Always have a plan B (or C in this case).
Captain Wifey and I set off to add some more blue dots
to Washington's south Puget Sound. I had researched a perfect kayaking destination - Woodward Bay on the Henderson Inlet. It sounded great: use a Discover Pass to park the car, calm water, & gorgeous scenery with little development. The weather was in the upper 70s, amazing for the Northwest in May. The Bay is way south, almost to Olympia. We arrived at the launch and walked down to the 'beach'.
Mud-fest. No dock. Lots of mud. We could have waited for a higher tide, however, to paddle all day we wouldn't have had enough water when we came back. Woodward Bay at low tide is nothing but a small stream and we'd be really stuck. We didn't feel like cleaning mud off of everything we own for the next week following the paddle so we packed it back up and drove over to plan B - the boat launch at nearby Zittel's Marina.
The problem here was the boat launch fee: $14. Now, I'm not super-cheap, but when you're accustomed to paying a $3 to $5 launch fee in the city, $14 is pushing it. I thought maybe it was a misprint because it's $14 for all boats, but it wasn't. To top it off, the dock was way high for a kayak launch. You could make it work if you were willing to pay…we moved on to plan C!
Not too far from Zittel's & Woodward Bay is Tolmie State Park
. We found parking in the lower beach parking lot (otherwise it would be a downhill hike to the water). From the parking lot it wasn't far to the beach - easier for us with the inflatable in a pack on my back. It would be possible to launch hardshell kayaks, just know you'll have to carry them on a short trail to the beach (there's no dock or boat launch).
We paddled south from the beach towards the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
. This waterway is called the Nisqually Reach. There's lots of private property woods to enjoy and great views of Volcano Rainier. Be careful as you head closer to the refuge - boats, even kayaks, are not allowed into the area. You can however, paddle up the adjacent McAlister Creek if you make it that far.
It turned out to be a great plan C. Moral of the story? Always good to have a few different launch sites up your sleeve just in case. What if it's muddy? What if it's really windy? Straddle the line between being a fair-weather adventurer & being smart!
~Paul & Amber ETC
It's finally time to start paddling regularly around here! First step, head out into Shilshole Bay as much as possible (pictures above and below from this week). Then, the planning phase. Be sure to check out the new Washington State Map section
of the site to plot your next adventure. We'll be adding blue dots (a.k.a. kayaking/exploring) to the South Sound, the San Juans, and the Olympic peninsula soon!
Warmer spring temps + sun + wind = fun at Seattle's Golden Gardens. Usually I see kiteboarding going on up north at Richmond Beach, but its popularity must be heading south!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Spending a lot of time paddling the Northwest's waters has given me a renewed appreciation of the Puget Sound's native tribes. I was getting ready to launch the other day when someone mentioned the new Suquamish Museum. We sail Suquamish/Port Madison waters regularly and drive through the community every time we take the Bainbridge ferry to Kitsap and continue to the Olympic peninsula. With the ferry ride, Suquamish is about an hour from downtown Seattle. It also happens to be the location of Chief Sealth's (Chief Seattle) gravesite.
The new $7.5 million, 9,000 square foot Suquamish museum is a tribute to the Suquamish tribe and culture. It's a snapshot of the tribe and details the past & present, and looks to the future of the Suquamish Nation. Artifacts are beautiful & nicely laid out. Admission prices are low and there's a quaint gift shop. There is a little room for more artifacts and I'm sure future exhibits will fill the space. They have one permanent gallery and one that periodically rotates.
What makes the stop even cooler is a visit nearby to Chief Sealth's grave. Sealth (the city of Seattle was named after him) was a Suquamish chief who led negotiations (or whatever you want to call them) with the white settlers in the 18oos. There were some interesting power plays going on among local tribes around this time, made way more complicated with arrival of the white-folk to this area. It's an interesting and sometimes controversial history that's worth a read. Anyway, the gravesite is beautiful & powerful and just a short walk from the museum parking lot.
The big question for a lot of our Seattle readers - is the Suquamish Museum & the Chief Sealth gravesite worth the ferry trip over from Seattle? I mean, can you make a day of it? Not quite. The museum is great and I highly recommend it but it could use a little more exhibit space. It might help if there was a special event happening at/near the museum. The museum website talks about future workshops, storytellers, and other events held on the grounds or in their sweet 50-seat auditorium - that would really add some content and complete the experience. Also, it would be great if their were more hands-on artifacts/exhibits for kids (there's not much at all).
