Kayaking the San Juan Islands with San Juan Island Outfitters – Part 1

Day 1

We left Roche Harbor at noon to catch the lull between low and high tide. Still, the waves were rocking for the start of our first ever overnight kayak trip. This was a 2 night/3 day guided trip with San Juan Island Outfitters, a practice session before a solo trip in Glacier Bay, Alaska in 10 days’ time. Despite the 2 to 3 foot swells the 3 person kayak loaded with our gear felt surprisingly stable. The day was brightening and we made good progress across the channel to Stuart Island in 1 hour 30 minutes.

Lunch on Gossip Island

Really an islet located just off of Stuart Island. On a sheltered beach, Clay, our guide for the weekend, pulls out a collapsible table and sets out a café quality lunch – a colorful bowl of greens and vegies with cabbage, soybeans and peanuts; another of peas, carrots and chicken and a side of dressing to pull it all together. A short stroll around the island (you can walk the entire shoreline in 5 minutes) produced an eagle in a tree top.

After Lunch Paddle

During lunch the winds calmed to a soft breeze. Starting out again it felt like a different day with gentle waves lapping at the kayak. We looked for starfish just below the water line and found a couple of purple ones that popped against the dark deep water. 

A casual paddle around Satellite island, owned by the YMCA, brought us to the back side of the island which is surrounded by a cluster of other islands giving  you the feeling you are on a lake surrounded by forest rather than in the ocean. I expected to see trout jumping in the calm waters, not massive ocean liners crossing the channel in the distance.

Camp at Stuart Island State Park

At Stuart Island State Park sail boats and small fishing vessels bob along the shore. Arriving just after 4PM we beached the kayaks and set up camp at one of the sites along the water. The park is a pleasant place to hang out. A 20 minute trail winds through the forest across the bluffs on the other side of the island. Home sites fill most of the level shore. Satellite Island can be seen in the distance with no visible structures.

Camp sites are well equipped with a fire ring, picnic tables, running water and a communal toilet.

The food is plentiful starting with a cheese and crackers snack while Don and I set up our tent. Normally equipment is provided by the tour company but we brought our own to test it out. Later after a walk around the island, Clay set out fresh made guacamole and chips while he finished preparing dinner. He sliced and diced taco fixings – tomato, onion, lettuce and cilantro with the knife skills of a professional chef. He finished up with fresh local salmon, refried beans and warm tortillas for a build your own taco spread.

After dinner we walked over to the fire pit of the camp next door where another couple and guide from the same tour company have finished a similar spread. Conversation flowed freely sharing back packing and kayaking stories. The nearly full moon bright we headed to bed. A quiet restful night despite a few sprinkles of rain.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Pacific Northwest page.

May 17, 2019