For many of us who live here in Washington state, we know what a gem we have in the San Juan Islands. The San Juans are located northwest of Seattle in the Salish Sea. Easily accessible by ferry or plane, they are are a perfect getaway for a long weekend or an extended vacation, especially if you have any interest in kayaking.
The San Juan archipelago has gorgeous scenery and incredible wildlife including orca whales, harbor seals, bald eagles and Dall’s porpoises. And if that wasn’t enough, paddlers especially love the San Juans because they are sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island thereby diminishing the waves and surf.
A note of trivia: Did you know that this fascinating place endured a 12-year Pig War? Yes, that’s right. In 1859, a "war" between the British and Americans started over a farmer's wayward pig. Really? No actual battles were fought, but evidence of target practice turns up from time to time.
Recently, one of our REI Adventures' trip specialists, Amy, joined a tour to familiarize herself with our weekend kayaking trip in the San Juans. Amy is our resident rock climber, so I was curious to get her take considering her limited paddling experience.
Our June was a little wetter than normal, but Amy and her group lucked out weather-wise. “It was the one nice weekend in June," she noted, "so we had amazing weather which made it even more enjoyable. Amy added, "It had been almost a decade since I was in a kayak, so I was a little nervous at first, especially since we had a couple of channel crossings. However, I was immediately at ease once we were in the two-person kayak as it was very stable, and the extra horsepower was an added bonus.”
I asked Amy what was one of the highlights of her trip. She recalls, “One of my most memorable moments actually occurred on land. Our first night was on Jones Island, which was an unbelievably peaceful island. We had a big campground area so everyone could spread out, and we could hike around the island which was great after a day of kayaking. The highlight of my time on Jones was watching the sunset with porpoises frolicking in the water in the distance. It was so quiet and tranquil that I did not want to leave.”
How did Amy sum up her weekend getaway? “It was a great three days!” Did that surprise me? Not one bit.
Now that you know one of our favorite paddling places, what’s yours?