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Jesse was a treasure trove of information. In his spare time, he sometimes substitute teaches on island, and his favorite subjects are biology, geology, science, and ecology. We learned that black band along a cliff face about ten feet above surf is sometimes called sea tar, and that if you look closely, another orange band is just above that. Both are types of lichen. A bright green patch on a cliff means fresh water, maybe a stream or a trickle. In hiking terms, when you come onto a peak that is clear of trees for what appears to be natural reasons (as opposed to clear cutting by corporate loggers), you say that it is bald. The islands in San Juan archipelago are mixed with some islands that are completely covered in cedar trees and other islands that are bald. Jesse explained that baldness comes from something called "glacial plucking". When a glacier recedes, it basically strips topsoil away as it goes. A glacially plucked island is really pure bedrock. Try building a home or farming land and you'll soon see why San Juans are still so sparsely populated.
That isn't to say that they're unsightly or uninteresting - far from it. One of my favorite places to be is in San Juan Islands (note: archipelago is called San Juan archipelago, four main islands with state ferry service to them are called San Juans, and there is a San Juan island in San Juans).
Since Jesse had timed our trip down Spieden Passage to go with tides, we basically were carried with current toward Jones Island. We still ended up paddling about five hours that day, but it was fun rather than back-breaking.
On Jones Island, we set up our tents, and then Jesse sent us on a hike while he got dinner ready. That night we had Smoked Salmon Pesto Linguine and wine. I vaguely recall other things like cheese and crackers, salad, and a Dutch-oven gingerbread, but it was linguine that really stood out. Luckily, Outdoor Odysseys provides handy recipes on their web site. I'm not sure how meal would compare with other meals you could cook in a kitchen, but for a meal prepared on a campfire stove, it was incredible.
The camp kitchen was well stocked for al fresco gourmet dining.
The next morning, I awoke to coffee already prepared and breakfast cooked (sort of) to order. Obviously Jesse could only serve foods that we had brought with us, but at least he served those however we wanted them. I had eggs, and Melissa and Brandy had French toast. Then we loaded up kayaks and took off. Our goal this time was to sweep to north side of Spieden Island and avoid "river" completely if possible. To do this, we had to paddle north instead of west, and then hope we covered enough water to reach north side before current dragged us south. We didn't quite make it.
Up to this point, biggest concern we had had was riding out wake of passing boats without tipping over. It was a bit scary first time, but you soon realized how stable kayak was and just braced for it rather than panicking. Now we would have to actually negotiate a heavy current complete with a sharp turn in middle of it without tipping over. Jesse and Brandy went first. It looked difficult, but they made it. Melissa and I were determined to do same.
Let me tell you a little about this current before we dive in. It literally looked like a mountain stream bubbling and churning around corner of island. At this point, island is just a tip that we have to get around, but there's this churning water separating us from our guide. The goal is to aim into current, but not so much that it catches front end of your kayak and pushes you downstream. Once you get out into current, then you turn your boat directly into it and try paddling upstream for a while. If you get to a point where you feel that you've progressed, then maybe you can turn back towards land and end up in calm area on northern side of island where Brandy and Jesse are waiting.
On our hike to lighthouse, we discovered a self-service souvenir stand, kid-sized totem poles in front of school, a historical museum in old schoolhouse, and Lover's Leap. The view from Lover's Leap (not to mention 300 foot drop) was spectacular. You could see back all way to San Juan Island while Vancouver Island and some of Gulf Islands (Canadian English for San Juan Islands) were lit up by coming sunset. On Leap itself stand huge madrona trees. And from Leap, you can see down cliff to lighthouse.
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By Pam, Seattle Correspondent, Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
by Pam Jetsetters Magazine. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com