Multiday Touring Category

Waldo Lake trip report from June 2014

Below are two recounts of a canoe camping trip at Waldo Lake at the end of June.  Chris and Kristin (below) are friends of employees Andrew and Steve, and this was a personal trip, not a commercially guided one.  Boats and gear were rented from Alder Creek.


Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, looking to the north.

Attention adventurous but low-level-outdoorsy-experienced humans: canoe camping is a must!

Recently, the fiance Chris and I decided to put our lives in the hands of what we must assume are two of Alder Creek’s finest guides and had a freaking blast. There were definitely challenges, but the gentle learning curve (and the knowledge that we came away with at least some canoeing foundations), the awesome other humans and totally gorgeous scenery lead to one seriously remarkable outdoor excursion.

Honesty time: learning the beginning steps of proper canoeing technique (that is to say, the knowledge required to prevent you from just going in circles) took some grunt work. Over an image of a nearly pristine lake surrounded by trees and not-surrounded by humans, please add rain, wind, kinda creepy fog, a record low personal cold intolerance and no sense of where you are headed. Guess what though guys: as the old trope goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you.. feel a little bit like a badass.

After loading us up with some Personal Flotation Devices (pronounced pffffffd) and helping us lower all of our fave camping gear into the center of a rather swanky looking agua-vehicle (a Wenonah Itasca), guru Andrew gave me a few tips about being the “rudder” of our boat. The person in the back, it turns out, has the most control over the steering (person in the front impacts direction but seems to mostly function as a momentum-generator). Our two-person canoe was stuffed because canoes are patient, gentle creatures that will schlep about as many things as you can fit into your four-door without all of the grumbly loud gas-guzzling nonsense. With ourselves and three other boats, we left our car and the launching dock behind.

The majority of the learning curve is difficult to put into words (particularly when you lack any technique-related vocabulary). There were about 15 minutes of what-the-crap-is-happening when I seemed to be working really hard to turn left but we did nothing but make a lot of progress in a quirky zig-zag pattern. Fortunately, trial and error, friendly pointers shouted over the water by guru Andrew, and the insulated, waterproof gloves guru Steve leant me meant we totally survived the first hour and half long trip across Waldo Lake.

It’s a little unclear if the guides were humoring us, but Andrew and Steve seemed to think our first ride over in the windy rain was a tad difficult. Luckily by the time we made it to the campsite that evening the rain had all but stopped and we set up our tent. With tired hands, arms, and upper body muscles I hadn’t even known about, we basically flopped onto our sleeping pads.

The next morning Chris and I quietly mumbled to ourselves that after the difficult experience the night before, we would probably just explore the forest and rocky edges of land on foot all day. (Truthfully I said something to the effect of “Do not make me get into that boat please”). Fortunately for my naive self, a few hours later that Saturday afternoon I ate my words: when faced with spectacular water and sunshine, despite our sore bodies we could not resist the temptation to play.

Back in the boat for round two, we learned a few things:

1) The second time you get into a canoe, paddling motions make way more sense and even start to feel a bit intuitive.
2) If you are working really hard in a canoe while the water is calm, you’re definitely doing it wrong so ask for help.
3) It may be chilly on the water but for the love of what is holy, do not forget to put sunscreen on your face.
4) Staying closer by the shore gives you a much greater appreciation for how much ground you’re covering/how fast you’re traveling. This is a great idea if your patience for arriving somewhere starts to dwindle.

In fact, you will recognize the basics of canoeing proficiency when you travel where you intend to travel while feeling totally relaxed! The arms have to continue paddling, but there was so much coasting (probably in part due to our lovely boat) and so little involuntary water contact that we could have gone out comfortably in our pajamas.

What we thought would be a short water outing that day turned into several beautiful hours hanging out with mother nature. Dudes: lovely things happen when you leave your cellphone an hour and a half paddle away from your sleeping bag.

The next morning we enjoyed wizardry at breakfast (blueberry muffins made over a campfire!) and more solid canoeing tips from our guides as we packed up our stuff-and-things. Our final canoe expedition was leisurely and punctuated by a greater appreciation for how the wind affects your flight path (guru Andrew directed us straight at a distant mountain, which eventually cleverly angled us far to the left of the mountain towards the dock).

