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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Blake Island

Another quiet and lovely weekend on beautiful Blake Island.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

SAT - I arrived first at the beach immediately north of the Southworth ferry dock.  A kind man walking his friendly Lab helped me unload and take my boat to the water.  Brad and Steph arrived soon after I had my boat packed about 10 minutes later.  We parked our cars at the upper lot of the ferry dock parking for $5 for 24 hour parking, cash only, no ticket or receipt given.  The stall numbers on the rusty and battered pay parking box didn’t match any of the painted spots but for 5 bucks I’m not complaining. 

Brad had just gotten a new spray skirt the day before from Kayak Academy and obligingly did a wet exit to test it with me standing by before he loaded up his boat.  After a short huddle we launched in the quiet water once clear of the ferry dock.  We took a small ferry angle before the crossing and made fast time across the short channel to the pretty coastline of the south end of Blake.  We opted to go around the east side and it was pleasant to dodge the large rocks and stare up at eagles along the way.  There were a few people scattered around as we pulled up on the small beach next to the south end of the jetty on the other side of the marina. Even though the tide was ebbing you have to be aware of boat wakes in this area.  Brad had the brilliant idea to pivot our loaded boats sideways well above the water mark rather than pulling them all the way up the slightly steeped shingle beach to the driftwood.   

We then walked up to the pretty buildings of Tillicum Village. We were stopped to put on some masks before going inside the high ceilinged long house style building with its carved supports.  There is a freezer case, café and bar service counter on the left as you enter.  The banquet dinner is now a limited menu service of sandwiches, soups and salad although there is still a ceremony of some kind performed.  There are some small table arrangements where the gift shop used to be on the right and that has been moved to the slightly elevated area immediately to the left.  The fish smoking pits are still in use judging from the sweet smell of smoked alder wood.  

I wandered before joining the others on the front porch and we walked back to the boats. We paused for a moment before crossing the mouth of the marina and then proceeded on in the nice current avoiding the large rocks under the surface.  There are a lot more of them on the north end of Blake than any other side of it. A few raccoons were spotted on the shore and they looked as skinny as last year.  It took about 10 minutes to reach the beach where Terry and Bill had pulled their kayaks up in the driftwood.  They came down to the beach to help us sling our boats  up beside theirs before unloading.  Terry reported that a tanker had come by, moving fast in the north bound lane as they were loading their boats on Lohman Beach before they took off around 0900.  They had arrived about a short time before we did and had already moved their gear up to the two remaining campsites.  There was one woman at the western most side and she was later joined by four others and a dog.

 We unloaded with Terry and Bill in their double tents on the east campsite and the rest of us with our singles in the middle.  Right off the bat I realized that I while I had packed my tent I didn’t have the poles.  I had brought three tarps and a set of poles for them and with several good suggestions and assistance I rigged up a center poled tepee with the largest tarp.  The sides curved from a few inches along the edges to enough room to almost (for me) to stand up in the middle. The biggest problem is the invasive spiny growths that are going to cover the whole campsite area if something isn’t done about it.  I used my rubber mallet to remove most of it where my tent was situated.  Unfortunately all of the fire pits have been removed by the park so we can no longer burn it.  The dry stickers off of the dead ones can also be painful and annoying.

 We congregated around the middle picnic table with some of us in our camp chairs to eat our latish lunch.  A ranger stopped by to see us and Terry kindly paid my share of the $24 campsite fees for the two sites.  (Cash or check only).  Terry saw a bee frantically digging in the sand between our two chairs and he and Bill got films and pictures of it.  I have never seen a bee do this.  It wasn’t an ordinary bumble bee.  It had white on its back and body and yellow legs. It would dig for about a minute, slinging sand and anything else it found behind it like a determined badger before taking a flying break.  Then it would settle down in the same spot, digging mostly the sand that kept sliding in from the sides.  I don’t know how long this went on for.

  After some good conversations all of us but Steph decided to walk up to the Village for some ice cream and trooped off.  Due to my bad knee I had to stop a couple of times while the others patiently waited.  The shaded trail has some up and downs but nothing steep through the beautiful forest is in excellent shape as the ranger vehicles are consistently driving it several times a day.   

There was at least a dozen people scattered around outside on the benches and tables and we were able to grab an umbrella table in front after standing in line for a bit to get our ice cream and a beer at the counter.  There were a couple of dark mice a few feet away from us and they looked like they were doing some digging too but I think it was just regular foraging for them.  No frenzied bees here that I could see.

After about an hour we headed back to camp.  I branched off to go the very clean and well stocked bathroom (the Sanican hut is locked) before returning to our campsite.  The sky had clouded up but there were a few streaks of orange from the setting sun and a beautiful moon rose later through the clouds.  The party next door was a quiet one and they strung little colored lights on their tents.  The dog was quiet although I saw it later dropping a load on some logs:  I hope they cleaned it up. 

At some point Brad went off for a run around the island and came back with a picture and a report of a power boat that had capsized down towards the southwest end of the beach. Another boat was in the process of rescuing it but they still hadn’t by the time he got past it.

 It was 10:00 when we all said good night and got in our tents. 

SUN -  I was surprised when I woke up around 8:00 to see the wind moving the trees and water on the other side of the tarp a few inches above my head on the low end.   

 The last of the apple cake I had brought was eaten by everybody before we took off at 1030 under brightening skies after another short huddle. Our neighbors left shortly before we did and Terry and I were amused to see the dog standing on the bow of its inflated bending kayak like a masthead as the group disappeared around the spit.  I don’t know where they paddled back to.

 The rain had stopped, the clouds had lifted and the wind almost completely died as we paddled down the west shore.  I was kind of sorry that we hadn’t waited a while so we might have had a chance to spend more time on the beach but the upside was that we launched within an hour after high tide. On this end of Blake that is a good thing as the shallow tide goes WAY out and the spinach seaweed is thick right next to and all over the shore.  There were another couple of kayakers at the spit and we paused for a couple of canoes to cross as they left the west side campsites.  Once down at the south point Bill did a roll to cool off, we said our goodbyes and he and Terry headed east and Steph, Brad and I headed back to Southworth.  The only waves were now coming from boat wakes and it took about 20 minutes for us to join the ferry chugging up to our launch point arriving at 1130.  Terry texted me that he and Bill arrived at West Seattle at 1230. 

 It didn’t take very long to retrieve our cars and good teamwork was applied to get our boats and gear loaded back up. Brad needed to get back and skipped joining Steph and I for a nice lunch at the busy Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor on our way home. 

 All paddlers performed well with excellent group dynamics.