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Fourmile Rock

Started: 2019-09-16 21:38:52

Submitted: 2019-09-16 23:25:54

Visibility: World-readable

31st August 2019: In which the intrepid narrator paddles in the Puget Sound on Labor Day Weekend

I spent the weekend after returning from Dublin unpacking, doing laundry, and recovering from jetlag, all of which left me with insufficient time to take my new kayak out onto the water. I finally had a chance to paddle on Saturday of Labor Day weekend.

I drove to Golden Gardens, found a parking space in the lot near the bath house, and hoisted it off my car onto my kayak cart. (My kayak weighs about 50 pounds, which still light enough that I can lift it myself, but its bulk makes it awkward.) The cart rolled easily along the concrete sidewalk towards the beach, but when I reached the sand itself the wheels dug in and I had to pull harder to get the wheels to spin on the soft sand past the beach volleyball courts and the people sunning themselves in the last days of summer. The beach sloped abruptly down to the water's edge at low tide; here the sand was moist and consolidated and my cart's wheels rolled easily down to the rocky beach at the edge of the water.

Kayak preparing to launch from Golden Gardens
Kayak preparing to launch from Golden Gardens

I disassembled my kayak cart and stowed it in my cargo holds and launched into the cool water in Puget Sound. The sky was clear, the sun was bright, and the air was warm, making it a great day to paddle.

I set out on a course to the south-west, towards West Point at the end of Discovery Park, paying attention to the other traffic on the water. Most of the boats I saw were small sailboats and motor boats, some of them entering or exiting the Shilshole Bay Marina or the adjacent boat ramp, many of them resting in Shilshole Bay.

Kayak paddling along Magnolia Bluff
Kayak paddling along Magnolia Bluff

I rounded West Point and turned to the south-east, following the beach below Magnolia Bluff towards Elliot Bay. On the top of the cliffs at Discovery Park I saw a growing collection of emergency vehicles, lights flashing, with people standing around the top of the cliff. I saw what looked like a fire engine ladder truck with its ladder extended over the edge of the cliff dangling a rope over the cliff, leading me to speculate that the whole thing was a cliff rescue; but I couldn't see well enough to tell for sure (and my casual news searches over the next day failed to return any meaningful results). Even at maximum zoom my phone's camera failed to resolve as much detail as I could see with my eyes.

Cliff rescue at Discovery Park
Cliff rescue at Discovery Park

I continued paddling to the south-east, past a pair of harbor seals that stuck their heads up out of the water as I passed (looking very much like streamlined dogs swimming gracefully in the water) until I reached Fourmile Rock, a modestly-sized rock sitting in the mud exposed by the low tide at the bottom of the bluffs below the neighborhood of Magnolia. By this point I had paddled past the main expanse of the Magnolia peninsula and I could look into Elliot Bay and the Port of Seattle; but by this point I'd been paddling for about four miles and I was ready to turn around.

I reversed course and paddled closer to shore for a closer look a the flat beach below the bluffs, which proved problematic when I realized I was in danger of running aground in the shallow water even though I was still twenty meters from the edge of the water. My kayak will float with my weight in fifteen centimeters of water, but it's awkward to paddle in less than sixty centimeters. I turned back out to the deeper water; after staying flat for tens of meters the bottom dropped abruptly away and I could paddle normally again.

I found a sandy stretch of beach to land, paddling straight into the beach, then stepping out into ankle-deep water and pulling my boat onto the sand. The beach was so flat that water filled the tiny groove the keel of my boat left in the sand.

Kayak on the beach at Discovery Park
Kayak on the beach at Discovery Park

I ate lunch on the beach and watched the incoming tide inundate the flat sand on the beach. The beach was flat enough that I could watch the tide creep up the beach, a millimeter at a time, slowly and gradually and inexorably rising, threatening to envelop my boat and carry it away. Every five minutes I had to stop eating and drag my boat another ten or twenty meters up the beach, then I watched the rising water reach out to me again.

Kayak on the beach at Discovery Park
Kayak on the beach at Discovery Park

When I was ready to launch I only had to wait long enough for the rising tide to float my boat; then I climbed aboard and paddled out to deeper water and continued traversing the beach.

Kayak inundated by the rising tide
Kayak inundated by the rising tide

I paddled around West Point, where beachgoers were standing on the sandy spit while the tiny waves broke on their feet, and turned to the north-east back to Golden Gardens. I could clearly see the bathhouse on the water's edge, two miles away, making an obvious target to aim my boat for my return to shore.

Kayak paddling towards Golden Gardens
Kayak paddling towards Golden Gardens

At length I landed among the sunbathers on the beach. I carted my kayak back to my car, then ate a snack at the snack shop at the bathhouse before returning to my house in Wallingford, after a good summer day paddling on Puget Sound.

If people are going to read the intimate details of my life, I might as
well take the opportunity to bore them a little with mundane accounts of
trivial events told in run-on sentences in the process.
- Bitscape, 05 May 1999, in a Random Ramblings entry