Hike. Paddle. Repeat.

I sat at the knobby summit of Eagle Cliffs on Cypress Island in the San Juans in a warm spot of sun, enjoying a moment of solitude away from my hiking group and looking down at the water far below me. It was an incredible sight, the deep blue of the Salish Sea broken only by a series of small, picturesque islands as far as the eye could see.

I counted my blessings but didn’t bother counting the islands. I knew the stats by heart—there were 172 named islands out there. Only four of them had ferry service, but I’d already explored more than that in the last week, making a small dent in the 168 that are only accessible by water taxi or private boat. I’d paddled their rocky shores and hiked their woody interiors with abandon, and in the process I’d gained a far better appreciation for this landscape that I’d always somehow taken for granted. And it was all thanks to an adventure cruise.