Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 2: Creating Raised Beds


It may still be winter outside, but in my mind summer is starting. Dreaming of crunchy, sweet peas fresh from the garden melting in my mouth and hummingbirds whizzing past my ears helps me beat the winter blues.

In my last post, Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 1: The Potted Garden, I talked about starting a garden in pots. In this post I’ll share what I’m learning as I plan to create garden beds.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith is my main guide because it has thorough, simple steps for everything from choosing what material to use for raised beds to naturally controlling common pests and diseases.

The decision for where to place the beds was based on where there is the most sun exposure, which means facing south without trees in the way. There are a lot of trees and brush to clear (thank goodness for my boyfriend’s strong arms!), but soon enough we’ll begin creating the beds…I’m so excited!

Here are the steps I’ll be taking to create my garden beds:

  1. Mark where the beds will be with stakes and string.
  2. Deep fork (love that term!) the soil beneath where those beds will be, which means shoving a pitch fork into the ground and rocking it back and forth to loosen the soil – Ed says this will allow roots to grow longer and so be more productive. I’ll deep fork about 8 inches down.
  3. Build my boxes, making sure to build in support in the corners, and settle it into place. I’ll most likely use untreated cedar because I don’t want nasty chemicals leaching into my garden.
  4. Put one inch of compost over the soil that’s been deep forked (ha!)
  5. Put about 10 inches of topsoil and compost over the top, filling in to about two inches from the top of the wall.
  6. Let the soil settle for at least one week.
  7. Plant my plant babies!

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that gardeners always have more to learn, so if you have gardening tips, tricks and treasures, please share! 

“Discover Ed’s High-Yeild WORD System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil.”





IUDAn intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into a uterus.Men – don’t be afraid! It’s good to learn what your women are going through.

The hormones released from Mirena intrauterine uterine devices (IUDs) can wreak havoc on a body and mind.

Even if you don’t have an IUD, haven’t heard of them, or if this topic totally grosses you out, you likely know someone who has one of these tiny plastic devices attached to their uterus and it’s good to know about them. There are about 150 million women worldwide who use the Merina and millions more who are on some type of birth control.

My doctor said she had one, a couple of my best friends have one, it seems like every other woman I talk to has one. When I was looking for effective birth control, it seemed like a no-brainer to get the Merina.

Yes, I’m an all natural girl, but I wanted to make it easy – why is it so often the easy way isn’t the healthiest?

Many women love their IUD, but I learned today that there are thousands of women out there who are suffering because of their IUDs.

I have a confession to make: I’m not happy. I’m extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m anxious and depressed and exhausted.

This morning I woke up feeling like my insides were shaking, as if there was a violent earthquake going on but only my insides could feel it. This has become normal for me.

99 out of 100 nights I wake up two to three times throughout the night. For a moment I think, “Ahh, no problem, I’ll fall right back to sleep.” A moment later pandemonium sets in – my heart races, my stomach, neck and back tighten, I get so hot I can’t bear to have anything touching me, and my mind rampages through anxious memories that have no bearing on anything whatsoever.

I started doing yoga daily. I quit drinking coffee. I eat so healthy I feel like I should win an award sometimes. I take long walks in the beautiful woods around my house. I think of all the things I’m grateful for each morning. I’ve tried every breathing technique I’ve heard of to fall back to sleep. I take daily doses of magnesium and vitamin D and vitamin B complex.

I still feel abso*&%#inglutely miserable. My life and mind feel out of control. I know I have a beautiful life, amazing friends and family, an incredible, loving boyfriend and a mind that can create wonders.

None of that matters when I can hardly think straight or make a decision. I have fits of rage that make my dog, Cricket, cower (I’d never lay a hand on her, don’t worry!), I get up and sob silently in frustration in the middle of the night, I feel like I’m going to throw up when I have to make a decision or leave my house.

cricket hidingCricket doesn’t like my moodiness any more than I do

Depression and I have done battle before. I’m working on a book about my teenage years of being a suicidal drinker, if that gives you any indication. But I’ve found ways to cope, to not be overcome, to enjoy life even when I feel down, to harness that energy and turn it into positive things. I had not felt the darkness consuming me for a long, long time.