Between our Alder Creek guides, the stylish canoes, and gorgeous and instructive mother nature, we had an ideal trip. Next time (there will definitely be a next time!) I am determined to learn what the heck a “J-stroke” is and how we can use it to be even more efficient with the paddles.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake trip group photo.

Gigantic digital bear-hugs of gratitude to the crew that made this possible! Thank you thank you thank you!!

-Kristin Franco


I’m a complete novice at boats: this was my second time in a human powered boat of any kind and my very first time in a canoe. My first surprise: the canoe is a very forgiving craft – it resisted all my efforts to tip it over as we loaded up our camping gear and I hopped in. Good start. My second surprise: the canoe held a TON of gear – our guides Andrew and Steve brought some sweet amenities that would’ve been burdensome for even car camping with a routine 50 yard walk to the campsite (battery powered turntable? Yes please!). Our group of eight got launched pretty quickly and proceeded to learn the basics of paddling, turning, steering, and our personal floatation devices (which thankfully were not called upon to do any saving during our adventure).

My fiance Kristin and I were placed in a boat together, just the two of us…team-building time! As we set out after our safety lesson, the wind picked up and the water got choppy. Even the biggest waves didn’t make us feel unstable, but a trickle of adrenaline got us moving quicker and more deliberately.

Once we had the rhythm of paddling and steering, there was time to look around and really appreciate where we were. Waldo lake is majestic even on a slightly stormy, overcast day; fog clung to the trees along the shore and gave a sense of mystery to the unfolding scenery as we made our way towards the campsite. A light rain combined with the wind made us glad we layered up and had waterproof jackets and gloves – especially the gloves! I am a man’s man but I also have the hands of a princess and even those with tougher mitts will want some insulating protection in the wet. By the halfway point my better half had a pretty strong grasp of the rudder and our efforts were noticeably more effective at moving us in a straight line. A simple thing, but it gave us pride.

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, Chris and Kristin exploring the area.

We kept at it and ended up working ourselves pretty hard to keep up with the group, but our guides stayed in sight the whole time and called out their encouragement as we pulled ahead for the home stretch into the campsite. Getting ashore was a team effort and we were glad to only have to haul our gear a very short way to our tent spot. Our dry bags were doing their job quite well and despite the rain all of our things stayed dry – comfort bonus! We packed a full size, crazy-heavy and luxurious 4-man tent for the two of us and after our exertions we slept like we’d earned it.

The next morning gave us a truly gorgeous view of all that had been half-shrouded by fog the evening before – mountains in the distance, lush forest all along the shore, and the clearest sapphire blue water that I would not have believed to exist in North America. After a good stretch and some breakfast, we were happy to be in decent condition and ready to get out and explore the woods. We came back to camp for lunch and all hung around relaxing and taking in the big views in every direction.

Kristin and I were glad to find our arms and backs feeling up to some more paddling that afternoon so we took a canoe out by ourselves to do some exploring, soon to be followed by another couple in our group. I got to be in the rear seat this time so it was time to learn how to be an effective rudder – easier said than done but thankfully Kristin has developed a superhuman level of patience as a result of our relationship so the process was overall pretty playful.

Our first inclination was to take it slow and look all around us, including straight down to the bottom of the lake since the water was so clear. After a bit of that we felt adventurous and took our friends up on the suggestion to check out a cove further down the shoreline. We were shocked to find vivid red pebbles ground almost as fine as sand all along the cove, such a contrast with the deep blue water around it. We landed our boat and tied it off to take a brief walk around before the desire to be on the water overtook us again and we set off.

By the time we arrived back at camp it was almost evening – few experiences in my life have gone by so quickly. We had an amazing chili stew for dinner as a couple of us contributed some music and we talked over what we had seen that day. Andrew and Steve gave some intermediate level pointers for us to try out the next day on the paddle back to the dock – we all felt like we’d made some progress and could try a few fancy moves on our way back. It’s a good feeling when you try something a bit out of your skill-set and actually pull it off so I was looking forward to a little more learning to round out our adventure.

