Lifestyle Photography: Kayakpacking the San Juan Islands for Mountainsmith

A few months ago, writer Jen Kinney and I took off for a great expedition: Kayakpack the San Juan Islands of Washington. An extremely talented writer and photographer, I met Jen on the Prince William Sound of Alaska, and decided within 30 minutes of paddling that we were going to be friends. Hitchhiking, multi-day paddle trips, and a few climbing sessions and probably two planning phone calls later, we were booking it for Washington. Map in one hand, and a few boxes of gear to be photographed in the other, we loaded up our boats and took off to paddle around Lopez Island, creating imagery for Mountainsmith along the way. On the Mountainsmith blog, Forged for Life, you can read the entire account of the adventures and more about the products used. (EDIT: blog is temporarily being revamped. The entire text can be found below the images)

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As a child, my uncle would tell tall tales of the sea. His lore warned of currents that could sweep me away to China if I were not careful and waves that would bury me alive. The waters of the San Juan Islands of Washington have similar mystical features. The dense landscape breathtaking, but those currents and whirlpools could shoot you across the Pacific if not paying attention. Writer Jen Kinney and I met in Alaska on the Prince William Sound. She’s hitchhiked across Alaska and I across Russia. Naturally,  we were good fit for travel partners. Our trial run as adventure companions was to explore the Puget Sound the way it was designed for and what vehicle we knew best: by kayak.

Tide and navigational charts stowed, we decided that our best route was to stick near Lopez Island. Known as the friendliest of the islands, my hand grew tired the first five miles off the ferry. The “Lopez Wave” of passing drivers broke my wrist by mile ten. We picked up our homes for the next week from Colin of Cascadia Kayaks and headed south to Agate Beach to launch. Packing perfectly into our dry sacks, the Arapaho 20 degree bag would keep us plenty warm on our 30 degree nights. Sliding into the soft bag, the cozy comfort felt almost as home after our long days of paddling.

Another draw to Lopez Island is the local food. Nearing competitive levels, locals will brag of kayaking out to sea to collect their own salt as to not consume food from off island. We took the challenge of only eating local ourselves, exploring just how much can come from the island we were circumnavigating. We doubled up on the friendliness and local food, pitching our Mountainsmith tent in apple orchards. The 3-person Mountain Dome Tent large enough to bring our in our packs to save them from the morning mist and still have room.

Our 40L Tarpaulin Trunks proved to be great kayak bags. Crossing forceful passes and navigating through dense foggy bays, the water resistant material kept our packed layers dry, even with the small amounts of water inevitably getting into our holds. The convertible straps practical for either unloading the boat or hiking to the nearest 24-hour farmstand to collect ingredients for our nightly feasts.

We became so intrigued by Lopez Island that we forgot other islands existed. Swift currents grabbing our boats around each end of the island, we became thrilled with the clam shacks on the coast and awestruck with the steep cliffs of the bird sanctuaries. The area is known as a kayaker’s mecca. Making it as technical as the passes you want to cross, or as casual as the small bird watching islands you pass. The seals following you like puppies of the sea, across a string of islands with endless shores to explore.

The thick fog rolled in each morning, burning off to bald blue afternoon skies before covering the air in grey to settle for the night. We spent days kayaking. Exploring bays, eyes strained for a late whale migration, we passed through the thick landscape that has inspired many first generation young farms to take up the till. We fell in love with the landscape as we dropped in one end of the paddle at a time, the whole time careful not to get swept away to China.

This entry was written by Christine , posted on Saturday February 28 2015at 12:02 pm , filed under adventure, commercial, editorial, lifestyle, outdoors, travel . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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