|Just north of West Point Lighthouse in Seattle's Discovery Park|
If you're lucky and check Orca Network updates, you might even be kayaking with orcas (also known as killer whales) this time of year. While we missed seeing the Southern Resident J and K pods of orcas yesterday by about 30 minutes (darn!), we still had an invigorating and fun few hours paddling from Golden Gardens Park in Ballard south to the historic West Point Lighthouse and back.
We put in around 11:30 a.m. at the smooth sandy Golden Gardens beach and headed south along the outside of the Shilshole Bay Marina jetty. A perk of going on a Sunday morning is the abundance of parking spots right next to the beach, something you won't find easily on a nice summer day.
This jetty, or breakwater, that protects the busy Shilshole marina is a great place for diving and birdwatching. Watch for the tiny beach on the outer jetty at lower tides, where you can stop for a quick break if needed. As we glided close to the jetty, we spotted tons of cool birds: great blue herons, Heerman's seagulls, cormorrants, hooded mergansers, western grebes, and more I couldn't identify.
|A ruffled old crow roosting on the sea monster's snout atop the jetty.|
|Great blue heron|
|Great blue herons and a gull atop the Shilshole jetty|
With very little motor boat traffic, we easily dashed across the entrance to the Ballard Locks over to Magnolia. While most of the upscale Magnolia neghborhood is packed tightly with homes, Seattle is fortunate that a large chunk along the bluffs above the Sound was protected from development as military outpost Fort Lawton, now encompassed by Discovery Park.
Just north of West Point, a narrow strip of land that juts dramatically westward into the Sound, the calm sea is always a contrast to the water south of the point. We also caught an unpleasant whiff of the happenings at West Point wastewater treatment plant, although trees and shrubs obscure views of the plant.
"Check out the seal right behind me!" says Matt. Up pops a shiny dark head with huge eyes, which checks us out and submerges again quickly. Too fast for a photo.
|Ramped up for a water break in the protected cove north of West Point, looking west|
West Point Lighthouse, which dates to 1881, is the same design as the Point No Point Lighthouse and other historic lighthouses in the Sound.
We carefully rounded the point and beached on the south side to stretch our legs for a short break. With much rougher sea on this side of the point, landing and taking off is usually more exciting than on the calm, northern side.
|South beach at West Point|
Walking to the lighthouse on one of the many trails in "Disco" Park is a popular Seattle outing. But we stopped just long enough to eat a snack and pet a few dogs on the beach.
|Looking southeast toward Magnolia Bluff|
|Tobias was more interested in my muffin than posing for a shot.|
|Heading back north, with Magnolia on the right and Shilshole Marina straight ahead of me in the distance.|
|Golden Gardens ahead.|
When You Go
Before kayaking this time of year (well, any time, but particularly fall and winter), be sure and check the local tide tables and marine weather forecasts. Some kayakers actually seek rough seas to practice their rescue skills--not me, but a little wind and chop keep us from getting too complacent, which is a risk for many who don't take the risks seriously.