The next morning we reluctantly packed up our gear and loaded up the boats. The bittersweet feeling of leaving a beautiful campsite was softened by getting to do another medium-big paddle on another day of fine weather. I was feeling really into the rhythm of it and Kristin was getting more efficient too. We were starting to see where some of the real skill had room to develop which felt like yet another reason to get back at it and spend some more time on the water. We took our time getting back and went a different route to get a look at the opposite shore before we made it to the dock and unloaded. Talking about it on the drive home, she and I agreed that our Alder Creek guides took great care of us the whole way through and gave us the right mix of challenge and achievement. This was definitely a thing to be repeated and shared – I think we’ll try it as a ruggedly romantic vacation after a little more guided practice.

-Chris Browne

Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake, Chris and Kristin gaze south while their moment is unknowingly captured on camera.

Rogue River Trip Report

Rogue River Trip Report:
Graves Creek to Foster Bar Self Support
3,800 cfs

Earlier in May I had the opportunity to check another classic multi-day river trip off of my list by heading down to Merlin, Oregon and putting onto the Rogue River for a fantastic adventure.  After working at the store for nearly 3 weeks straight, this 3-day trip on the river with a group of friends was a very welcome chance to decompress after a hectic spring sale.  The Rogue River trip is an absolute classic multi-day adventure that had always eluded me.  After completing the journey, I don’t think I could ever go so long without doing it again.  Although this trip was my first self support adventure on a river, I quickly found that years of multi-day sea kayaking adventures prepared me well for the challenge of properly loading all of my belongings into my creek boat (BTW I could not endorse the LG Karma enough for this type of trip; I could have easily packed twice as much stuff in there and still had room to spare) at the Graves Creek boat ramp just west of Galice.  The action starts right away with Graves Creek Rapids (class III) and then the river settles into its pool drop character and establishes a nice rhythm of features and flat water all combined with breathtaking scenery.  Fairly soon we came upon Rainie Falls, and after dodging poison oak down the hiking trail to scout it, I opted to run the fish ladder on the far right which was a fun, splashy ride into the eddy below.  Numerous wave trains and small drops dotted the next 15 or so miles until we reached our camp at Big Windy Creek on day 1.  Were it not for the bugs, I would have slept out underneath the dazzling array of stars, but the mosquitoes were biting so I settled for an obstructed view through the mesh of the tent (no rain fly, though!) and caught some much needed sleep for the mammoth day that lay ahead.  Day 2 of our Rogue River trip was an epic slog through most of the famous portions of the Rogue, we covered almost 25 miles that day of hair raising rapids and flat water stretches through river canyon walls that appear almost completely untouched by the modern world.  Most of the day was straightforward point & shoot river running through many fun class III drops which all provided a nice warm up for the crux of the whole run, Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar.  Mule Creek was stunning: the river winds through sheer rock walls and has many small cascades tumbling into the narrow, swirly channel.  Mule Creek was in fact so beautiful that I felt compelled to check out the “fish perspective” for a second or two.  Fortunately I rolled up and didn’t have to test out the dryness of any of my bags or find out just what I hadn’t secured well enough into my kayak.  Directly after Mule Creek Canyon lies Blossom Bar, an ugly, bouldery jumble that looked significantly harder in a raft than it was in a kayak.  After some scouting and deliberation on river right, I saw my line and scrambled back down the bank (still dodging poison oak left and right) and climbed back into my kayak.  Everyone in the group styled the rapid and we rejoiced by paddling for another 7 miles through flat water to find an unoccupied campsite.  Sunday morning was a dreary and rainy paddle to Foster Bar boat ramp, which was mercifully short and sweet without many rapids of note.  Peeling off the wet paddling layers and warming up again with some hot cocoa while we waited for our shuttle rig to arrive hit the spot almost as much as cracking a couple of victory beers during the windy shuttle ride back to Merlin.

