Coasting, Part I

Posted by Ken Campbell August 24, 2008 0 Comment 621 views

I have sea kayaked the inside coast of Vancouver Island in winter. I have paddled all the way around the island of Newfoundland, a 13-week epic that is still one of my fondest memories, and proof to me that this is a big, magnificent world.

I did a 10-day trip in 2001 with Andy Bridge, from Werner Paddles, where we went around the Brooks Peninsula. The Brooks sits on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, jutting out at right angles from the rest of the coastline, thus catching the worst of the wind and storms that pummel the area. Solander Island, a rocky outcrop at the extreme end of the Brooks, is one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever been. Out there. Wild. The kind of place where it feels like you have actually gone back in time. The place itself seems timeless.

In Washington, I’ve always looked to Cape Flattery for that same sea kayaking experience, that feeling of being on the edge of something vast, powerful and beautiful. The standing stones and pillars, the caves and pristine pocket beaches: all of these and more give me the same sensation of time passing slowly among the raw forces of nature. Water and stone, the oldest battle there is. The Cape is, to my way of thinking, not only the best kayaking in Washington, but the best that sea kayaking can be, anywhere.

At least that’s how I’ve seen it for the past fifteen years. I won’t say I’ve changed my mind; it’s just that I have gone somewhere new, and I have returned with a new perspective.

The Roadless Coast is a stretch of Olympic shore that stretches from Cape Flattery, in the north, to Ruby Beach. It’s somewhere around 6o miles of relatively untouched seashore, the longest roadless coastline in the lower 48. There is one road that enters the area at La Push, but it deadends at the village and doesn’t detract from the wilderness feel of the place. It may even enhance it.

I have kayaked from the Cape to La Push a dozen times or so, and even though I’ve intended to paddle the section from La Push to Ruby Beach in the past, I’d never done so. This 17-mile segment of the Olympic shore was terra incognita to me, a Forgotten Coast. As in, I always meant to travel this coastline, I just forgot to get around to it.

That all changed earlier this month. I finally did the trip, took the big left turn out of La Push and past Second Beach, continuing south. John Inch, a kayaking partner from Tacoma, and I spread the paddle out over two days, and over the course of that time we saw a side to Washington that only a few ever get to experience. It was raw nature, simple and grand, a cathedral no human hands could ever sculpt. It was eye-opening, jaw-dropping, breath-catching, wilderness that has been here for millennia. Changing all the time, but somehow keeping a sense of continuity and timelessness.

I have a new favorite place to kayak.

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