An Artistic Mt. Rainier
--------There is a much overlooked cruising ground in Washington. We almost missed it also, but curiosity overcame us and we were well rewarded by the "satisfaction that will bring us back."
-----There are some water areas that are best not to explore. Puget Sound certainly seemed like such a place. We asked boating friends for their advice, since we had never explored that region.
-----"Don't go there. There are too many boats."
-----"Why would you go there, when you have all the beautiful San Juan Islands to explore?"
-----"Never been there. Never want to go there. Why exchange the solitude and beauty of the San Juans for the crowded waterways of Seattle/Tacoma? That's like swapping a country road for the Seattle freeways at rush hour."
-----So, we naively headed out to the known cruising grounds of the San Juans rather than subject ourselves to the hullabaloo of Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia. But, after poking around the islands for a month or so, we returned to our favorite Pacific NW marina - Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham - to get haircuts, mail, and resupplies at our favorite NW grocery for fresh fruits and vegetables - Haggens. Our plan was to return to the San Juan Islands.
-----However, at the marina, we picked up and read a copy of Nor'westing and read an article by Chuck Goulds titled An Excellent 'Case' for South Sound Boating. He commented that summer and boating to many residents of the northwest means 'north.' Cruising to the San Juans, Gulf Islands, and perhaps northerly along the British Columbia coast. Some, with ample time, yearn to go as far north as Southeast Alaska. However,he said that with higher fuel prices, some boaters should head south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and find "some of the most pleasant and under-utilized cruising areas imaginable."
-----Now we know about hype, and this sounded a bit familiar, but we decided to check out the South Sound (and Case Inlet in particular) more thoroughly. We sent and received e-mail from boating friends who live in the South Sound. Their answers were guarded - it was rather like we had asked where Ft. Knox hides the spare key. One who knows we don't favor urban areas even wrote back that "you can visit Seattle, Tacoma, and even Olympia easily from the water". Then added, like an afterthought when she recalled that we enjoy quiet countryside, "Olympia has a great farmer's maket". That did it! We figured those folks were hiding something. More emails returned with suggestions of the Mona Lisa in the hall closet, so after reprovisioning we turned our bow southerly.
-----"Blakely Harbor - you have to stop there on the way south. The views of Seattle from across the bay are amazing."
And They Were
-----"Another 'must-see' is Gig Harbor. Once a fishing community and now more a retirement town there are some good places to eat and some good bookstores. Stop by to see the town."
A Pretty Town with the Tides Restaurant (With a Pretty View)
Tacoma Narrows Bridge - And Some of the Labyrinth to the South
-----Most local folks define the maze of waterways south of the Narrows Bridge as the South Sound. One navigates these waters with a close watch on the charts or chartplotters. Tidal currents are strong and it is advisable to be well-aware of tides before anchoring or setting out on a cruise.
Tidal Effects - Don't Cut the Corners
-----Now, let's see what we found down there:
-----Mt. Rainier dominates the eastern horizon, from almost everywhere in the South Sound. It constantly changes with weather and time of day (or night). Anchorages can be as remote and scenic as anywhere in the Northwest.
----------There aren't as many marinas as one might expect in the South Sound -- plan your fuel accordingly. They are ample and most are excellent. We don't stay overnight in marinas, usually, so can't speak of their amenities.
Longbranch Local Improvement Club and Low Tide at the Dock
From the New Yorker. "Sorry, Boss - NO!"
Interesting Geology, But a Hazard
-----There is almost no bedrock in the South Sound. The land is covered with glacial till - loose sands, muds, and gravels. This debris was left behind by the retreating glaciers that carved the pre-existing river valleys into fiords and smoothed the profiles of the hills into today's islands.
-----If you are building a home, there is no better geological admonition than "let a rock be your foundation" and in these parts, there isn't any rock. As a consequence, there is a serious geological hazard involved in constructing a house. The beautiful bluffs of light-colored sandstone are often failure zones - landslides. After heavy rains when the ground is water saturated, friction between grains or layers in the rock is greatly reduced.
-----Where there is a steep slope, the loose glacial till slides down hill, taking with it trees, houses, or anything above. The house on the right, below, sat on a promontory of glacial till, eroded on three sides by the shifting tides. The owners reinforced the cliff with a concrete-facing, but it still collapsed. The white covering is protecting the exposed soft sediments from rain infiltration, but it is only a matter of time
A Matter of Time For All.
----The Nisqually Delta is as fine a viewing area for shore birds as anywhere in the State of Washington. We drifted for hours along the face of the Delta watching terns, herons, eagle, seals, and sea lions.
-----Timber and mariculture have been, and are, major industries in the South Sound. Farms of oysters and geoducs (gooeyducks) are exposed by the minus tides of a new moon.
Olympia - Yes. El Visited the Farmer's Market
(07 - 07)
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