August Moonlight Paddle in Portland

27 08 2010

Back in July April and I thought it’d be fun to schedule a moonlight paddle with my PaddleNW Meetup Group. So we looked at the moon phases on the calendar and settled on August 25 as a date.

We launched from Sellwood Park abut 7:30 and headed down the slough on the east side of Ross Island, which gives a very pretty view as the sun sets of downtown Portland.

As we approached the city, the sky darkened even more.

And we passed right by the USS Blueback, a submarine exhibit docked at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry…it was featured in the film The Hunt for Red October, starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

It was a really warm night, and just perfect for paddling and seeing the city lights and moonlight. We even got to see the Hot Dog guy who sells hot dogs from his boat! Later, as we grouped before crossing the shipping channel, we witnessed an anchored fisherman get warned via five horn blasts from an oncoming barge!

Lower Columbia Roundup 2010 with Ginni Callahan

23 08 2010

Ready for wind & waves class!

About the third weekend each August a very special sea kayaking event takes place on Puget Island in Cathlamet, Washington. It’s Ginni Callahan‘s Loco Roundup! LoCo means “Lower Columbia,” and Loco Roundup draws paddlers from all over planet Earth.

Students and instructors gather at the Slow Boat Farm for a five day sea kayaking love fest. The setting, which is the lower Columbia, offers unlimited opportunities for paddling. Novices can explore back sloughs, nature lovers can cross the Columbia and venture through the many islands of the Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon side. Those seeking waves and wind can find it on the open river just west of Skamokawa – where summer afternoon breezes reliably pick up to over 15 knots coming in from the Pacific.

Last minute decision to tote along the step ladder pays dividends!

And the most advanced can head an hour to Ilwaco on the Pacific and test their mettle in the surf and rock gardens.

Home away from home

Everyone camps in a field…it’s a farmer’s field which is mowed for us. A

last minute grab from my garage is the step ladder. Instant kitchen shelves! Friday dawns clear and bright! My task this day is to guide an easy day paddle through the sloughs of Skamokawa-Cathlamet, but since it’s forecast to be mild, I intend to cross the shipping channel to check out the islands beyond.

At seven o’clock I participate in a great way to open up to a new day – it’s Cheri Perry’s yoga session. Stretching and opening one’s chest, lengthening the torso – it’s so key to kayaking!

Once done, round about eight o’clock, breakfast gets going in the kitchen…it’s the place to fuel up for the day’s activities. I chose the catered meal option – no messing around cooking. Boxed lunches were good.

Next to the kitchen is the mess tent and massage tent. Maybe I should have done the massage, I dunno. But it definitely was busy! Yeah, I should have. The complete day is begun with yoga and ended with massage, right?

We feasted on salmon Friday night – yummy!

Then, about 9:00 students and instructors gather to discuss the day’s plan. Charts are handed out. Some head to the sloughs to practice rolling, some to the open river for wind & waves and others all the way to the coast. We’re all excited!

The quality of instruction is the best in the world, this year’s event drew paddlers from Australia, New York, Maine, Brazil, Mexico, and California. This tends to attract serious paddlers: Many working on British Canoe Union (BCU) star awards and a lot who are into the more obscure “Eskimo” styles of paddling. But this has placed the “business end” of LoCo in a quirky spot. Some of the classes were three days long. The high powered classes and focus on Greenland paddling also turns many “Average Joe” paddlers away. Back in July I spent some time with Ginni and Mark Whittaker, and they were frustrated at lack of registration from novice and intermediate paddlers, despite some courses targeted at those people. I believe in what they’re doing and offered to help. I suggested they offer some shorter Euro paddle classes and see what happens. I also put LoCo on my own PaddleNW Meetup site to spread the word.

The good news was that two of these classes got plenty of registrants! Saturday was Euro “Wind and Waves,” and Sunday a “Guided Dynamic Water” paddle. These classes drew students! I believe I helped bring in some revenue. I also quizzed the students and they all agreed that they’d take more classes if there were options for intermediate level Euro classes that were one day length or shorter.

Saturday’s Wind & Waves class turned out perfect. For the purposes of teaching, hair raising conditions are not desirable.

