Our staff training trip replicated the three day “Eagles and Orcas” sea kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands in which we all played the part of the guide—shopping for the food, packing the dishes and gear, loading the boats, checking the currents and tides, etc. Our group made for some interesting dynamics and fun memories. Magda is an experienced sea and white water kayaker who earned the nick-name “Hot Magma” on the trip due to her expert kayak moves. Frewin Hermer used to work for Outward Bound before hopping aboard with Outdoor Odysseys. His best friend Jonathon Herzog who is familiar with paddling around the islands also came along for the ride. In addition to this goofy pair, Laura Caldwell also joined us as a first year guide. In the off-season she works as a nurse in Seattle. Finally, we had Kaitlin Lorino, office staff and part-time guide, Tom Murphy, our seasoned 4th year guide and trainer, and me!
Our first paddle day was chilly and damp, but once we started moving I immediately warmed up. Of all the necessities needed on the kayak, a frisbee was the most important. Fortunately, the currents were not that strong and we were able to have a little game in the middle of Spieden Channel.
Past Spieden, the opening to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island became visible. We passed Gossip and Cemetery, two micro-islands that stand like sentries guarding the mouth of the harbor, and paddled slowly into our destination. An osprey nest was perched at the top of a bare tree, and as we landed, the osprey took off and slowly circled in the air above us like a white and brown speckled kite. We set up camp along a ridge overlooking the harbor below. The sun set languidly, casting a pinkish glow on the water as we exchanged stories and laughter over bowls of Mediterranean Smoked Salmon pasta courtesy of guide/trainer, Tom Murphy, Outdoor Odysseys fourth year guide.
That night, while sleeping, Frewin discovered that the deer on Stuart Island have a sweet tooth. Apparently he had not managed to clean all of the whipped cream off his face from dessert that night, and he was rudely awakened by a deer licking his cheek with relish. Frewin did not appreciate the deer’s effort to clean his face for him and screamed. The deer scampered into the forest and Frewin scampered into a tent where he remained the next night.
The next day we circum- navigated Stuart Island, which provided us with intimate views of marine wildlife including river otters, purple sea stars, porpoises, bald eagles, harbor seals, and pigeon guillemots. We were tired by the time we got back to camp, but we still had enough energy to hike up to Lover’s Leap, a spot overlooking Turn Point and stunning views of the Canadian Gulf Islands.
The next morning we woke up early, packed up camp, and headed back for San Juan Island. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we made good time across Spieden Channel and into Roche Harbor. After a leisurely lunch, we headed back for The Coop where we would then unload and clean up after an hilarious and adventurous trip.