Susan and I rarely miss an opportunity to kayak in and around the Pacific Northwest. Though there are many places we have experienced, sometimes it’s good to keep it local, really local, and enjoy a morning paddle on tranquil Lake Union.
We got up early and headed over to NorthWest Outdoor Center or NWOC. The people there are always great, the kayaks are solid, offering both rudder and skeg kayaks, plastic and fiberglass and singles and doubles. They also offer SUP rentals and of course, lessons.
Susan and I always grab a couple of singles right as they open and head out into the calm waters before the chaos of the day begins. On this day, we took in the quiet waterways between houseboats, watching the morning activity at these floating neighborhoods, which includes everything from that first cup of coffee and waves hello to a bit of boat painting and maintenance.
We started heading towards the eastern portion of Lake Union after having reached the Fremont bridge. We meandered past tug boats and large commercial boats dry docked, getting a bit of TLC. Soon we cut close to shore, past the rising green hills of Gasworks Park. Ultimately, we made our way under the University Bridge, past some early morning crew teams and a handful of fishermen taking advantage of the calm nature of the lake
We continued east past more houseboats which offered more early morning greetings from their occupants. Something about being on a houseboat elicits a bit more outward kindness from these Seatleites. It’s a good thing.
We then headed towards the floating lily pad fields located beyond highway 520. We always take great care to insure our paddles don’t disturb this fragile ecosystem while we attempt to improve things by collecting trash that finds its way to this area.
Home to turtles, an amazing blue heron and a very large beaver den, the lily pad fields offer a rare treat to anyone, especially if you are taking out a visitor new to this area. In early summer beautiful white flowers begin to bloom atop the pads and a sea of white envelops the area.
Having taken in the lilys and collected some trash, we headed back at a leisurely pace, enjoying the morning light on the lake. The first of many float plane lined up on final behind us and the start of a busy day on the lake begins.
Having returned our kayaks after a couple hours, we drive towards the second half of this annual tradition, Mexican food at the Aqua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club.
Located on NE Boat Street, right on the water and adjacent to the UW Medical Center, Aqua Verde is a treat not to be missed. It’s a great place to take visitors or to just enjoy as a local. It’s a local place that serves up amazing food along with spectacular views of Lake Union.
I had the Bacalao burrito which is amazing. Fried alaskan cod, cabbage, rice, pinto beans and avocado sauce in a traditional flour tortilla. It is my go to burrito. Susan got the carne asada burrito, similar preparation, without cabbage. A side a chips, full access to their amazing salsa bar, with two coronas and we were set. The sun was beating down on us, the food was as authentic as it gets, the beer was cold and offered a bit of a numbing effect, good for our weary muscles.
I would suggest to any and all, visitors and locals, first timers and experienced kayakers, to get on the water as early as possible one day. Appreciate the morning light, take in a blue heron, throw some waves to lake dwellers and help our local ecosystem by gathering up some trash. Then, when you are feeling pretty accomplished, add all those calories back with a delicious and well deserved lunch at Aqua Verde. It’s the type of day that makes the weekend memorable.
NWOC is located at 2100 Westlake Ave, Seattle WA 98109
Aqua Verde is located at 1303 NE Boat Street, Seattle WA 98105. Their hours are:
LUNCH: Mon-Sun 11-3:30
HAPPY HOUR Mon-Thurs 4-6
DINNER Mon-Sun 4-9