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
Follow us on Twitter and receive updates when we post (click the birdie).