Readying to head for some wind & waves

Ideally, some conditions are what you want – something for the students to figure it out without panicking. You want students to get the idea, to focus on the boat and paddle control and not focused on “staying alive,” so to speak. We got exactly that. We paddled around the sloughs and islands in the Julia Butler Hanson Wildlife Refuge, warming up our muscles and waiting for the wind to build.

Our class was taught by Henry Romer, a seasoned paddler renowned in the Pacific Northwest.

We crossed the shipping channel to a cove I knew would be a good lunch spot. This cove has walls on each side preventing views up and down the river – and the shipping channel is right in front. So, we had three huge ships just show up unannounced! This one was full, so it was riding low in the water.

During lunch, Henry explained how fore/aft weight distribution affects how a kayak behaves in the wind. Too much weight up front, and the boat will pivot on the bow end and weather cock. Too much weight in the stern, and it’ll lee cock. Ideally weight should be just a bit more up front so it can be completely balanced by the skeg.

The afternoon wind built during lunch so that we got some 2-foot waves and whitecaps, with the occasional 3-footer. This was perfect for our lesson! Our cove was a great teaching spot, too. We assembled at one end and then tried out what we learned by one by one putting our boats out into the waves and wind. We’d do circles with Henry watching. What he showed us is that when paddling upwind and you want to go downwind, use quarter stern sweeps to nudge the bow off the wind. Then, the wind helps push the bow downwind. When you think about it, that makes total sense! Then, once you run downwind and want to turn into the wind, use quarter bow sweeps. That will bring the bow around, and put the stern into the wind, so the wind can assist in pushing the stern around.

These simple techniques help a lot! The rest of the lesson, we paddled in the waves with the wind at our backs to Skamokawa. Henry also encouraged us to play with our edges, experiment and see what happens when going down the front of the waves. I sprinted a lot, trying to catch as many waves as I could.

I can’t wait to practice in wind and waves again!

Most Romantic Wedding – Kristin Dahl and Jake Gunderson

12 08 2010

This wedding will forever be burned in my heart as the one where the bride rides in from under the hill, on horseback! The weekend of August 7-8 2010 was magical in Joseph, Oregon. That weekend Kristin Dahl, Jake Gunderson and their families pulled out all the stops and held a western themed outdoors enthusiast ranch style wedding weekend in the Wallowas! Jake and Kristin love the outdoors and their passion for being outside was woven through the weekend. First, the event was held in their favorite setting – in and around the Wallowa mountains of northeast Oregon. The area is unlike the volcanoes of Central Oregon, more like somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The Wallowas are more a folded uplifting. They’re not as well traveled as their Central Oregon counterparts – due to their remoteness. I car pooled out there with Brian and Lisa Mullis who live in White Salmon. Excellent travel companions! Even more so because they have a VW Jetta Wagon like me! So the three of us shared driving. That made the trip so much easier and seem faster. Jake and Kristin knew their friends also share a love of the outdoors. So they reserved a camping area with adjoining house called the Wallowa River Camp. This allowed more than 50 of us to camp in a field bordered by the river, and enjoy a bonfire in the evening. It was a nice way for the group to relax and get to know one another. Friday evening I caught up with Kristin, Jake, Frederick Reimers, Jacqui Bishop and others. The mountains were always present above us, reminding us where we were! Saturday the wedding was to take place about 4:30 p.m. but word was it’d likely be later. It was to occur on a bluff above the prairie in the valley, with the mountains in the background. Weather was perfect. That meant we had time to enjoy the area during the day. Jacqui, Brian, Lisa, Frederick and I made plans to hike Hurricane Creek in the mountains and then head to Wallowa Lake for a swim and lunch. It leads right into the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The day turned out perfectly in every way. The hike, while not long (about three miles each way) was spectacularly beautiful. Up ahead, and to the left and to the right the peaks rose into the sky. We could view rivers cascading down the slopes all over. Many had waterfalls trickling over hanging cliffs. I’ve been suffering with plantar fasciitis in my left foot and every step hurt! The trail meandered through blooming wildflower meadows and forested canyons before making a steeper climb on the edge of a fabulously pretty cut gorge with pool drops. There, we stopped for a break to admire the area before heading back. What a wonderful place to behold the Wallowas! We marveled at the knocked down trees all over both sides, evidence of the fact that this is an avalanche chute. Snow must have barreled down from high above and sluiced all over both sides, obliterating trees. The hike back still hurt my foot but I got compliments since I pushed and didn’t slow the group any!

