Primitive Kayak Camping at Timothy Lake: Day 1

29 06 2010

I took the Paddle NW Meetup group up to Timothy Lake for a simple kayak camping overnight. We had the best weather of the year!

Monty and Jerry at the launch

The idea was to leave the cars in a campground and paddle across to one of the primitive campsites on the north side of the lake. Timothy Lake has five developed campgrounds, but there are countless primitive campsites dotting the north side of the lake. Many are accessed only by boat or on foot. To park in the campsite boat launch, you can use a Northwest Forest Pass, or pay the day use fee at the campground.

It was only a one-night event. Five paddlers signed up, including my neighbor Stacy. She got a treat! Perfect, just glorious weather. We loaded up my VW Jetta wagon and met the other kayak campers, Monte, Francis and Jerry up at the Gone Creek Campground boat launch.

Wow! What wonderful water color!

And what a day it was! We were greeted with blue skies, snow capped Mount Hood, and the lake a light blue-green I’ve never witnessed before. We exchanged greetings, and filled out the liability waivers now required as part of the Paddle NW Meetup.

This paddle the kayak population decidedly favored Pygmys! Never seen a lineup like this. We had a majority of wooden kayaks and no fiberglass boats! Three Pygmy kayak models were represented – the 14′ Arctic Tern, a 17′ Arctic Tern, and 17’6″ Coho. Compliments flowed freely wherever we went.

Where to go, they asked? Although I always coveted two perfect spots to the west of Meditation Point, I wanted one with a good sunset view. I remembered a spot tucked behind a peninsula at the entrance to the upper arm of the lake. We paddled over there, and there were campers who said the site would be available for the night.

Unfortunately, they were not going to be vacating the spot until late in the day. We were anxious to get started setting up camp. So, we set out searching for another spot along the shore – a task revealing just how popular Timothy Lake can be on a gorgeous summer weekend. While there are numerous campsites dotting the north side, not all are kayak-accessible. Kayaks need a gently sloping landing area to land and unpack. “No vacancy” signs were everywhere. We checked out all the spots along that side, to just beyond Meditation Point, and all were already taken! OK lesson learned.

At Francis’ suggestion we explored further up the arm of the lake. Rounding a bend we came across the quiet area forming the upper region of the lake. Here, you’d think you weren’t even at Timothy. It’s much more closed in, there are little grassy islands, it’s cozy, and as you explore even further, there’s a beaver lodge sitting in the center of the river.

We saw a very nice site which seemed to be available on the east side. I’ve never seen this site vacant. We landed and determined that it could be ours! Fate had shined kindly on us!

Jerry and Monte in the Pygmys at launch

This site offered plenty of area to set up all our tents, a beach, a central fire pit, and there was even a kitchen counter set up. Much relieved, we set up camp!

Ho ho! Someone left some reading materials for us! A current issue of Playboy Magazine was there for the taking!

Wow! Light reading!

This site faced west, and we took full advantage of the warm sun!

Stacy made herself home in the hammock. I found the lake pleasantly warm and took time to practice kayak rolling.

Jerry, Francis, Monte and took an hour to explore the upper arm of the lake.

Francis emerges…

One glides past interesting grassy islands. Tight paths crisscross the grasses and are worth exploring.

The beaver lodge is pretty impressive, worthy of a portrait!

Up there, the water is crystal clear, because it comes straight from the spring at Little Crater Lake. The water makes hypnotizing patterns as the sun shines on the bottom.

My kayak = not a problem rolling. I even rolled it on my offside using a paddle float. Nice to know my recovering shoulder took that in stride! YAY! But in trying to roll the 14′ Arctic Tern, I just fell out! It had no thigh braces nor hip pads.

Next, the highlight was to prepare a feast! Since this was only a one night affair, I brought a Trader Joes frozen flounder stuffed crab meal and accompanied it with fresh salad and garlic mashed potatoes! I brought the grill top from my Weber tabletop grill, and cooked it inside aluminum foil. Perfect!

This evening the sleeping was pleasantly quiet. It was a full moon, which rose just after sunset, bathing the forest in a shimmery silver. The only sounds came from hooting owls and snoring campers.

Summer Means Kayak Camping…Let’s Go!

25 06 2010

Kayak camping is great.