However, this winter has been a battle. I’ll just leave it at that.

I keep wondering: what is the cause of this? Why do I feel like I’m running as fast and hard as I can but still sliding backwards?

My sweet Mum could see I was struggling, so for Christmas she gave me a gift certificate for three acupuncture sessions and a health exam with a Chinese medicine specialist. 15 years ago this same specialist took away my incessant pain with eight acupuncture sessions, despite my skepticism and deep dislike of needles.

This time the doctor asked about each comment I’d made on my intake papers – anxiety, foggy thinking, pain, mood swings, past injuries, sleeplessness and extreme fatigue. It took two hours to go through them all.

I found myself fighting back tears as I realized how out of control I feel, how tired I am, how frustrating this daily battle of the attitudes has been.

Finally, the doctor looked me in the eye and pleaded with me to have my IUD removed, saying it was affecting my uterus and probably other things. I just nodded and said I’d look into it. I then laid for almost an hour with needles poking out of me, feeling strange sensations and occasional blissful reprieves from the heavy weight I’ve felt baring down on my body.

That night I had my first full seven hours of sleep in months. I felt refreshed and energized. But today, two days later, I awoke so full of anxiety I felt I could burst. I found I don’t want to go outside (REALLY weird for me), I don’t want to talk to anyone, I can’t decide what to do next and my brain is in a fog.

This morning, instead of laying in bed sweating and fretting as I often do before I haul myself out of bed, I started researching Merina and anxiety…

WOW, are there a lot of sad stories out there!

Thousands of women are struggling with depression, anxiety, dislodged IUDs and other issues related to IUDs. As I read story after story, a rush of relief wash over me – I’m not alone, I’m not crazy and there may be an answer!

Well, I might be a little crazy, but there is a potential fix for at least part of it: just get it taken out.

Yep, that little IUD is getting taken out of my body ASAP! Maybe my life won’t be perfectly anxiety-free, but I have hope that at least I’ll feel a more like the fun loving, outgoing, creative, happy and organized person that I usually am.

I read that some women have major anxiety or depression issues for awhile after having IUDs taken out, but once the body’s natural hormonal balance is restored life can resume without feeling like aliens are taking over the body.

So be prepared for a more emotional me for a bit, but hold onto hope that you’ll soon see me shine the way I used to.

Have you or someone you know experienced IUD issues? Please share!

Here are a few of the links that helped me understand my IUD and come to the decision to take it out:

Thank you for letting me vent! I feel much better now 🙂

Happy (inner and outer) Adventuring!




Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 1: The Potted Garden


squash-flower (1)

A cold, gray day in January is a great time to plan a summer vegetable garden! Imagining warm sunshine on your back back as you pop a sweet, juicy cherry tomato in your mouth is like offering the mind a warm cup of tea.

A garden can be as simple as a few inexpensive pots on a porch with a few plants, or as complex as my friend Cari Schumaker’s giant garden, which provides a large amount of food year-round for her family of five.

In this post I’ll share tips on beginning to garden in pots. In my next post I’ll share what I’m learning for creating garden beds. Over the summer I’ll share how it’s going, and in the fall I’ll write about what I’ve learned.

If you’re new to vegetable gardening and have any trepidation, as I did, please know that it’s actually so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!

If gardening is old news to you, passing on the joy of gardening to those who haven’t experienced it yet is a great new year’s resolution.

I grew up with fresh food from my parents’ gardens, but I didn’t appreciate it until I came around to eating healthy later in life. Now I dream of having all those fresh food option straight out of the garden!

I started gardening a few years ago in a few pots on my porch. Even though I had a tiny budget, almost no knowledge and limited space, I harvested cucumbers, basil, chard and a few tomatoes. I grew to love coming home from work and taking care of my plants, as well as the fresh tastes in my meals.

For the last few summers I’ve had a little more room and have experimented. Now I have the budget, time and space for a larger garden, so I’m planning to create raised beds for a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers. I found an excellent book to help me plan and I thought I’d share some of what I’m learning with you.

The book is The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. He also has a good book called The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible: How to grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs and Other Containers.

To start, any nursery will have inexpensive pots and potting soil. Farmers markets and nurseries will have plant starts – and staff will happily give you planting tips.