Later we headed out to the lake to swim. I took the group to the Wallowa Lake Lodge to show them its amazing grounds. But accessing the lake from there meant crossing a stream with rocks which killed my injured foot! Anyway after our swim we then satiated our appetites at a cafe lakeside. Though it was about 2:00 by then, we calculated a late lunch was a great idea since dinner wouldn’t happen until 8:00. Heck and then we found out the place had onion rings…we ALL got onion rings. Once back at the camp everyone began to prepare for the wedding ceremony. The invitation called for “outdoor formal,” something guests debated over. While some opted for cowboy boots and hats, others wore shorts and summer airy shirts. I wore my grand dad’s sport coat and a matching hat. Since there was a guest house at the camp, some guests availed themselves of the shower while others refreshed themselves in the creek! We meandered over to the Rockin HK Ranch where the wedding and reception was to take place. Wow! What a setting! The grounds held many tables, some ponds, goats, geese and turkeys, a pretty barn (where dancing was to be), behind which was the bluff where the ceremony was planned.

Guests meander up to the wedding site!

It was a half mile across the Zumwalt prairie and up the hill to the wedding site. After much concern for my aching foot, I reluctantly began walking. It was a slow, beautiful way to transition to the ceremony. As late afternoon light took effect, it made the still-green grain glow a beautiful shade! The sun baked us in our “outdoor formal attire,” so many opted for parasols like days of old! Some boys in the party wore the cutest red cowboy hats! The wedding site was a series pews made of bales of hay, facing south, toward the Wallowas. As guests settled down, the wedding party made its way up the hill, towed by tractor! They came in under the arch. Then assembled one by one for the ceremony. Jake Gunderson, the groom, ensuring everything goes comfortably. And then it happened. Slowly, ever so slowly, here comes the bride with Dad to give her away. This time it’s Kristin riding on horseback, coming into view up the prairie! WOW, what a romantic site. It was so lovely, and then, after vows were exchanged and wedding complete, the couple rode off up the hill! No improvement possible! Then all 150+ guests descended to the Rockin HK Ranch for a reception followed by country music and dancing in the barn! This was an awesome time for all! Kristin and Jake rode into the reception on horseback, of course!

Kayak Skills Tip: The Forward Stroke

4 08 2010

I think the hardest kayak paddling stroke to do correctly is the forward stroke. Over 90% of paddlers I see out there are not doing it correctly.

The forward stroke looks easy. Yet most people are “pulling” with their arms or shoulders instead of engaging their torso. In any kayak paddle stroke, the torso must be engaged! You begin with an upright body position. Not too forward nor back. Then extend your arm, inserting the paddle blade at your foot. Twist your torso outward keeping your arm relatively fixed. When the paddle blade reaches a point about even with your waist, it’s time to remove the blade. And you also engage your feet! To get the most out of your stroke, use pressure on your foot brace on the same side as you’re paddling for that stroke!

Here is a great video by Werner Paddles pro Danny Mongno. He does a great job of explaining the subtleties of the forward stroke!

Siletz Bay Paddle

2 08 2010

Paddle NW met down at Siletz Bay Moorage July 31st for a day on the bay. I scheduled the paddle on the 31st because it coincided with Jessie’s summer schedule. She’d taken a class in the area during the week. The tide was low mid day, which wasn’t ideal conditions, but it didn’t seem to matter!

We put in and headed up the channel toward the “spit” which is a big sand spit forming the end of the bay. There were a ton of harbor seals up at the end.

I’d say there were over 100 seals up there. Since the area is so busy with tourists, I was certain the seals would be pretty tame. I figured I’d have one pop up right next to my boat.

Nope – they were very wild, only curious from a distance. At a certain proximity, they’d slap their front flipper and dive away. Still, they were companions nonetheless!

The bay is full of huge driftwood. Whole trees are lodged here. Some are old growth for sure. Day after day, year after year, the tide ebbs and floods, turning them into driftwood.

We hauled out on the beach near the spit and lunched. We couldn’t resist the temptation of an ice cream cone down the street. But April did one better, managing to buy a cup of clam chowder from Mo’s.

OK, after lunch, with the incoming tide, we headed back down the bay. Jessie led us down one of the Siletz River’s sloughs, which was full of sand pipers and blue herons. Very nice.