Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to know how to kayak?
Our trips are designed for both beginners and experienced kayakers. Because of the care we put into our trips, we find that the needs of all types of experience levels can be met, even though each trip begins with the basics.
What will I learn?
We will teach you how to pack and paddle your sea kayak. If you are already familiar with paddling, our expert guides will offer you pointers to improve your skills. We try to include in every trip information about tides, currents, and the natural world that surrounds you. And we often have opportunities for viewing eagles, herons, native flora, and marine life. If this is not enough for your intellectual tastes consider taking one of our specialized trips in Wild Harvesting, Coastal Geology, Yoga or Astronomy.
Will I flip over?
In 17 years of business, we have never had a boat flip over by accident. The kayaks we use are highly stable and rarely tip. That image you have of kayaks flipping in rough rapids comes from river kayaking which are drastically different than an ocean kayak. If you would like to learn a little about tipping and water rescue, we recommend taking our Sea Kayak Skills Workshop.
What does Elakah mean?
(e-LÄ-käh) is the Chinook name for sea otter. Our goal: To share the otter's sense of playfulness, freedom and confidence with all our paddlers. We give our guests memorable experiences while sharing our love of the natural environment.
What should I wear when paddling?
Our general mantra is "Cotton Kills!" That might be a little extreme, but it is best to avoid cotton if possible in your clothing and sleeping bags. Cottons retains no thermal capacity when wet and takes forever to dry once it is wet. Polypropylene, wool, silk and other synthetic fibers are great.
"Wet shoes" (Your feet and lower leg, at least up to your knees will get wet, guaranteed! Sandals, aqua socks and rubber boots are all okay.)
Non-cotton long sleeve shirt, 1-2, good for sun and wind protection. (the old dress shirt fits well here!)
Long Underwear - one or two pair of tops and bottoms, avoid cotton.
Stocking Cap - again, no cotton. This will make the single biggest difference in your warmth on the water and in camp.
Brimmed Hat and sunscreen to protect from sun.
Why is so much gear needed?In the great northwest we are often asked, what’s the weather like? One thing that we can predict for sure is that there will be weather, the other is if you don’t like it, wait 10 minutes because it will likely change. Although we may all hope for warm, sunny days, weather may also mean misty fog, six kinds of rain, starry, cool nights, winds, or a brilliant glassy-smooth day. How well you are prepared for the weather will have a direct influence on how much you enjoy the trip. The equipment list is a crucial list of items to bring on your trip. If your trip is in May, June, or September, you may want to bring some extras, such as more wool socks, 2 pair of synthetic long underwear etc.
What kind of bags will keep my gear dry?If you don’t already own specialized roll-down dry bags don’t fret! Sea Kayaker magazine did a dry bag field test a number of years ago. They discovered the following inexpensive remedy to be among the driest alternatives: a nylon stuff sack (drawstring or zippered closure), lined with two plastic garbage bags (trash compactor bags are more costly but far more durable) rubber-banded shut. It works great. And if you do have official dry bags, from our experience, we recommend lining them with garbage bags as well.
What size and how many gear bags should I bring?
Please bring no bags larger than 24” by 12”. Kayak hatch covers just aren’t that big. Moreover, it is always easier to pack several medium-sized items into the boat’s compartments than to try inserting one, oversized duffel. If you break your gear up into the following pieces, you should have no problem fitting everything into our kayaks.
Where should I stay before and after the trip?
Here are a few accommodation options on Lopez Island and in Bellingham.
B&B: Edenwild Inn $135-165/night (800) 606-0662
B&B's: North Garden Inn (360) 671-7828
Hotels/Motels: Hotel Bellwether (360) 392-3100
Value Inn (360) 671-9600
Chrysallis Inn & Spa (360) 756-1005
You could also check out the Bellingham/Whatcom County website at: http://www.bellingham.org
How difficult are Elakah trips?
We have a variety of trips that range drastically in the difficulty level, terrain encountered, and distance paddled. Here is an attempt at a spectrum of difficulty:
Mothership Adventures -------> B&B Trips -------> 3-day Educational Trips ------> 5-7 day Trips
- Staterooms with toilets and showers - Semi-primitive camping
- 2-5 hours paddling / day - Pit toilets (may have some steps), no showers
- Accessible to many - 4-8 hours of paddling/day
- Beaches are flat and smooth - Beaches are more irregular, rocky, steep.
How and where do I go to the bathroom?
Ahh, the eternal question. This is the single biggest reason that people do not want to go on camping sea kayak trips ... whether they admit it or not. All of our campsites will have a pit or composting toilet. Most of those toilets have stairs to get up to them. If you need help up the stairs, your group members and the guides will all have to work together to get you up to the toilets. There are no showers or running water at these facilities. During our day excursions, there will be lunch stops or "pee breaks" on beaches that have no built facilities. In this case, your guides will assist you in determining the most ecologically sensitive place to "go," that has the best opportunity for privacy. Usually this is below the high tide line (so the tide can wash away our presence on that beach), and behind a set of convenient rocks or trees. If you have serious problems with being able to relieve yourself in these conditions, please do not worry. It is relatively easy to tailor our day trips so that our stops can consistently be at beaches that do have built facilities. Just let us know what your needs are, and we can unobtrusively tailor the trip to meet those needs. No problem!
What if I need some help?
It is the nature of wilderness travel that EVERYBODY needs help. The group can only function safely and effectively if the members of the group play a role in making the group successful. So come to an Elakah trip prepared to share your skills with others and willing to gracefully accept the help of others in the group. If you have a disability that would require more specialized assistance than could be provided by the guides and group members, Elakah will provide a scholarship for that caregiver to come on the trip at a reduced rate.
Where do we meet and how do I get there?
We can pick you up at your hotel or by appointment, or you can meet us at the launch point. Most of our Day trips leave from Wildcat Cove however, double check where your trip is leaving from when you sign up.
Wildcat Cove, Larabee State Park - $5.00 daily parking fee required.
Where do we meet and how do I get there?
We will meet you at the ferry drop off on Lopez Island. For exact times see the fact sheet below for the trip that you are on. Catch the ferry from Anacortes and get off on Lopez Island, which is usually the first stop. No need to bring your car along. You can walk onto the ferry. This is much less expensive and a car on the Island can be more bother than it is worth. We recommend that you get in line for the ferry at least 1/2 hour before the ferry leaves. Leave more time if you are driving on. Visit the Washington State Ferries web site for times and fare information. When you reach Lopez, we will load your gear into our vehicle and shuttle you to our launch site.
How far and how fast will we travel?
Typically, we cover three to nine miles each day. Our paddling mileage and speed is based on the weather and the general strength of the group. For safety reasons, we travel at the pace of the most leisurely boat and stay together.
Where will we spend the night?
This depends on which trip you are on. For the B&B trips: you will sleep at the charming Edenwild Inn in the center of Lopez Village. For the San Juander 3-day trips: weather permitting, we will paddle to and camp on beautiful James Island Marine Park, overlooking Rosario Strait and the Cascade Mountains. The park provides outhouses, picnic tables, and fire pits. Deer, otter, sea birds, seals, and bald eagles frequent the area. For the five-day trips: we camp at different sites with similar amenities.
Jennifer Hahn (the founder and continued trip leader with Elakah) recommends the following books for learning about wild-harvesting from sea and land (* denotes the first books to read):
Pacific Northwest Ethnobotany and First Nation Uses:
Pacific Northwest Plants and Natural History:
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