Once you have all your pieces, all you need to do is put them together and pay attention as they grow – water before they get dry, check for issues such as disease or bugs (ask those same farmers market or nursery staff if you get these) and then harvest your goods!

A few tips that helped me begin gardening – most of which I learned the hard way:

Don’t be attached to the results. If your plants thrive, that’s wonderful! If they die, it isn’t the end of the world and you aren’t a terrible gardener. Think about what could be done differently and try again, and maybe talk to someone at a farmer’s market or nursery about your experience. Just keep trying – you will succeed!

Get pots with drainage holes and put plates or pot bottoms under them so you don’t get dirty wet spots underneath. Without drainage, roots will likely rot.

Get a good fertilizer and follow the directions. Everyone seems to have a different favorite – mine is…….Just ask your friends at the farmers market or nursery and experiment to find your favorite.

Check water levels daily until you know how much they require. It’s important not to overwater plants or let them dry out. Get in the habit of poking your finger up to the first knuckle into the soil every day – if it comes out dry, it’s time to water.

Try to avoid watering over the top of your plants. If you water directly onto the soil, rather than over the top of leaves, you can help avoid mildew, which can spread through plants quickly and kill them, or at least drastically reduce their production levels.

Gardening is a continuous learning process. There are thousands of books out there to choose from to get started and the choices can be overwhelming. The important thing is just to start!

Here are my two favorite gardening books right now. Please let me know if you have other favorites and/or gardening tips!

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. “Discover Ed’s High-Yeild WORD System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil.”

McGee and Stuckey’s Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits and Edible Flowers (also a staff pick at Powell’s Books).


Did Flea Shampoo Kill Boo?


This week I had the sad task of bearing bad news to my 14 year-old friend Coea about his cat, Boo, dying in the night.

boo2Boo was 13 years old and had been with Coea and his Mom since he was a kitten. Coea’s Mom, my good friend, was away for the weekend, so I stayed for two nights to make sure all was well.

All was not well. Four days before, my friend had given Boo a bath with Sentry Flea Shampoo for cats, and Coea reported that he’d been acting strange since then.


Boo wasn’t eating (he’s usually a big fan of food), he was sleeping in funny places, his breathing was more rapid than usual, and he wobbled – both when he walked and when he tried to sit still.

I immediately googled “sentry flea shampoo cats reactions” and the first thing that came up is “Top 291 Complaints and Reviews about Sentry Pet Products.” I highly recommend you visit this site, then share it with everyone you know, whether they have a pet or not.

My jaw dropped as I read one account after another, with pet owners saying things like this:

“Several days later, he had a seizure in the middle of the night that lasted one to two minutes. He was never the same after this. He had loss of balance, vision, tremors, restlessness, trouble sleeping, crying, and labored breathing. His breathing became progressively worse, and had to let him ago less than a week later. My wife and I are so heartbroken.”

Since Boo seemed to be off but somewhat ok, we opted to try some things people on the consumer reports sight had tried before taking him to the vet.

Some people had seen positive results from bathing pets with Dawn dish soap and giving them a little Benedryl. The emergency vet also said a bath with Dawn was all they could recommend other than taking him in for tests.

It was my first time bathing a cat, and besides Boo sticking a claw all the way through the skin on Coea’s neck, it went pretty smoothly (Coea may not agree).

The Benedryl wasn’t so smooth. I only gave him about 1/8 of a pill, but he wouldn’t eat the turkey it was wrapped in (which he’d normally gobble up). So we had to do that nasty thing where you hold his mouth open and put the pill on the back of their tongue so they instinctively swallow.

Boo was not a happy cat after that.


He immediately began making a strange noise and licking the back of his mouth and foaming from the mouth.

“OK, that’s it! Get your shoes on and wrap him up, we’re going to the vet!” I said as I jumped up and grabbed my keys.

I’d never given a cat a pill, so it was traumatic for me – was he choking? What was all that foam about?!

I called my friend to tell her what was happening, and she said the pills are very bitter, so it was normal for Boo to be acting strange and foaming at the mouth.

By now we were sitting in the car, but Boo had calmed down and the string of saliva wasn’t getting any longer. He calmed down and his breathing became more normal.