DT all smiles on the Rogue River trip!  Photo by Heath Barber

DT all smiles on the Rogue River trip! Photo by Heath Barber

I could not recommend this trip highly enough; the Rogue is a magical place with scenery and whitewater that stacks up against any trip anywhere.  If you’re going to go, here are a couple of recommendations: mind the poison oak, it is seriously everywhere and can ruin a trip (or the 2 weeks after) very quickly.  The early bird doesn’t have to paddle through the wind in the afternoon, get up and get moving so you can be off the river once it gets windy.  Bring a camera, I wish I had brought one to capture just a few of the sights and the natural beauty of this place.  Instead of paying someone to shuttle your car to the takeout, pay them less money to come pick you up and bring you back to the put in, this is so the way to go it’s not even a joke.  Think about it: you can have them use your gas and drive your car like it’s an off road rally and have it sit unattended at the boat ramp for who knows how long, or you can leave your car behind a locked gate for 3 days and have someone else with a trailer grab you and your gear and chauffeur you back, plus it is legal to drink in the shuttle rig as long as you don’t sit up front.  Stop making excuses and go do this Rogue River trip, you will only regret not having done it sooner!

-David Trageser

Check out some photos of the trip by Heath Barber HERE!

Plan an Owyhee River Trip!

Owyhee River

The Owyhee River Journals

If you missed Bonnie Olin’s presentation on the Owyhee at the Boathouse on May 6th, we would like to followup with a link to some of the resources Olin spoke about, that might be helpful to anyone thinking of making a trip into the Owyhee Canyonlands. For the boating community there is an excellent new mile-by-mile river map, put out be the BLM, that covers the Bruneau, Jarbidge and Owyhee River . You can print sections of the map from the pdf file on-line at this link.

But if you call the Boise or Vale BLM office, they’ll send you a water proof map of the entire river system for only $5. This was last years price, so check first, but even if the price has increased a little, it’s a steal!

Bonnie introduced Chris Hansen, the Owyhee Coordinator for the Oregon Natural Deserts Association. He spoke about their efforts to preserve the Oregon section of the Owyhee with Wilderness Status via a petition calling for wilderness protections. Check out their website for more information about the Owyhee , photos of the area, things to do, petition information and more HERE.

Olin’s latest blog piece for the ONDA Wild Owyhee website can be found at this link.

Her books can only be purchased via her website or at the presentations. Olin reports that no other presentations are scheduled until Fall, so that she and Mike can enjoy the rivers and canyons they love. Her web site is HERE.

For Boater/hikers, you might be interested in a new Adventure hiking book by Steve Stuebner and Mark Lisk, which includes detail instructions, GPS points, etc. You can also download individual hikes., etc. This book will broaden hikes into the Idaho region.  Check it out HERE.

So what are you waiting for?  Plan an Owyhee River trip!

Owyhee River Journals

Tuesday, May 6th
at Alder Creek’s Boathouse location
-3rd floor, Mt Adams Room

Owyhee River

Owyhee River Journals

Join writer Bonnie Olin for a richly-illustrated journey into the canyonlands of the Owyhee River in Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon.  Her presentation is based on her book, The Owyhee River Journals, which includes 125 color photos of rarely seen landscapes by photographer Mike Quigley, created over many years of travel together.  Very little is written about the Owyhee, so Ms. Olin will share a brief history of the area, discuss why it is unique and deserving of wilderness protection, and show a 20-minute video of an expedition into Deep Creek and the East Fork of the Owyhee.  Her presentation will be followed by a brief question and answer period.  Signed books will be available for sale, as well!

Check out Bonnie Olin’s website for the book HERE!

Call 503-285-0464 with questions!

San Juan Islands Kayaking Staff Trip

Check out some photos from our trip!

The Alder Creek gang is more of a family than a shop staff.  We plan a little “family vacation” at the beginning of each season to help bring us all together again before the madness begins.  This year we went on a 3 day scouting trip around San Juan Island!  The sun shined each day as we awoke. We were greeted by more eagles than we could count each morning and were eased to sleep with the lullaby of frogs and shifting tides each night.  Things are really taking shape for our NEW 5 day expedition training being offered this year.  We can’t wait to get our customers and students out there to enjoy the beauty of the islands for themselves this summer.  Our little family reunion was a reminder to me of how fortunate we are to live in such an amazing place!

