Monday, September 24, 2012

Wednesday at Freshwater Bay, Port Angeles Washington State

Not an ideal photo of Freshwater Bay
 "You're not going to keep taking my picture."

  Actually that was precisely my intent.  I've got the Olympic Foothills as a backdrop, trees and the bay.  It definitely looks like we're in Washington State.  I'd like to keep Mark posing until I get a Christmas Card shot.  Unfortunately my muse has no intent of staying in Freshwater Bay, he has every intent of paddling west toward the Salt Creek Recreational Area.  He's headed along a section of coast described in Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (by Rob Casey) as "a taste of Washington's outer coast" and "magnificent sheer rock cliffs topped with cedar fir and madrona."
Mark by Observation Point
   Our boats and gear are from Adventures Through Kayaking.  To demonstrate our worthiness to rent gear we've had two interviews, one with the employee on duty the day before, Jory, and one with Adventure Through Kayaking's owner, Tammi Hinckle.  Having an interview before being allowed to rent is a fairly common practice, more so with sea kayaks and especially near trickier waters.  They want to know what experience we have, what knowledge we have of potential risks and most importantly, what will we do if one or both capsize.  ("T" Rescue, roll or re-enter and roll, though we also practice other rescues.)  Tammi has trusted us with two Valley Aquanauts, two toasty wetsuits, pumps and paddle floats, paddles and at the last minute, found a couple spray skirts for our use.

    I don't have my Christmas Card shot yet, but Mark is right, we're here to paddle.  So we edge around Observation Point and Bachelor Rock, delineating the western edge of Freshwater Bay, and begin our exploration of many coves.
Rounding Bachelor Rock
   The tide is incoming, and there's a rare east wind blowing so the Strait of Juan De Fuca is choppy, but there's nothing massive.

    Again and again we'll cross beds of bull kelp as we dive into coves to explore.  The kelp is thick, more than once I'll get stuck and need to yank myself out.
Pretty thick kelp
   Each cove is different, some have beaches we can land on,

Gooseneck Barnacles on the beach
  Others dramatic cliffs
   or low caves.

  One has a ledge filled with seal pups.

  Harbor seals pup all summer in this area.  Not wanting to disturb the pups we take a quick photo then look away and paddle on.

   Nick, of Adventures through Kayaking is guiding two new kayakers in the Bay.  They're an adventurous couple, who came out to Washington on their honeymoon, moved out on their first anniversary and are celebrating their second anniversary with a kayaking lesson.  Their lesson lasts until 12:30, and we'll be riding back to the store with them.  In case they need to go back early, we head to Freshwater Bay with plenty of time left.

   We spend our extra time finally getting some pictures of the purple sea stars that have been eluding us.

   As well as a sunflower star

   and green anemones.

   It's an awesome time!  I can see where an array of small coves and interesting waters could easily keep me entertained for days on end.

   I can't tell you how many beaches we've walked looking for sea stars, how many docks we've wandered.  The walks weren't unproductive, we'd seen otters, an elephant seal, harbor seals, porpoises, anemones, jellyfish.  But only one small pasty pink sea star, no different from a east coast sea star.  Now, at last I have a photo of the purple sea star.  Yay!
Nick loads boats while I check my photos.  Bachelor Rock in the distance
   But, as it turns out, there was a much better place to go.  After the paddle we stopped in Port Angeles to visit the Feiro Marine Life Center.   Of course the Feiro Marine Life Center has a variety of sea stars, but the shot below is just taken from the edge of the seawall outside the Marine Center.  How many sea stars do you see?  I see 10. 
 (Not to imply that wandering a seawall in Port Angeles can compete with a morning playing out in the currents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.)

Summary:  Rental:  Adventures Through Kayaking.  Boats:  Valley Aquanauts.  I found the boat very comfortable and secure.  It turned easily and rode well on the waves and wind. 

Many thanks to Tammi for renting us such wonderful boats and to Jory for telling us about the area and recommending we head west from Freshwater Bay!

A nice link for more information about sea stars of the west coast:



  1. Thanks for letting us follow your trip- this day looks like more fun than Seattle.
    thanks, Michael

    1. Thanks, it was my favorite day. I think kayaks of our own, and four months, or maybe four years, would be necessary to fully explore and appreciate Washington's many paddling opportunities.

  2. I really love the varied coastlines found in Washington State! In the first photo, is the floating debris mostly kelp or is it trash? And if trash, any speculation on where that trash field originated? You and Mark certainly discover some interesting paddling areas! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kelp, all bull kelp. We didn't spot any trash in these waters. There was a piece of Styrofoam bobbing off San Juan Island, but Kaitlyn paddled by and quick as a wink scooped it up and out of sight.
      The Last Wilderness Blog ( has been doing a film project about tsunami debris off Washington's coast.

  3. Awesome paddle and great pics. Good models are hard to find but I think you got your Christmas card photo afterall with the shot of Mark by Observation Point. It has that dreamlike whimsy that makes you stop and say, "Hey, I'd just like to look at that a lot longer!"

    I'm happy to see that you are having a good trip out west! You just can't beat the ocean!

    Cheers from Canada.

    1. Glad you like the photo; I like the madrona tree and the kayak for scale. It does make you wonder what you'll see around the corner. It was nice to see the waters which have inspired so many paddlers through the years. Hard to explore such a vast area in a week though.