Wooden Ships, History and Paddling in Port Townsend, WA

21 09 2018
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Schooner at the Wooden Boat Festival

My friends Suzanne and Bob Eggleston recently moved up to Port Townsend and I went up to visit. When you’re living in Portland, Oregon, it’s often easy to forget that a wonderful salt water recreational paradise lies a couple of hours north! Not only that, but many towns in the northern Puget Sound are in a rain shadow – they receive less than half the rain Portland or Seattle gets. This meteorological fact has attracted quite a few folks relocating or retiring.

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Port Townsend has quite a view. You can typically see not only the beautiful vessels in the harbor and the historic buildings, but Mt. Baker dominates the view east. Mt Baker is  10,781 ft and is very glaciated. But on this trip, smoke from wildfires in British Columbia obscured the view.

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Working every weekend in the outdoor recreation business, I looked forward to this mid-week visit. Just after Labor Day and before the Wooden Boat Festival. The early 20th-Century downtown was not thronged with tourists. To get there, I drove up the Hood Canal, and arrived in town about mid afternoon on Tuesday. The drive up Hood Canal was very pretty. Quite the transition to a saltwater culture. Lots of towns right on the water. Some seem to be harvesting oysters for income, and others making ends meet from the tourist industry.

Suzanne and Bob settled in a community named Kala Point. It’s very much peaceful once you pass the gate. Problems of the outside world are left behind. It even has its own pickle-ball courts and a beach where kayaks and rowing boats are stored.

In town, we walked the waterfront, glimpsing the wooden craft coming into port for the Wooden Boat Festival. Power Yachts big and small, schooners, ketches, yawls, sloops and dinghies all coming in.

Rod at dock

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Suzanne and Bob on the docks.

After walking the docks, we went to dinner at Sirens Pub, which has a to-die-for view of the docks. Not only that, but my Portobello Mushroom salad was really scrumptious.

One of our highlight activities was to be a paddle on the bay!

I brought up my kayak and Suzanne borrowed a Hobie pedal drive kayak from a kind (and trusting) neighbor.

 

 

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Dinner with a view at The Sirens Pub

Kala Point has its own beach so we headed down there. Perfect day for a paddle! Wind out of the North Northeast about 10-12 mph. Launching my Current Designs Sisu is a simple affair, even with the seaweed along the shoreline. Suzanne’s Hobie Mirage Drive kayak is a bit more problematic. It has these “fins” which move back and forth underneath the kayak and are driven by pedals up on deck. It’s got bicycle chains connecting, and anything that the fins/chains come into contact with can throw off the whole system. So launching Suzanne involved keeping “fins up” and moving out beyond the clogging seaweed. Either way we got ourselves launched and out into the bay.

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Suzanne about to go to sea!

We spent several hours out there. Super nice to get out on the water!

 

 





Waldo Lake, OR – Beautiful Paddling and Starry Nights

13 09 2018

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Waldo Lake, located about 50 miles east of Eugene, is one of the most pure lakes in the world. It’s one of Oregon’s natural wonders. For sailors and paddlers Waldo Lake is a dream. No powerboats are allowed. So it’s like going back in time. It has no incoming streams – it gets its water from springs and snowmelt only. In fact, the water is so pure, fish cannot live there. Gliding over its surface, you can see 140 feet down. I’ve been going there for years, because the camping on the west side is paddle-in only. Recently, though, forest fires seem to crop up in mid-August every year sending smoke. So there are campfire prohibitions on that side. So this time we car camped on the east side. Because Waldo sits at 5,240 feet altitude, snow melts late and mosquitoes can be a problem in early summer. With the bugs early and fire smoke later on, we decided to visit in early August rather than around Labor Day, as we’d normally do. We lucked out. The bugs were not bad and we had clear air.

I set out with Jessie and her brother Joel. We stuck three kayaks on the roof of my Ford Escape and packed in all the gear. We set out to snag a camping spot. Bill Baxter and Julie Dale would join us the following day.

I’ve never made camping reservations and as usual it worked out this time. We camped at the North Waldo Campground. It’s got a lot of lakeside sites but they were all taken. Still, we got a site just across the road, within walking distance to get our boats to the shore.