Already on the Kitsap Peninsula with an hour to kill? Need a break from the casino?Haven't seen Chief Sealth's gravesite or the museum yet? Definitely worth a visit. Check out the museum and tribe websites below for more info and upcoming events.
~Paul & Amber ETCThe Suquamish MuseumThe Suquamish Tribe
In an effort to explore more of the South Sound, we recently took an afternoon to walk around the small town of Ruston, Washington. Pretty much indistinguishable from Tacoma, this little town is close to Point Defiance (we recently visited here
too), and sits on Commencement Bay.
There's a few great businesses here to check out - we always like stopping by the Jungle Fever Exotics
. Unfortunately our garden dreams are on hold (besides our boat farming
operation!), but it's still fun to walk the grounds. We grabbed a snack and coffee next-door at the Antique Sandwich Co
Ruston has an interesting history - it began as a company town for the employees of W.R. Rust in 1890. He established the Tacoma Smelting and Refining Company (I mean, with a name like Mr. Rust…why not?). Later, ASARCO took over smelting operations down by the waterfront. The company polluted the heck out of the area while under operation (it turns out that ASARCO
is kinda known for that). A massive Superfund cleanup has been ongoing at the site for years. The transformation is pretty much complete, now it's condo time. The area has been renamed Point Ruston
and condo and housing development is underway.
If you do hit up Ruston for an afternoon, make sure to drive down by the water on scenic Ruston Way. There's still traces of Ruston's past combined with new construction paving the way for the future. There's a great waterfront restaurant down the road a bit called Harbor Lights
. It's been here serving up seafood for over 50 years! You could definitely spend a sunny afternoon on the waterfront alone walking, kayaking, skateboarding, sightseeing, and more.
~Paul & Amber ETC
Captain wifey and I have been really excited to check out the newly relocated MOHAI
(Museum of History and Industry) here in Seattle. The new location is perfect - nestled in the South Lake Union neighborhood, right next to the Center for Wooden Boats
, there's restaurants, it's close to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, there is free parking around the corner, it's on the lake, and the museum is about stuff we're interested in - boats, the Northwest, & Northwest history.
Also, before I got into teaching (my current day job) I worked a little in the museum world. After spending hours on the museum floor and interacting with guests it was easy to see both what works, and the many challenges local museums face. From that experience I can say that the new MOHAI was carefully thought out by people who know museums - it shows.
Look Mom! The space needle!
Another cool thing about the location of the museum is its access to Lake Union from Lake Union Park. There are boat tie-ups everywhere - you could actually sail up, tie-up, go to the museum, eat lunch, and sail off into the sunset (that may be wishful thinking, the actual tie-up rules are a little confusing, read more here
& I'd call ahead). It is also right across the water from the new-ish kayak put-in (pictured below). We've set off from here in the past
It seems there's always something going on around the outside of the museum - from FarmBoat
drop-offs, to toy sailing races, to the carving of a traditional Native American canoe (check out the plans for a new Northwest Native Canoe Center
at Lake Union Park!).
Once you head into the museum you'll be in a giant great room. This building used to be a Naval Reserve Armory back in the day. The museum has a open layout in the middle with exhibits on multiple floors in the rooms along all sides of the building.
One of the highlights of the great room is John Grade's massive wooden sculpture "Wawona". It was made from old planks salvaged from the hull of a ship (named Wawona). It actually extends below the floor into the lake and above the ceiling/on the roof…it's amazing.
There's lots of hands on stuff (a.k.a. great for kids). Touch screens galore, a periscope on the top floor with views of lake and city, railroads to pound on, things to turn, pull, push, & move. Make sure to try the educational old-school slot machine!
The exhibits are nicely organized, not too cramped (with artifacts), and there is a nice flow. Lots of cool stuff. Definitely worth the visit!
~Paul & Amber ETC
P.S. The food at the cafe is good and reasonably priced - you could museum it up, have lunch, then go back for more...
Vashon Island. Heard of it? We have. Every Sunday we head over to our local Ballard Farmers Market (Ballard is a neighborhood in Seattle) and buy our meat from the Vashon Island butcher there. The legend is that his animals are raised on a beautiful & quaint island just a 20 minute ferry ride from West Seattle. An island we've always known about but have never visited. This island must be farmy - the Sea Breeze Farm
produces eggs, meat, & milk that is sold year round at the University & Ballard farmers markets here in the city.