Breakfast at Waldo Lake

You don’t have to carry your gear, as in backpacking. You can bring along a few luxuries, such as a folding chair. Still, there are definite limitations. One standout is the hatch size. Some decked kayaks only have 10 inch diameter hatches, limiting the size of what can fit inside. You might be able to fit some items in the cockpit. But don’t over stuff, or you’ll interfere with your ability to wet exit. Either way, unless they’re secured inside, they might be lost. As for the big sit on tops with gear wells, everything must be in dry bags and secured. No matter which way you go, as long as you adequately plan your kayak adventure, you’ll have fun!

You’ll need enough food to cover the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners on the trip. It’s a good idea to plan on food that doesn’t need refrigeration. Many options are available; you just need to rethink your normal cooking routine. You can usually have a luxurious first meal by freezing meat or seafood and allowing it to defrost during your paddle. After that, consider bringing food that can be rehydrated or food that can be brought without refrigeration. A fun idea is to split up the meals amongst the group. So a threesome prepares one breakfast, then another a dinner, and so on.

Obviously you’ll need clothing for wet conditions. Today’s synthetic fabrics work the best when you might sweat and the weather is wet. Wool works well too. These will wick the perspiration away from your body, allowing it to evaporate. A cotton layer will trap the moisture, keeping you wet. Cotton is better suited for camp, when you’re relaxing. River shoes are also important as you’ll be walking in and out of the water. Drybags are essential for all kayaks to carry your gear because sometimes hatches leak. Smaller size bags (15L and under) are preferable because first they’ll fit into the hatches; second they are good for organizing and third they can be stuffed into the nooks and crannies of the kayak. There are also compressible dry bags so you can squeeze even more clothing.

Safety gear is a requirement. PFDs, carabiners, ropes, maps, flares, and a good first-aid kit are must-haves. Depending on the trip, a map, compass, GPS and emergency locator might also be important. FRS radios are very handy in areas with no cell phone coverage and now some have a 20 mile range.

Packing the Boat
Pack the kayak so that the heaviest items are on the bottom. Your boat will ride much better that way. Also try to pack the boat so that the weight is as evenly distributed bow to stern as possible. If you can’t get it perfect, it’s better to have the stern heavier than the bow. A rudderless, bow-heavy boat is very difficult to steer in challenging conditions. Further, if you need to stash extra gear on deck, start with a small amount on the deck right in front of the cockpit and then go to the stern deck. Try to pack it as low as possible so it won’t catch the wind. On one kayak trip, a paddler over packed the bow so much that his boat constantly veered to port. Having paddled too far to repack, the only way he could correct the problem was cocking his rudder – at least he had a rudder! It makes sense to pack day use items nearest the hatch cover so they’re handy. And remember that some small electronics like GPS, cell phones and iPods are not always waterproof. There are numerous accessories which enable you to carry these protected from the elements. Still, other personal use items like sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm should be packed outside of the spray skirt so they can be accessed easily. There are PFDs with gear pockets, spray skirts with pockets or zippers, deck bags and over-the-shoulder mini dry bags for today’s necessities.

Conditions – Planning Makes Perfect
Planning for the weather and conditions where you’re going make the difference between a safe, pleasant voyage and an unpleasant, perhaps disastrous experience. Check the weather forecasts for the area you’re paddling. Research specifics such as whether the area normally experiences higher winds later in the day. On a large lake, find out if, for example, the afternoon wind usually blows from the west. If so, you might want to head across the lake to the west in the morning, and take advantage of the wind returning. If your trip is in tidal waters find out the size of the tide and tidal directions and velocities and their timing during your trip. When setting up camp you must set camp above the high tide line and well protected from waves created by any passing ships. You’ll want to plan your paddling to take every advantage of the tide, because in some areas, you cannot paddle against the tide. In many rivers near the ocean the outgoing tide doubles or triples the river current. Find out if commercial traffic will be traversing your route. Ships and barges travel much faster than they appear from a distance and are often constrained by the shipping channel. If you take advantage of general weather conditions, local nuances and tides, they can work in your favor. Otherwise, well, I think you can probably imagine.