After setting up camp, we “slothed” around, reading and relaxing. It was so beautiful by the lake. There were a number of different types of clouds, cirrus, and cumulus. It was fun to watch the little cumulonimbus clouds build. None reached thunderstorm strength. Then, after dinner, we went down to the shore. One by one, the planets came out. We saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all at once. Then the International Space Station flew over, and then according to my Star App on my phone, the Hubble Space Telescope too! The Milky Way was so magnificent. And with my powerful binoculars we could check out nebulae.

Next morning, after breakfast, Jessie and I set out to explore the shoreline to discover new campsites. We didn’t really find any on the east shore. We did find some beaches and lunch spots though!

Our paddle took us all the way across the lake, not far from Rhododendron Island. It was much farther than I remembered. By the time Jessie and I made it back to our starting point it was after 2:00. We were both exhausted. After wolfing down lunch I took a stroll exploring the campground. When I returned Bill and Julie had arrived! We all had a gregarious afternoon and evening. We checked out the stars again and did another paddle.

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Next morning we gobbled up everything and set out for another day on the lake. There is no doubt that camping coffee is a nectar of the Gods that can’t be beat!





Backyard Lakes: Trillium and Timothy

25 06 2018
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Trillium Lake just over an hour from my house!

Anyone who lives in Portland, Oregon like I do, has difficult decisions with free time. Go west 75 mins to the coast? Go north to Mt. St. Helens or the Gifford Pinchot National Forest? Head to the Columbia Gorge? South to Wine Country? Or due east to the playground that is the Mount Hood National Forest. Over the past couple of weeks the weather has been great, so I spent some time up by Mt. Hood.

I spent a day relaxing at the shore at Timothy Lake, and not long after, met my friend Laura up there and spent an evening under the stars. Each time, the weather was spectacular. And early season, before school gets out, these lakes shine and seem like Olde Tyme camping. That’s because they are super warm, nobody’s around, and it’s super off season. And added bonus: You will have spring flowers at your campsite! Rhododendron and Trillium are in full bloom. And the there is still snow on the peaks. The flowers, the blue lakes, the green forest and the snow on the mountains make for a feast for the eyes!

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On the day visit, I needed some “me time” and simply packed a lunch, some stuff to read, and most of my camp stoves to tune up for the camping season. I forgot the old Coleman Dual Fuel 533.

On the “day visit,” campgrounds were maybe 25% full. It was so quiet I only encountered one wife with kids on the shore. Oh. Well, wait a minute! I encountered a whole family! Just not human.

 

The geese have a plan of action. Adults have a guard who keeps up a vigil whilst the kids and other adults can clean and preen. There is a rear guard too. I found the longer I just sat, the trust built and they came up almost to my toes. No worries!

Okay, so then the following Monday I resolved to go up and spend the night. It would be my “birthday eve.” Laura, who was in Bend, Oregon, offered to meet me up there and celebrate. It was another perfect day!

The evening was pretty chilly but in my sleeping bag, with pillows, and a ski hat and the all-important eye shades for the Pacific NW 4:45 a.m. sunrise, I was set. No tent fly needed, the stars are far more important! The sky was absolutely bright with the Milky Way on full display.

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Venus was on hand for my birthday eve sunset. Not the sharpest focus but I hope you get the idea!

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Laura captures an image of the sunset.

For Timothy Lake, my suggestion is its best times are before school gets out in the early summer, or after Labor Day.  In high season summer, it’s best mid week. However, there are plenty of kayak-in or hike-in spots on the opposite side of the lake. There is opportunity for quiet camping over there!

 





Sedona: Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock

18 06 2018

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Ruth Ann, Tully and I managed to get through the traffic south of town, to reach Red Rock State Park. At this time, about mid-day, it was cloudy. Still, the mesas were very beautiful. And if one looked close, the struggle of life in the desert was there for all to see. Our shoes padded through dry, soft dirt. The flora around was very dry, and lots of it had protection like needles or prickers. Evolution created plants specialized to take advantage of whatever rain comes.