I imagined farms and trees. Maybe some hills? A lot of my cyclist friends speak of riding the ferry over to Vashon (that's the pretty part) then biking up a giant hill that leads to town (that's the sweaty part).
Well, we explored the island last weekend in the winter sun (remember the sunny Saturday?). We found farms, hills, lighthouses, coffee roasters, exercise bikes, marinas, lots of kayak put-ins…but no UFOs (that's a different Vashon legend we'll talk about later).
Town is cool. Lots of restaurants, some of them a little wacky. A local movie theater, a music store, hardware store…lots of shopping. Restaurants for breakfast, lunch & dinner, coffee. Spend some time walking around with coffee in hand - make sure to check out the Treasure Island consignment shop
- it's awesome and full of every vintage thing you could imagine.
Other notable stores? We like Island Quilter
…my wife loves it because she's a quilter and loves to browse fabric (Katie from Sewkatiedid
was there!). I also found it intriguing due to the Luke Haynes
feature - I was pulled in by his giant Kanye/Jay-Z quilt in the window. I'll say that again - Jay-Z on a quilt…in a quilt store.
We grabbed a quick bite in town at Pure Organic Cafe
. I had a coconut smoothie, my wife had some warm Ginger Tea, and we shared a giant piece of leafy pizza.
Just down the road a mile from the shopping district is a historic coffee roaster with tons of Northwest history. Long story short - this used to be Seattle's Best Coffee but now it's independent…and yummy. It's the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie
. You can spend time here browsing the mini-museum scattered around the cafe and shop, shop for tea, herbs, groceries, beer, and of course, coffee. It is a great pit-stop for cyclists or for anyone who loves a good cup of Joe. Next door is a little grocery shop (Minglement
- pictured below) with gifts, oils, food, and other goodies.
Keep driving south from the coffee & you'll hit Quartermaster Harbor. We went left over the portage, towards Maury Island & Dockton. At the intersection of Dockton Rd SW & Portage Way SW you'll find one of the many mysteries on the island…the abandoned exercise bikes on Tramp Harbor.
From there we continued onto Maury Island (not really an island anymore since the Army Corps of Engineers filled in the bridge connecting it to Vashon back in the day). It's absolutely worth stopping by the Point Robinson Lighthouse, pictured below, and we also found a nice kayak put-in at the Dockton Marina.
Maury Island has some fun history too - my favorite is the 1947 alleged UFO sighting. The Maury Island incident as it's called, created a lot of buzz in the media and was one of the first UFO/Flying Saucer sightings (it was even before Roswell)…It was also one of the first mentions of the Men in Black…read more here
…Some folks are even making a movie about the incident! Support that project and learn more here
...and remember, you didn't hear it from me:)
Heading back over the portage leads you towards the other side of Quartermaster Harbor to the community of Burton. They also have a marina and a nice little marina-grocery store with boaty provisions. Jensen Point is the best kayak launch-site over here, and in the summer you can even rent boats for the hour, day, or longer. Look for full-moon paddles on Quartermaster Harbor in the summer months, 5 days each month around the full-moon.
Worth a day trip from Seattle? Yes! Did we even see every park and kayak put-in on the island? No! Will we be back to paddle? For sure.
~Paul & Amber ETC
We thought we'd take one more little paddle on our quick-trip to the coast North Carolina last Fall- a visit to the quaint little town of Beaufort. First of all, this ain't no South Carolinian town of Beaufort (bew-fert
)…this here is Beaufort (boh-fert -
at the end there). Glad we cleared that up.
Beaufort is a scenic, quiet, & friendly seaport village near the southern section of the Outer Banks. From our point of view it is perfect - cute small town with nice restaurants and places to explore on foot, cool history, and some great paddling nearby. The town's Front street is just across a skinny waterway (Taylor Creek) with the Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve
on the other side - an awesome sanctuary to explore by kayak (wild ponies anyone?).
Added bonus: the town was once upon a time a hangout for some special guests…pirates. Blackbeard had been to the town and although he wasn't that impressed back in the 18th century, his beloved ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, grounded & eventually sank near Beaufort. They recently found her & the Maritime Museum in Beaufort
gets first dibs on all of the artifacts being resurrected from the sea. Arrr.