“OK, let’s see how he does,” I said to Coea. We went back inside and watched Boo carefully. He was still walking funny, but we decided to see how things went overnight and take him to the vet in the morning if he was still acting strange.

A few minutes later, we put a bowl of tuna juice in front of him and he lapped it up! He wasn’t wobbling and he seemed more calm. We were ecstatic. Things seemed to be on the up and up. Coea chose to have Boo sleep with him, and I said goodnight with a good feeling.

The good feeling turned into a very bad feeling a few hours later.

When I went to see how Boo was doing as Coea slept, I found Boo laying just outside his bedroom door. He looked all fluffy and cute, as he always does, but my heart skipped a beat as I watched for his breathing. When I saw none, I fell to my knees and stifled a shout. Boo looked like he was resting peacefully, but when I touched him he was stiff as a board.

I picked him up and wrapped him in a blanket, then took him downstairs to lay him by the fire and shed some tears. The rest is too sad to share. Telling a cat’s family that he has left this world is not a thing I care to do again, I’ll just leave it at that.

Did the flea shampoo kill Boo?

My friend used a normal amount and followed instructions on the label. Boo was older, but not in terrible health, so we didn’t consider him elderly. He was fine before the bath, and not fine after the bath.

You can come to your own conclusions, but I’m convinced the shampoo killed Boo. I’m now on a campaign to tell the world about it.

I’ve made little signs that I’ll carry in my purse with a small roll of tape. Every time I go to a store where flea shampoos is sold, I’m going to tape my little sign under it. Sargeant, Hartz and other brands have similar reports.

Here’s my sign – I’m printing it on fluorescent orange paper and will cut it into card-sized sheets.

If you’re so inclined, please print it out and help me in my campaign to get these nasties off the market.

My next post will be about non-toxic flea control…

RIP_Booboo3RIP Sweet Boo. I hope others can learn from your life and death.

Love from Your Friends,

Spring and Cricket the Dog

It’s Time to Start a Business



Well, I’ve done it, I’ve ordered my first 50 business cards for my very own business. I chose because they let users choose more than photo for the back side. What do you think…good choice or no? I’m so grateful to my Facebook friends for helping me find and choose photos!

No, I don’t have a tax ID number or a business name or a business bank account or a website. Yet. But I have a card to hand to someone when they ask for one, or when I mention one of the things I do for work and I hear that little uptick in the listener’s voice when they say, “Oh really?!”

What to do next? Well, working on my blog came to mind, so here I am. Then I think I’ll set up my business bank account – I hear I should set aside 25% of my income to business expenses, does that sound right? 

Then I think I’ll make it official with the state and federal government. I don’t really want to hand over my hard-earned money, but I do like having lines on the roads and garbage pickup and free schools, so I guess I do my part. I just wish I could check the NO box for my money going to fighter jets and bombs…

Then I’ll work on my website – but do I choose WordPress or or…? Suggestions? I want to be able to do it all myself and make changes often.

Oh, then I guess I have to actually get out and work. Doing what? Here’s what I’d do if I had a choice, in order of how much I want to do them:

1. Write – blogs, articles, books as a ghost writer…anything for which I would get paid any amount. Seriously, any amount. I love writing but have never made a dime directly from writing. 

2. Organizing – offices, garages, kitchens, closets…I love to organize other peoples’ stuff. Call me weird (I can take it), but I like to take a room that completely and utterly overwhelms someone and:

  • go through each item to determine whether it’s a keeper, donation, garbage or something to sell
  • do a thorough deep cleaning using my green cleaning supplies
  • leave the room looking all dapper and lovely, ready to finally be put to use.

3. Sea Kayaking – this is number one in the spring and summer! I love to put together kayak tours and classes – two hours or two days or two weeks, I love it all. I’ve focused on women’s kayak tours with yoga (I’m working on my instructor certification), but I love kayak tours with all ages and sexes 🙂 

4. Outdoor Program Development – this is only at the bottom of the list because I don’t know how much I’ll get to to this and get paid, but I spent 10 years creating, marketing, teaching and managing outdoor programs such as Outdoor Adventure Camp (taking kids ages 8-12 kayaking, standup paddleboarding, mountain biking and hiking), kayak tours for up to 80 people, standup paddleboard yoga and such. I love it and I’m very, very good at it, if I do say so myself.