Paddling Equipment
Spray skirt
Repair kit
Dry bags
Paddling gloves
Permits for your journey or overnight camping (if necessary)
Immersion wear

Camping Equipment
Extra batteries
Duct tape
Water filter
Lighter and matches
Tent/Ground cloth
Repair kit
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Pillow (optional)
Backpacking Hammock

First aid kit
FRS Radios
Throw bag
Float bag
VHS Radio

Synthetic Long Underwear
Waterproof / breathable pants
Waterproof / breathable shell
Sun hat with brim
Fleece or wool jacket
Winter hat

Camp soap
Bug spray
Toilet paper
Lip balm
Shaving kit
Toothpaste and brush
Toilet paper

Eating Utensils
Mess kit
Stove and fuel
Garbage bag
Camp soap and scrunge
Dish towels

Optional Fun Stuff
Mask, flippers, snorkel
Fishing equipment
Reading material
Foldable camping chair
Beverage of your choice
Musical instruments

Suggested Food
Tuna, salmon, crab or chicken in foil packages
Simple Lipton Pasta quickie meals
Gorditas or soft tortillas for bread. Regular bread is easily crushed.
Powdered butter
Powdered soft drinks
Green or red peppers
Pancake mix (add water only type) (repackage), syrup and oil (repackage)
Non-stick spray or oil
Trail mix
Instant coffee (if you can stand it)
Instant oatmeal
Power bars
Condiments – you can head to fast food joints for no-refrigeration needed packets of ketchup, relish, Dijon, horseradish, sugar, salt, wasabi, soy sauce, it’s amazing the treasure you can find!

Summer Solstice 2010

22 06 2010

Kellie makes a pretty wake!

My friend April organized a summer solstice paddle on a little lake by the Colu

mbia River this June. June 21 is the longest day of the year, and most years the sunset might freaking actually be visible, not in 2010. In fact I say right here the entire summer is going to be the same, fluorescent-lighted cloudy blah for the Portland area. Anyhow we got out there at a suggestion of an acquaintance who’d been there the prior week.

Laura at the put in...

Joe, Laura, April, Kellie and myself paddled around this area until about nine p.m. – when the gate to the put in closes.

The place has a name – Mirror Lake – my guess is the name comes from the reflection of the waterfall that descends from the Crown Point massif directly above the lake. Unfortunately I-84 is only a few yards to the north – and the Union Pacific line a few hundred yards south!

Nevertheless, it’s got some interesting

pockets to explore, and at the very end of one of these, there’s a bridge where we hauled out to grab a snack.

I was WAY thankful to Joe for the treats he stashed and then laid out on the bridge! I kind of

At one point I split the paddle and utilized canoe-motion...

rushed out the door and didn’t even pack water! But Joe, now he was just the opposite.

Joe had a quarter round of cheese, a home made loaf of bread, M&Ms, raspberries, and even a bottle of Meyers Dark Rum and cocktail mixings! Wow. Laura had a bottle of wine with real glasses! So it turned out to be a nice break on solstice night. Only thing missing was a massive bonfire and ritual sacrifices!

I DO HOPE the solstice ritual brings a change in the stubborn thick clouds around here!

My B-Day @ Metolius River!

18 06 2010

Love the ever relaxing Metolius

Spanking GREAT weather broke for my birthday weekend on the Metolius River June 12-13 2010.

We had planned a trip there in late April with a great forecast. But NO, in typical 2010 fashion, the weather turned ugly exactly 8 hours before departure and we canceled. This rescheduled weekend was – picture perfect. Clear, no wind, no humidity, temps 75 – 80 – just perfect for humans to enjoy. AND – no bugs, no skeeters.

I’ve got a special place in my heart for the Metolius, and in particular for the walk in campsites at Allen Springs Campground. There, the river bends around the campsites in a perfect U, so you get stereo burbling all day/night. It’s just wonderful! Magical, actually.

Metolius = magic for a number of reasons. The river comes out of the ground fully formed at the south end of the valley. It never changes levels. Same all year. It’s busy – flowing fast – but few rapids. The trees are orange bark Ponderosa Pines, a very cool contrast to the verdant green, low vegetation below, and the blue sky above. In  between, fly fishermen present their caddis flies to finicky salmonids.

Planning strategically, I headed down early Friday afternoon and scored a campsite on the peninsula. Not my first choice campsite, mind you, but a site good enough for our group of six. It had views of both sides of the peninsula, and plenty of space to the adjoining site. All was good because we scored, and the campground subsequently filled up.

I was to be joined by Kent, and then Jessie and her brother Joel. Later, after dark, Christian and Katie arrived. Saturday morning we breakfasted on French Toast topped with walnut and sliced pears, with bacon on the side. Yum!

Our plan called for hiking two miles down to the Lower Bridge and then back up the west side to Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. What a nice hike it was. Filled with views from “A River Runs Through It” the whole way. Each bend brings more photogenic views into play. One would think they had polarized eyes.

