San Juans to Gulf Island Trip Planning Feedback

ChrisPoteetPdx

Paddler
Joined
Jan 17, 2021
Messages
20
Location
Portland, Or
Hi Everyone,

I'm mapping out our adventure for next summer. Below is a rough draft based on trip reports others have posted, a desire to see cousins from Victoria and try something new.

Day 1 Catch ferry to Orcas Landing and paddle to Jones.
Day 2 Jones Island to Stuart Island (Prevost side)
Day 3 Stuart to South Pender for customs check in, then on to Portland Island
Day 4 Portland to Rum island
Day 5 Rum to Island View camp site to have lunch/dinner with cousins then on to D'Arcy
Day 6 Paddle across to San Juan County Park.

I'll work out the logistics so that currents and weekdays are in our favor.

Anything in this itinerary that seems questionable or needs to be added? We are always open for suggestions for don't miss this or don't go there.

Thanks in advance.
chris
 

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
995
Location
Bend OR USA
Chris, I'm not saying this is better, but consider catching the ferry to the San Juan Island a leaving from Reuben Tarte launch point (48 36.74 N, 123 5.96 W). The parking, loading/unloading, and porta-potty may be easier than leaving from Jones and you can time the Spieden Crossing more accurately.

At Stuart, I prefer the Prevost side instead of Ried Harbor too. The bluff above the docks is nice and there is also a site up a trail heading west just beyond the info board - guides usually stay there to give them some privacy from their customers. The Bluff site has a convenient compost toilet and water spigot - be sure to check if the water will be turned on. The campsites at the end of Reid Harbor also have a water spigot and compost toilet but the sites on the left side seemed dark, wet, mossy. The sites on the right side had more light but were just dirt patches (okay for tents). And the trees for my hammock were too close to the compost toilet.

Be sure to pick up your Stuart Island shirt on the hike to the lighthouse. You don't need money. It's an honor system where you mail the money to the vendor when you get back home. They have a variety of styles (shirts, tee-shirts, hoodies) hanging on a line for review and new items in plastic bags in the trunks. If people hold to the "you have to paddle there to own one" standard, you'll know, when you see someone with a Stuart Island shirt, that they've made the crossing (and lived).

Though the campsite on Posey might be full, it's worth checking out. It would be closer to Jones or Reuben Tarte and a LOT less expensive - maybe. There might be a "paddle in" rate at the Country Park; otherwise, it's $12 vs $30 just to sleep on the ground.

If it were me, I'd more likely consider stopping at Roche Harbor for a shower, maybe a laundry, a sit-down meal inside a building, and then paddle on to Rueben Tarte or over to Jones. There is no camping at Rueben Tarte so you could jump over to Jones and return.

The County Park is on the west side and not near anything in your loop - meaning a bit of backtracking. And if you hit that area at the wrong with, you'll be fighting a strong wind all the way to the park. If that happens, just pull over in some cove and wait an hour or two for the wind to die down in the late afternoon. Almost changes from white caps to glass smooth.

Almost forgot, if you hear a cannon at dusk, they are not shooting at you for being too close to the Pearl Island homes - it's a sunset ritual. Just say'n.
 

alexsidles

Paddler
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
523
Location
Seattle WA
Looks like a great itinerary, Chris! Paddling to BC and back is an awesome experience. You'll understand the Gulf Islands and San Juans in a way few others do.

The part of your itinerary most likely to go wrong is checking in with US customs on San Juan Island. There's no customs house at San Juan County Park, so you'll be using the mobile app CBP Roam. In theory, this should be fine. But if anything goes wrong with the app, or if they decide you need an inspection, they'll reroute you to the nearest customs house, which would be either Roche Harbor (if it's open for the 2022 season—call ahead) or Friday Harbor. If you don't have a car waiting for you at San Juan County Park, you'd have to call a taxi to take you to the customs house and then back to your kayaks at the park—a huge hassle. If you do have a car waiting for you at the park, then it's only a minor hassle and no need to worry about anything.