I’ve realized I like to be humble in this life, but that to have a successful business, I have to be able to toot my own horn and put myself out there. I used to be excruciatingly shy, but as a teenager I realized it was terribly boring and unnecessary, so I’ve worked hard at being a social creature. I think I’m doing alright with it.

So, off to continue this never-ending process of becoming a business owner. Yep, I think I’m going to like this. And hate it. But I think I’ll like it more than hate it. 

What do you think – do you have your own business and enjoy it? What else should I be doing and/or thinking of?

Happy Living, 


PS – here are some of the photos I chose for my first business card backs:

scard1 scard2 scard3 scard5raw2

Sick Christmas


You know what sucks on Christmas? Being sick. I haven’t been sick enough to cancel anything in three years, but today my body decided to shut down.

So I’m quarantined from all the dinner parties, the cuddling on the couch while watching a sweet Christmas movie, the fresh pies and hugs and laughter and…waaaah! Even my dog is depressed.

I took some presents to my boyfriend before he headed off to spend the day with his family, and as I pulled away my face burned with embarrassment as tears rolled down my cheeks.

Things could be worse – I could be living in Syria, or have a deadly disease, or be an orphan – but it’s still depressing to be me today.

So, to cheer myself up, on my way home I took a meandering route through Port Orchard and found some chuckles. Here’s my Christmas Eve journey. They may just be funny because I’m delirious, but what else am I going to do today?

(I almost stopped here, but decided it was safer to go home and share these photos)…


 1. Ummm…what’s Frosty doing?


2. It’s ok Frosty, I think you’re getting a prosthetic arm in your stocking!


 3. Looks like Santa, Mickey and Minnie had a little too much fun last night.


4. So THIS is where the reindeer are set out to graze! I didn’t think they’d need leashes, but I guess Santa still has some training to do.


5. PU-LEASE Santa, I REALLY need to talk to you!


6. Whew! Bet that poor bird is tired.


7. Paul often wonders why he gets mistaken for Santa. Rick often wonders why he looks so weird.


8. Did I really see this on a Christmas window, or am I delirious?


9. This window looked normal…


…until I saw that Frosty’s broom was on fire…


…and Santa’s reindeer had sex changes…


…and Santa not only has something seriously wrong with his ankle, but also seems to have died in a chimney…


…and these are some seriously depressed polar bears…


…and it looks like Mama got caught drinking Miller Light behind the Christmas tree again!


10. Wonder which one didn’t make it?


12. I heart Scooby 🙂 Looks like he’s about to get a snack…


But this was my favorite…

And in case you’re wondering, I’m having home made broth and warm apple juice with whiskey for my Christmas Eve dinner. Think I may have the same for Christmas Day Dinner.

Mmm, Christmas Dinner, 2013

Mmm, Christmas Dinner, 2013

Merry (*&^ing Christmas. Enjoy your pie.

Salmon Kayak Tours – the Rollercoaster Ride


I promised myself I wouldn’t check the weather until the morning, but just before going to bed I broke and checked the hourly weather prediction for the next day.

Rain, 18 mph winds at noon coming from the SSW were the predictions. Exactly wrong for my scheduled Salmon Kayak Tour. I groaned out loud and cussed, making my dog look at me with worried eyes.

This would’ve been a frustrating weather prediction for any of the many tours I lead for the Olympic Outdoor Center and, but this particular tour would be especially painful to cancel.

This tour was the culmination of all the outreach I’ve done over the last two months for these tours…press releases, posts, Facebook posts, e-newsletters, fliers, meetings, events and discounts offered to environmental and outdoor organization volunteers. All in all, hours upon hours of outreach. If we didn’t make enough money in these tours, I may not have work through the winter, so the pressure was on.

25 people were registered for the tour, more than I’d ever had at this location, and there were nine others on the guest list. Included on this list were a reporter from Evening Magazine, a King 5 TV editor and videographer, two staff from Visit Kitsap Peninsula and a well-known Suquamish Tribe fisheries biologist who is one of my local heroes.