Along the way we witnessed two fishermen, on either side of the river, bringing in fish. They were casually talking as they reeled in their quarry when one guy’s rod just about broke. He said, “Holy Cracker! A 20-pound bull trout just ate my fish!” We all stopped to view the spectacle.

He was not far from netting his burden when the bull trout let go – leaving this mauled, dead trout on the hook. I was really disappointed! I wanted to see that!

Later Saturday we packed up the boats and headed over to Suttle Lake for a sunny paddle. The lake was not really busy – only one jet skier – but it seemed a bit busy for the group compared to our campsite. Little did they know how it can be later on. Anyway it was pretty because Mt Washington is visible, all snow covered.

We did a shared Mexican meal Saturday evening. Soft tacos with green peppers, onion, salsa, cheese, jalapenos, beans, rice – all good stuff on there. Darn hungry we were. Then it’s time for my birthday treat – a cherry pie! Following the food fulfillment was a nice talk to the campfire. I also used my Android phone to use Google Sky Map to check out the constellations above!

Hey! Wake Up!

Sunday was an oatmeal feed with fruit, honey, nuts, butter, cream, brown sugar, all the good stuff.

I knew of a place high up on Green Ridge, which forms the east side of the valley, with amazing vews. So with hot beverage in hand, we headed up there. Wow!

You can see at seeminly eye level from Mt. Hood to Diamond Peak. That’s Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, etc.

Then we kinda lazily packed it all up. Had to end sometime!

AJ’s Birthday in our Neighborhood Park

15 06 2010

I live in the Richmond neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. We have a little pocket park about 50 yards from my house. As far as the general public is concerned, this park doesn’t exist. But it’s a little-known park owned by Portland Parks Department.  The park, at SE 47th and Ivon streets, is comprised of three former house lots. Some two decades ago, there was a plan to build a highway in this neighborhood, and the government had demolished a number of homes in preparation – and then cancelled its project – thus our little park.

Since coming to the neighborhood in 2002, I’ve participated in numerous efforts to get this park on the city’s radar for improvement. At one time there was a tidy architectural plan for this property, which spans the street. The original plan called for closing the street. In 2003 the neighbors joined forces and planted trees, constructed planters in the street and stone benches on the lawns. To this day  neighbors use the parks more than previously.

People come to the parks to toss a baseball, play frisbee, picnic, play with dogs, or have a barbeque. We have had dozens of barbeques in our park. This year my neighbors Janis and Brent used the park to host the birthday party for their son, AJ!

He invited everyone in his nursery school class, so the park was really busy that day. Kids played in the hammock, enjoyed corn on the cob, used the toy rocket, and everyone gave AJ wonderful gifts! The adults had a good time as well.

Plastic Bags: California Does What I’ve Recommended for Years (almost)!

10 06 2010

Yesterday California banned plastic shopping bags. Time to celebrate!

I’m a resident of left-leaning-green city Portland, OR. There are lots of people here doing everything they can to live a sustainable existence. That’s generally good. But sometimes a sustainability idea comes along that might not be so great, but they jump on board and don’t see the whole picture.

Example: Mayor Sam Adams proposes, a few years back, to tax plastic shopping bags. I hate them like anybody else. Plastic shopping bags are inferior because they pierce, and because they squeeze delicate items like bread. They also blow in the wind and clog drains, suffocate animals, and snarl recycling machines.  Practically everyone jumps on the bag tax bandwagon, except me. I don’t like taxes. I don’t like what I see as a new bureaucracy just to collect a nickel-a-bag tax! I see economic inefficiency. I’m doubtful the tax would have much impact.

But, my primary reason against the tax was I had spent time in Bhutan, a tiny kingdom way up in the Himalayas. I’ve been all over SE Asia and the little plastic bags wind up everywhere. Bhutan is a special place. There, King Wangchuk also despised plastic bags. But instead of taxing them, he had a much better idea: simply PROHIBIT THEM. And let the business world adapt.

Free to shoppers in Bhutan

As we can see, businesses in Bhutan quickly adapted, adopting earth-friendly recyclable shopping bags in every conceivable size. It works! So yesterday, I get news the legislature in the state of California has adopted a similar idea. Businesses will be prohibited from giving out plastic bags with purchases. Instead customers will need to buy them. Biodegradable bags are free. That is excellent progress. I also understand Mayor Sam Adams is now in favor of an outright ban, not a tax. This is great news!