:: SADDLEBAG ISLAND
Island camping had been on my bucket list for a long time, and living in the Pacific Northwest certainly increases the odds with a large number of island parks with campgrounds. I had heard of Saddlebag Island located just off of the port town of Anacortes (about 90 minutes north of Seattle) as a good ‘starter’ island with well maintained campsites for both boaters and paddlers. I gave my hockey mate Adam a shout and we picked a toasty July day for the adventure.
After mapping the area we decided to launch at the public beach west of the port along the northern shore. Adam decided on using his paddle board and I’d be in my trusty inflatable kayak. We also used some portable gear including backpacking equipment and a number of dry bags to keep everything watertight. The currents worked in our favor as we paddled eastward towards the island.
After about three hours we arrived at the driftwood covered beach where we pulled up our crafts and explored the island. A well worn path circled the entire area and brought us to a number of campsites, and possibly the cleanest port-a-potty I’ve ever encountered. There were a number of boats anchored in the vicinity but we managed to have the whole island to ourselves for the night. After setting up camp and eating dinner we launched into the dusk on incredibly flat, peaceful water. As we circled around the island we spotted a ghostly seal perched on the rocks in the dim evening light.
The morning brought us more warm weather as we swung in the hammocks while drinking coffee and listening to the grunts from graceful blue herons perched in the trees and flying overhead. After breakfast we packed up our gear for the trek home. We decided to pass around the neighboring Hat Island and through the incredibly shallow Padilla Bay. A rather surreal moment occured when a siren went off (maybe a lunch break alarm?) from an oil refinery miles away on the shore, causing a number of coyotes inhabiting Hat Island to howl.
On the way back the currents were working against us along with a nasty headwind as we struggled to paddle back to the public beach. The waves were cresting and we were being pushed in different directions, definitely not a fun feeling. Adam was having a difficult time on the paddle board (way more work than in a kayak!) and had to kneel to avoid the brunt of the winds. As we got closer to land we ended up pulling out at a spot before the public beach, thankfully close to the car.
After packing up the rafts we rewarded ourselves with a tasty Mexican meal at a local restaurant in Anacortes (with delicious salty margaritas). I also found a note on my windshield that a person had found a cooler which I had left on the beach (full of untouched beer and a flask of whiskey). They left their address where the door was unlocked, where Adam just walked in to grab the cooler. Talk about trusting! Such a great story to end a fun adventure.