Many plants are succulents, evolved to hold onto and store water. And it’s true, the rocks there are red. Or, orange-red.

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And where the rocks are eroded in such a way to capture water for any length of time, even way up on a mesa, oases of life have been created. Life finds a way. On these little places where water stayed on a bit longer, plants that normally grow elsewhere created a miniature ecosystem for themselves!

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Great picture with Ruth Ann. Up above you can see life has taken advantage of every place water has collected.

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I’m holding a nice tumbleweed!

After having our fill at Red Rock, we journeyed further to find Sedona’s famous Cathedral Rock. Using our GPS was of limited use. We kind of futzed around down where we knew it was to be, and eventually found a park and trailhead. During our walk, I kept watch on the sky, and I noticed an upcoming clearing was pending. We waited for it to happen, and it paid off!

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I suck at selfies but this one worked! The sun breaks through!

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On our way out it continued to clear and the red rocks glowed brightly!

 

And what would a day be without a great picture of Ruth Ann!

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So, our day down at Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock was a good one! For Tully and I, it was going to be back to Albuquerque. On the way we’d visit the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Meteorite Crater.

 

 

 





Grand Canyon, AZ day two

7 06 2018

 

OK, yesterday we checked out the eastern side of the South Rim, and glimpsed the sunset. One thing about the Grand Canyon, and some of the other Planet Earth Famous places I’ve been (like Torres Del Payne, and Angkor Wat) is that these are international superstars. We heard Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Hindi, and at sunset, one language we could not pin down. It was a family, so we asked them. It was Portuguese, they were Brazilians!

Okay, for this day the idea was to spend a few hours “getting into the Canyon.” Tully had been here before twice, the first in high school, and he’d hiked all the way down and back up. We certainly didn’t have the time to do that today, but we decided to hike the well-trodden Bright Angel Trail down a ways and back.

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Icicles clinging from flora at the start of our hike!

A well-known fact about hiking in the Grand Canyon is transitional climates. The weather or temperature at the rim might be chilly but at the bottom it can be unmercifully HOT. On the day we hiked we struck a PERFECT balance. It was chilly when we started but nice and warm on the return.

I forgot to mention the altitude. I did feel some altitude oxygen deprivation my 1st 36 hours. But by the day our hike arrived, I was acclimated just fine. So my suggestion if you head to the park: Don’t try to do these hikes your first day. Spend that day doing less strenuous activities like hiking the flat rim. The 7,000 to 8,000 ft. altitude doesn’t sound like much, but if you are accustomed to living within 100ft of sea level, believe me, you will notice it your 1st 24 hours.

 

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On this wall something had “scratched” the rocks.

Today it was much more busy. People had rented bicycles, the “Grand Canyon Train” had arrived, somewhat like some kind of cruise ship, and the “village” was packed with folks from all over. I ought to mention the North Rim was closed. If you get to the Park later in the year, go to the North Rim and you will get a much more up and close personal experience. It gets more snow, and was closed in mid -April when we were there.

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We continued down the Bright Angel Trail to its 1st rest stop. This was only about 1.5 miles. There were a lot of other folks. Some had done the hike down to the bottom and spent the night there, and were coming back up. Others were completely unprepared. I saw women in fur coats. Saw flip flops. And a guy trying to run the trail with his smart phone in his hand. On our way down we passed through millions of years of geologic time. We chanced upon a National Park Guide, who told us that this trail hugged a geologic fault and pointed out that the rocks on one side of the trail mis matched the rocks on the other side because of faulting!

We did not spend as much time down there as anticipated, but it was OK as this place, an international magnet, was getting super busy. Once back at the Rim, we saw even more tourists. It was time to head back. Next stop: Sedona Arizona and meeting up with more friends!





Hike and A Hot Tub Soak!

8 08 2017

Today’s plan calls for a mellow (well, relatively) hike out of Huayhuash to a 15,584′ pass, 5-hours total, and ending with the afternoon at a hot tub soak and camp at Viconga Thermal Baths, at 14,432′ – natural hot springs here we come! Sounds good! We’ll also break out our portable hot shower! After these hard-won days, I’m liking the sound of that.

