Report from Ken
N 46° 24.77'
W 123° 56.40'
Mary, John and myself left Tacoma at the crack of noon for
Long Island, Willapa Bay. Because the tide height is such a
critical element of any kayak trip in this area, and because
the low was scheduled to occur right in the middle of the
day, there was no point in getting an early start. (Which
didn't seem to bother anybody.)
Lewis Slough, just before sunset
2005 Azimuth Expeditions. All rights reserved
After getting on the water at the boat ramp just across from
the island, we traveled counter-clockwise around, staying as
close as we could to the lush, green shore. The tide was
rising and the mud that characterizes this area was quickly
being covered by the incoming seawater, so we were able to
get up and into some of the sloughs that dominate the
northeastern side of Long Island. Sawlog Slough was our
first route-finding adventure, winding our way through the
green passages of marsh grasses and reeds toward the
campsites that are tucked up into the woods deep in the
backwaters. We didn't stop here though; we were headed a
little further up.
Lewis Slough is larger than Sawlog, and the intricate
waterways are home to a wide array of wildlife. Almost at
the tip of the island, at the western edge of Lewis Slough,
was where we were planning to spend the night. The Lewis
Slough campground consists of 3 heavily grassy campsites, 2
malodorous outhouses and a view across the slough down the
top coast of Long Island. We made shore at about 7pm and set
up camp before the light faded.
In the morning, we left the camp on foot to walk the trails
and old logging roads down-island. Our goal was to make it
to a grove of ancient cedars that remain on the island, but
with a late start and a pace suited to a Sunday outing, we
only got as far as the Sandspit campground, about 4 miles
away. In retrospect, we probably could have made the grove,
but we needed to time our return to get off the island on
the evening's high tide, so we erred on the side of caution.
(The Grove of the Ancient Cedars is a magnificent spot,
however. We've been there on other occasions and it's well
worth the time it takes to get there. Closest point for
kayakers to land and take the hike into the grove is the
Smokey Hollow Campground, not too far from Sandspit.)
Along the path, we came across ample bear sign, not just
scat in the trail, but areas of significant tree scratching.
In one part, there must have been hundreds of small trees
that bore the scars of bear claws in their bark. Didn't see
any bear though. We did come across a porcupine, quills
standing at attention as he trundled off into the forest
cover to get away from us. And, at many points along the
way, we encountered Rough-skinned newts in the boggy ground
at our feet, doing their best to waddle their way from one
side of the trail to the other.
Coming out to the beach at Sandspit was like exiting a long
green tunnel into daylight. The wide-open space of the bay,
with the Long Beach Peninsula lying across the expanse of
mud and water felt so big, compared with the trail we'd been
hiking for the previous two hours. We shared lunch at the
Sandspit campground, enjoyed the view, then got back on the
trail for the return trip.
To get back on the water required getting messy. Very messy.
We didn't have the time to wait for absolute high tide, so
we started our put-in a bit early, about 6:45pm. Carrying
our fully-loaded boats across the mudflats to the water
proved to be a sporting proposition, and although nobody
actually fell, it was a lot like skating day in Hell. When
we actually got floating again, and headed back to our
starting point, it felt like redemption.
Elk were feeding in the flats as we took our boats out of
the water, just ahead of the approaching rain. The trip had
been a short one, but still well worth the effort. Long
Island is a place of great natural beauty and an outstanding