On the second day of our kayaking adventure, we woke up to rain pattering on the roof of the tent – awesome. Wondering what happened to that gorgeous PNW summer weather we’d been enjoying, we crept reluctantly out of our sleeping bags and ventured into the dripping wooded clearing where we’d made camp the night before. There was one compensation for being out of the tent…
Banana nut pancake. Yes, I will have that. But things got colder – and wetter – from there. After fortifying with a pancake and coffee, we huddled together as a group and Ben recommended that we press on with our plans despite the now-driving rain. (Very unusual for summer in Washington, I hear. Winter, not unusual. But summer…) Ben explained that we’d be more comfortable moving our bodies in the kayaks than shivering at camp in the rain. The plan was to paddle to Patos Island, a tiny island up near Boundary Pass, inaccessible except via boat. Even the guides don’t make it up to Patos more than a couple of times per season, and Ben was stoked about the idea of getting there on our trip. Since the rain was just cold and wet – but not dangerous – he thought we could do it. So we climbed into the kayaks, battened down our spray skirts as securely as possible, and pushed off for Patos.
I didn’t take my phone out from under the spray skirt all morning – let alone my big camera. The rain was absolutely drenching, and the longer we were out in it, the colder I was. I didn’t take a single picture all morning; I was just trying not to get hypothermia. When we finally pulled ashore for lunch, about halfway through the day’s paddling, Ben took one look at me and remarked, “You look really cold.”
I was really cold, but I figured probably not colder than anyone else, and complaining wasn’t going to help anyone. I figured the best thing to do was to press on to Patos Island and dry clothes, so I told him – through gritted teeth – “I’m fine.” He suggested that we all spread out and pick up some driftwood – driftwood foraging is legal on certain beaches, including this one – and haul it to Patos for a campfire. Sounded good to me!
I was a little skeptical about whether the driftwood would actually burn – it was pretty wet – but we all gamely rounded up a good fire’s worth and strapped it to the kayaks. Our groupmates joked that the amount of driftwood on a kayak was directly proportional to how cold the people in the boat were. Needless to say, Steve and I had the biggest load.
Let’s do this! Even Steve was cold, so that should tell you how really damp and blustery it was.
Eventually, the rain stopped driving down and – while the sun didn’t come out all afternoon – paddling was really pleasant. Before I knew it, we were rolling into Patos. The landing was made more interesting by a narrow-ish passage (although nothing to what we’d navigate the next day) and a couple of little whirlpools that made for a fun water ride onto the beach.
As we paddled up, we spotted a few sailboats moored in the calm little bay, and a campsite up on a bluff with a fire and – miracle of miracles – coolers! There was much speculation about what kind of beer the (obviously rich, because hello: COOLERS) sailors were enjoying. Plans were made to befriend them.
In the end, though, no one drifted over. We were already starting to bond as a group, and everyone just wanted to hang out in camp and enjoy each other’s company. Steve pitched the tent…
While I helped Ben get dinner on the table: vegetable curry and Asian-inspired cabbage salad. Hearty and warming.
The rest of the gang agreed. Seconds and thirds were passed around.
After dinner, while a couple of the gents took over dish duty, the rest of us browbeat one of our number into building a campfire for us. His girlfriend explained that he was a volunteer firefighter back in Bavaria, and we decided that made him more qualified than anyone else to build a fire. The poor guy was fire captain for the rest of the trip. He was a good sport about it.
(One of my favorite pictures from the week, right there. It was just so lovely, toasting my hands over a campfire, shoulder to shoulder with a whole mess of new friends.)
Soon the sun started to dip lower in the sky, and we all rushed to watch.
Just epic. I couldn’t believe the beauty all around us.
After the sunset, we sat around the table sipping herbal tea and chatting. At one point, everyone except for Steve and I jumped up from the table and whipped their heads around, pointing at the sky and shouting – a Navy helicopter was flying low over the horizon, just offshore, running a training mission. Much laughter ensued when the rest of the group realized that Steve and I hadn’t even noticed the (incredibly loud) helicopter flying just over our heads. We chalked it up to living in the D.C. area – helicopters are like mosquitos to us.
Eventually we realized that something was happening and joined the group. Pretty neat stuff to watch, even if we were late to the party.
Truly the campfire at the end of the world. Oh, Patos Island – you were worth every raindrop.
Next week: A hike to a remote and historic lighthouse.