Sucia Island…Solo

On my bucket list for this summer was to camp on Sucia Island in the San Juans.  The entire island is a Washington State Park.  It is about 25 miles from Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham where we launch our boat.

I’ve been there several times, but have not hiked everywhere there is to hike and have only camped there once and that was a few years ago.  Deb and I made an aborted attempt to camp there mid August this year, but we were rained out and came home early and didn’t get to spend the night there.

With our busy schedules and the weather not always cooperating when we both had free time, it looked tough for the two of us to try again this year.  So, with her permission and a good 3 day weather report, I decided on Wednesday for a solo camp out Thursday and Friday.

I pulled some minimal camping gear together Thursday morning and stopped by the grocery store on the way to the boat launch ramp.

12:15 PM Thursday…High tide at the ramp.  An easy launch.  I motored out of the harbor and into Bellingham Bay.  The Bay is generally the roughest part of the trip.  Today was no exception.  About 1′ wind waves which are no problem for the boat, but I do slow down to about 20 MPH (just barely on plane) to make the ride a little less bouncy.  I spotted a school of Dall’s Porpoise…relatively common in the San Juans, but this was the first time I had ever seen them in shallow Bellingham Bay.  Once out of the Bay and around Portage Island, Hale Passage and the Georgia Straits were flat and I cranked it up to 30-35 MPH.  The boat really likes it at that speed.  The Chevy V8 is singing and the ride is flat and smooth.

1:15 PM…Arrived at Fossil Bay, Sucia.   There were not a lot of boats on the bouys or anchored, but the docks were full.  I cruised around a little hoping that someone would be leaving the dock so I could have their space, but no go.  I finally tied up at a section reserved for unloading and started up the ramp when I noticed an open spot on the shore end of dock #2 just big enough for my little boat.  I jumped back and motored around to that open spot.



2:25 PM…Camp.  Once tied up, I set off on foot for the camping area just a short walk from the dock to locate a camp site.  There were only 1 or 2 other campers so I had a good choice of sites.  I selected one Deb and I had seen on our last trip (it was occupied then) that was on the isthmus between Fossil Bay and Fox Cove and faced Fossil.  It was pretty much surrounded by vegetation on 3 sides (private) and protected if the wind came up.

The park provides carts to make it easy to haul your gear from the boat to the camp sites.

My minimal gear easily fit in one cart.  I registered ($12 for the camp site and $12 for moorage), pushed the cart to my site and set up.



2:35 PMSet off on my first hike.  My main objective of this trip was to hike as much of the island as I could.  I had covered a good deal of the island already, but never made it to Ewing Cove so that would be my first trek this trip.

Over the two days, I hiked just about everywhere except to Johnson Point, and Deb and I had done that hike last time we were here. Red lines are Day 1 hikes and blue lines are Day 2.


The walk from my camp to Echo Bay is mostly on unimproved dirt roads used by the resident rangers to service the various campgrounds and facilities.


Speaking of “facilities”, there is running water available just about anywhere on the island, but no flush toilets or showers.  They do have modern, composting toilets convenient to all the camp sites, however.  They are clean and don’t smell like old fashioned out houses…

2:55 PM…Arrived at Echo Bay.  Actually, what is called Shallow Spit, which is the low piece of land between Echo Bay and Shallow Bay.  There are no docks at Echo Bay, but it is a popular spot for “anchoring out”.  Boats can be spaced fairly far apart for privacy.   It’s an easy row to shore (nice beach) for hiking and exploring.  Some great camp sites here also.


Mt. Baker was just visible.  My long lens foreshortened things a little.  The mountain isn’t this close…


I found the trail to Ewing Cove…


…and started my hike.   Ewing Cove is 2.1 miles from this post and I think the post is about a mile from my camp, so maybe 6+ miles total for this hike.

The hike was BEAUTIFUL.  It is mostly along a ridge over Echo Bay.  The usual trees (Cedar, Fir and Madrona).  The trail is narrow but with few “scrambles”.

4:00 PM…Arrived at Ewing Cove.  I’ve been to Ewing Cove by boat a couple of times.  I’ve always admired the tranquility and privacy there.  Only a couple of boats can anchor there.  There are also a couple of nice campsites and a great beach.


I met a kayaker there who had paddled to Sucia from the Lummi Island Ferry dock yesterday.  He went over to Patos today, back to Sucia and was headed to Matia for the night.


