Trails & Tides

Tristan Baurick, the Kitsap Sun's outdoors and public lands reporter, writes about hiking, biking, kayaking and everything else Kitsapers do under the sun.
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Sewer spill closes Manchester waterfront for weekend

July 24th, 2014 by tristan baurick

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Manchester Map

Kitsap Public Health District today closed the Manchester waterfront to swimming and other water recreation due to a sewage spill.

The closure impacts Pomeroy Park and Manchester’s public dock through the weekend.

A Kitsap County-managed sewer line at the end of East Daniels Loop was found to have spilled between 15,000 and 20,000 of sewage before the problem was corrected.

Warning signs have been posted in the area and at Pomeroy, a park managed by the Port of Manchester.

Shellfish harvesting is already closed in the area.

According to the state Department of Ecology, contact with fecal-contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Photo: Pomeroy Park in Manchester. Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun


Video: What to do when you meet a mountain goat

July 22nd, 2014 by tristan baurick

The National Park Service is asking the question again: What should be done with Olympic National Park’s overabundance of mountain goats?

Should they be shot, moved or left alone? You can weigh in at three meetings set for August. Information about the meetings is below.

A fatal goring of a hiker in 2010 and other incidents involving aggressive goats has brought the mountain goat issue to a head in recent years. They’re also blamed for overgrazing and damaging mountain meadows.

While the future of the goats is being hashed out, you might take a few minutes to watch the above video, “Hiking with Mountain Goats,” produced by the U.S. Forest Service earlier this year.

Among the advice: use a loud, clear voice to keep goats from getting too close. During the summer, the goats may be attracted by the salt in your sweat. Stand your ground and toss a few small rocks if you need to.

During the fall, keep your distance and don’t act aggressively toward male mountain goats. It’s mating season then, and male goats may mistake you for a rival.

I can testify to the video’s advice about keeping sweaty gear close when sharing terrain with goats. I once tossed my pack on the ground when I reached a peak in the north Cascades. While strolled around, enjoying the view, a salt-hungry goat started licking my pack’s straps. A strap caught on his horns, sending him into a panic. He bucked around until the pack swung free and sailed down a cliff. It took a long and treacherous climb to get it back.

Mountain goats aren’t native to Olympic. They were brought over from the Cascades by hunters just before Olympic became a national park in 1938. Their populations ballooned to 1,300 in the 1980s, spurring the park to export about 400 of them to the Cascades.

Now down to about 340, their numbers are starting to grow again while the Cascade population is in decline.
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Canoe journey | Tribes celebrate return to Bella Bella

July 16th, 2014 by Tad Sooter

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Kitsap Sun reporter Tad Sooter traveled with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family on the tribal canoe journey to Bella Bella, July 4-13. Read his first two dispatches here, and here.

A series of sharply contrasting days on the water carried us to our final landing Sunday in Bella Bella.

We took advantage of a break in the weather on the night of July 10 and towed our Nookayet canoe across Queen Charlotte Strait. The weather was only marginally calmer. Our support boat, the Curlew, plunged through 6-foot seas as Vancouver Island receded from view.

After a sleepless night, we reached the calm embrace of Open Bight, a bay on the B.C. mainland.

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Salmon was barbecuing over fires on the sandy shore, where the Wuikinuxv community welcomed the canoes at a formal landing.

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Canoe journey | Sailing with the wind, waiting on the weather

July 9th, 2014 by Tad Sooter

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Sun reporter Tad Sooter is traveling with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family on the tribal canoe journey to Bella Bella, July 4-13. He’ll post periodic dispatches to the Trails & Tides blog.

Progress on the canoe journey is dictated by the wind and water. For the moment, both are against us.

We’re in Port Hardy, at the north end of Vancouver Island, waiting for a chance to cross Queen Charlotte Strait and continue north to Bella Bella. That’s what we would have done this morning, were it not for the 20 mph winds and 9-foot swells racing through the channel.

The weather was too heavy to cross the strait safely, even towing the canoe behind our support boat. We’re sticking around port for the day, hoping conditions improve.

On the bright side, I now have Wi-Fi access, fresh coffee and enough time to catch up on blogging.

We’ve spent the last five days working our way up the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Our first stop was Sayward, where we launched our Nookayet canoe in the pouring rain and spent a soggy July 5 in camp.

Our long-awaited first day on the water came July 6, when we left Sayward for Alert Bay, on Comorant Island. The drizzle and fog stuck around through the morning, but spirits were high as we began the 45-mile pull.

