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First-time kayaker explores Kitsap water trail | Trail Mix

Linda Berry-Maraist paddles in front of Evan Stoll as the two explore the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail.                                 - Evan Stoll / Contributed
Linda Berry-Maraist paddles in front of Evan Stoll as the two explore the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail.
— image credit: Evan Stoll / Contributed

By Evan Stoll 
Special to the Herald

Just down the road from Port Gamble, along the west side of the bay, and 100 yards or so from highway 104, lies 1.8 miles of undeveloped beach.

If all goes well, the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project will be able to preserve this property from development, forever. The project is a coalition of community partners working to conserve nearly 7,000 acres of forest and this shoreline owned by Pope Resources. For more information, visit www.kitsapforestbay.org.

For now, however, the best way to explore it is by boat. So on Aug. 3, in anticipation of the Paddle Kitsap celebration, I made my way to the Olympic Outdoor Center and checked out a kayak. If you have your own kayak you can launch from the beach on your own, or use the new Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails Map to locate one of the many other launch points.

To be perfectly honest, I had never been in a kayak before; lots of boats, but no kayaks. Linda Berry-Maraist agreed to show me the ropes. The weather turned out to be beautiful — sunny and relatively cool. There was more wind then I would have liked, but inside the bay was smooth. After being outfitted with a life preserver we started out, cruising gently south along the shoreline looking for wildlife. We weren’t disappointed.

We had hardly left the beach when a bald eagle flew from its perch atop a piling.

Kingfishers chattered away, occasionally diving into the water for food. A seal or two popped up its head to peer at us from a distance.

After about 10 minutes we passed beyond the industrialized part of Port Gamble mill site on our right and Point Julia on our left. It is best to stay to the outside of the pilings immediately south of the mill site, as there are more pilings below the surface.

When we pulled in closer to the undeveloped shoreline we spotted a coyote loping along the beach. He (or she) eyed us curiously and kept pace with us as we paddled south. The water was only a foot or so deep at this point and a display of clam and oyster shells littered the bottom, attesting to the bounty of the bay. The coyote padded into the woods about the same time as a great blue heron along the water’s edge decided to seek a better fishing spot.

Further on, two small boat hulks were beached at the tree line. The first was just the skeleton of an old wooden barge. The second was a modern-looking fiberglass sailboat; somebody’s dream on the rocks.

A juvenile bald eagle, surveying the bay from another piling, flew off as we neared. After we had passed, I noticed that it had circled around and retaken its position atop the rotting piling.

After 45 minutes we arrived at an abandoned loading dock. Natural shoreline stretched before us for nearly another mile, but it was time to turn around. We were now paddling into the wind, which was definitely noticeable. Nevertheless, the kayaks glided smoothly through the water. Because the bay is sheltered there was little splashing and I stayed dry.

Just before arriving back at Port Gamble as we approached the mill site, we floated by several Native fishing boats that were being used as dive platforms for harvesting geoducks. We could see kids playing in the water at Point Julia as an adult harvested clams nearby.

In all, we traveled about 3 miles (measured using Google Maps) in about 90 minutes, a nice pace for enjoying the scenery.

 

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