Sunday, July 29, 2018

REIing it in the San Juans

For the big 50, I wanted to do a big adventure. I also wanted to include the family. After a lot of research, I decided on the REI Adventures San Juan Islands Family Trip. It included some glamping, some biking, some hiking, and, most importantly, kayaking.
I was having some kidney stone issues leading up to the trip. The last surgery was the day before we got on the plane to Seattle. I triple checked with my surgeon to make sure I was cleared for travel and he gave me the OK. The flight was not the most comfortable, but after three rounds of getting stones pulled out of your kidneys you get used to it.
The morning after we landed in Seattle, we got on the ferry out to Friday Harbor. It was a long, beautiful ride.
In Friday Harbor we met our guides and the other family on the trip, had a nice lunch, and visited the whale museum. The whale museum is a small place but it has some cool exhibits and a ton of information about the local Orca population.
After that we crossed the island for an afternoon paddle. We split up into double kayaks. H and I paired up and Bug went with one of the guides. The paddling was nice and easy. We sauntered out of the harbor and among some small islands. On the outer edge of the islands, we spotted some Orcas in the distance. We spent quite some time sitting in a bull kelp bed watching the whales in the distance. After the whales, the paddle back to the harbor and the ice cream were anticlimactic.
The accommodations for our first two nights were luxurious canvas tents with big fluffy beds and hand delivered bed warmers. They were spectacular, but nowhere near as nice as our typical camping accommodations. It was more like being in a hotel room than camping.
The second day of the trip was a cycling trip to a local Orca watching hot spot. H was feeling queasy and decided to take a pass, so it was just Bug and I. Bug got her first taste of riding a big 24" bike and was a champ. The guides let the group get really spread out, so Bug and I spent most of the time cruising along together at a nice pace and enjoying the scenery. About a third of the way through, about 8 miles in, Bug started getting a little bored and wanted to stop. However, the guides had promised that there was a sweet downhill followed by a beautiful view, so she kept going.
It felt like it took forever, but the view was worth it. We crested a hill, came out of a wooded stretch, and we're greeted with a wide open vista of the ocean. At the bottom of the hill, one of the guides directed over to the rocks where we could watch a pod of Orca's playing in the distance.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty relaxed. We had a picnic lunch, played on the rocks, did a short hike, and gorged on some ice cream.
By the time we got back to camp, H was feeling a little better and was able to join us for dinner and some swimming.
The third and forth days of the trip were the most exciting for me. We took a kayak camping trip over to one of the smaller islands. The guides packed up all the gear into several tanks. There were three doubles and two triples.
Before lunch, Bug paddled with one of the guides and H and I took a triple with gear in the middle hatch. Getting H and I's kayak moving was a struggle, but once it was moving it was surprisingly easy to keep going. I used the rudder for steering; it was just too big and heavy to turn with just a paddle. H was still not 100%, so I did most of the work. The paddling was easy going and the pace was low key. We did one big crossing.
Lunch was on a little beach about half way to our camp. The beach was lovely; the lunch was a bit of fail though - spicy Thai wraps. H and Bug spent some time sleeping on the beach. I scheduled a follow up to my kidney stone procedure.
After lunch, Bug and H switched. Bug did some paddling, but was mostly my radio. She did do a pretty good stint as a solo motor. We did fall behind a bit, but that was no big deal since we were almost at camp and there was plenty to see.
The island camp was nice. We had decent MSR tents, mummy bags, and sleeping pads. There was also a nice pavilion in the center of our spot. The island had these funky red trees that were cold to the touch.
The paddle back to San Juan Island was uneventful. Bug insisted on paddling the tank by herself when we started out. She did a surprising good job of keeping up with the group when we started out.  We we not leading the pack, but we were keeping up. When it came time to do the crossing, I did have to kick some support. Once we made the crossing, Bug ran out of gas and went back to being the radio and lookout. We got a nice laugh when we noticed that the youngster in the other tripple was taking a snooze.
After we unpacked the kayaks, we took an ice cream break on the docks. Then we headed for our luxury cabins for the night. The cabins were plush. Bug took the upstairs loft and we got a very cozy bedroom. Before dinner, the kids got a chance to swim in the pond and play some games. Bug took a dip in the hot tub.
Dinner was a basic affair, but we were promised a special desert. The desert fell a little bit short, but the views more than made up for it. The guides took us out to a point to watch a spectacular sunset.
The final day of the trip was a whale watch. The boat was smallish, so there were no bad seats. The captain did a great job of finding whales. We saw a lot of Orcas and a few other types of whales. The best part was seeing several spy hops.
The ferry ride home was extra-long. The original ferry we were supposed to take broke down, so we were delayed in leaving. Then instead of going back into Seattle, we landed an hour north of the city and had to be bussed back. Fortunately, the ferry was comfortable and the views pretty great.
Our last few days in Seattle were spent hanging out in the city with H's cousin. We did the obligatory gum wall, Pikes Place, Space Needle tour. We also did the obligatory REI trip.
The best parts of Seattle were hanging out. H's cousin has a giant trampoline in the back yard where Bug spent hours bouncing and flipping. One of the neighbors has a great dog the Bug spent time playing catch with and "training". There was even a local pool for an afternoon lounge.
It was a great trip. The REI guides did a great job of keeping the group entertained - particularly the kids.