In addition, I had three other guides, my boss (the owner and founder of the Olympic Outdoor Center/ and as many standup paddleboarders as my co-worker Forrest could gather (to provide better visuals for the Evening Magazine story).

Needless to say, this tour was larger than just the number of people registered.

I went to bed dreading the numerous cancelation phone calls I’d be making in the morning. I had nightmares about enormous groups of people wanting to go paddling as I stood fretting on the side of gigantic, broiling brown rivers.

The next morning I got out of bed at 5:30 with a heavy heart. I made myself wait until after breakfast and a cup of coffee to check the weather report again.

When I finally did check, my heart leapt – winds 6 mph from the east at noon! It felt like I hadn’t really awoken, that I was dreaming of the perfect scenario for the tour.

I giggled like a little girl when, during my morning walk with my dog, Cricket, I realized there wasn’t a breath of wind and there was a blue sky emerging from the dark!

No phone calls needed to be made, no cancelations would be happening.

So now the nervousness set it – Evening Magazine and all these people on a Salmon Kayak Tour in little Grover’s Creek! This was going to be a busy day.

I grabbed the van and trailer, the gear and this photo before heading to meet the other guides:

A private moment of peace before the tour

A private moment of peace before the tour

The guides and I were a flurry of motion as we unloaded and prepared 21 kayaks, 50 lifejackets and paddles, 35 spray skirts and two pounds of smoked salmon.

We each stopped occasionally to look out over the perfectly calm water and utter reverent thoughts about the purrrfect weather. How did we get so lucky?!

Before heading to the Grover Creek Salmon Hatchery where the guests would be meeting us, the reporter from Evening Magazine, Anne Erickson, clipped a tiny microphone to my jacket collar. I said I was going to pretend it wasn’t there so I wouldn’t be nervous, then immediately forgot it was there.

This was just another tour, I had done at least 50 before, and the only difference was that this one was going to be the best ever. That’s what I told myself in my last moments alone on my short drive to the hatchery.

The guests broke a record that morning – everyone was there before 10:00 starting time. I whooped for joy and gathered everyone at the salmon pond to start the day.

During introductions, two brothers said they’d flown in from Arizona for this tour, husbands thanked their wives for telling them about the tour, and I did an inward happy jig as everyone told the group their names, how they heard about the tour and what their paddling experience was (from “never paddled before” to “white water rafting”).

After I explained what the hatchery did and a bit about the salmon life cycle, I turned the discussion over to Paul Dorn, fisheries biologist extraordinaire. Paul helped me put together the flow of Salmon Kayak Tours, he built hatchery we all were visiting, he has been a very involved fisheries biologist for the Suquamish Tribe for over 30 years, and he volunteers his time for these tours.

I personally believe Paul deserves a medal of honor, and the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Peach Prize for his lifetime of important work.

Anyhow, Paul made everyone (including me) ooh and ah as he held up Chum Salmon for everyone to see. As he explained all the interesting, sometimes awe-inspring things about northwest salmon, his intern, Jill, held up another Chum to show us sea lice. A few people touched the large, wriggling fish, many asked questions of Paul, all of which he answered in detail.

This dynamic duo then caught more salmon in the fish ladder and Jill made everyone laugh when a huge salmon put it’s head on her shoulder. A few of us mentioned our sadness at how this salmon was near the end of it’s life, but it was an amazing sight:

Jill holding a large male Chum salmon

Jill holding a large male Chum salmon

From the fish ladder, Mike Huff, the hatchery manager, led us through the hatchery to the eggs and salmon fry (why are baby salmon called that?), letting people touch the eggs and see the fry with their large middles bulging.

Freshly harvested Chum Salmon eggs

Freshly harvested Chum Salmon eggs

Mike Huff (upper left corner) explains how they take care of young salmon

Mike Huff (upper left corner) explains how the hatchery raises, takes care of, then releases young salmon

From the hatchery, John (my boss and OOC’s owner and founder), shuttled everyone to the boat launch the gear and boats were waiting. Everyone was fitted in their kayaks, got outfitted and received a short paddling lesson. I always love seeing everyone spread out on land, outfitted and practicing their strokes!

