Headwindy Hood Canal

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by rheag, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. rheag

    rheag Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Although another 2-3 week Inside Passage segment (http://www.westcoastpaddler.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=4167&p=55781#p55781 and http://www.westcoastpaddler.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=5007) called out to us, tempting us with more advanced ocean conditions than we have tangoed with before and a new level of remoteness, this year time constraints limited Toffer and I to 1 week of kayak camping fun. We opted for a local, relatively urban and surprisingly beautiful and challenging route following the Hood Canal. Toffer's wonderful mother dropped us off in Belfair, at the tail end of the Hood Canal, and we planned to kayak as conditions allowed through the canal then westward along the Olympic Peninsula until the week was up. Then we'd phone Toffer's mom and direct her to wherever we landed; such flexibility is a great perk to following the 101 by kayak. This plan worked well logistically, though without a particular motivating destination, consistently slow paddling conditions due to our choice to paddle into prevailing winds, and vague, conflicting information about camping options once beyond the reach of the fantastic Cascadia Marine Trail, we spent less time in the Strait of Juan de Fuca than anticipated and finished the trip in Sequim Bay State Park, fully satisfied with our vacation.

    We launched from Belfair June 30, against a rising tide and into a decent headwind spatting droplets around 11:30 AM. With only ~16 miles to Potlatch State Park CMT in plenty of daylight we felt no urgency nor worry at how heavy and slow the boats felt dragging through the small wind waves. We expected more tranquil conditions than we experienced in this protected region, but we had plenty of time and places to land if it dicey conditions ensued. I enjoyed being back in the boat, headed out for a one-way adventure. We took a brief break at Twanoh and chuckled at its cute CMT adjacent to the road. We plugged along by interesting houses, one with 2 docks, a powerboat, an ATV, and a HELICOPTER sitting in their backyard. So many toys! As the sun started to peak out a bit and as the wind raged stronger in our faces, we noticed a wedding, the bride and groom on a dock.

    As we reached the final 2 mile crossing around 5PM, an open bit of water in the Great Bend, we needed to aim slightly south. However, a vicious wind howled out of that direction boiling up some pretty nasty water. I was already tired and sore given I haven't been paddling much lately, much less a fully loaded boat into the wind, and was not joyous about this last obstacle to camp and food and rest. Thinking it couldn't be as bad as it looked given the region was a giant tidal zone, I hunkered down into focused hard paddling mode and began fighting my way across giving everything my unaccustomed muscles could muster. Despite our efforts we were not going anywhere, but rather getting tossed around and laughed at. We turned back towards the wrong shore and then southward right into the nonsense, making snails progress, but creeping progress close to brain-appeasing land is better than no progress out in the middle of a bumpy crossing. The long way around would have to do. I forced my searing shoulders to keep moving, at least it was almost over. At least it was just extremely annoying and exhausting rather than dangerous and isolated. But that we expected an easy, short first day of paddling in protected waters of weak currents, that I expected to be stronger and more capable, caused some frustration. Crawling at less than 1 mile an hour will do that. We landed at around 7:15 PM, wow no wonder it felt slow. About 10 minutes later, the wind switched to northerly (it's normal mode). Of course! So funny!
    Potlatch's CMT was great, right next to the covered group picnic table, in the day use area separate from the main campground, a nice grassy spot close to the water... Yes, it did directly sit next to a private residence, causing awkward glances with a family spending time on their beach shooting fireworks. But, I'll take that over breathing campground smoke, squeezed between RV's.

