Orcas Island Kayaking & Trail Running

Rather than drive all the way from Moscow to Anacortes, where the ferry took off from, we drove as far as Leavenworth and stayed at Icicle Creek Campground the first night of our trip. Nothing really special about this campground other than a bear warning sign blocking off a few campsites in the campground. Ironically there was bear scat right by our firepit, so apparently the bear didn’t just limit itself to just those few campspots. There was a pretty fast moving creek that you could walk down to, but you did need to fight the mosquitos a bit.

Icicle Creek Campground signage

We woke up at a decent time the next morning and headed west to Anacortes, where the ferry terminal was. I had been warned that it would be colder here, but having just left home where it was in the 90’s, I hadn’t really believed it. This was unfortunate, since I hadn’t brought adequately warm clothing for the trip. We had to wait awhile for our ferry departure, but it was expected and we were in no hurry, since we were on vacation and knew we had our spot waiting for us at Doe Bay. The very expensive ferry ride took about an hour and a half, and we arrived at Doe Bay Resort in the evening. Incidentally, if you’re pulling a travel trailer, you’ll want to look into the cost of the ferry. We were stunned to be hit with a $175 ferry charge.

Doe Bay Resort

Doe Bay Resort is a pretty cool place. There are 3 hot tubs overlooking the Puget Sound, which was what attracted me to the place when I booked it, along with its water access. We camped here in the travel trailer at a relatively cheap price of $50/night, which was inexpensive by San Juan Island standards. This $50/night didn’t include water or electricity hookups, but Doe Bay has showers, which sometimes are even hot. There’s also a restaurant and store on site and a yoga studio of all things, which we never did use because we ran out of time. It took quite a bit of effort to back into our space with the Chalet due to the steepness and narrowness of the road and site. The clearing for the site contained 2 sites, which were right on top of each other. It was a bit of a disappointment that we were right on top our neighbors, but at least we always had quiet, nice neighbors.

For our first full day on Orcas, we woke up to fog and freezing cold weather. It was also exceptionally windy. After much discussion, we opted not to kayak that day, much to my relief. We basically hung out, enjoyed the hot tubs at Doe Bay, and just relaxed our first full day of vacation that we weren’t traveling.

The next day, we woke up to another cold and somewhat foggy morning and decided to go running to give it time to warm up. We ran around Mountain Lake, a 3.5 mile hiking trail at the top of Moran State Park. It was a spectacularly beautiful old growth forest surrounding a lake, and was especially beautiful in the fog.

By the time we got back to Doe Bay, it and we had warmed up enough that we were ready to put our kayaks in the water. We decided for our first kayaking trip in the Sound that we’d kayak out to the Peapod Rocks, which were visible from shore. They didn’t look that far away, but we learned that eddies and tide currents can drastically affect the distance one can travel. Getting out to the Peapods was relatively easy and quite wonderful. We saw lots of seals and from the distance, I think I saw orcas. Where things took a turn was at the far end of the Peapods. After 30 minutes of paddling hard, we noticed that we hadn’t moved an inch. It was VERY hard getting back, and we had our first extremely valuable lesson in Puget Sound kayaking. Don’t get caught in an eddy! We were wiped out by the time we finally got back to Doe Bay. I was so thankful that our kayaks have pedals, because I’m fairly certain that my arms couldn’t have paddled for that long and that hard. I really enjoyed the hot tubs that evening after the grueling day.

The next day we woke up to another cold and somewhat foggy morning. We took a 5-mile run from Cascade Lake to Mountain Lake and back. We only ran into people at one point on the trail, but other than that, we had the whole trail to ourselves. It was another amazing trail run. Getting back to Doe Bay, our kayaking plan for the day was to kayak to Obstruction Pass and probably to Rosario, where we could reward ourselves with beer at the Rosario Inn.

This day of kayaking went much better than the first day. We ate lunch on the beach of Obstruction Pass State Park and decided at that point to keep going. The drawback to going all the way to Rosario instead of heading back would be that we would arrive in Rosario with our kayaks and no vehicle to get them back. My brilliant plan was for one of us to hitchhike back and get the truck. David wasn’t so sure about this plan.

Lunch at Rosario Strait

As it turned out, when we got to Rosario, we ran into some other kayakers that were staying at Doe Bay that David recognized right off the bat, and he asked for a ride back. They had also planned to eat and enjoy Rosario before heading back, and we were invited to join them before getting a ride back. After eating and drinking with them, David rode back with them, picked up the truck, and came back to get me and the kayaks. I love avoiding those out and backs!

For our last day, we wanted to kayak to Succia Island, our most challenging trip being an open water crossing. We decided not to run that morning, since we didn’t know what to expect for the day kayaking wise and wanted to save our strength. As it turns out, this was our easiest day of kayaking. The water was like glass, and while there was a definite pull to the north due to the currents, it was quite doable. We had porpoises circling us most of the way. Succia is a rather amazing island with amazing rock and fossil formations.

Coming home from the San Juans, we took Hwy 20 through North Cascades National Park. We stayed in Newhalem Creek Campground and experienced noisy neighbors for the first 2 hours of the night. I guess we could consider ourselves lucky since we got the last site available and the place was packed with campers. The next day we hiked Thunder Knob Trail across from Colonial Creek Campground, in North Cascades National Park, and got an impressive site of Diablo Lake, one of our future kayaking trips.

Driving home, we ate dinner at Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop, a place I would definitely recommend. We met a Canadian runner who we’d passed earlier running down the highway whose wife was from Moscow. Very nice end to our trip.


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