Paddling lesson with Miller Bay in the background

Me leading a paddling lesson with Miller Bay in the background (I’m the one with the hat on and long hair)

Finally, it was time to launch. As much as I love tours with ten or less people in which I really get to know everyone, I also love larger tours…because I get to launch first and hang out while the other guides launch everyone! Is that evil?

It’s a goal of mine to keep everyone’s feet dry on these tours, so we hold each kayak as paddlers get in and out on land. Then the guides carefully push the boats onto the water and pull them in after the tour.

The highly angular keel of the double kayaks we use make this process a bit like a rollercoaster ride for kayakers, especially if it’s their first time. The process is no small task for me at 125 pounds – the boats weigh about 100 pounds and the paddlers add another 300+ pounds!

I have yet to tip anyone though, and I think we’ve managed to keep 99% of all the feet dry.

Before the kayakers launched, the standup paddleboarders (SUPers) hopped on the water with their sleek boards. Olive the Dog hopped on her owner’s board and they were off to paddle around Miller Bay in search of jumping salmon.


Nick and Dave, Stylish SUPers

Olive the Dog SUPn with her owner, Heather

Olive the Dog SUPn with her owner, Heather

Once everyone was on the water, we started paddling towards Grover’s Creek at the north end of Miller Bay, where I’ve seen salmon jumping on every tour so far this season. Paul had cautioned me that I may not see any this week, but I was working hard to think positive – after all, a salmon kayak tour with no jumping salmon isn’t really a salmon kayak tour, is it?

I didn’t see splashes from afar, as I usually do, and I was trying to just be ok with the idea of not seeing any, but I knew their absence might blow our Evening Magazine story.

So, as I chatted to my paddling neighbors, I secretly and constantly scanned the horizon for splashes.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

And then…

“Woo-hoo!” and “Did you see that?!” were escaping from my mouth as salmon jumped and splashed near shore. I looked around and was happy to learn I wasn’t the only one seeing them jump (this has happened and it stinks!).

Our guide, Will, quickly paddled ahead with Mike, King 5 TV’s editor, photographer and videographer. Mike had his giant video camera in his lap and, during introductions, had said “I’m Mike and frankly, I’m terrified!” or something close to that. The look on his face said he wasn’t kidding.

Will and Mike hopped out and set up the camera to try getting shots of kayakers with jumping salmon, but I (sadly) learned later that this perfect shot didn’t happen.

We paddled onward and up stream, watching Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons fly by. I smiled as I heard people chatting softly and paddles dipping softly, rhythmically, all around me.

At the head of the stream, I gathered everyone into our snack raft. As soon as I announced our gathering spot, our guide Anthony (who also was carrying my $900 camera to capture this day), called to me quietly and pointed up as I looked at him.

There, right above our chosen snack spot, was the resident juvenile Bald Eagle, sitting 40 feet above us in the top of a tree. It’s head swiveled back and forth, then down on us. I imagined its bewilderment as these strange creatures gathered beneath it’s resting spot.

More than one paddler asked me, jokingly but with a slight twinge of nervousness, “is it waiting to swoop down on us?”

“It’s going to snag the last paddler to join our snack raft!” I said, as the long kayaks bumped their way around me to slide in next to each other. 

Our snack raft, minus the SUPers

Our snack raft, minus the SUPers. Notice Mike, the videographer on the right

Once we were gathered, I pulled a bag of napkins and started handing them out. I hadn’t anticipated the awww’s from people when I said these napkins were handmade by my Aunt Yolande. Thank you Aunt Y 🙂

Then out came the Wheat Thins and Triscuits, then the smoked salmon snacks – some mixed with cream cheese, some plain. I truly and deeply love Crimson Cove‘s smoked Sockeye – what a treat! And Cricket loves the skins she gets after all these tours.

The shortage of crackers was the only complaint I heard about the trip – why didn’t I bring 4 instead of 3 packages?! Ah well, at least everyone got a taste (I hope!). I’m enjoying the leftovers as I write this…

Finally it was time to head back. We said goodbye to the young eagle, broke up our raft, and started paddling back towards the sun.

We said hello to the young eagle again a couple minutes later, some paddlers having been lucky enough to have it swoop over their heads (where was the video camera then?!). It landed in a tree next to one of it’s parents, where they watched these strange creatures paddle by.