    The next morning a treat of glassy, fog socked water greeted us at 5AM. As we loaded the boats a little more efficiently than the day before, growling engines of many fishermen boats startled us out of our early morning daze. They'd jump in their boats and take off at top speed to some suitable parking place. What a great example of 'hurry up to wait!' But, they didn't run us over, even if we annoyed them with our puttering. Toffer put deck-lights on our boats to help ensure this remained true in the thick fog. We eagerly set off, hoping for a slight push with the outgoing tide. But, no such luck, as the northerly wind instead somehow prevented us from kayaking more than 2 miles/hour all day. Thankfully it was a fairly pleasant slog, not too rainy, more fun houses; some seals and eagles entertained. Just don't stop paddling or backwards you will go. We pushed to reach Dosewallips 27-28 miles away, where there was no CMT, but we had made reservations. At 2:45, after 8 hours in the kayaks we took a 'lunch' break at Triton Cove (which DOES have a CMT, but would make the next day too long), downed some calories and back to chugging for another 3 hours to the mouth of the Dosewallips River. 6:15 PM, we arrived SO much earlier than last night! Most maps show the river not actually reaching the canal, but petering out in the tidal zone, while google earth showed a clear extension of the river. It likely depends on the time of year, and we knew we needed some daylight to figure out our approach and/or do a long haul, so we were happy about the time, even if it was 11.5 hours after we had launched. We easily found the opening and began paddling upriver towards our reserved campsite. We soon encountered the power of the flow, which we later learned was much stronger than normal. I laughed as I paddled, swished back and forth between sides of the river rapidly. With a surge we reached a sandbar in between two regions of exceptionally strong current. The campground was catty-corner to us, just across the intimidating water! Hmm. I tried dragging my boat further upriver around a large rooted obstacle of river debris. Wait didn't I learn my lesson about this tactic last year?! Hand walking your boat against swift current is almost never a good idea! Anyways, the water got too deep for me to stand and the branches I held onto kept breaking, so I quickly backed out of that plan. Toffer climbed over the obstacle and tromped upriver while I guarded his boat. He found a reasonable place to cross on foot, then he tossed me the end of a rope to tie to a boat and dragged them safely across. Wahoo! Not ideal, and I wouldn't recommend that kayakers try to camp here, but it worked out. Despite an immensely packed campground, the circle we stayed in, including site 137, was empty and pleasant. By the time we set up camp it was 8:30 PM and we rewarded our stomachs with ridiculously large and delicious Geoduck Lounge burgers. We scarfed, we smiled, what a day.

    Day 3 the idea of launching in that river unnerved us, so we hauled our gear further to another side, where a branch of shallow, almost stagnate water provided a suitable launch. We were unsure of whether this would lead us all the way out or a portage would be required, but it seemed less risky than navigating the river in sea kayaks. Luckily, with some walking and some scraping, an outlet existed and we were off for another longish day (~25 miles, 10 hours) to Wolfe Property State Park, where we had heard a new CMT site exists, but knew very little else, including its actual location… For the first few hours we experienced the kayaking we remembered, with no headwind yet and a slight current push we marveled at how fast we were flying! We passed Bangor, staying on the west side of the canal as required, but saw no submarines or military activity.


    After slack our friend the headwind returned and we returned to yesterday’s pace. This area is supposedly a windsurfing destination, so not all that surprising. Passing under the Hood Canal bridge was great fun, then we bounced in the wavy windward side. Almost there! However, actually finding the CMT proved challenging. We tramped around Wolfe Property searching for the white marker, terribly confused until we encountered a local of Hood Head who kindly led us to the right area, telling us ’I think it’s in those trees over there. If you can’t find it, you can stay in my cabin.’ !!! Wow, what kindness! This took me by surprise, did not expect such generosity in Washington. Although he sent us to the right spot, we still couldn’t find the site, though did see several trails and marsh trenches that may have been dug by the work parties? After much confused wandering, we found the signature marker, almost overtaken by brush, beneath a tree, with a great kayak rack behind. We had gone to the wrong side. For others looking for the this awesome new CMT (really cool site once found), it is best to kayak around the east side of Hood Head, and land on the north end of the park, west of the land spit. There are 2 trails here, and the CMT is up the westernmost one below a wide tree.


    A heavy rainstorm blew through this night, luckily only got going after we had set up camp and eaten dinner. This night we learned that our decade old tent is no longer waterproof and the morning of day 4 (July 3) we packed up our soggy gear. The rain let up just after launch. After 3 tiring days of paddling in slow conditions, we wanted a break. Luckily, we didn’t have much choice, as the flood would start midday, and we doubted against Admiralty Inlet currents we’d make much progress. So, we aimed for 10-12 miles, to Oak Bay or Kinney Point CMT. A guidebook mentioned a CMT at Oak Bay, but another said there wasn’t one, so we intended to check it out as a lunch spot. Along the way hordes of seals sunbathing on rocks growled angrily at us despite the large latitude we offered, and we actually saw some other kayakers. The sunshine and puffy clouds made for nice scenery and it wasn’t long before we approached Oak Bay’s low tide. Suddenly the sky over Oak Bay turned rather tumultuous, dark and angry, and as we landed an icy rain/hail and sharp wind blasted us! It lasted about 20-30 minutes, during which time I stumbled around the campground and day use area trying to spot a CMT, but never saw anything inviting to kayakers and the place seem rather exposed to inclement weather. As we left the mess had moved on and we could see it blasting Kinney Point. By the time we arrived, however, the sun was back, it was only 1:30 and we had an entire afternoon to dry out gear, read, relax, and recover. This CMT also had a great kayak rack, though we would have benefited from a machete for the trail to the tentsite. Understandable, given its inaccessibility by road and the speed of Washington plant growth.


