.

Hubby and I committed to spend up to 15 minutes a day for the next seven days, attempting these exercises and to re-evaluate at that point. I’m curious to see how much we’ll improve and how sore we’ll be at the end. I don’t really think that doing some exercises in our living room will completely make up for being able to hit the slopes every weekend. But I do think that anything that makes us move more and work our muscles is probably pushing us in the right direction.

Read on if you’re interested to see where we started. Or check back in next week for an update!

  • Pulse Squats are okay. My quads are burning by the end, but 30 seconds doesn’t seem like the end of the world.
  • Mountain Climbers feel like I should be able to do a lot more of them, a lot more easily… but they’re also okay.
  • We skipped the Step Ups because I don’t think we have anything in our house that we could actually step onto for these. If it weren’t storming out, I would have braved the front porch steps. But it wasn’t worth it. So we nixed them.
  • Russian Twists were literally the only thing I felt like I could do well, for the full time. I think I owe that to Liz’s 6:30 a.m. Abs Class at the Downtown YMCA – my abs may be hidden, but they’re still pretty strong, and my obliques can probably withstand a lot more punishment than this workout can dish out.
  • Single Leg Stand Up… I managed two on each side. We completely abandoned the concept of 30 seconds per leg and focused on attempting to complete the exercise. At all.
  • Back Extensions were okay for me, also. This is an exercise I did for physical therapy following my car accident a little over a year ago, so it’s not completely foreign to me. One of the exercises where I didn’t feel like I was about to die while trying it.
  • Elevated Stationary Single Lunge was difficult, and I don’t think my form was great… but I got through it.
  • Quick Get Up – from the description the Hubby read, I thought you weren’t supposed to use your hands to stand up. That proved impossible. I was able to manage this one a few times on each side, but had to push off with my hand. Seems like that’s cool, from the photos. So I did it. But it was pretty difficult.

We did NOT repeat the exercises a second time. We made our way through the list (except the Step Ups) once and called it good for a start. And I was immediately sore and felt like it was a chore to sit down. That feeling hasn’t changed in the last 24 hours.

We completely neglected to do any stretches, but judging by how tight my legs feel today, that will be an important component to bring into our lives.

#OptOutside 2016

While we had an excellent time during our first #OptOutside adventures, they did set me up with the expectation that November in the Pacific Northwest would be bright sunshine and flat-calm waters.  Black Friday 2016 wasn’t quite that way. It was cold and cloudy and I was super cranky. So we paused, we re-set, and we headed out later in the afternoon, fortified with snacks and beverages. It wasn’t quite the dreamy adventure that 2015 brought, but I did feel good about getting outdoors and enjoying nature. We launched from Point Defiance, paddled around to float the tides, and rafted up to snack in the middle of the Narrows.
View of Tacoma from the Narrows

Kayak Camping – Take 2: 2016 Edition

After the debacle that was our first kayak camping expedition, I wasn’t too keen on the concept of trying again.  Until I talked to a colleague who loves kayak camping and learned that we’d traveled more than FIVE TIMES further on our maiden voyage than my buddy recommends.  So I considered for a day, and then told the Hubby that I was open to trying again.  IF we shorten the distance by A LOT.  And IF he could get everything we need ready in less than 48 hours.

The plan: we get everything we need for successful kayak camping loaded into the car for a Saturday morning departure.  We take the Point Defiance-Vashon ferry, and then drive to the North end of Vashon Island.  There’s a boat launch right near the ferry dock there, and a place to leave the car not too far away.  We’ll paddle a couple of miles, to Blake Island, and camp for the night.  Since the weather reports are predicting thunderstorms late Sunday afternoon, we plan on getting back to Vashon by midday – thunderstorms seem easier to handle in a car or on a ferry than they do in a kayak.

At no point did either of us sit down & figure out how much food and water we should bring with us.  We just went for it.  It turns out that we brought more than 21 litres of water and more than 12 meals worth of food.  Which would be good, if we were going on an extended trip.  But we were literally on blake island for less than 20 hours.  This still wouldn’t be a big deal, except that I’m not accustomed to how the boats react when fully loaded.  They sit lower in the water and they have more inertia.  Which is great if you’re trying for long distances.  But it’s not awesome when you’re ready to turn.  Or accelerate.  And it takes a lot longer to pack tons of food & water than it does to pack 2 meals worth of nourishment.

That’s right – two meals worth.  Because we had lunch on Saturday at La Playa Mexican Restaurant.  And then, since we’d just paddled back & loaded the boats onto the car around lunch time on Sunday… we ate there again.  So our frito pie on Saturday night and our biscuits & gravy on Sunday morning were the only meals we needed.  Of course, I was glad to have apples & peanut butter when I didn’t like the biscuits & gravy.  So it was good that we brought snack foods, too.  That’s right – snack foods, in addition to the 12 meals worth of food.  In addition to the emergency rations that we always keep in the boats, you know, in case of emergency.

Although Blake Island has three Cascadia Marine Trail campsites, the Hubby was willing to compromise with me and camp at the standard campground.  Running water, bathrooms, and even an option to enjoy a salmon bake seemed more my speed than a pit toilet and no running water.  We were a bit of an anomaly on that side of the island, as we were the only folks camping out of kayaks on that end.  We had lots of folks ask us how many trips it took to get all of our gear to the island by kayak (answer: one).  Several folks were amazed that we’re able to fit the tent, sleeping pads, reclining camp chairs, and tons of food, water, books, and games into our boats.

We hiked over to check out the marine trails sites.  They’re not as primitive as I’d imagined, but I’d still rather take this journey slowly.  I haven’t fully embraced the concept of kayak camping.  Crossing open water, dealing with shipping lanes and other boaters, and being at the mercy of the weather are all things I need to get more comfortable with if this is going to be a regular thing for us.

The evening was pleasant, and we had a leisurely start to our morning.  Everything was going fairly well, until the weather started coming in as we were packing our campsite.  Although the thunderstorms were still predicted to be hours away, the winds bringing the storms our way made packing the tent an adventure.  We loaded the kayaks in the rain while I contemplated whether I was brave enough to make the crossing back to Vashon.  In the end, the weather died down a bit, and I put on my big-girl-pants and opted to paddle back, rather than trying to hitch a ride with one of the bayliners in the marina.  My fear of social awkwardness overcame my fear of a rough sea.

In the end, we made it back just fine.  I got somewhat more comfortable with open-water crossing, and I’m willing to try it again next year.  In the meantime, we’ll work on our packing list, and pare things down a bit more.