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Trails and Ales: My Week Aboard the Wilderness Adventurer

05-16-2014

By Ryan McNamee, Un-Cruise Adventures

What a week. It was a perfect balance of activities, education and beer. Yes, it was a Washington beer themed tour of south Hood Canal, Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands on the Coastal Washington cruise.

Beer tasting.

I woke early Sunday morning to the aroma of bacon, the sweeping green hills of the Hood Canal and the melodic pitter-patter of rain. After breakfast, a group of us loaded into a skiff and headed off towards Lake Cushman’s staircase trail. Hiking through massive Western Red Cedars and along a raging river that glided over boulders was a great way to start the week. The trail was very well maintained, had some incline but almost everyone in the group came along for this hike. At one point we came to a place where the trail had been washed away and left breathtaking views of the river and surrounding mountains.

Staircase Trail.

View from Lake Cushman's Staircase Trail

Monday morning we woke anchored off of Marrow Stone Island, just southeast of Port Townsend. During our short skiff ride, Kent, one of our trusted guides asked if we could see any sign of a massive fort on the towering cliffs. We could not. It truly looked like an uninhabited island. After a short hike up a road that has since become a well maintained grassy path, we began to have sweeping views of the surrounding islands and waterways, and could finally see the massive concrete barricades that were once home to Fort Flagler, one of three forts in the triangle of fire. I stood on top of the fort and could easily see our home, the Wilderness Adventurer, and wondered why the fort couldn’t be seen when we first looked up. After exploring the abandoned barricades, forts, and buildings, we continued on to a small museum before heading back to our waiting skiff.

Fort Flagler.

Fort Flagler

After lunch we pulled up anchor and began making our way to Port Townsend for a tour of the Port Townsend brewery and an afternoon exploring the quaint Victorian town before cruising through Deception Pass and anchoring in Lang Bay near Hope Island State Park.

Port Townsend Brewery

Tuesday morning we woke and donned our extremely fashionable yellow kayak skirts and life jacket before making our way to the kayak launch platform. It was a morning of guided kayaking around the 106 acres of Hope Island State Park. This small but scenic island is home to an old-growth forest, marine mammals, and countless birds: black oystercatchers, pigeon guillemot, and bald eagles.

Kayakers

After exploring the area, it was back to the Wilderness Adventurer for lunch and the preparation for an afternoon hike through Deception Pass State Park.

Hike through Deception Pass State Park.

Hike through Deception Pass State Park with expedition guide, Kent

That night we stayed in the area and waited for slack tide to sail back through Deception Pass which happened to be just before sunrise.

On Wednesday we found ourselves in the scenic Aleck Bay located at the south end of Lopez Island and directly west of Deception Pass. The tranquil emerald water of Aleck Bay was the perfect spot for everyone to explore in kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and by skiff. A group of guests headed out for a guided kayak around Aleck Bay, and the neighboring Hughes Bay and McArdle Bay, while others ventured out on their own. I jumped in a skiff to capture a few photos and video of the ongoing activities. It was a perfect day for capturing great photos and video.

Kayakers.

After a few hours, I switched skiffs and took a guided skiff tour of the area. We had heard about a bald eagle nest, just around the point in Hughes Bay, as well as some extremely unique sea life including the ochre sea star and baby harbor seals resting on Colville Island, a national wildlife refuge.

Eagle in nest.

Once back on the Wilderness Adventurer, we pulled anchor and set sail for Friday Harbor to spend the afternoon touring a brewery and exploring the quiet town.

That evening we left Friday Harbor and cruised around the privately owned Spieden Island during dinner before making our way towards Eastsound.

Thursday morning we woke in Cascade Bay, near Rosario Resort, and began to prepare for excursions to Mount Constitution. We were split into groups, people who wanted to hike up the mountain, those who wanted to take a short hike, and those who wanted to bus to the top. I joined the short hike group and jumped in a skiff.

Our hike would be around Mountain Lake, a majestic lake in Moran State Park on Orcas Island. This was the second greatest hike I was on. The 3.9 mile hike took you along the edge of the entire lake, through extremely different climates and forest stages. On one side you were surrounded by vibrant greens and browns, moss covered rocks, trees and ground engulfed the picturesque old-growth forest. While we made our way over a small dam and onto the other side, the moss slowly disappeared, and the vibrant trees became less and less prominent. We had entered a second growth forest and the side of the lake unprotected from the towering Mount Constitution. Washed browns and light greens took over. What makes Mountain Lake so unique is it is rare to find a lake on an island, but it is even rarer to find an island IN a lake ON an island. Mountain Lake had just that.

Hike with guide.

Hike lead by expedition guide, J.P.

Lake island.

After a few hours, we had returned back to our starting point and made the short ride up the mountain to the top of Mount Constitution for lunch. Although it was a little overcast, we still had breathtaking views of the islands.

Back on the vessel, we invited the brewmaster from Island Hopping Brewery aboard for discussion and happy hour and then set sail through Rosario Strait and President Channel before anchoring at Stuart Island.

Friday. I couldn’t believe an entire week had blown by, but I was extremely excited for Stuart Island and in my opinion, the best island in the San Juan’s, Sucia Island. Anchored in Prevost Harbor, between Stewart Island and Satellite Island, everyone set off for kayaking, paddle boarding or guided skiff tours. I tried paddle boarding for the first time with Annie, an expedition guide alongside me.

Skiff tour.

I got on the paddle board and was slowly launched into the water. Staying on my knees, we paddled around Prevost Harbor for awhile before I felt comfortable enough to stand; I was close enough to the vessel to swim back if I needed to. Annie, practically paddling circles around me, showed me how to stand which I tried to emulate. As the board wiggled in the calm bay, I regained my balance and began paddling. Afterwards, I hopped on a skiff and headed out towards Turn Point Lighthouse on the northwest point of Stuart Island. We watched baby harbor seals, various birds and pulled small crustaceans out of the water to examine.

After lunch we made our way to the incredibly scenic Sucia Island. Light color rock formations protrude from the crystal blue water and tall trees hang over the surrounding cliff edges. It is the one place that doesn’t feel like Washington. A few of us were skiffed to Ewing Cove and began our final hike along the bluff overlooking Echo Bay. It was a short hike, extremely scenic and full of different plants and some wildlife. At the end of the hike, we were met by our crew and had a bonfire happy hour ashore to round out the week.

Sucia Island

View from Sucia Island

Editor’s note: Ryan is the marketing coordinator and official photographer/videographer for Un-Cruise Adventures. While he usually toils away in the office, he’s occasionally let loose for adventures. This is one of those times.

Explore coastal Washington next fall or spring on a small ship cruise aboard the 60-guest Wilderness Adventurer. Weeklong cruises sail roundtrip from Seattle, Washington. Adventure activities are always included: hiking, kayaking, skiff excursions, seeking out wildlife, paddle boarding. Join us for a fun filled week. We have two more Washington craft beer theme cruises planned if that piques your interest.



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