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The sun broke through by midday, and the wind was at our backs, so we raised the sail. With the canvas heaving and the pullers digging deep, the canoe sped faster than the waves.

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Canoe journey: Setting off on a 200-mile paddle to Bella Bella

July 4th, 2014 by Tad Sooter

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Sun reporter Tad Sooter is traveling with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family on the tribal canoe journey to Bella Bella, July 4-13. He’ll post periodic dispatches to the Trails & Tides blog.

They’ve already warned us about the brown bears.

We should stand tall and wave our arms when we encounter a grizzly up close, they told us in the canoe journey planning meetings.

“And don’t ever run.”

With that disquieting advice from our Canadian hosts still fresh in mind, I’ll set off Friday with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family on what promises to be a wild and extraordinary passage to Bella Bella, B.C.

We’re catching up with the rest of the Tribal Journeys crews in Sayward, on the northeast shore of Vancouver Island. We’ll launch the canoe there Saturday and paddle the final 200 miles to the home of the Heiltsuk Nation. The final arrival is planned for July 13.

Tribal canoes last united in Bella Bella in 1993. That gathering 21 years ago launched the annual canoe journey in earnest, and played no small role in igniting the cultural resurgence that followed.

For months, the S’Klallam Canoe Family prepared to retrace that 600-mile route from Port Gamble to Bella Bella. Sadly, not enough pullers (paddlers) were available to complete the full, monthlong trip, and while other canoes set off from Puget Sound in late June, we were forced to trim our journey to 10 days in July.

Even our abbreviated route from Sayward will be long and rewarding, snaking through some of the most remote stretches of Northwest coastline.

In the next week, we’ll cross open passages left naked to the Pacific. We’ll visit villages where traditional ways of life are still practiced. We’ll witness the songs and dances of faraway northern nations.

And when we meet brown bears, we’ll remember not to run.


Goat Island Adventures: How I managed to sink a camera and find an abandoned fort

July 3rd, 2014 by tristan baurick

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My story made getting to Goat Island sound so easy.

There was nothing in there about losing expensive electronic equipment under the waves of Skagit Bay, climbing an unstable cliff, frantic uphill sprints, nearly getting lost in darkening woods and cranky locals in their underwear. It also mentions nothing about having to admit failure, give up and do it all over the next day.

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For our summer issue of the West Sound Guide to the Outdoors, I decided to write about kayaking to an uninhabited island where, hidden somewhere on a forested hill, are the remnants of Fort Whitman, a coastal artillery base built in 1909 to defend Puget Sound from invading Spaniards (FYI, they never showed up).

Information on the fort and how to get there is sparse. Goat island is owned by the state, and was once considered for state park status. Instead, it’s been been managed in a very hands-off way as a nature reserve. You can go there, but the state discourages it. The lands manager in charge of the island has visited it only once in nine years.

The paddle out was a joy. I found a nice spot to park and launch in La Conner, a touristy town west of Mount Vernon in Skagit County. The weather was perfect, with sunny skies and a only a hint of wind. A high tide gave me enough space to keep a safe distance from powerboaters sharing the narrow Swinomish Channel.

Maybe I was too enthralled by the wildlife (eagles, herons, all kinds of shorebirds, and my first-ever sighting of a black oystercatcher), but I paddled too far, stopping in at pretty but off-course cove on the island’s south side.

As I pulled in, a little man in his underwear popped up from a clump of shrubs on a nearby bluff. A moment later, his female companion took a peek.

Black oystercatchers on Goat Island.

Black oystercatchers on Goat Island.

I gave them a wide berth before dragging my kayak onto the beach a good distance from their anchored motorboat. I pulled out my reporter gear, ready to find the grand remnants of a historic fort just beyond the trees.

The guy came down dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and gave me a no-eye-contact hello.

When I asked him how to get to the fort, he advised me to paddle back the way I came and look for yet another cove with a barely visible trailhead. There once was a trail from this cove, he said, but now it’s overgrown.

He told me he lives on a nearby island and has been coming here for years. He assured me the fort’s amazing, likening it to “Mayan ruins.”

An unofficial campground.

An unofficial campground.

When I whipped out my notepad to get the quote, he looked stricken. He begged me not to tell anyone about Goat Island or the campsite he and his friend were enjoying. Nearby, in a grove of madronas was a fire ring, driftwood benches and a makeshift kitchen overlooking the bay. Camping’s not allowed on Goat Island, but that’s not stopping “some locals in the know,” he said.

I agreed not to reveal the campsite’s location if he’d give me his name so I could attribute the Mayan ruins quote (side note: I lost the notepad so his identity – and the campsite – will remain a secret).

