Posey Island, San Juan Islands, WA 19–21 March 2017

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Joined:
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    Seattle WA
    Kayakers, I'm pleased to report that spring has arrived.

    Well, let me amend that. Spring has not totally arrived, not yet. But she is roaring into town, and she will be here any second. I just got back from a quiet little vacation out to Posey Island in the San Juans, and the signs of impending spring were all around: The pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and pelagic cormorants were all in their high breeding plumage. The ancient murrelets had departed for their northern range, as had the loons and most of the scoters. The oceanspray were leafing out, the Oregon grape were popping out their Oregon grapes, and the daffodils were in bloom. These are all harbingers of spring.

    But the reason I say spring is not yet fully arrived is that many of our winter birds were still here. All three merganser species were still flocking, as were the buffleheads and common goldeneyes. The buffles and goldeneyes were doing their mating dances, craning their necks back and forth to impress females (as one does), but spring won't properly be here until these species head north. The harlequin ducks were still on salt water, too; they hadn't yet left for their breedings grounds in the mountain streams.

    Most tellingly of all, the spring species had not yet arrived. The only warbler I saw was a yellow-rumped, which is a year-round species. I saw no swallows or flycatchers, either. Spring might be looming on the horizon, but we have a few weeks yet before she really takes over around here.






    With the moon in its quarter phase, I didn't have to worry about timing the tides in Spieden Channel, which I consider to be the most difficult body of water in the San Juans. Close to Spieden Island, it can be impossible to move due to unpredictable tidal conversions. On this trip, I stayed close to San Juan Island and had no troubles.

    I had beautiful Posey Island all to myself, the first time I've been here without other people on the island. Posey is so small you have to make reservations during the season—the only Cascadia Marine Trail campsite in the San Juans where that is the case—but this time of year, there was no need. In fact, judging by the pristine state of the outhouse, I was probably the first person to overnight on Posey this year. Two day paddlers out of Roche Harbor approached but did not land on Sunday. On Monday and Tuesday, I was totally alone.





    Some people might get bored spending 48 hours alone on an island so small you can round the circumference in two minutes' walking, but I was too busy to get bored. Between watching birds, practicing photography, reading science fictions novels, and working a bit on my own writing, I barely had enough time in the day to do everything I wanted.





    I ended the trip with only 40 bird species, a testament to the departure of the majority of winter species and the ecological poverty of Posey Island. The only mammals I saw, discounting the African imports on Spieden, were harbor seals and a single river otter. Sometimes there are Stellar's sea lions hauled out on the east end of Spiden, but I didn't see them this time; either they have left for the spring, too, or they were out foraging when I went past.

    On the way home, the ebb was running against me but so gently I hardly cared. For ease of access and simple, plain coziness, Posey Island would be tough to beat.

    Alex
     
  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Great report, Alex. Your tale of a delayed spring jives with what we see here, also. Daffodils are just now coming out in numbers, the geese are slow to nest, and we still have hordes of buffies around on the Columbia. Some of the gloom may be a carryover from a sustained, very rainy winter, which logged some 136 days of rain out of 179 days total, (10th highest since records began in 1892 (!)), accumulating 70 inches here against our normal 50 inches of winter rainfall. Likewise, way more days of rain and accumulations of rainfall were record makers in the Portland metro area and other parts of the Willamette Valley.

    The good news is the rain intimidates Californians from moving here, and the drought is firmly busted, a bonanza for irrigators and river runners alike, especially in Eastern Oregon. We like wet, we Beavers and Ducks!
     
  3. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Alex, I always enjoy your trip reports and photography.

    Where are we at with wildflowers? Did you see any fawn lillies or fairy slippers blooming? How about flowering currant? They are often the among the first to bloom, after blue eyed mary. The chocolate lillies come next, with camas and sea thrift not far behind. Paintbrush is later. I'd guess we are at least couple weeks behind normal, after our coldest winter in 32 years.
     
  4. designer

    designer Paddler

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    Location:
    Bend OR USA
    Alex, thank you for the report and as ever, the great graphics.

    I'm glad you launched from Ruben Tate. I didn't the first (and last) time I visited Posey.

    Here are the details for those who are considering launching from Roche Harbor.
    1. A parking fee of $10/day
    2. A launch fee of $10 - they say they have to charge this because of some deal they made with local guide services.
    3. A camping fee of $12 (maybe it is only $8.00)

    Note that after you pay the launch fee and parking fee ($20 total) there is no guarantee you'll have a space on Posey.

    And finally ... I don't know if it is every day but on the day I paddled out there, they shot a cannon off from Roche Harbor at sunset. This happened as I was approaching a home site on Pearl Island and I thought someone encouraging me to move on.
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Yup, the cannon goes off as part of the evening ceremony. No worries, they are aiming at the British, not you.
     
  6. designer

    designer Paddler

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    Bend OR USA
    Yes, I'm glad who ever was firing the cannon (at me?) was a bad shot :)

    I love that photo of the green grass and high flying tarp. Here in Central Oregon - High Desert country - we won't see grass (the kind that's legal in all the states) for a few months. Why it almost looks like spring going on summer. I wanna go paddling :(

    We will have a white water slalom competition in town tomorrow; that's something.
     
  7. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    Landlocked in Tennessee
    Sounds like a great trip! I was at Posey briefly in 2014--we got there with o it a reservation and it was a no-go, so we pressed on to SJ county park.It was sooooo crowded, but it's nice that it's quiet in the off season.

    I love reading your posts. Wish I lived where you do.