October 22, 2021

Students paddle UWild’s longest kayaking adventure

Student kayaking trip participants gather holding a purple UW banner on a rocky shore with a blue sky behind them.

In early September, six incoming first year students joined two rising senior trip leaders, Maia Kent and Jackson Hall, on what turned out to be an incredibly memorable adventure. The group paddled nearly 75 miles and camped on eight different islands, completing UWild’s longest kayaking trip yet! The eight huskies met at the Waterfront Activities Center early on a sunny Wednesday morning and jumped right into their adventure after meeting each other for the first time.

The group was dropped off with all their kayaking equipment at a waterfront park in Anacortes. They discussed the plan for the trip, some safety reminders, and a few trips and tricks for paddling. Then they hit the water and were off for the next 10 days to paddle from island campsite to island campsite.

A collage of four images of kayaking participants. Student participants gather around red and orange kayaks on shore; kayaks glide on silver water with the sun reflecting on the water; students stand in silhouette in front of a a pink and blue sunset; pointer fingers point in a circle over a map.

The group quickly came together and became friends. As they paddled on their discussions became easier, the scenery became more breathtaking, and they saw some incredible things. On day two they had the fortunate experience of being visited by the resident orca whales of the San Juan Islands. They watched them as they finished dinner and cleaned up for the night.

A student appears to be capturing another student onshore as they leap into her arms. The catcher appears surprised while the jumper has committed.

The next evening they experienced the most radiant bioluminescence that anyone in the group could imagine. They stayed up late that night playing in the shallow water watching it light up in an other worldly way!

The group continued to paddle from island to island making stops along the way. They had a day exploring Friday Harbor, where they enjoyed a cup of coffee and a burger that was, “the best thing they had ever eaten.” From Friday Harbor, they continued their adventure to circumnavigate Shaw Island. Along the way they saw Dall’s porpoises, sea lions, harbor seals, crabs, and many other plants and animals.

A collage of four photos of students participating in the UWild kayaking trip: students pose onshore in front of their kayaks and a bay; students sit a picnic table underneath a shelter; a student holds a piece of pink and white kelp in front of his face; students cluster in silhouette on the shore as the sun goes down creating a bright, willowy cloudscape.

A student carries another student on his shoulders in a shelter. They both wear warm clothes and it's nighttime. The person being carried holds onto several bright orange and blue drybags and the other person's head.On the final day of the trip they boarded the Friday Harbor ferry with their kayaks and met their ride home in Anacortes.

The goal of these programs is to help incoming first year students feel confident entering life at UW and to create memories that make a lasting impact. One participant said, “I also learned that I can handle myself well in a social situation where I don’t know anyone.”

When asked what the highlight of their adventure was, one student commented, “The bioluminescence at Spencer Spit was one of the most memorable moments of my life.” Another memorable quote was, “Getting close with everyone on the trip, getting advice from the leaders for U-Dub, seeing orcas and the bioluminescence, and the food was really good.”