While paddling back, I ended up dropping my GoPro video camera into the bay.

The footage of it sinking to the bottom and an attack from a Dungeness crab can be seen here:

I cursed the camera’s loss but paddled on because it was already late in the day. I figured I had only a few hours of sunlight to find and explore the fort, take a bunch of photos and paddle back to La Conner.

I pulled into a wide flat beach on the north side and began a another futile search for the trailhead. I started jogging to save time. About where I nearly stepped on the head of a big dead animal, my phone suddenly started blaring Soundgarden for absolutely no reason. It was inside a waterpoof case, and was not easy to turnoff, so I had a spooky Grunge rock soundtrack playing while I ran around looking for the trail. It didn’t help.

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I took my jog up a hill, but as the slope steepened, I had to climb with my hands and feet. The rocky holds kept crumbling away, making the climb increasingly treacherous. I slid back down to flat land, took stock of my scraped hands and knees and realized that this would end in either injury or me reaching the top just in time for nightfall.

I resolved to try again the next day. I paddled back, reaching La Conner just past sunset. I drove over to Mount Vernon and stayed the night in an old motel that could only accept cash and appeared to draw most of its business not from out-of-towners but from the town’s down-and-outters.

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The next day I paddled the Swinomish at a sprint, determined to find the fort and get home before dinner. I slowed past the stretch of Goat Island where I lost the GoPro. The low tide had exposed the drop spot and – amazingly – there it was, gleaming in the muck. I popped it out of its waterproof case and found it bone dry. The thing chirped to life when I pressed the power button. The miracles didn’t end there. Not 20 yards from the camera was the trailhead I had been searching for. I likely would have spotted it the night before if my camera had not jumped ship.

Five minutes on the trail got me to the ruins of Fort Whitman. They weren’t quite Mayan on the awe-inspiring scale, but for the Pacific Northwest, they were pretty monumental.

Take a photo tour of the fort below.

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Summer’s the season for crabbing, berry picking, trail building and more

July 3rd, 2014 by tristan baurick

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The crabbing season for much of the Kitsap Peninsula begins today.

It’s predicted to be a good year to pull in a plentiful catch of Dungeness crab, especially in south Puget Sound. State regulators say the bounty should carry through to the end of summer.

You’ll find information on crabbing and many other outdoor offerings in the summer edition of the Kitsap Outdoors Almanac. Click here to draw some inspiration to get yourself and your family outside.

Photo: Crabs, clams, oysters and huckleberries are some of wild food available in Kitsap during the summer. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun


Lake Quinault reopens to boating and fishing

July 2nd, 2014 by tristan baurick

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Lake Quinault has reopened for summer activities, including fishing and boating, after a nearly year-long closure.

The lake, located within the Quinault Indian Reservation on Olympic Peninsula’s west side, was closed in June 2013 to combat water pollution, the growth of invasive species and to protect fish habitat, particularly Blueback salmon. It reopened for swimming last year. In April, the tribe’s business committee voted to reopen the lake for fishing, boating and other activities for a one-year trial period.

Lake Quinault Lodge and other tourism-dependent businesses are trying to get the word out that the lake is open. The lodge restarted its boat rentals and guided tours.

Photo: Lake Quinault at sunset. By Adam Kinney/Flickr


A reminder that fire danger is high, even in rainy Olympic National Forest

July 1st, 2014 by tristan baurick
The Constance Fire of 2009. National Park Service photo.

The Constance Fire of 2009. National Park Service photo.

The Olympic National Forest sent out a press release urging visitors to be mindful of summer fire dangers.
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Olympic National Forest (ONF) encourages visitors to enjoy the forest this July 4th holiday, and reminds them to be fire safe throughout the year. Last year, nearly half of all fires reported in Washington and Oregon national forests (and about 95% on the ONF) were caused by people, often unintentionally from abandoned campfires, cigarette butts, or poorly disposed of hot charcoal.

Though not as fire prone as national forests in arid regions, the ONF has a history of wildfires. Steep slopes and natural fuel conditions (soils with thick layers of organic material, moss and lichens that easily combust when dry) can provide opportunities for wildfires to grow and spread, depending on other variables such as wind and weather. Read the rest of this entry »


Photos of Kitsap’s ‘mothballed’ state park

June 26th, 2014 by tristan baurick

Here’s a Kitsap Outdoors Facebook gallery from my tour of Camp Calvinwood, a 118-acre state park in South Kitsap that has been closed for years. We’ll have a story about the park’s history, its deteriorating amenities (six cabins and a lodge) and its uncertain future in Saturday’s paper.