Today we decided to try something new and went kayaking at Bellevue's Mercer Slough. In college, I used to kayak on Lake Whatcom with friends and have really wonderful memories of that time in my life.
Lately, Jake has asked me several times if we could go on a "real boat." This morning, when I suggested we go to Remlinger Farms where he could ride his favorite ride, the "Flying Corn," as well as feed some animals and go in the kiddie canoes, he emphatically told me he didn't want to do the toy boats but wanted to go on a real one.
On a whim, I decided we could go check out the kayak rentals near Bellevue's Mercer Slough. I found the web page: http://parkstrails.myparksandrecreation.com/Details.aspx?pid=506and after the phone took me directly to voicemail rather than a person, I packed us some lunches, slathered on some sunscreen, and loaded up Jake in the car to go check things out. I didn't know if we were supposed to have made reservations or not, if Jake wasold enough, or if we'd actually make it into a boat or not, but I didn't want to waste any time waiting for my voicemail with questions to be returned. I packed some beach towels, water wings, and sand toys so we could enjoy a day at the beach as a backup plan.
Fortunately, everything worked out great! Although they opened at 11:00 and we didn't get there until about noon, they still had plenty of boats from which we could choose. They had stand-up paddle boards, canoes, sea kayaks, and sit-on-top kayaks. I told the person behind the counter that I preferred a kayak to a canoe, had only used sea kayaks before, and wanted the lightest weight one available that would accommodate both Jake and me. She recommended the single sit-on-top kayak where I could sit near the back and he could sit in the middle. We grabbed some life jackets, paddles, and within minutes we were off!
I had looked at maps before leaving home, so I knew how to get to the Mercer Slough and found it with no problem. From the beach we turned left, paddled under I-90, and followed the largest water way until we made it. It was really easy to find. Since we had adventured around some of the Mercer Slough trails a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted to try to make it to the picturesque bridge and back: http://dotsonstories.blogspot.com/2015/04/mercer-slough-nature-park-3-great-loops.html. I honestly didn't know if we would make it or not because it had been so long since I kayaked last and I'm never confident about my upper body strength.
I didn't know what to expect with regards to currents at the Mercer Slough, but I was so happy that there was no noticeable one at all! When we paddled in Lake Washington, between the beach and the slough, the water was choppy, but there was no current. However, once we reached the actual slough, the water was smooth, flat, and kind of perfect.
This really made the experience so wonderful! When I wanted to make progress, I paddled away. However, when Jake wanted to check out the lilipads or water lilies, we could slow down or stop and didn't have to worry about drifting away.
Along the way, we also saw countless blue dragonflies along with a couple of cinnamon red ones.
We eventually made it out to the cool bridge. Just before the bridge was a dock that we had checked out on a previous hike. Jake really wanted to get out on the dock but there was no way to beach the kayak and I didn't have any rope to secure it. Next time, I'll try to remember to bring some sort of rope or paracord as the dock would have been a really fun place for a picnic.
As we paddled under the bridge, we met a person on a paddleboard who was taking photos with their iPhone. I asked if they'd take a quick video of Jake & me which they happily did. I do have a selfie-stick in our adventure pack, but I've never used it before as it always seems just as easy to say "hi" to someone and ask them to help.
At this point I still had lots of energy, but I didn't want to run out of steam on the way back so we turned around. We stopped many times along the way to look at the kajillions of dragonflies and lilipads along the way. As we returned under I-90, we also noticed a bunch of minnows hanging out in a sunbeam.
In Lake Washington, Jake started feeling lulled by the waves from boats' wakes. It was so wonderful to watch him close his eyes and soak up the sun. I love being on the water and it was fun to share that with him.
As we returned to the beach around 2:30, I saw that there was a line of about a dozen folks waiting to check out boats. Although we had a backup plan of playing at the beach, I was thankful we had gotten there as early as we had. Since we couldn't figure out a picnic solution mid kayak, after we got everything returned to the boathouse we sat on the grassy lawn next to the playground to lunch on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. We both avoided sunburns, got to spend 2 wonderful hours on the water, tried something new, and had a great day! We'll be back for sure!
Before you go:
1. Check out the websites for the Enatai Beach Park http://parkstrails.myparksandrecreation.com/Details.aspx?pid=506and Cascade Paddlesports http://canoe-kayak.com/events/2014-10-04-22-51-26.htmlto check hours of operation. It was crowded in the afternoon so it's recommended to get there close to opening to secure a boat.
2. Check out the trail map for the Mercer Slough Park at http://parkstrails.myparksandrecreation.com/ParksTrails/UserFiles/file/bellevue_park_info/trail%20guide%202010/trail_guide_map_mercer_slough_nature_park.pdfor just use this picture. Note where Enatai Beach Park is relative to the Mercer Slough Park. The picturesque bridge is the horizontal red line kind of in the middle of the map that crosses the river and connects the two trail loops. We turned around there but it is only about halfway to the end of the slough where it ends as it goes under I-405.
3. Pack any food or drinks you'll want as there are no concessions at the park. Also make sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray. We didn't encounter any bugs today but it would be good tobring, just in case.
4. Wear clothes that feel comfortable when wet. We never tipped over, but water does drip down paddles as you lift them up & down. My seat got wet, but I was in gym shorts & an athletic tank top so it was all good. I was also glad to be sitting on a towel. It got damp, but sitting on a damp towel was more comfortable than a puddle of water for me.
5. Whatever you plan on bringing in the kayak or canoe, make sure you pack it in a bag or backpack with a zipper to keep things secure.
6. If you think you want to try for a picnic in the Mercer Slough, bring some cord to tie up to the little dock by the bridge. The loops on the kayak we rented weren't large, so I wouldn't bring any cord thicker than my finger. I didn't take any photos of the little dock today, but here's a photo from April for reference:
6. If you have your own canoe or kayak, there is a boat launch at 3000 Bellevue Way SE, Bellevue, WA 98004. Map:http://binged.it/1IrUcCm. It's SE of the Park & Ride on Bellevue Way (which could serve as an inconvenient backup parking plan if the small lot is full.) This boat launch is right on the Mercer Slough so you could cut out the choppy water of Lake Washington if you wanted to stay in the slough or it's just a couple of minutes of rowing away from Lake Washington if that's your destination.
1. Address is 3519 108th Ave SE, Bellevue, WA 98004. Map: http://binged.it/1IrR9Kr
2. We found parking in the small lot at the park under I-90. Since it's under the freeway it was in the shade which was totally appreciated on the hot day. The lotwas full when we left so it may be necessary to find street parking.
3. Once you are set with a boat, to get to the Mercer Slough head to the left (east) and paddle under I-90. Stay on the largest waterway ahead of you and you'll be in the Mercer Slough in no time!