Puget Sound Challenge – Day 3

Posted by Ken Campbell March 24, 2009 0 Comment 819 views

An early Wednesday morning found me picking up where I left off back at the end of February. The day was overcast and calm, the water glossy and undisturbed from the near shore as far up Hood Canal as I could see. There was snow in the foothills across the canal and the clearcuts stood out in white relief against the dark background. I got the bags strapped down and was underway, heading north, at about 8:30 AM.

The flat conditions lasted a little over an hour. Between the time I was conscious of the first ripples until the time I was riding out a howling gale was a matter of no more than twenty minutes. The calm had become a tempest, and the steep waves came fast and cold. I felt good though, and although the wind was powerful, it was blowing me exactly in the direction I wanted to go. I stayed on my feet, out in midchannel, and watched the shoreline click by.

In time I had crossed the canal to about a hundred yards from the Olympic Peninsula shore. I was surfing the choppy rollers, getting ride after ride as I worked my way in. At some point, I heard someone shouting and I remember looking up toward the highway that ran along the water. I couldn’t see anything or anyone, and I didn’t give it much thought. Until I heard a siren chirping, in that annoying way a siren sounds when the cop flicks it on and off in quick succession. I thought to myself that someone must be getting pulled over up there, not really thinking that I was involved, and was quite surprised to see a uniformed officer on shore up ahead of me, motioning me in.

I surfed a wave, the best one so far, and came ashore where he stood just as his partner came jogging down the dirt path toward the beach. “He doesn’t look like he’s in trouble to me,” he said, smiling and shaking his head. The first officer didn’t seem to be in such a good mood; I think he’d gotten his shoes wet. Still, they were very nice, and so was the other Search and Rescue officer that showed up a minute later. Incredulous but friendly.

Apparently they’d received several reports of someone floating out in the main channel, hanging onto a log. (I took a little offense at this, thinking that I’d been doing a helluva lot more than clinging to the board and floating with the wind, but there you go. People see what they say they see.) They were all fairly interested in my trip and took many pictures of me and the board with their cell phones. After a few minutes, when they saw that I wasn’t in distress and that what I was doing was somehow legal, they let me go.

I was starting to get tired. Up until this point, I’d been standing the whole way but as the wind got even stronger, I decided to sit and switch paddles. Even though the wind was blowing the “right” direction, the force and the unpredictability of the roiling water made the change worthwhile.

By the time I came ashore at the mouth of the Dosewallips, it was after 3 PM. The tide was out and the walk into shore across the mud flats seemed to take forever. Because the wind was so strong, carrying the board was a tricky business. It’s so light and has so much surface area, the wind constantly tried to rip it out of my hands. At least I’d packed light.

I set up camp in the trees on the east side of the road… an unofficial campsite. I wasn’t far from the river and as the wind died later on, I could hear the sound of the running water. I had some leakage in one of the dry bags so I slung laundry and gear in the tree branches to dry. For an hour or so, the campsite had the distinctive look of a yard sale after a tornado but I eventually got it under control.

When everything had been set up for the night, I walked up to the highway and went to the Geoduck Tavern, just outside the main park entrance. A big burger and a few bottles of suds took the taste of salt off my lips and gave me one more night’s reprieve from freeze-dried fare. (I’d get my chances to eat from the food I brought – no reason to rush things.) As it started to get dark, I made my way back to my lowland hideaway and went to bed just as the light faded for good.

It had been a fine outing, a solid start to this leg of the trip, the most miles I had done on a board in a day. So far.

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