It was a peaceful paddle back, with a visit from a Harbor Seal just a few feet away from some paddlers, and almost no breeze in the beautiful afternoon light.

Too soon the trip was over and I was packing up all the gear.

But before everyone was shuttled away, Anne from Evening Magazine gathered paddlers together. Some shied away, but others were willing to be filmed them as they talked into the microphone, telling about the tour and their experience.

I have to admit I blushed a little when I heard the positive responses from people, and I tear up a little now as I remember the feeling of accomplishment and gratitude I felt at that moment.

I was also asked to talk into the gigantic microphone (it must’ve been a foot and a half long!) in front of the even larger camera. Until that moment, I had effectively forgotten about the little microphone that had been attached to my collar for the last three hours. Now I straightened my shirt and silently chided myself for not paying more attention to my braids – I was sure it looked like a little kid had put my braids in.

Too late now, I was speaking into the camera, trying to pretend I was on the phone answering someone’s question about what they might see and do on a Salmon Kayak Tour. When she asked if there was anything else I’d like people to get from these tours, I said something to the effect of “I hope everyone understands how they’re personally connected to the lives of these salmon,” then quickly added that I hoped everyone learned how fun it is to kayak and standup paddleboard.

I’m such a cheeseball. But no one can say I’m not an honest cheeseball. I don’t know whether I want to see the footage when this show comes out…

After the obligatory photo with the fisheries biologist, the Visit Kitsap manager, the journalist, the videographer and the Evening Magazine vehicle, I finished packing up.

evening magazine car and group

From right to left: Anne Erickson, Patty Graf-Hoke, Mike Hays, Paul Dorn, John Kuntz, myself

I finally made it to Bella Luna Pizzaria at 4:30 to meet those from the group who were left. I was overjoyed to see a few paddlers still there…with delicious pizza slices for the guides!  

I love this ending to Salmon Kayak Tours – eating a tasty slice of pizza at a local restaurant, my cheeks pleasantly burning from the hard work of the day, a million dollar water view, and getting to know people from the tour more personally. 

But my day wasn’t over. I still had a trailer full of kayaks to lock up and take back to their resting spot in Port Gamble. As I made my way back on the forested roads, I marveled at my luck and my tenacity, at the perfect day almost behind me, and at the overwhelming beauty of “this one and precious life,” as the poet Mary Oliver puts it.

I found John in Port Gamble, putting away gear in the evening light. The enormity of the day’s undertaking hit me as I looked took in the trailers full of kayaks, and I breathed a giant sigh of relief…right after I took this photo:

Kayaks ready to rest on their trailers until the next Salmon Kayak Tour

Kayaks ready to rest on their trailers until the next Salmon Kayak Tour

Thank you to ALL who joined this most perfect of Salmon Kayak Tours (minus the too-few crackers)! I’ve written this post with all the details so that I can look back on it and remember how amazing this day was.

I will do a future post on the salmon life cycle, in case you’re interested.

If you’d like to see more photos of this and other Salmon Kayak Tour trips, visit the Olympic Outdoor Center Facebook page.

I will do a post if Evening Magazine gives me a heads up on when the show will air. Honestly, I never believe anything will happen until after it does…

If you’re interested in joining a Salmon Kayak Tour, visit the Olympic Outdoor Center website and click on the Adventures tab. We offer them from mid-October through the last weekend in November.

If you have photos of this trip or any other trip with me, please e-mail them to me as I love to see others’ photos.

If you need paddling equipment, we ship high quality gear around the world every day through our on-line store, and we have a store in the wonderfully quaint, northwest Washington state town of Port Gamble, and there’s a Cafe across the street with incredible, homemade, organic and local food!

If you have ideas, questions or photos, please contact me any time.

Happy Paddling!


Spring Courtright

Olympic Outdoor Center

Program Director

w: 360.297.4659

c: 360.265.2477

Inspiration from Wendell Berry



“The world and our life in it are conditional gifts. We have the world to live in and the use of it to live from,on the condition that we will take good care of it, and to take good care of it we have to know it, we have to know how to take care of it, and to know it and be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.”

‘nuf said for my first post.