You get a taste of the history of this place when you check out the Beaufort Historic Site
. Located right in the middle of the historic part of town, the site has several historic buildings/houses to explore. Gorgeous stuff.
There's lots of other places to check out in town - we stopped by the Beaufort Coffee Shop
(Cru Bar & Coffee Shop) for a cup of Joe. When you're on the road in the South and you hear the sound of a real espresso machine you go there...we're from Seattle after all! We also strolled the General Store & Taylor's Creek Antiques.
While walking along the waterfront in town you'll notice signs for the Rachel Carson Reserve - just across the Creek.
After exploring town we finally drove down a few minutes to a nice boat launch. We launched from the Beaufort boating access ramp on Lennoxville Road
. There was a parking lot and it turned out to be a great place to set off. We paddled against the current eastward (which felt like northward), out past the end of Carrot Island. The current was pretty swift here. Without too much planning, we always paddle against the current first - that way it's an easy ride back (you don't want to try it the other way around!).
As you paddle, there are great beach houses and nice boats to check out on the mainland side, and pretty wildlife scenes from the reserve on the other. A reserve boardwalk, pictured below, is right across the creek from the boat launch. Taking it gives you views of the other side of the island.
The put-in is also right next to The Boathouse & Front Street Village
- a future residential area with boat storage, marina, boat fuel, groceries, and more. There is a lot planned for this area, check out more here
. For us, it was a great place to grab a snack after our paddle & check out the old fishing net wheel, left over from when this was once part of Beaufort Fisheries.
Do we recommend a visit to Beaufort? For sure. Great paddling and a quaint, historic town…perfect! Just don't call it Bew-fert.
~Paul & Amber ETC
We're lucky in the Northwest to have a strong & proud Native American culture. As we paddle different rivers and locations around the Puget Sound, we are constantly reminded of the people that have lived here for thousands of years.
On Rosario Beach, in Deception Pass State Park, there's a great little (kinda giant actually) carved story pole of a maiden named "Ko-kwahl-alwoot" - the Maiden of Deception Pass.
According to Samish tribal tradition, long ago this maiden risked her life to save the tribe from starvation. She did this by agreeing to marry a man of the sea - an underwater dude who fancied her and threatened to take the plentiful sea-life away from the area if she didn't. Her father demanded that she return annually so he could check on her well-being. After about 4 years of visits she had become so accustomed to the sea she decided stop visiting and stay underwater. Legend says her hair can be seen flowing with the tide around the Pass (not to be confused with bull kelp:). She lives eternally underwater and ensures the area has an abundance of food for her p.
Rosario Beach is great little area of Deception Pass State Park with a nice boat/kayak launch, a trail for a quick hike, the Maiden story pole, and some covered and uncovered picnic areas. Check it out!
~Paul & Amber ETCLink
to the story of the Maiden of Deception Pass.Link
to the Samish Indian Nation.Link
to pictures of the carving of the Maiden.
Looking to kayak in New Bern, North Carolina? In our last post
from the East Coast we launched from the opposite side of the Neuse River, away from town. However, if you're in downtown New Bern and feel the urge for a quick paddle just stroll over to Union Point Park. There's a boat ramp for bigger boats just around the corner, plenty of waterfront to enjoy, lots of parking, and a wooden dock to launch your kayak from.
The Neuse River flows pretty slow here and without wind it's pretty glassy. Just up from the park is a nice little waterfront area called Skipjack Landing. There's a restaurant called Persimmons
with a great outdoor seating area and gorgeous views of the river. Next-door/across the street is the Galley Marina & Store
, a full service marina and grocery with all kinds of yummies and daily specials. The only negative for paddlers - the marina doesn't technically have a place to put in a kayak. You could probably unofficially launch from here without being bothered (we call it a rogue-launch:), but it's just as easy to launch from nearby Union Point Park.
If you keep exploring you'll discover more of the town - beautiful architecture, moss covered oak trees, great historic buildings like the amazing Tryon Palace
, quaint bed & breakfasts - we love the Hanna House
, and a tasty little delicatessen - the Pollock Street Delicatessen
. New Bern is super-ultra-totally-amazingly-quaint…and more importantly, close to the water with access to Union Point Park and a gorgeous paddle on the river.
~Paul & Amber ETC