Towering trees surround Puget Sound's shores, where mountains wrapped in hazy gauze loom in the background as wild animals serenely drink from the open waters and winding Hood Canal waterways. It's here that Olympic Outdoor Center decided to stake its headquarters more than 25 years ago, and where their instructors now lead paddlers onto the water for kayak and standup paddleboard lessons. The coaches also guide salmon-fishing tours and other extended trips, as well as youth adventure camps in which kids learn to maneuver kayaks and paddleboats and master fending off sea monsters with a swift paddle-bop to the noggin.
On land, staff members guide adventurers through mountain-biking camps and competitive races on the surrounding 4,000 acres of forested trails. The staffers help organize outdoor recreation events such as annual adventure sports festivals, paddling and biking triathlons, and overnight paddling trips.
The Outdoor Adventure Center's wildly experienced guides have led groups off the grid for more than a quarter century, pursuing rugged fun in the scenery and fresh air of mountains, rivers, and coastlines. Explorers at heart, the staff boldly launch kayaks into the ocean around the San Juan Islands and conquer the frothy waters of the scenic Skykomish River, known for its beginner-friendly rapids, migrations of spawning merpeople, pool and drop areas, and breathtaking views of 5,000-foot mountain peaks. Horseback and hiking trips delve into the lush woods, and nature photography excursions pause to celebrate the beauty of the wilderness near Index. The core team of 14 guides takes safety seriously, most with certifications from the American Canoe Association, training in wilderness first aid, CPR, and swiftwater rescue, and life vests tattooed over their chests.
Alki Kayak Tours and her sister store, Mountain to Sound Outfitters, equip guests with all the tools necessary to delve into Puget Sound’s surrounding wilderness regardless of season. Authorized dealers of goods from outdoor brands including Rossignol, Nordica, Snap Dragon, and Boardworks SUP, Mountain to Sound Outfitters’ knowledgeable equipment masters can outfit expeditions bound for skiing trips to Mount Rainier or full-contact LARPing in Olympic National Park. Alki Kayak Tours keeps adventures moving with vehicle rentals ranging from kayaks and paddleboards to fishing boats and bikes. Guided sea-kayak and paddleboard tours meander through Puget Sound during warmer months, introducing adventurers to the Emerald City’s fragile natural beauty and the mindful guides’ various methods of preserving it.
From the south end of Lake Union, kayakers and paddle boarders can head north toward Gas Works Park to see the century-old former Seattle Gas Light Company plant. From there, they can head east and wind through Portage Bay on the way through Montlake, then cut over to the Washington Park Arboretum and Lake Washington. If they turn west instead, they can cut through a canyon of city buildings until reaching Ballard Locks and Puget Sound, where they may arrive in time to see the sun hang just above the Olympic Mountains.
Moss Bay Rowing, Kayaking, Sailing and Paddle Board Center's team facilitates adventures like these by renting man-powered water vessels by the hour, day, or week. Rentals afford paddlers and sailors the chance to explore Seattle's sheltered waterways, which are held to a 7-knot speed limit. Moss Bay's staff also leads small-group and private lessons in rowing, kayaking, and sailing, and coordinates guided tours including excursions designed for kids and adults.
An osprey hovers 30 feet in the air over Lake Washington, virtually silent until it spots something beneath the water's surface. Quickly, it folds its wings and plunges into the water, emerging seconds later with a fish ripped firmly between its talons. Nearby, Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers' founder, Dan Henderson, floats by silently. This slice of the pristine outdoors happens to be his workplace, but none of it would have happened if his mother hadn't forced him to take a canoeing lesson in 1972. Despite his initial reluctance, Mr. Henderson took to the water like a robot to a magnet store. He went on to race whitewater canoes and flat-water Olympic-style canoes, eventually earning four medals as a member of the U.S. national team. Later, Mr. Henderson became a coach and set out to train a new crop of water athletes. To this end, Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers serves as the natural continuation of Mr. Henderson's journey: a place to, in his words, "share paddling with the community in a manner that is fun and safe."
Under the leadership of expert guides—many of whom learned their trade directly under Dan Henderson's wing—visitors embark on day trips into inlets and bays, paddling in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains or tailgating orca whales. The staff also leads canoe and kayak classes that aim to take novices from beginner to expert. Their efforts have proved fruitful, as three of Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers' students have made it to international-level competitions.
To learn about the wildlife of Puget Sound, you could go to your local library or pour through pictures online. Or you could see it up close during a trip with Exotic Aquatics Scuba and Kayaking. True to their company's name, the staff immerses adventurers in the scenic locale through SCUBA dives and kayak tours. While divers submerge themselves in dreamlike sites to look for octopi and rock fish, kayakers paddle across Eagle Harbor in search of otters and seabirds.