The San Juan Islands
Photo: Jim Poth/Washington State Tourism
Pro Tip: Ray Zahab
(1) Pick friends you can lean on and trust, because some days you're going to feel good and some days you're going to feel like crap.
(2) Expect your expedition or trip to cost 10 to 20 percent more than you anticipated.
Kayak Washington's San Juan Islands
: 45 days
: Vancouver Island buffers the big waves, but the San Juans' strong tidal currents, vast open channels, and 55-degree water offer plenty of adventure for experienced paddlers. The reward: pods of breaching orcas, hikes among limestone formations, and campsites on gravel beaches and atop cliffs. Start at Anacortes and hug the coast of Guemes Island on your way to Lummi Island's Cascadia Marine Trail campsite, an isolated spot with a breathtaking view of Mount Baker. Over the next few days, keep on the calmer bay side and paddle around Lummi to Clark Island. Be sure to check out the sandstone cliffs of Matia Island or, if you're feeling ambitious, the popular sandy beaches of Sucia Island. Either way, stay at the campsite on Doe Islanda small, forgotten state park known for its private covesbefore crossing three-mile-wide Rosario Strait and finishing back in Anacortes.
: Rent from Sea Kayak Shop (five days, $290; seakayakshop.com), in Anacortes. Pick up Waterproof Charts' #43 ($27), the Current Atlas for Juan de Fuca Strait to Strait of Georgia ($30), and Washburne's Tables 2009 ($7). All are available at local stores.
: Solid coastal kayaking experience and the ability to read nautical charts. Need schooling? Kayak Academy, 20 minutes east of Seattle, offers a five-day training camp (from $950; kayakacademy.com).
WHEN TO GO
: September. After Labor Day, the pleasure yachts disappear, but it still feels like summer.