This year, our first kayak camping trip of the season happened to be Earth Day weekend. We wanted to find the right balance of creature comforts and adventure, so we chose a paddle plan that would allow for both: a camping trip to Hope Island.
On Saturday morning, we drove to Arcadia Point and loaded up three NC19 Expeditions with enough food, water, clothing, and gear to handle a much longer trip. We also included a few treats that wouldn’t make our “normal” training paddle list.
Leg One: Launch to Lunch
Around noon, we launched and headed for our campsite at Hope Island State Park. That trip can be done in just about half a nautical mile, or around 1 nmi to get to the side of the island with the campsites. But we were looking for a little longer mileage, so we took the scenic route.
As we paddled past Hope Island, we were entertained by its population of curious, blonde raccoons. Our first stop wasn’t on the island though – we were headed for the Boston Harbor Marina Snack Shack where we’d have our first meal of the trip: creature comforts!
We arrived at the marina at a low enough tide that we had to make our way through the muck to get to shore and tie our kayaks to the dock.
We enjoyed a meal from the snack shack and then prepared to set out again. Our boats had started floating as the tide came in, so we had more wading and less muck to deal with as we prepped to launch.
Leg Two: Heading for Camp
At this point, we’d more than tripled our 1 nmi paddle to get to the campsite, and we still had a few miles ahead of us to get to our campsite. But that wasn’t enough. We were going the long way, we were going around Squaxin Island: adventure!
We saw hardly anyone else once we entered Peale Passage. Squaxin Island is one of our favorite islands to paddle past. If you focus on the shoreline and forest (and ignore the opposite shore), you can imagine what the landscape of Puget Sound must have been like just a couple hundred years ago.
As we came around Salmon Point into Pickering Passage, a rain shower joined us. No wind, glassy water, large raindrops, and no power boats? We enjoyed our favorite paddling conditions as we approached Hope Island.
Arrival on Hope Island
We unpacked the boats into our trusty IKEA bags and hauled our gear to the campsite. Our first task was to quickly set up the rain shelter and the tent, which we completed just as the next rain shower began.
We set up our tent with our normal cozy bedding and then ate our backcountry charcuterie dinner. We’d brought far more food than we needed as well as a few libations. After enjoying our evening, we headed to bed.
Warm & Cozy… or not?
We were warm enough as we snuggled into our beds, but that only lasted for the first hour or so. We awoke to a cold draft unlike anything we’d ever felt before. At first, we tucked our comforter closer and tried to find the gaps where a breeze might be seeping through. Before long, we realized that we were feeling the cold seep up from the ground.
Interestingly, the sensation we experienced was the same as when a breeze hit our skin. It felt like colder air was being blown under the covers. We could feel the current making its way to our knees, hips, and shoulders. But there was no air movement – just the ground temperature seeping through.
Our bedding set-up includes sleeping pads with an R-value of 3, a down coupler bottom layer, a down quilt rated to 20F/-6C, and a spare blanket to use on top or tuck around us to ward off drafts. That set-up has seen us through nights far colder than this spring evening. But it wasn’t working this time.
Spring 2023 came late to the Pacific Northwest. There had been barely more than a handful of days with highs in the sixties all year (and for months prior). Some nighttime lows during the week leading up to our trip were still below freezing. The soil of our campsite, located in a small clearing in the forest, hadn’t had a chance to warm up yet. During the night, the cold just seeped through the wet soil and into our bedding and our bodies.
Luckily, we came prepared. We moved our spare blanket, which had been a top layer, to make an additional bottom layer on our bed. With that extra protection, we cuddled up and got toasty warm again and were able to fall back asleep for the rest of the night, lulled to sleep by the cozy sound of raindrops on rainflies.
Morning on Hope Island
We awoke to the sun peeking through the rain-dampened forest and the sounds of wind in the trees. Wildlife provided the only soundtrack on an empty island.
An island empty of other humans, at least. We had a relatively noisy neighbor bunking down on the path leading to our campsite. When we peeked into the bushes, we understood the noise.
We started calling out to her as we headed down the path: “Hi, bird… I’m just going past.” She took this warning to heart and believed us that we intended no harm. As long as we gave her a fair warning, she kept her peace. If we forgot? She’d flutter and cheep loudly to let us know she was startled, which would startle the heck out of us in the process.
Leg Three: Home Again, Home Again
The forecast called for the weather to pick up. We had a few different paddle plans, each with its own additional mileage. But most of us also had jobs that would be waiting for us on Monday, so another compromise between creature comforts and adventure was in order. Rather than packing on double-digit mileage in conditions, we opted to paddle past Steamboat Island and make our way back to the launch.
We got some spicy wind and water on our way back. Overall, the weekend had the perfect blend of comfort, safety, and adventure. We packed our IKEA bags back into the Volvo and re-racked the kayaks on top while enjoying a post-paddle beverage.
All told, we paddled more than 14 nmi for our camping trip to Hope Island, just a mile from the launch.