    Day 5, July 4th, we loved riding through the Port Townsend Canal, the ebb blasting us through at 3+ knots. A pleasant paddle toward Port Townsend and fortunate timing of ferry line crossing us landed us at the Fort Worden CMT around noon. This site sits on a beautiful sand beach and provided a perfect place to view fireworks, so we decided to stay. The weather regime had shifted and blue skies dominated the rest of the trip! As we unloaded, a friendly kayaker much more experienced and accomplished than ourselves chatted with us. His stories of the west side of Vancouver Island, of a 17 mile crossing, of other neat feats impressed us and made this trip’s challenges seem miniscule. We spent the afternoon exploring the Fort, the Marine Science Center, the trails through the many Battery remains. I jogged a short but hilly distance into Port Townsend to bring back Chinese takeout for dinner and really felt enamored of the town. Getting such a front row view of the fireworks was amazing, and having most of the town pile onto the beach was fun too. Though, one minor complaint was that an overgrown trail provided a shortcut from the road to the beach that lead directly through our campsite. People seemed to have no qualms about tramping into our site, between our tent and kayaks, etc. Oh well, I guess it is public space.


    Impressed by the place and the weather, we didn’t feel terribly motivated to leave. We opted to spend another day in Fort Worden, this was our vacation after all and beating ourselves up for another 12 hours into the wind didn’t hold much appeal anymore. We wandered the town, I got in a nice trail run, and taking this restorative day off was a great idea.

    We planned for a final long day to Dungeness Recreation Area, but further investigation indicated that the trail from the bluff campground to the beach was long and would require much gear hauling. While this would be ok for the last day, we weren’t sure how crowded it would be, as it takes mail-in reservation applications… Also, given how slow we had been all the previous days, we weren’t sure how feasible it would be to make it there with enough daylight for a long haul. These sound like excuses, but as we set out for our final day of paddling towards Sequim Bay State Park, the headwind once again reduced us to a crawl and we were happy to only be doing 19-20 miles. I believed the currents would be favorable, and we encountered kayakers going the better way with the wind who mentioned the currents would switch in our favor soon, but never did the bull kelp indicate water moving with us. This was a fun, if slow, day of paddling including the solid swell of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Around 3 PM the strong headwind got downright violent and we inched along a spit toward the Sequim Bay opening. I kept getting tossed onto the spit and shoving back out. Once around the corner weird currents blasted us around the Bay and we flew the last bit to the park. While Sequim Bay State Park used to have kayaker sites, they were never used and thus removed, but the rangers allowed us to set-up camp in a hiker/biker site. It was a nice little haul up a hill, but we got to once again be separate from the main packed, smokey, noisy throng of car campers. That night we heard live music, Buck Ellard covering classic songs in the campground stage, neat!


    The next morning Toffer’s mom picked us up and our lovely one week trip was finished!
    Thanks for reading!
    For more photos go to https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151093277650763.494927.685810762&type=1&l=e55bab715c
     

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  2. benson

    benson Paddler

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    98
    Location:
    Sequim, Wa
    Sounds like you both are in quite a bit better paddling condition that when you started your trip! The CMT has done a great job of providing sites in Puget Sound and they are quite often overlooked for more distant ventures. You may be familiar with Joel Roger's Watertrail book on his month long paddling the CMT from Olympia to Pt Roberts...a great read/photo journal. I've taken a dozen trips up to Vancouver Is over the past several years and enjoyed them all, but wouldn't hesitate to do sections of the CMT...New stretches of water in a kayak never fail to provide a fun adventure...Water-time it's all good!
     
  3. rheag

    rheag Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Definitely! That's why 2 week trips are so wonderful, by week 2 you are ripping strong and less whiny because hard conditions no longer seem as difficult, muscles no longer feel like they are tearing. I should try longer someday... I agree, the CMTs make Puget Sound paddling trips just amazing. It is such a weight lifted knowing there is a place for you to camp that won't be overrun by people that arrived by gas pedal. And they are really nice and conveniently placed! You always make the car campers jealous because you get to camp right on the water, usually in a day use area. I love the Rogers book, such amazing photography and a really cool trip. I don't blame you, Vancouver Island is fantastic, but indeed come explore the south sound sometime! Adventure with amenities awaits!