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.


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