Paul Kuthe


My favorite part of the San Juan Island staff trip was staying on the small island of Posey. This island was only accessible by man powered boats and was so small that it only had enough room for two campsites. Apparently Posey Island can be very busy in the summer months and our group of nine was lucky because we had the entire island to ourselves. I recommend to anyone interested in kayak camping in the San Juans to check out this gem of an island and make sure to reserve in advance (especially in the summer!).

Thanks guys!

Chelsea Neilson

San Juan Islands Kayaking

San Juan Islands Kayaking Photo by Malcolm Kelly

As this was my first time going to the San Juan Islands, I expected lots of rain. I was, instead, stunned by the weather and the views. I enjoyed the paddling thanks to a friend for loaning me his Xplore M. I love Tiderace kayaks! It was nice to paddle without having to coordinate all of the arrangements. Thanks to Paul for stepping up! All in I had a great trip, and I look forward to the next one.

Malcolm Kelly

San Juan Islands Kayaking

San Juan Islands Kayaking Photo by Steve Pilch

What an awesome trip to spend with some great co-workers! I would like to particularly thank Dave Slover for arranging the great weather; that really was above and beyond. The stretch from Lime Kiln Park to Posey Island was my favorite. Great views of Vancouver Island, exciting coastline, and it was great to see all the bald eagles along the way. It’s not going to be difficult to get clients excited for the five day trips this summer.

Steve Pilch


When I find myself in the San Juan Islands kayaking, I’m normally leading a group around on the water and making their food and coffee when we’re on land.  So it was very refreshing to paddle around San Juan Island with a group of peers and relax around camp!  It also turns out that San Juan Islands kayaking can be sunny and calm in the middle of March!  Not only was the weather and company excellent, the scenery was nothing shy of breathtaking.  Rounding Cattle Point in the golden, morning light, the Olympic Range owned a distant horizon to the south.  To the west, Canada’s Vancouver Island.  The cliffs beside us stood quietly, displaying ages of terrific storms slowly pulling land into the sea.  Countless bald eagles, innumerable laughs, and a touch of sunburn rounded the trip out nicely.  On the last day, paddling east into dawn’s low light, it was hard pulling my boat onto the beach when there was still so much paddling to be done…

Andrew Romanelli

San Juan Islands Kayaking

San Juan Islands Kayaking Photo by Andrew Romanelli

The San Juan Islands is one of my favorite paddling destinations: it’s reasonably accessible, there’s plenty of paddling options, and always lots to see. Getting to paddle there with the other Alder Creek staff recently was particularly memorable. Freakishly good weather the whole time (in March!), loads of wildlife, clear unrestricted views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, and the good company of fellow paddlers. And plenty of those moments, tapping away over the glassy water, where you think… damn, it’s good to be a sea kayaker!

Andrew Brown

San Juan Island Kayak Tour

San Juan Island Kayak Tour

Steve and Chelsea paddle near Posey Island


San Juan Island Kayak Tour

On March 20 to 23 the Alder Creek Staff did a combo fun – training trip to  circumnavigate San Juan Island. The 5 day  San Juan Island Kayak Tour  is a new offering for us this year. We are running two of these expeditions one starting July 23 and the other August 20. So we figured it would be best to spend a few days seeing the area and prepping for the trip.

We camped at Washington Park, Griffin Bay and Posey Island on our trip but for the expedition we’ll use Griffin Bay, San Juan County Park, Stuart Island and Jones Island. During our March trip we saw very few other outdoor users, no kayakers, empty campgrounds and a bunch of wildlife. While we did not see one the famous Orca whale pods we did see numerous harbor seals, at least a dozen bald eagles, deer, oyster catchers, great blue heron, belted kingfishers and on and on…and did I mention how sorry I was to have no visits from a Raccoon in our camps!

