Puget Sound Challenge – Day 2

Posted by Ken Campbell March 3, 2009 0 Comment 670 views

I suppose the conditions could have been worse, but they were plenty bad as it was. After the long, hot ride of day one, where I glided on glassy water smooth as oiled velvet, this second day on the water was quite the contrast. Then again, just getting on the water was an epic in itself.

On the west side of Hood Canal, the Olympic side, Highway 101 follows the coastline north and south, a busy road with several towns and developments along its path. On the east side of the waterway, on the other hand, not only are there no real towns along this section, and precious few homes, the road is gravel, steep and prone to washouts. The shuttle, another eight miles wedged onto the cruel saddle of the Orange Crush, took the better part of two hours.

I dropped the board at Menard’s Landing and drove up on the North Shore Road. In less than a mile, the pavement ended and the way got downright tight. Grades of eight percent followed a winding route, with serious dropoffs, that seemed to go on forever.

I knew from watching the whitecaps on the Canal that morning that I would probably not be able to cover the planned distance to Holly that day, so I’d already made up my mind to stop at Dewatto before I’d even started the shuttle. Once I got to the bay and parked the van by the side of the road, I retraced my ride through the woods, walking up most of the hills and careening down the other sides, barely in control. The road was small, tentative even, in the presence of such deep, dark woods. It was slow going and I wasn’t able to get on the water and underway until almost 10 AM.

I rode out through the little lagoon at the landing, through the narrow slot where the falling tide carried me as it ran out, and within minutes I was out in the shallow bay, turning into the wind. It was blowing steady at 20 knots, with some gusts higher than that, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was going to have to sit down if I was going to get anywhere. Standing up in the face of a direct headwind like that was proving to be a treadmill exercise, so I took my seat and traded paddles.

My spare paddle is a Werner Kalliste 220, a carbon blade that has seen me through some of the best years of my kayaking life. Putting it into service here was not entirely unexpected, but the performance difference between the board and a kayak in these same conditions was considerable. By the end of the leg, less than 6 miles along the coast, I had made less than 2 knots overall. Other than a quarter-mile at the beginning of the day and a quarter-mile at the end, I spent the entire time alternating between sitting and kneeling, using the kayak paddle exclusively.

I could see the mountains across the choppy water, snow-clad Ellinor and the Constance group hovering against the gray sky. I gauged my progress against the houses on the opposite shore, measuring how far I’d come by what was directly across from me. The forest land in the middle ground was clearcuts and patchwork, standing out clearly from the dark of the taller slopes behind. It was ugly, even from that far away.

There was still plenty of day left when I pulled into Dewatto Bay at about 1:30 PM. I was, however, done. The next leg of the trip is scheduled to be a 5-day affair, with no shuttles, beginning May 18th.

(To those of you who have already pledged your support, I thank you. If you would like to make a donation to support Washington Water Trails to preserve access and assist in environmental programs in western Washington, please click here to learn how. Every donation is received gratefully and your contribution will make a difference. Thanks!)

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