Chuckanut S-24-O

Cliffside

Cliffside

Ok first off let’s get this concept of S-24-O out of the way.  S-24-O is an acronym referring to a Sub- 24 hour- Overnight.  I think it was first “coined” by Grant Petersen in Adventure Cyclist magazine as a concept to allow a guy to still get out on an overnight bicycle camping trip even with all the busy, hectic schedules that seem to get in the way of having fun.  I have applied the concept for years as a backpacker, bicycle tourer, motorbike traveler, and van camper.  As for, “What’s a Chuckanut”?  Read on…

So this morning when I was checking the weather forecasts, and I realized I had a pretty decent two-day weather window for Western Washington, I decided to “pull the trigger” on my latest scheme for an S-24-O.

The sandstone sculptures are on the point dropping south into the bay

The sandstone sculptures are on the point dropping south into the bay

Here’s the basic outline: load up the van with my kayak, and my mountain bike… Not to mention all the additional related overnight essentials; ukulele, cameras, iPad mini, food, firewood… You get the idea.  I’d head north to Chuckanut Bay (near Bellingham WA) and launch my kayak.  Paddle out to explore some interesting sculpted sandstone cliffs, then pull into Larrabee State Park on Wildcat Cove to camp for the night.  Then next day I’d ride out from Larrabee and head north into Bellingham on the Interurban Bike Trail.

The drive north was very pleasant once I broke out of the fog that was engulfing the Snohomish River right below my house.  The sky was a mix of big puffy clouds and patches of deep blue sky.  My progress was slowed by the huge gaggles of wintering trumpeter swans blanketing the fields along Hwy. 11.

I had been searching for the name of the little beach at the north end of Chuckanut Bay where I launched my sit-on-top kayak.  If for no other reason than to be a good “recorder of the details”. But as yet I have been unable to find if the bay, or the creek, or the beach, actually has a name.  Lets just use the name Chuckanut Village, that’s what the little nearby community is called.

One thing for sure, any plans to launch, or land a kayak there needs to be scheduled according to the tides.  At low tide the bay drains down to expose much of the bottom.  No worries for me as I had this planned out to launch and return all on an incoming tide…I had plenty of water, in fact if I’d had any higher of a tide I would have had to lay back on my deck to clear the underside of the the railroad bridge.

Tide Chart from my AyeTides app

Tide Chart from my AyeTides app

Once out into the bay I found about 5 knots of wind from the south and just a bit of a chop to the water.  I set a course to the SW and made my way across the open bay.  After about a mile I rounded the point and came along the sandstone cliffs that drop straight into the water.  I had a wonderful time exploring the sea sculptures.  The patterns of the erosion were very decorative.  The textures and shadows were stunning.  HGTV has nothing on Mother Nature!

What is it?

What is it?

Fossilized Palm Tree ?

Fossilized Palm Tree ?

After bouncing around in the swells for a while, and eating some lunch, I turned around and started drifting back across the bay.  Back to the launch.  My next stop would be Larrabee State Park for an overnighter.

I arrived to find the park all but deserted except for the 4 or 5 hardy souls who, like me, found that a sunny day in late November was too precious to waste. I got settled into my campsite and laid out a plan.  It was still two hours till sunset so a cup of tea and splitting up some kindling were the first order of business.

iPhone Image

iPhone Image

Well before sunset I hiked the trail down to Wildcat Cove and got set up for some sunset photos.  I did a little time lapse video and captured some wonderful images from a small cliff just above the bay.  The sun was a brilliant yellow as it reflected off the smooth, glassy water, and backlit the thin string of clouds above the horizon.  Here see for yourself…

Sunset on Wildcat Cove

Sunset on Wildcat Cove

Mt. House noodles by the campfire

Mt. House noodles by the campfire

It was pretty much full on night by the time I hiked back to camp.  I built a nice warm fire and burned my whole tub of firewood as I wolfed down a Mountain House freeze-dried meal.  Chicken and noodles, Bam!  Man those things are perfect for a trip like this.  Boil two cups of water, no clean up, no mess.  What could be simpler… Did I mention there were noodles in there… What more could I ever ask for.

My evening entertainment consisted of ukulele, reading and jotting down some journal notes on my iPad (my Digital Moleskine).

My camp

My camp

Cozy Fire

Cozy Fire

So I would like to say that I slept like a baby, but everyone who knows my little grandsons understands that some of those dudes regularly get up at O-Dark-Thirty.  Too early, even for me.  I climbed down out of my rack at 0500, popped out to take a leak, turned on the heater, and then scrambled back up into my cozy place, where I plugged in my headphones and picked up with the podcast I’d fallen asleep to the night before.

Before long I heard a familiar sound on the roof of the van.  The gentle drumming of a light rain… Crap!  This was supposed to be the better of the two days – weather wise.  I made the strategic decision to ignore rain and enjoy the cozy.  Sunrise was still more than two hours away, I would wait and reassess my options then.

Well, sadly the rain was a little more persistent than I was.  By 0830 there were a few small slivers of blue sky trying to cut through the grey, but it was too little too late.  I knew the Interurban Trail was gonna be a no go.  The route was deep in the forest much of the way and would prove to be wet and sloppy.  I called an “audible”.

Along the Chuckanut Drive

Along the Chuckanut Drive

Just like any veteran SWAT operator knows, no plan ever survives first contact.  This plan would be no exception.  The new plan: load up and head south down to the Padilla Bay Trail. This shorter trail featured a smooth gravel pathway, and ran along the edge of the estuary, offering fabulous views of the bay and the sloughs that feed into it.

The "New Plan"

The “New Plan”

But first I had to feed the machine… I stopped into the Farmhouse restaurant and murdered a plate of ham and eggs.  By the time I’d mopped up that yummy breakfast the sun was starting to make an appearance.

(The map at the right shows Larrabee St. Park in green, and Padilla Bay to the south, marked with a pin).

Old ruins along Indian Slough

Old ruins along Indian Slough

The north end of the trail near Bayview, WA

The north end of the trail near Bayview, WA

The Padilla Bay Trail was just as expected, smooth, dry, peaceful, and punctuated with birds.  I enjoyed a marvelous little mountain bike outing, delayed only by the need to stop for pictures, and shoot video.  I was home by early afternoon… Technically stretching the S-24-O out to about 26.5 hours… Oops!

Ok, if you made it this far, let me share a little movie I shot on the trip:

Thanks for watching.  Kat

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About Jeff Katzer

Welcome friends. I'm a cyclist, hiker, motorbike rider, kayaker, photographer, videographer, ukulele player, snowshoer, XC skier, and BEST of all - a grandpa. Somewhere in that list above you'll find the theme of the Adventure Journal.
This entry was posted in Bicycle, Birds, Camping, Hiking, Kayak, Music, Photography, Video and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Chuckanut S-24-O

  1. brucebosman says:

    Great photos and story. Thanks Jeff.

  2. alastairhumphreys says:

    Lovely photos. Jealous of your sunshine!

  3. Peter Jordan says:

    Good stuff. Love it!

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