Skagit Island, N. Puget Sound, WA 16–19 Feb 2018

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Jan 10, 2009
    Seattle WA
    I hadn't yet done any camping in 2018, so I was really looking forward to President's Day weekend. I had a three-day trip across Admiralty Inlet all planned out. Admiralty Inlet funnels winds from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, so it's not a safe place to kayak on windy days. Unfortunately, the forecast called for a strong low pressure system to hit Admiralty Inlet head on.

    I changed my plans for Rosario Strait instead. Maybe I could visit Strawberry Island, my favorite campground. But then the forecast said after the low pressure system, powerful Fraser outflow winds would develop. Rosario Strait is no place to linger in strong winds, either!

    Finally, I settled on the most basic plan imaginable: I'd paddle out to Skagit Island in the lee of Whidbey and just hang out for a few days.

    00 Map.jpg
    00 Route Map.

    To beat the oncoming low, I thought I'd camp at Ala Spit Friday night and get an early start. But to my dismay, Ala Spit is no longer a Cascadia Marine Trail site! Instead, there was a mean sign saying "day use only" and threatening to tow violators! I scurried over to Quarry Pond at around eleven o'clock and hunkered down in the car campground next to all the beer drinkers, music players, loud talkers, and trucks on the highway—the usual car camping hell. I drifted off to sleep just as a barred owl started calling "who cooks for you," reminding me that nature still finds a home in the gaps.

    It was a good thing I got an early start. My new launch point at Cornet Bay was subject to Deception Pass's legendary tides, and I launched just as the current was starting to turn adverse. I squeezed past the narrows between Hoypus and Yokeko Points, paddling hard as the sun started to rise. Half an hour later, I was at Skagit Island, and not a moment too soon: The winds from the approaching low pressure system kicked up to 20 knots as I landed, and later that afternoon, they reached 30—well above my conservative safety limit!

    A family of river otters welcomed me to the island. The matriarch hauled a giant flounder out of the water as I passed, and her kits chased her onto the beach, nipping hungrily.

    I spent the next two days hunkered down on the island as the Fraser outflow took over and the winds shifted to a howling northerly, sometimes reaching speeds of 40 knots. I couldn't even paddle over to explore nearby Hope Island or even Kiket Island, a new state park I've never visited. I spent the time birding, taking photographs, and reading. Sometimes the north wind was so strong I would take my kindle over to the grassy slope on the south side of the island just to warm up for a bit! The wind knocked several branches down, and one fell on my kayak. Luckily, it didn't poke a hole in the fabric.

    01 On Windy Skagit Island.jpg
    01: On windy Skagit Island. Kiket Island in the background.

    02 Hiking Around the South Side.jpg
    02: Hiking around the south side. It started to snow on Sunday.

    03 Madrones.jpg
    03: Madrones are one of our most handsome trees.

    04 Male red-breasted merganser.JPG
    04: Male red-breasted merganser. The wind was so strong it blew his tuft over his forehead.

    05 Male common goldeneye.JPG
    05: Male common goldeneye.

    06 Merganser with fish.JPG
    06: Merganser with fish. A pair of glaucous-winged gulls swooped on him in an attempt to make him vomit up this fish. The stubborn merganser just submerged to avoid them, wisely declining to try outflying two gulls. Eventually, they gave up and left.

    To my surprise, there were a number of pie-billed grebes on Skagit Bay. I associate this species with fresh water so strongly, I couldn't believe my eyes at first—I thought I must be seeing some kind of dark, fat horned grebe. But no, these were classic pie-bills, now in their white-throated, pale-billed winter plumage. I've only seen them on salt water once or twice before.

    07 Sunny Deception Pass.jpg
    07: Sunny Deception Pass. This time I had the morning current with me.

    Monday morning dawned bright and still, and I was finally able to escape the island. I may not have gotten my Admiralty Inlet trip, or even Rosario Strait, but I still had a lovely winter weekend all to myself.

    chodups likes this.
  2. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

    Jan 19, 2015
    Landlocked in Tennessee
    I always enjoy your reports! And I envy where you live.