The highlight of the trip for me was rounding Cattle Point on the south end of San Juan Island. As we came around the corner we got a great view of the Olympic Mountains, spent an hour surrounded by seals and had the beauty of the wind swept hills of the sw shore. We also had great timing for a light southerly wind and current pushing us north to boot. We even got a few easy surf’s in with the small swell rolling along in our direction. All in all a magical morning on a delightful trip.

 Photos from our San Juan Island Kayak Tour

Fog, Wolves, Wind, and Whales: Clayoquot Sound

by Neil Schulman

In late July, myself, fellow Alder Creek instructor Dennis Pennell, and Fred Harsman spent a week sea kayaking the outer coast of Clayoquout Sound on Vancouver Island’s west coast. It’s one of my favorite coastal destinations.

Why is Clayoquot one of my favorites? Well, I’ll use some stories from this most recent trip to illustrate why:

Wildlife: Almost every morning, wolves wandered down the beach we were camped at, following the high tide line. They weren’t tame, nor did they run away: they were just going about their business. The first several nights, I went to sleep to the sound of gray whales feeding in the bay. Not to mention sea otters, seals, eagles, and osprey.

Wolf tracks

Surf and Rock Gardens: We planned this trip to cover low mileage in short, playful sea kayaks, play in rock gardens and surf beaches Fred and I had found on a previous trip. Good surfing is great…but it’s even better on a wilderness beach with nothing but wolf tracks with the nearest road several islands away.

Surf session

Wind, Fog, and Sun: I count myself lucky to have gotten more use out of my hammock than my raingear in a coastal rainforest. We did have morning fog and afternoon wind, which meant both good navigation skills and a flexible itinerary.

Vancouver Island’s wild coast is a perfect example of the value of building skills. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without knowledge of navigation, seamanship, navigating surf and rock gardens, and trip planning. It’s not too soon to be thinking about next summer!

Neil Schulman finds a giant marshmallow.

Neil Schulman is an Alder Creek instructor, conservationist, and outdoor writer and photographer. You can see more of his photography and writing at

Hakai Protected Area British Colombia

Each year my wife and I, along with a few friends, take a coastal kayak trip somewhere in British Columbia.  Past destinations have included the Broken Group, Nootka Island, God’s Pocket, and Clayoquot  Sound.  Last spring we got together at the pub and the inevitable question arose, where next?  A couple of ideas surfaced; another attempt to circumnavigate Nootka Island, or a return to the Bunsby’s.  Both were somewhat interesting.  Then Tom said “What about Hakai”?

Hakai, BC’s largest Provincial Marine Park at almost 300,000 acres, sits part way between Port Hardy, the northern-most town on Vancouver Island and Bella Coola.  The only access to this area is by sea or air.

The logistics for this trip were more complicated than any of the other BC trips we’ve done.  We decided to paddle from Kwakshua Channel, which separates Calvert and Hecate Island, north approximately 120 miles over the course of 11 days to Shearwater, a village of about 50 people where we would catch a ferry and return to Port Hardy.
One aspect that made this trip unique was our “wet launch” off the ferry five hours north of Port Hardy at the start our trip.  BC Ferries offers a wet launch option on the Discovery Coast passage route.  Essentially, you submit a written request in advance detailing where you wish to be dropped off, and your intended route.  At the captain’s discretion they’ll stop the ferry, drop you off the stern, and continue on their route.  Our request was either the southern tip of Calvert Island or east end of Kwakshua channel, depending on weather conditions.  The captain approved Kwakshua channel.
Once dropped, we were on our own and saw very few signs of civilization for the next 11 days. Two other parties also took advantage of the wet launch; a group of several Canadians on a similar itinerary as ours, and a single paddler who had planned to paddle back to Port Hardy.  A few days after our launch we heard via Coast Guard radio that he activated his EPIRB on a beach on the west coast of Calvert Island.
We made a conscious decision to only move camp every other day or so on this trip.  We took advantage of the down days to paddle unloaded boats which allowed us closer access to rocks, opportunities to play in surf, and really getting an opportunity to explore the area in more detail.
We saw whales, otters, porpoises.  We woke to wolf tracks through our camp.  We spent time on lounging on white sand beaches and a couple days fighting the dominant NW winds.  Something tells me I’ll find my way back to Hakai!
  • BEST TIME OF YEAR TO GO: June – September
  • NUMBERS FOR CHARTS WE USED:  Canadian chart #3935, 3936, 3937 & 3938
  • GENERAL RESEARCH: “The Wild Coast: Volume Two” by John Kimantas
  • RESTRICTIONS:   Areas of First Nations land, generally noted on charts
This trip is not for everyone!  Do your research before you go to make sure the trip and the conditions are appropriate for your skill level and experience!  Please remember, we are all captains of our own craft and as such, are responsible for our own safety!

