Hope Island, WA: Staff Kayak Camping Trip with Alder Creek

18 03 2012

I work at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe in Portland, Oregon. I’m a sales consultant but I also guide and do instruction (ha ha, and even website content stuff). Every spring, the company pays for the staff to go on a kayak camping trip – a kind of pre-season employee bonding kind of thing. Most years, this trip goes to Washington’s San Juan Islands. Since Alder Creek offers guided San Juan Islands kayak camping trips every summer, this employee trip is traditionally a way to train new staff on these trips so they can work them and sell them. On this trip, it was myself, Paul Kuthe, Dave Slover, David Trageser, Chris Bensch, Jason Self, David Dalbey, and Alex.

This spring, we only had three days, which is not much time to travel from Portland, Oregon to the San Juans and back. So, we decided to do the trip to Hope Island in the South Puget Sound – only 2-1/2 hours from Portland. In the weeks prior to the trip, everyone was nervous about weather. Normally March in the Pacific NW is very volatile! It can be snowing, hailing – or sunny. You can imagine in our minds, we were thinking, “I have to do this as an employee. But sh*t. It might be snowing or raining and awful! I don’t want to commit!” I confess that I was looking for an escape not wanting to sit around a windy wet and cold campsite.

But all these trepidations melted away with the magic of luck and weather. In the 72 hours before our departure March 6th, the forecast was for three days of SUN! And little wind. Unbelievable, but true, and this was borne out during our three-day employee trip!

Our departure morning was sunny. What a break. We loaded the kayaks on the Alder Creek trailer – 8 of them. Food shopping was done the day before. Eggs, bacon, chicken, cheese, the makings of breakfast scrambles or breakfast burritos. Also stuff to make Reuben Sandwiches for lunches – bread, cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut etc. Lots of snacks. We also had a Caesar Wrap lunch – chicken, flat bread, Caesar Dressing, romaine lettuce…etc. There was a lot of fruit.

Boston Harbor Marina is a great provisioning and put-in spot for all South Sound trips.

Our destination for launch point was Boston Harbor, which is about a 20 minute drive west of Tacoma, Washington. The Boston Harbor Marina has an excellent shop – where we loaded up on some adult beverages.

We set the boats down on the beach next to the marina and set to pack up! I’m always amazed how much stuff we bring – and surprised we can actually fit the stuff in the kayaks.

Packing a kayak for a camping trip is an art. I won’t go into details, but for sure, you want heavy stuff like water as low and centered as possible. You want anything  you might want to reach during your paddle, or lunch, at the top!

Of course there is the mix of the safety, comfort and pleasure amongst the gear.

And some are willing to go to extra lengths to sleep in comfort even if it means carrying the pad on the deck!

Before we left, Chris and I were responsible for lunch – we prepared Chicken Caesar Wraps. These turned out to be darn good!

We ate whilst watching the snowy Olympic Mountains to the west. It’s a really pretty sight.

Hope Island is out there under the mountains!

We set off about one-o’clock. On this day, the water is smooth as glass, and we feel super lucky! Dry, windless and relatively warm.

All are in good spirits.

Paul naps with a nice view...

We reach the island in a couple of hours.

The site has a beach with a couple of picnic tables, and set behind there is an old orchard – tents can be set up on the periphery of the orchard.

Top priority of any group camping is the setup of the kitchen!

All the cooking gear and of course the afternoon snacks and dinner food is first priority.

Once tents and the kitchen is all set, it’s time to relax, have beers, throw the frisbee, check out the island, or not.

Sometimes, it’s perfectly acceptable to avail ones self of the best available rest spot, the hammock…

Well, as sunset approached, Mount Rainier got a beautiful Alpine Glow on!

As the day closed and early evening began to set in, it was time to get the meal going!

We actually had some great meals, carefully and not-so-carefully prepared. But at least here, our Martha Stewart kitchen looks very appetizing…

Some re-fried beans being opened. The first night is Mexi-Night…a hearty meal for everybody!

And time for some adult beverages consumed in a not so adult fashion!

Some serious bonding for the staff! The rest of this mis-adventure will just have to remain in our memories…or not?

When Life Gives You Lemons…Switch Paddling Venues!

31 07 2011

Sunday July 24th was to be my day to enjoy paddling in “conditions.” Conditions – means rougher water and wind. We sought out 20+ mph winds, 2+ foot wind waves and maybe rollers. The goal was to learn to paddle in these seas, but also to perform assisted rescues and self rescues in them, too.

Paddling and doing rescues in flat wind-less water is completely different from doing them in rough water and wind…so taking a class & practicing with instructors around is really helpful! During the days leading up to the session we watched the weather forecast closely and found it to be questionable. The forecast wasn’t calling for a windy day. Still, it seemed like some places in the Columbia Gorge would offer winds kicking up.

The group met at Alder Creek in Portland, early in the morning, and loaded up cars and the van.

And we headed out. First venue: Viento State Park. We arrived and I soon saw my old kayak, a P&H Scorpio nicknamed “Diana,” on another student’s car.

My old flame...with someone new...

I immediately recognized the Welsh and British flags I had put on her deck.

We headed out to view the wind conditions on the Columbia. It was starting to blow, but just not enough for a meaningful class just yet.

So Paul decided to drive east, to the Klickitat River area to see if things would be more conducive to this class. Well, it was even worse! Just glassy. Well, we figured we are here, might as well paddle, something. We crossed the Columbia and entered the Klickitat. Paddling up, up, up to finally find some fast-moving water.

We got up to a section with a 1-foot drop and couldn’t paddle any further. So we dropped back to a spot with eddies on both sides of the main channel and practiced peel outs and eddy turns.

Fun! Here is Dennis Pennel doing a nice job peeling out, and then eddy turning on the other side of the river.

We did these forward. We did them backward. We did them eyes closed. We did them without paddles. And finally, Paul did it standing up…sort of. One of the few times you’ll ever see Paul Kuthe swim!