Paddle the San Juan Islands

Sometimes I love Facebook! When I saw Thomas Kelly mention he was heading to the Pacific Northwest with kayaks, I responded asking him where he was going, and if I could fly in and meet up with he and David Brown, his paddling partner.

David Brown and Thomas Kelly Fossil Bay, Sucia

I’m pretty sure I invited myself…..but hooray for me! I got to tag along on their paddling odyssey!

It’s so easy to forget how stunningly beautiful our archepeligo of San Juan Islands truly is! Re-visiting the islands after my long hiatus, updated my very out-of-date recollections. Damn! The San Juans are well appointed! And well Loved!

Sunset Sucia

We arrived to Sucia on a Tuesday, and we were the only tent in our camping area. We paddled over to Patos on Thursday, and found we had the camping area again, to ourselves. On Friday, when we returned to Sucia, wow! Every camp site had a tent. This was the third week of September. What must the summer be like?


The camping areas are lovely, with fresh water (not on Patos), composting toilets and well maintained trails covering the islands we visited. The park asks you to take out your own trash, so there are no garbage cans. I didn’t see any trash on the ground. There are two docks on Sucia for boats and probably sixty or so campsites on the Island.

Thomas and Mt Baker

On Patos there is a working light house. The camping area on Patos is small, but it’s grassy, flat with views into Canada and the Haro straight.

Paddling from Patos to Sucia

There is an organization called Washington Water Trails Assoc. who has, over the years, laced together the Cascadia Marine Trail, which includes campsites exclusively for human powered water craft. Talk about feeling special!

We visited only two islands, (Thomas and David paddled from Anacortes to Orcas, so visited more) and covered every inch of both, on foot and circumnavigating. We saw tons of wildlife: otters (many), sea lions, harbor seals, birds, birds, birds, owls, and a few spouting whales.

Sunset Sucia

What a lovely surprise and what a lovely week! Our next trip will be many more days and islands. Getting re-acquainted with the San Juan Islands by kayak was a great gift from Thomas and David. Thanks guys!

Charlie Mike is back in the PNW

Flew commercial to Saint George Utah to pick up Charlie Mike. As the weather turns to fall here, there, it was still nearly 100 degrees during the day. Fortunately, there was no smoke!

Heading Home

I took off early Sunday morning and headed toward Elko. I was debating the best smoke-free route home and had two apps running to chart the course. Gaia GPS had the best smoke map layers of any of my apps. That, with Foreflight, led the way.

Smoke is easy so far

My first night was in Burns, Oregon. I have stopped for fuel at Burns in the past, but this was my first overnight. On the Foreflight App, a pilot left a note saying to “not miss” the Historic Central Hotel in Burns. That person was right! What a lovely surprise! The place was stunning! If you are in Burns, definitely stop by to check this place out!

Historic Central Hotel

The next morning, I was off to say Hi to a friend in Redmond, Oregon. I saw him for a quick hello, then headed back to the runway to take off, and darn! My left mag was unhappy. Three hours with a mechanic later, we found the problem, fixed it, and I was back up in the air. (The problem was a stuck valve on my #4 cylinder – which you fix by hitting with a 2 x 4). M

Mt Hood

Made it to Lynden after a quick fuel stop in Kelso – who, by the way, had the lowest price fuel of my entire trip, I think.

Back in the PNW

Flying in the PNW is SO different than flying in hot, high, dry places. The sea-level air is so thick and wonderful! I must admit, there’s no place like home.