Dancing with Orcas [August]

Um, have I mentioned that I saw whales last summer?  Not from land, from tour or at SeaWorld; I saw count 'em FOUR whales, ORCA whales, in fact, some 40 yards away! 

That's me on the left and Orcas right at the front of my kayak
 It all started with Maria's purchase of a sea kayak.  I would say damn her and her always cooler than mine purchases, but this particular buy led to the fulfilling of a dream vacation of mine: kayak camping, so at least today I'm grateful.  Six of us launched from a dock near Olympia (Boston Harbor?) with two potential itineraries, a short, easy route and a longer route that required some against-the-current paddling if we were feeling ambitious.  Lucky that my man knows a thing or two about navigating the high seas (or low seas, whatever the ocean water is in the South Puget Sound).  After a quick potty break on a deserted Native American island (which turned out not to be so deserted- we got pretty well yelled at by a NA standing guard on his speedboat nearby.  No, sir you probably wouldn't come pee on my front doorstep, but my doorstep isn't 12 sq. miles of empty forest.  But whatever.) we opted for the longer route. I only regretted the decision for about a half an hour when 10 strokes seemed to get me nowhere and a quick break meant moving backward. 

We commandeered the only campsite left (the smug kayak Meetup group who made it pretty clear that they were faster/better/more badass than us were relegated to small space near the camp's woodpile.  Suckers.) and I quickly regretted thinking that my sleeping pad was too bulky for my boat's storage space.  (If I've learned one thing about kayaks from this trip it's that the trunk space is beyond spacious.  A sleeping pad fits.  Extra food fits.  A full Coleman stove would fit and a team of immigrants to man breakfast would fit).
Turning in for the night at Jarrel Cove
When we woke up, Russ built us a fire, Trent serenaded us with Sunday hymns on his harmonica (a surefire way to make a Sabbath Day was holy), Porter, Maria and I slowly prepared for the day while Daniel told us that he swears he heard whale sounds in the middle of the night.  Some fellow campers had been whispering about whales in the area the night before but there was no sign of them.  Whales are frequently seen near the San Juan Islands but rarely, if ever, did they congregate in the South Sound. 

After convincing my poor arms that another day of paddling wouldn't actually be akin to torture, we headed out, due north, to make our way around the Hartcene Island.  Man alive, the open water is amazing.  I wish I could bottle the blue-gray water against a white or blue or gray sky and unleash it any time I'm feeling sad or frustrated or anything even remotely angry.  Psychologists say that water is a great source of serenity.  I'm on that train. 

Turns out potty breaks are bound for trouble, because on day 2, we parked for lunch - this time on a decidedly open and non-Native American beach- and had to cross 200 yards of barnacles for a semi-secluded squat site. No need to get into TMI, but my feet were hating my bladder.  Now that I think of it, I'm not sure why I didn't have shoes to come along with me.

It was just as we were coming up on the southern quarter of the island that other kayakers and boaters seemed to be congregating.  Whales. ORCA WHALES.  Paddle paddle paddle, as fast as my jello arms could bring me.  I had to get near them.  And I did!  There were two whales, putting on a show, frolicking around.  After a while, there was another jumping behind the wake of a speedboat.  What??

A fellow kayaker noted that he's been paddling the south Puget Sound for 15 years and has never seen any Orca pods in the area. 

I'm not going to try to paint a picture of the majesty of these whales in this setting, so unexpected.  It was majestic and amazing and way more incredible than I could try to describe.

So be jealous.  And go kayaking. 

1 comment:

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