It would be disappointing to change your otherwise excellent itinerary just because something might go wrong with the government's app. The government works for us, not the other way around. So, from best option to worst, I recommend:
  1. Calling the Friday Harbor station in advance of your trip to give them your travel dates and have them carefully walk you through the CBP Roam steps to ensure there are no screw-ups. Then just hope everything works as planned on game day, resigning yourself to a taxi nightmare if it doesn't.
  2. Leaving a car or arranging a pickup at San Juan County Park if you are not already planning to do so, just in case you are forced to drive to the nearest customs house.
  3. Changing your Day Six itinerary from D'Arcy–San Juan County Park to D'Arcy–Roche Harbor (assuming the customs house is open for the 2022 season—call ahead). However, this change will reduce your chances of seeing orcas, which are more abundant in the southern half of Haro Strait than the northern half.
  4. Following Paul's itinerary, which involves launching and landing at Reuben Tarte instead of Orcas Landing and San Juan County Park. Under this itinerary, your Day Six paddle would take you from D'Arcy–Reuben Tarte, passing Roche Harbor along the way, where you could check-in in person (if it's open for the 2022 season—call ahead). Again, however, this means less chance of orcas. It also means a full day of paddling on Day Six. It also means missing Jones Island and Yellow Island, although I agree with Paul that Posey Island would somewhat compensate.
If you have someone picking you up, I would consider ending the trip at the Deadman Bay Preserve south of and adjacent to Lime Kiln Point State Park. You'd pass through the very heart of orca territory, even more so than at San Juan County Park. There's a beautiful landing beach at Deadman Bay, but no overnight parking, so this option only works if you are being picked up, not if you are staging a car overnight.

Alex
 
Last edited:

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
995
Location
Bend OR USA
One of the sourest US agents I've ever dealt with was coming back from Canada to the USA. Not even a "Welcome Back". Later I realized the guy was not "customs", he was immigration (ICE). Once we reached the customs station (down the road or other end of the ferry ride - I forget), I got the familiar "Welcome Back" and the fun of saying we were out kayaking for a week and being asked to lower the window in the back of the jeep, watching the guy wrinkle his nose as the window came down, be being quickly waved on.
 

ChrisPoteetPdx

Paddler
Joined
Jan 17, 2021
Messages
20
Location
Portland, Or
Looks like a great itinerary, Chris! Paddling to BC and back is an awesome experience. You'll understand the Gulf Islands and San Juans in a way few others do.

The part of your itinerary most likely to go wrong is checking in with US customs on San Juan Island. There's no customs house at San Juan County Park, so you'll be using the mobile app CBP Roam. In theory, this should be fine. But if anything goes wrong with the app, or if they decide you need an inspection, they'll reroute you to the nearest customs house, which would be either Roche Harbor (if it's open for the 2022 season—call ahead) or Friday Harbor. If you don't have a car waiting for you at San Juan County Park, you'd have to call a taxi to take you to the customs house and then back to your kayaks at the park—a huge hassle. If you do have a car waiting for you at the park, then it's only a minor hassle and no need to worry about anything.

It would be disappointing to change your otherwise excellent itinerary just because something might go wrong with the government's app. The government works for us, not the other way around. So, from best option to worst, I recommend:
  1. Calling the Friday Harbor station in advance of your trip to give them your travel dates and have them carefully walk you through the CBP Roam steps to ensure there are no screw-ups. Then just hope everything works as planned on game day, resigning yourself to a taxi nightmare if it doesn't.
  2. Leaving a car or arranging a pickup at San Juan County Park if you are not already planning to do so, just in case you are forced to drive to the nearest customs house.
  3. Changing your Day Six itinerary from D'Arcy–San Juan County Park to D'Arcy–Roche Harbor (assuming the customs house is open for the 2022 season—call ahead). However, this change will reduce your chances of seeing orcas, which are more abundant in the southern half of Haro Strait than the northern half.
  4. Following Paul's itinerary, which involves launching and landing at Reuben Tarte instead of Orcas Landing and San Juan County Park. Under this itinerary, your Day Six paddle would take you from D'Arcy–Reuben Tarte, passing Roche Harbor along the way, where you could check-in in person (if it's open for the 2022 season—call ahead). Again, however, this means less chance of orcas. It also means a full day of paddling on Day Six. It also means missing Jones Island and Yellow Island, although I agree with Paul that Posey Island would somewhat compensate.
If you have someone picking you up, I would consider ending the trip at the Deadman Bay Preserve south of and adjacent to Lime Kiln Point State Park. You'd pass through the very heart of orca territory, even more so than at San Juan County Park. There's a beautiful landing beach at Deadman Bay, but no overnight parking, so this option only works if you are being picked up, not if you are staging a car overnight.

Alex
Hey Alex, thanks for this . I really appreciate the details.
 
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