Kid Heaven. That is what I call my grandparents summer place on Hood Canal. We had a rope swing, pebbly beach, forest trails, places to play hide and seek, and fun times galore. The house was a converted barn and it was 20 feet from Tahuya Bay. When the tide was in we had a protected bay in which to play and boat. When the tide was out, the Tahuya River passed through oyster beds that provided a never-ending supply of the foul tasting bi-valves to my Grandmas kitchen. Gagging down the slimy creatures is just about the only bad memory of our trips; the other memories are much better.
They sold it many years ago and I have been back to that area only a few times since. So when we started planning our 5th bi-annual kayak camping trip, I thought of Hood Canal due for various considerations including time, budget and convenience. Additionally, we considered the opportunity to view wildlife and the chance to visit various Cascadia Marine Trail (CMT) sites along the way.
We decided to paddle a 40 mile portion of the mid-section of The Hood. Pleasant Harbor, on the west side about 12 miles south of Quilcene, was the start and finish point for the round trip. We launched from public access at the south end. The marina is private and there is additional public access to the north. The paddle plan called for a noon launch on Monday, September 15, that night at Mikes Beach Resort, Tuesday night at Guillemot Cove (Frenchmans Cove on maps), and Wednesday night at Seal Rock Campground. Thursday would find us four miles north of Pleasant Harbor for an easy day at the end of our adventure.
Pat and Ali Dreyer would use their double kayak while Dennis Hartup and I were in singles. We parked a short distance away at the Pleasant Harbor RV Park where the cars could be in a gated and fenced parking area for security. The parking fee was a whopping $ 1.00 per day. One of the owners took us on a short tour of the park during which we got to see a few campsites and the clubhouse with swimming pool.
The 10 miles from Pleasant Harbor to Mikes was uneventful but slow due to head winds. Along the way we spotted many classy beach homes and stopped at two places to rest and relax. One of the stops was the CMT site at Triton Cove State Park. It took us four hours to go the six miles to Triton and just over an hour to paddle the remaining four miles to Mikes.
Mikes Beach Resort is very nice and the people are great but we could not linger. The next morning we were off at incoming tide to paddle a short ways south and cross the Hood to make a stop at Laughlin Cove, a CMT site on the east side north of Chinom Point. Laughlin Cove is new to the system having been posted just a week before we were there. There is a cobble beach with plenty of camping space for several tents. Please note: no campfires and bring your water.
The remains of the day took us past uninhabited shoreline, two or three pockets of civilization and a beach we stopped at for a stretch and our try at a rope swing near the abandoned house and mobile home. While there rain started to fall from the partly cloudy skies and before late afternoon it was coming down hard.
We arrived at Guillemot Cove just in time as the rain began to soak through rain gear seams. It was the kind of rain that just fell, no wind, no big drops, just very wet. We pulled the boats onto the beach and covered them before ducking into the woods to wait out the shower. Once the raining stopped camp was made and we enjoyed a pleasant evening of good food and relaxation.
The cove is known as Frenchmans Cove on maps and it is not officially a CMT site as yet. It is a nature preserve watched over by the organization Friends of Guillemot Cove and beautiful when dry. To stay overnight I obtained permission from Kitsap County Parks for our group but someone failed notify the caretaker who lives on site. After dark he called to us from his residence with his bullhorn so we trudged over and explained to his relief that our stay was legit.
The next morning mountains struggled to peak over the clouds. As we packed and made ready the day, we became very uncertain about the weather. Our dilemma was with two large crossings coming up. If we continued north to Seabeck as planned we would have to cross the canal to get to Toandos Peninsula and then cross Dabob Bay to get to Seal Rock Campground. The other option was to cross before Seabeck and thus reduce the exposure. We pondered the situation and decided to make the final decision at Hood Point just north of where we were. When we got to Hood Point we decided to avoid Seabeck and cross there by pointing our boats northwest.
After a quick crossing from Hood Point to Black Point (and passing by Pleasant Harbor where our trip began), we were ready for a rest stop at the Dosewallips River delta. The water was calm and the tide was receding so there was concern over water depths as we looked for a landing spot. While engaged in that and watching all the seals and birds in the area, a herd of elk suddenly emerged from the forest. Dennis was the first to see them as he was next to the beach at the time. There must have been at least 30 animals and we watched as they ate and moved about the grassy flat area between the forest and the beach.
Seal Rock Campground is a short distance from Dosewallips. The approach was tricky because the wind was high and the beach full of jagged rocks with sharp barnacles that like to eat fiberglass and gel coat. We did not get too wet so that was some relief. Notwithstanding the poor beach for kayakers, the campground is very nice having roomy sites and a pleasant nature trail along the high bank.
Thursday morning was very windy. We were only four miles from Pleasant Harbor so the thought of loading the boats, struggling off the beach and fighting a high head wind with mountainous whitecaps gave way to hitching a ride to the cars and skipping the last leg of the paddling.
The finale of our week was the Kayak Symposium. So, after lunch in a local cafthat included Quilcene oysters (not so bad after all) we drove to Port Townsend to attend the 20th annual Sea Kayak Symposium. Where we had a great time being with all those kayaking comrades learning stuff and being entertained.
Many of us cannot participate in a true adventure in the extreme sense of the word. A kayaking camping trip will be the closest we come to that which is OK. We had a great time with some struggles (the adventure part), saw choice places that we want to see again and met some nice people. I highly recommend paddling on Hood Canal for new memories. See you on the water.
From Edmonds,WA take a ferry boat to Kingston and drive Highway 104 west to Highway 101. Take Highway 101 south through Quilcene about 15 miles to Pleasant Harbor.