Cape Flattery

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Elkhorn Slough

Report from Ken

N 48 20.68'
W 124 40.39'

An early start from Tacoma got us to Port Angeles at 8am, where we met up with Marc, who had driven down the night before from Whidbey Island. Another 90 minutes down that long and winding road put us at Neah Bay, where we got ready to launch near the mouth of the Wa'atch river.

There were eight of us altogether, mostly Azimuth guides: Kari, Steve, Alan, John, Corky, Alissa, Ken and Marc. For most of us, who had paddled here before, this was a chance to get back to what is one of the most beautiful and powerful paddling spots in the world. For Kari and Alissa, it was a first-time experience, and if they turn out to be anything like the rest of us, it will be the first of many.


Stopping for last minute supplies

1 of 27

2005 Azimuth Expeditions. All rights reserved

We met for a few minutes with Janine Bowechop, a representative from the Makah museum, before we took to the water. Janine is helping to coordinate the trips that Azimuth will be running to the area, offering a unique cultural perspective on the region as well as world-class paddling. (The first trip is scheduled for June of 2005, and there are others already on the calendar.)

Conditions were calm for the most part, a small swell greeting us as we exited the river mouth, but very little wind. The current was running strong, however, and pushed us on our way northward from Makah Bay. We had about an hour of paddling along the coastline before we got to where the standing rocks and arches began, getting more numerous and magnificent as we got closer to the Cape. We wove our route through and around the elegantly sculpted outcroppings, feeling more like fortunate visitors to some beautiful cathedral than mere kayakers.

We traveled through a few arches and small caves enroute to our lunch stop, a tiny pocket beach just north of the Cape lookout. The rain was falling steadily as we bunched together under the overhanging cliffs and shared our meal, each of us trading exclamations about our surroundings.

After we were done eating, we got back into the boats for some kayak spelunking. The rain had stopped, and the cloud cover was growing thinner, with hints of a blue sky afternoon on the way. For the next couple hours, we played in the caves and the arches, marveled at the size of the massive Cape Cave and connected routes, using passages of stone, between one little cove and another. At several points we stopped on unnamed little beaches, just to get another perspective of this amazing area.

On the return trip, the seas were a bit lumpier. The sun had burned through, and with a little help from a rising breeze, the clouds had been banished. The same breeze had made the water a bit rougher though, and for much of the passage back to the put-in, it seemed we bounced as much as we paddled. One highlight of the return was when a large gray whale surfaced just 30 feet off from John, Alan and Corky. His plume of exhalation and a ridged back arching downward into the water were all we saw as he sounded, but it gave all of us paddlers another pause to consider the wonder of where we were and the good fortune we had to share time in such a place.

Landing through the surf at the river mouth posed no great problems; the tide was falling and the waves were small. Current coming down the river was considerable, however, and we worked hard at the end to get back to the vehicles. The sun was still shining brightly as we finished our paddling day. Boats loaded, wet gear stowed, we were on the road for the long drive back to T-Town (with a stop in Port Angeles for some Indian food, of course). Be back next month!
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