-David Dalbey [words, photos, and video]


Check out David’s video from the trip here: Hakai 2012


Trip Report: San Juan Islands Guided Kayak Fishing

Alder Creek Coaches Jason Self and Chris Bensch post a trip report from the first ever guided kayak fishing tour of the San Juan Islands. Over four days the group manages to catch dozens of lingcod, rockfish, greenling, and cabezon. Click the link for pictures and a full report. Give us a call to book your trip today!

Coaches Corner – Paul Kuthe – Packing a Sea Kayak

Paul Kuthe, the Program Manager at Portand’s Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, is a new school leader in sea and whitewater kayak instruction and an expert expedition planner. In this episode of C&K’s Virtual Coach, he details the art of packing a sea kayak.

San Juan Multi-Day Kayak Trip with Alder Creek


The July San Juan Multi Day Kayak trip was a ton of fun and we couldn’t ask for better weather. Each day started out a little cool, but the evenings were simply magical. Every night was calm with perfect sunsets and seals were fishing only a mere 100 feet away. The best part of the whole trip for me, was being able to cook our meals to a sun setting behind glacier carved islands.

Our group met at West Beach Resort on Orcas Island, Washington. West Beach Resort has some great people running the facilities. You are able to rent out small cabins or a place for a tent / RV. The resort sits on a small cove on the North Western side of Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. They even have kayaks for rent and tours if you forgot yours at home. The nice thing about this spot is that they have overnight parking that is reasonable and the paddle to our camp site is only 6 miles away.

Our group met at 10 am on Thursday, packed up our gear and launched by noon. The current was running at nearly 3 knots and we could see 200 foot wide eddy lines. We had some paddlers that had only been in a kayak a few times and no one had any problems. The six miles took us a little over an hour with the faster current.

The next few days were simply wonderful. We paddled the Wasp Islands the following day, ate lunch on a small island, and then paddled into Deer Harbor for some late afternoon ice cream. We hung out in the Spring passage for a bit, playing in the current, before heading to the docks in Deer Harbor. The cool thing about this harbor is that we were able to watch a sea plane land. The scary thing about this harbor is that there is a SEA PLANE! Something to keep an eye on for sure!

On Saturday we headed to Friday Harbor and crossed from Yellow Island, in the Wasp Islands, to San Juan Island. The water looked pretty calm, but had some exciting 2 to 3 foot waves. We all had a good laugh heading across and made our way into Friday Harbor. We tied up our boats to the dock in the harbor and watched the ferry come in. We again headed up for some ice cream! The paddle back was nice since the current shifted in our favor back to camp. The ferry from San Juan to Orcas passed in front of us by a short distance and we could see folks on the ferry waving at us.

On Sunday we all woke up around 5:30am, had breakfast, and packed the boats for an 8 am launch. The wind had really picked up and made paddling a bit more difficult, but we were able to get back to West Beach Resort within a couple of hours. All in all it was a fantastic trip and the sunsets will certainly be difficult to forget. I can’t wait to head back and float again on some salt water.


San Juan 4 Day Tour
Enjoy the beauty of the San Juans from a kayak like Shawn.

Upcoming Dates for next Trip: September 16,
2010 – September 19, 2010
Type: Trips & Tours
Location: San Juan Islands, WA
Visit Website

The San Juans is an excellent venue for this 4 day tour. Work on your paddling skills and enjoy the beauty of the San Juan’s while traveling by kayak.

