Friday, September 27, 2019

Kayak Bliss at Sucia Island, Washington


  The UnCruise Pacific Northwest trip holds some real gems for our typical adventure travelers. There are places where we can kayak, stand-up paddle board, beach walk, and go for a skiff tour all before lunch. We can hike up ridge lines and quite often end up atop the tallest summit in the island archipelago. The wildlife abounds and the geology stuns. Some days are just so perfect here that even a casual kayak excursion can be etched in your mind for years to come. And for someone like me, it is always nice to have a few pictures to make that memory last even longer.

 This week we had such a kayak around one of the northernmost  San Juan islands, a little chunk of wilderness called Sucia Island. It is a state marine park, filled with well maintained trails for hiking but lacking the crowds that generally go along with such trails. There is no way to get to the island except by private craft…and there is no way to get there quite like the luxury and comfort of the Safari Quest.



 After a morning of long hikes and easy meanders, we geared up for water activities after lunch. I took a group of twelve kayakers out into glassy calm conditions. The high tide allowed us to get up close to the shoreline which Sucia is famous amongst geology circles for. The island is a rare combination of sandstone and siltstone sedimentary rocks here in the archipelago, and the winter storms have eroded them into mesmerizing shapes. The reflections of the rocks off the calm water made the scene even more surreal.
   
We made it out to an offshore island almost completely covered by the high tide. The tiny bit of exposed rock was itself covered by bellowing sea lions…almost the same size as our kayaks. Timid harbor seals stalked from around the shallows until we turned to head back to the shoreline of Sucia. It was then we realized that just under the waters edge the rocks were covered in purple and orange sea stars, a marine park indeed. A final surprise of a sea lion surfacing right next to our kayaks was the icing on the cake for this otherworldly experience.

 
 There is something so quiet and calming about sea kayaking in these conditions. It is why I love Alaska and now why I love the Pacific North West as well.




Saturday, September 21, 2019

Hiking the Eagle Cliff Trail on Cypress Island


Hard Charging Mountain Climb
 
 
Near the top of Eagle Cliff
  As the expedition leader aboard the Safari Quest one of my many daily challenges is to find destinations that can offer multiple level s of challenge to the guests. This may be a choice between a kayak and a skiff tour, a beach walk or a long hike, or maybe even a climb up a mountain vs driving up. The more options that guests have for activities means it is easier to self select which group to go out with. One of the great things about the Pacific Northwest itinerary is that every spot we go to gives us multiple options of difficulty level so I can easily personalize the activities for the passengers we have on that week.

Hard Chargers on the Summit
   This week we had a group of hard charging hikers onboard so I searched for a good challenge. It came in the form of a mountain ridge climb on the little known Cypress Island, one of the 172 San Juan Islands. The total hike is only around four miles, but a nice steady uphill leads to one of the most stunning overlooks in the island chain. A 750’ rocky precipice juts out over the Rosario Straight. It is called Eagle Cliff…which it may be called because you look down upon soaring eagles flying over the low lying forest below. 

Didn't even break a sweat
View from the top
  The guests were breathing hard by the end but everyone agreed it was worth every step.  We finished off the experience by cruising on the Quests right under the cliff. It was fun watching all the hard chargers point out the cliff summit to everyone else on board.