Like most mornings, our “beast herders” are out before dawn wrangling the herds! These guys sometimes climb hills, yelling urgent taunts to get their charges (donkeys and llamas) in line. Sometimes they disappear behind hillsides. But every morning, they find the beasts of burden, bringing them back. I never understood why the beasts don’t just take off during the night!

We pass through some beautiful valleys, and pass by condors above, and chinchilla below.

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These chinchilla are really cute! Part rabbit, part guinea pig, or something, they inhabit the rocks all around these parts. With alert ears, long whiskers and fluffy tails!

In between certain elevations, our hikes flow through fields of wildflowers. We experience Paintbrush, Mistletoe, flowering cactus, giant six foot lupine, and others I cannot identify.

Then today as every day, our train of llamas, donkeys and horses catch up with us! They, and our crew, carry our stuff and set up camp so that when we arrive, we just crawl into our tents and mend.

Now it’s time to take a break.

 

We catch up with ourselves. Some like me de-layer, whilst others visit, or take in snacks. On the way we pass a good sized lake. It’s the largest we’ll see on our trek.

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Then, after some climbs and descents, we see our destination! It’s a little valley with a glacier-fed stream flowing through. Up above and behind, it’s got three different temperature thermal baths! Wow! It’s going to be a sweet afternoon!

 

Man that bath felt great. But getting out of the water NOT! OMG.

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They had 3 baths with varying temps. But when you get out, it’s chilly!

Along with our thermal baths, which felt EXQUISITE! Our staff also set up a hot shower. Now, this shower was far from automatic. Somebody had to pump up the water pressure for it to work! Cathy Ann and Roger handled the technical aspects.

 

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Regina peeks out ready for the shower!

 

 

So, Regina gets a real hot shower! Got to be worth it!

Tomorrow is a one of our WHOOP ASS hikes! We are due to climb over 16,000ft! We need all the soothing from today’s thermal baths for that one!

 

 





Past the Emerald Lakes to Huayhuash

7 08 2017

 

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Morning mist casts a moody tone…

 

Today’s agenda begins with a bang and continues! We’re all up before dawn to catch sunrise on this lake and Andes peaks! Once again ice covers the tent fly, and I stretch my body out to loosen those muscles. All our tents are aligned to catch the soon-to-be sun bathed peaks! This daybreak, a mysterious freezing fog shrouds camp, and partially obscures the view up above. Our llamas take it all in stride. But it burns off quickly!

 

It was worth awakening pre-dawn to get the pictures! We are so lucky. Beautiful sky and no wind. Today’s hike will pass by this lake, take a left and climb a valley just opposite these peaks. It will be a gradual rise at first then steepening toward 15,748′ Siula Pass.

It was pretty chilly at dawn. But as the sun warmed camp, it became nice enough to get rid of our breakfast tent! Aha! Breakfast with THIS VIEW!

 

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WOW! Time for coffee tea and orange pancakes!

 

 

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Anna ensures each place setting is perfecto!

OK, it’s 8:00 time to hoist our packs and hike! Out we go, following the lake, up up, and then to the left. We start tracing a valley filled with terminal glacial moraines and sapphire lakes beneath, all under the incredible towering Andes peaks.

 

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Roger checks back to ensure the group’s coming along

 

We take a rest stop at one of theses lakes, above which there is another truly colorful lake. This time I decided to stick around and catch up with myself. The whole area is so peaceful, except for loud thunderous noise which goes on for 15 – 20 seconds. Avalanche!

 

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That’s not fog, that’s an avalanche!

 

This was the 2nd of this day. A previous avalanche made it all the way to one of the lakes.

Past the lakes, the climb steepens, and I want to groan, but I didn’t. I kept on going, and then, Roger announces we are 15 minutes from lunch! This was good, because it broke up the steep, scree covered hike to the pass.

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Today’s hike is a long one – over 7 hours total! I was so glad to see the yellow tents of camp!

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Our Llamas at Camp Huayhuash, at 14,268′. Always ready!