Oct 14, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird
There’s no better way to begin an adventure than standing on deck, feeling brisk sea spray misting up from the ocean. In order to get to know our vessel, our surroundings, and the guiding philosophies of our expedition, we spent the morning cruising north from Seattle into the picturesque San Juan Islands—ancestral home of many of the Coast Salish people and “discovered” by the Spanish in 1791. Their abundant wildlife populations, plus the maintained trail systems on many of the unpopulated islands, make the San Juans an ideal location for a day of hiking or kayaking.
In the morning, we passed by Spieden Island, a rather bizarre tangent in the natural history of the region. This island, which has been privately owned for decades, was used as a game-hunting retreat in the 1970s and ’80s. Exotic species such as European fallow deer, mouflon sheep, and more can often be seen on the rocky shores—a remnant of the imported populations maintained for
In the afternoon, we divided into small groups for exploration by land and sea. Sucia Island Marine State Park has a long history of harboring those looking for “discreet shelter.” Its isolated caves and rocky shores have served everyone from Coast Salish seal hunters to prohibition smugglers. Deeming it safe, but ripe for investigation, we set out around the island. Hikes brought us deep into the coastal ecology of this rather insular temperate region, while kayaks and expedition landing crafts allowed us a more intimate experience with harbor seals, river otters, American oystercatchers, and harlequin ducks. Many vivid Pacific Northwestern cultural experiences are ahead, but this afternoon allowed us to savor moments of silence on the high-tide line and ground ourselves for the explorations to come.
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