Arts and Entertainment

Paddle Kitsap makes social journey in scenic waterways

Paddle Kitsap kicks off Aug. 6 in Port Gamble. - Brian J. Olson/Staff photo
Paddle Kitsap kicks off Aug. 6 in Port Gamble.
— image credit: Brian J. Olson/Staff photo

Just the other night, Spring Courtright saw the kind of thing usually reserved for imaginatively painted landscapes. A pod of porpoises surrounded her kayak as she paddled the waters near Port Gamble. It was sunset, her favorite time of day to be on the water, and Mount Rainier and Mount Baker stood like sentinels in the distance.

“People come from all over the world to paddle here, and I try not to take that for granted,” said Courtright, an Olympic Outdoor Center kayak instructor.

The third annual Paddle Kitsap will kick off next weekend, calling a colorful fleet of the country’s kayak, rowing and canoeing enthusiasts to local waters.

Olympic Outdoor Center owner John Kuntz started the paddle in 2008 as a way to draw attention to the area’s waterways, conservation efforts and the North Kitsap Trails Association’s String of Pearls campaign. That campaign, helmed by the Olympic Property Group, aims for a connection of trails throughout the county’s North End.

One hope is to increase water access for recreational paddlers, said Olympic Outdoor Center employee Forrest Wells.

The 33-mile paddle event departs Port Gamble on Saturday, Aug. 6, and makes stops at Foulweather Bluff, Norwegian Point and Eglon before pulling into Kingston to camp for the night. On Sunday, Aug. 7, paddlers will head to Camp Indianola, Old Man House and Keyport before making their final stop in Poulsbo.

The entire journey takes roughly 10 hours over two days.

All skill levels can participate in the paddle, which stays close to shore.

The route is timed with the tides, and support boats offer safety; every four miles, or about every hour, paddlers can stop to rest and eat.

So far 45 paddlers have signed up and 15 to 30 more are expected, totaling the largest count ever for the event, Wells said. The paddle costs $175 per person.

“The paddle is more to get people out on the water. It’s more like a social event,” Wells said.

He added the diversity in Kitsap’s waterways, as well as the different wildlife in the area, makes it a prime spot for recreational paddlers.

“There’s a lot of different places you would never see on foot or in a car that you get to see in a kayak,” he said.

Learn more at www.paddlekitsap.com. WU

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