San Juan Islands Kayaking Camping Trip

Welcome to the San Juan Islands Multi-day Adventure3 way
July 9th – 12th
Sept 10th – 13th
Want to go kayak camping without having to pack all the food, plan for tides, and figure out the secret paddling spots? We have taken care of all this and more!


Enjoy an escape to the San Juan Islands with Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe. This area is abundant with eagles, seals, and beautiful scenery. The kayaks used are mostly solo boats, which gives our customers a chance to learn paddle techniques and boat control independently.


The upcoming  San Juan Islands 4 Day Tour is scheduled during a half moon, allowing  us to paddle during minimal tides.   You will learn how to use the mild current to your advantage.


Although not guaranteed, be ready to paddle under the stars to experience the magical bioluminescence. Each paddle stroke  lights up, splashes


sparkle, and fish glow — all due to this beautiful natural occurance.
san juans
Experience kayak packing, menu planning, navigation, group safety, paddling in wind and boat handling skills. Distances range from 4 – 14 miles per day and are designed to give you the tools you’ll need to  complete a multi-day tour on your own.
Prerequisite: Basic Skills Kayak Class or equivalent experience.
Included: All meals and paddling gear are provided or use  your own gear.
For more info log on to
For reservations: 888.571.4545 or
Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe
250 NE Tomahawk Dr
1515 NE Water Ave

Sea Kayaking and Camping in the San Juan Islands


By Shawn Altman – Alder Creek Staff

As the days start to get longer, just a tad nicer, I find myself waking up wishing I was inside a tent. Six months have passed and I already miss the salty air, beaches made of perfectly shaped skipping stones, and the chance sighting of an orca whale. The San Juan Islands hold a new place in my heart after moving here from Bar Harbor , Maine. Bar Harbor and the San Juan Islands are listed in the top ten places to kayak in the USA, but I would say they are so far my two favorite places.

Cypress Island

Cypress Island

Shawn McClure – Tow Head Island near Pelican Beach at Sunset

What I enjoy the most about camping out on the beach is just being away from the city, cooking over an open fire, and exploring by water each day. Each time I go Sea Kayak Camping with Alder Creek kayak & Canoe the groups are fantastic, willing to make the most out of each day, but also looking to relax on the beach.

Pelican Beach Camp

Pelican Beach Camp

San Juan Group Sept. 08′ – Hanging out a Camp

Since we camp out at Pelican Beach – on Cypress Island –there are hiking trails that lead to a cliff face looking over the east side of Orcas Island and Rosario Straits. What An amazing view at Sunset.

Cypress Island Sunset

Cypress Island Sunset

San Juan Group Sept. 08′ – Sunset on Eagle Cliff

Paddling during the Day is wonderful but paddling at night is something not to miss. The days tend to be warm, the water is cool, and the views are spectacular. I would say that my favorite section to paddle is heading from pelican beach to Toe Head Island and then south to Strawberry Island. Wonderful section as we paddle under large cliff faces.

Paddling around rocks Cypress Island

Paddling around rocks Cypress Island

San Juan Group Sept. 08′ – Heading to Strawberry Island

Even with the tidal current we can use the shore to have a relaxing paddle and search for porpoise, eagles, nesting falcons, and a mix of other water fowl.

The night time paddling is just amazing! The bio luminescence is something that you will never forget if you have never paddled in it. I was telling a few of our guest about the chance to paddle at night. They just looked at me like “yeah, sure… probably just really dark”. Well, the dark part was correct, but they didn’t plan on the water glowing with every stroke, splash, and ripple. We tossed water across our spray skirts and watched the ocean water sparkle like the Milky Way was in our hands. We could see glowing fish zipping under our boats, eddy lines sparkling, and the reflection of the stars in the water. This is truly hard to forget from the view of a kayak. With all this in my mind I am excited to get back to the ocean and re-visit the charm of the San Juan Islands.

Group resting on West side of Cypress