Fort Flagler, WA and the Seals

28 10 2021
Suzanne and Bob at Fort Flagler

Right after my September visit to Lake Quinault, I continued up the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, past Port Angeles, and on to the Port Townsend area where my friends Suzanne and Bob live. They live on Kala Point, south of town, on Port Townsend Bay. Bob built himself a dandy wooden sea going rowing shell. We decided to meet up at Fort Flagler State Park, on the other side of Indian Island for a paddle/row. I brought along the Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 I borrowed from work.

Bob launched from Kala Point and rowed over, whilst Suzanne and I drove over to Fort Flagler. After getting the Tempest 170 adjusted for Suzanne, we launched.

From the launch site the whole of Port Townsend Bay comes into view. I could see a ferry carrying passengers from Whidbey Island, the town’s famous clock tower, and a sailboat race taking place right in front of the town docks. The weather was calm, and it was low tide. So very little current when we launched.

We came to a sand spit across the way, and spotted a colony of maybe 35 seals. They were all laid up on the beach soaking up the sun. But they were wary and all stared at us as we approached. I paddled slowly, mostly gliding toward them. Then, one by one, they moved into the water. Eventually the whole colony was swimming around looking at us. Sometimes, I could see a seal swimming under my kayak! They’d swim upside down so they could see my kayak above.

As you can see from the videos, the seals were wary, yes, but they were just as curious! The cutest part was the pups and their mothers “kissing.”

The tide started coming in. And boy, in that area, when the tide makes it move, it starts cranking! By the time we turned back, the surface was a one-way river!

The experience was very refreshing. I grew up in the northeast 15 minutes away from the shore. Sailboats and salt water are in my blood, so this was so much needed! I shall return.

Lake Quinault, WA Over Labor Day

27 10 2021
Chiyo in my Current Designs Sisu

My good friends Chiyo and Chester joined me for a couple of days camping and paddling on the Olympic Peninsula at Lake Quinault. Lake Quinault is managed by the Quinault Tribe, and they only allow motorized craft for tribal members and home owners on the lake. So, it can be pretty quiet for paddling. On this trip, even on Labor Day weekend, I saw only one power boat. The lake borders Olympic National Park with its legendary rivers, rain forests and mountains.

Any drive up in the Olympic Peninsula involves passing logging trucks!

I brought along my sea kayak, a Current Designs Sisu, and I borrowed a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 from Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, where I work in Digital Marketing and as a sales associate and kayak guide. One of the perks is we can demo and borrow kayaks!

My kayak, a fiberglass kayak, came through the drive unhurt. The other kayak is a plastic one, and it deformed, in industry terms, “oil canned.” Storing it on edge somewhat helped. But the polyethylene plastic is so soft and can deform with just a little heat and pressure. Either way, we enjoyed our paddling on the lake. My tent is a pretty simple backpacking tent. Chester and Chiyo’s tent is more like the Taj Mahal!

We paddled along the east end of the lake. At one point I went ashore to take a look around. It wasn’t long before I found evidence of the wildlife living in the area! There were big elk prints in the sand!

After our return, it was time for a sumptuous lunch. Two friends from Portland had brought along their kayaks and paddled with us. Chiyo even brought tiramisu for dessert. I was so stuffed at that point, I could not accept.

The sleeping that evening was the low part for sure. Labor Day had its way with us. One of the other campsites ignored the rules and invited half of Seattle. There must have been 20+ people, and about 10 cars with all the camping gear showed up after dark. The camp host made them pay for all those extra cars, and enforced the quiet hours on them. But there was more! Another campsite went on partying until after midnight. Lesson be learned, think twice about car camping Labor Day Weekend!

Surprise Surprise Lake Merwin Paddle was Great!

23 05 2010

Monte at the falls!

The weather has once again sucked us back into the black hole of some kind of winterish mix. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the stubborn gray clouds hanging around the PacificNW in May 2010. We’ve had a few beauties, but most gorgeous days are teasers in between a week of ugly. So, this past week when I had a Paddle NW Meetup scheduled for Lake Merwin, I was not exactly jumping out of my seat with anticipation. Then, the last evening three people dropped out. Rather than just cancel I sulkingly drove up there. Monte and Bibi did come, and that made me feel a lot better.

On the way, I did a double take seeing the local search and rescue vehicle…hmmm…budget cuts!

Better not need a rescue!

Once suited up in my dry suit, I was ready for anything. We were prepared. The plan called for heading east up the end of the lake and then ducking into canyon creek. So we snapped on the spray skirts and headed out. Wouldn’t you know it the sun came out. It was really pretty, the gray/white/blue sky and then the dappled sunlight on the hills around the lake. It wasn’t windy at all.

Bibi after lunch, ready to go...

Lake Merwin is one of three major hydraulic dam reservoirs in the Lewis River system. The other two are Swift Reservoir and Yale Lake. They’re owned by PacifiCorp. The company runs recreation sites along the reservoirs. On the east end of Merwyn, we put in at Spelyai Bay, which is day use only. Further up is Cresap Bay, and it’s a day use/boat launch, swimming area and campground.

The lakes lie in deep gorges, so the banks can be steep. There are not many places to land a kayak. We found one just beyond where route 503 crosses the lake on a suspension bridge. It’s got a fire ring and picnic tables. There, Bibi, myself and Monte had ourselves some lunch. The weather cooperated, which was very nice. Not widely known is that Merwin is home to a population of Tiger Muskellunge – a very aggressive upper Midwestern fish commonly growing over 50 inches! They were planted to control the squaw fish invasive species. But I’ve got to think the Tiger Muskies will devour everything!

Once done, we hopped back in the boats and headed further east. Somewhere at the east end of the lake, Canyon Creek, famous for its hairy whitewater, enters, but we were really wondering where the heck it was. Finally we rounded a bend and there were floating balls across the lake with a sign warning DO NOT GO FURTHER – DAM. But just before this barricade was the outflow of Canyon Creek. We headed up this little canyon and eventually found the last rapid of the creek, a 3-foot waterfall entering the lake.

Not long after, we ran into two other kayakers who turned out to be friends of Andrew’s. Andrew had canceled, but his two guests wanted to paddle regardless of the weather. They were really pleased with their luck. Nice folks – Richard and Ginette. We paused and visited for maybe 20 minutes. They continued up into the creek, while we started on our way back. We encountered a major downpour, and I kind of wondered about Bibi, who wasn’t wearing a hat! But she’s got a thick head of hair! She said she wasn’t bothered at all. She was having a good time!

Richard and Ginette

Eventually we reached Cresap Bay Recreation area and explored it a little. I couldn’t decide from what I saw if it’d be worthwhile coming back there to camp. Once back out on the lake, we ran into Richard and Ginette again, and the five of us paddled back to our put in. The sun came out while we took the boats out, and that was pleasant! I’d say we’ll return to Lake Merwyn sometime!