He warned me about ravenous mosquitos where I was camped (he had stayed in the same spot the night before).  This caused me some concern since I didn’t bring any insect repellant, but as it turned out, I encountered only a few bugs in the evening.  No problem.

I headed back to camp along the same trail.  It was close to a 30′ drop off to the water in some places so I was watching carefully where I put my feet.  I also had my hat brim down since I was walking into the sun.  WHAM!!  I found myself on the ground with a pounding head.  I looked up and saw a rather large tree limb that had grown over the trail right at (my) head level.


The good news was, I landed on my ass.  Falling to the left would not have been a good idea.


(Note to self:  Wear bike helmet when hiking)

5:30 PM…Beer thirty.  A pretty good place to relax before dinner (and pretty good refreshments too)


7:00 PM…Dinner finished. I had cold roasted chicken, potato salad, and coleslaw.  Afterwards, I checked on the boat.  Fossil Bay was glassy…


…and got even more beautiful as the sun started to set.


Here’s my campsite about the same time of day from the other side of Fossil Bay…


I took a short hike on South Ev Henry trail above Fox Cove.


The sunsets at Sucia are magnificent.  Here’s a few views over Fox Cove.


I went to bed soon after dark.  Not much else to do.  I did stay up long enough to snap the reflection of the moon in Fox Cove…


Around midnight, the wind came up a little, I could hear the foghorn at the lighthouse on Pados Island, and some horn honking and other commotion in the harbor.  I never did find out what the ruckus was about, but I hope it was someone being alerted that they were dragging anchor and not just rude boaters.  When I was up then, I noticed the sky was just chuck full of stars.  No light pollution out here.

7:00 AM Friday…Breakfast.  Juice and a breakfast cookie.  I had brought along our little single burner back packing stove so I heated water and milk for my morning Notte (a term Zack coined meaning Latte without the foam).

It was a unexpectedly foggy this morning to the east across Fossil…


Not so to the west over Fox Cove…


8:00 AM…North Ev Henry.  I’d seen the trailhead for this hike many times, but never taken it.  It was a great way to start the day.  The fog made things more interesting.   Where you could normally see Orcas Island across the strait, it looked like this…


I couldn’t figure out this sign which was at the start of a side trail…


…so I followed the side trail.  It led to this…


Point Ev Henry.  So the point of the sign was to point to the point!

9:00 AM…I set out for Shallow Bay.  I knew I wasn’t going anywhere in the boat with this fog, so I decided to hike to Shallow Bay, China Caves, and Lawson Bluff.

Just a handful of boats anchored in Shallow Bay…


…including this beautifully restored old cruiser…


The trail is a semicircle around most of the bay.  It changes elevation several times.  Here is a view from one of the higher points looking down on the sandy beach just north of China Caves…


China Caves is so named because rumor has it that Chinese illegal immigrants were hidden here awaiting transport to the mainland for work on the railroads, mines, etc.  I would put this in the “tall tale” category.


Lawson Bluff is on the north end of Shallow Bay.  It offered a great view of Patos Island…


I walked most of the Lawton Bluff trail, but it became a little “sketchy” for me so I doubled back and headed back to Fossil Bay and my camp.

Noon…Back at camp.  I picked up a cart at the dock on my way back to camp.  I finished off the chicken from the previous night and an apple for lunch.  I took down the tent and packed my gear into the cart and headed for the boat.

It was an easy cruise back to Bellingham.  Again, Georgia Strait and Hale Passage were flat.  Bellingham Bay had the usual chop, but with the wind behind me I didn’t have to slow down much.    I was back to Bellingham in 45 minutes.

A great trip!  Sucia Island is one of the top 10 boating destinations in the world, and we LIVE here.  Pretty neat.

All pictures here if you want to see more.

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5 Responses to Sucia Island…Solo

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful account of your solo trip to Sucia, Dick! I gotta say, you have a keen eye for a good pic… You must have learned that from ….

  2. bluecorduroy says:

    absolutely gorgeous pop! what a fun solo adventure! how’s your head feeling? i’m sure the beer helped with that recovery time. 🙂

  3. Megan says:

    mmmm… a beer with peanuts in the shell, hiking and camping – sounds like an awesome little trip!

  4. Sister Deb says:

    Wow, what a great adventure and wonderful pics to tell the story! Great Job Dick! Looks like quite the fun little trip for you!

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