Lower Columbia River Water Trail Day 2: Lark Island to Skamokawa

21 07 2010

It’s day two on the Lower Columbia River Water Trail.

Wow, I woke up today on the beach at Lark Island feeling fantastic! I had a rock solid sleep. Since sunrise is so early in early summer, I use a face mask – and I wear ear plugs to block any noise. But the best thing is my recent REI On-Air Adjustable Pillow inflatable travel pillow. It’s U-shaped and goes around your neck. It doesn’t matter if you sleep on your back, or on your side. I also use a stuffed dry bag to support my arm. Finally, nights in the tent are totally comfy!

I awaken to spy Jessie across the way stirring getting up.

Monte has been up a while, and coffee is already pouring. Ahhhh, that’s what I needed!

Rubbing eyes and doing a couple jumping jacks and stretching, we all gather at the beach kitchen. The day is gray, but it didn’t rain!

We cook up a lot of oats – I sprinkle it with blueberries, raspberries, yogurt and nuts. All good!

Paddle & safety gear!

We take our time, but all the same, we get ourselves packed up fairly pronto. Today, the tide is outgoing all day – it won’t be slack until around four.

The plan is to head west around the Oregon side of Lark, then on to Tenasillahe Island. We will decide how to go about exploring the channels behind these Oregon – side islands. The game is all about playing the low tide. We don’t want to get stuck back here! Tenn

We pick a channel between two islands. Most of this route the depth is less than one foot and the tide is out going. We can’t afford to putz around. We spy more eagles, ospreys, blue herons, kingfishers, goldfinches, and thrushes. We’re just enjoying the water! Tenasillahe Island is one of the many islands in the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for Columbia White-tailed deer (Columbian White-tailed Deer National Wildlife Refuge). On the downstream side of Tenasillahe is located Welch Island, one of the many islands in the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge.

Freighter watching – kind of like TV

I keep my eye on the chart. In case the main channel is really rough, I was considering running back through a small channel through the back end of Tennasillahe to shorten our crossing. We finally decide to beach out for lunch. T

Coming around the end of our little island hopping exploration, we decided to go ahead and take the long route across the channel back to Skamokawa. The main Columbia River channel did not look like such a harrowing experience.

Out in the main channel we had current against us and wind behind. There were some “swells,” coming from Astoria, which would come from astern, and a lot of refracted waves along with the swells. So there was a lot of disturbed water. But nothing overly challenging. When I took out, I was wobbly on land from all the up and down motion!

Jessie said that she’d been out here with dumping waves and she got flipped and had to be rescued. April also was out here in really tough conditions.

Back into Skamokawa

We paid close attention to a tug with a barge, but it was a ways off and came around and passed us. That was the only consideration.

Later, we rounded the marker at the end of Skamokawa, and entered the harbor. Nice job everyone!

Very welcoming to be back at Skamokawa – it’s home to Columbia River Kayaking.





Lower Columbia River Water Trail: Lark Island Day 1

20 07 2010

We took a couple of days to explore the lower Columbia. We saw eagles dog fighting with ospreys, a sea lion, many fishermen and ships, Caspian terns, and best of all more fireworks!

I strongly believe this is one of the top places near Portland, Oregon to paddle. Yet, it’s very under appreciated!

This weekend I scheduled a Lower Columbia River Water Trail kayak camping trip for my Paddle NW Meetup group. The idea was to leave Cathlamet, paddle out to Lark Island, set up camp, and then spend the afternoon playing around in the frequently challenging conditions in and around Skamokawa, WA, on the Columbia River. Then the following day play around the islands on the Oregon side, paddle west with the outgoing side, and then take out at Skamokawa.

Paddlers were myself, Monte, Jessie, Francis, and Heather. A great group! Everyone experienced with primitive camping.

We met down at Skamakowa Paddle Center and I filed a float plan with Ginnie Callahan. Tanned, healthy looking and fresh from her southern experiences in Baja Mexico and Tasmania, she took down our float plan. She took great interest in Paddle NW, as she is having some challenges putting together Meetups for her Lower Columbia Kayak Roundup, August 19-22. I gave her my business card and said I’d promote it on the Meetup site.

We met back at Cathlamet’s Elochoman Marina, which was the put-in.

The usual stuffing and cramming of gear into kayaks ensued.

We were all with good spirits! Monte was very accommodating, his Hyundai parked to take anything we needed to keep ashore.

Jessie had the compass on board and I had the charts. We did the pre-launch briefing…oriented ourselves to the charts, and then we were off. We had a marine layer of clouds but it was forecasted to burn off.

Which way?

I didn’t know prior to scheduling this paddle, but today was “Eagle Day” at Cathlamet! Eagle Day brings plenty of wooden boats and then in the evening fireworks! Hee hee.

We took off paddling with the outgoing tide down a slough behind Ryan Island. This conveniently allowed us protected passage and wildlife viewing!

Here is Jessie checking out a wily raccoon. This guy was determined to finger the mud for food – I imagine it was clams or insects hiding in the mud. I love watching raccoons using their fingers. 

One day they will be texting each other!

Soon we emerged into the Columbia River for a crossing of the shipping channel. To our port lay the tip of Puget Island. This is a blind corner, and Ginnie Callahan warned us to hail over VHS before crossing, because ships headed west can emerge there without warning. We needed to gather into a tight group and head across.

After hailing, we ferried across, but the current kept trying to sweep us below our target, and we had to keep correcting our angle to “crab” across the current to make our end target on the other side – which was Lark Island.

Caspian terns were our constant companions

Once over, we beached and checked out the situation. Ginnie had suggested a camping spot, but it was already occupied. Then a friendly fisherman told us his spot would become available once they took off. So we decided to paddle around the island and come back when the fisherman was gone.

The chart said 1-ft of water was available behind the island. So I said give it a go, we’d be able to circumnavigate no problem. But nope. Things have changed since the chart was made! We grounded about 100 yards from the end.

This was the easy part.

Time to use the handles on the boats for their intended purpose!  That would be towing by hand.

Grounding?  No problem. Excellent time to have lunch and fly the kite!

If I could only find my peanut butter. It was stuffed somewhere…but I did not find it until dinner…freaking annoying.

We also witnessed lots of eagles, ospreys, terns, seagulls and some white pelicans. A giant car carrier passed us by.

And we saw some interesting creatures in the mud.

Later this day everything turned out wonderful! Sun, warmth, all the good things. We set up tents, gathered lots of fire wood, shared stories, made munchies, cooked sausages on sticks, and more.

I was dog tired and lay down for a bit!

We enjoyed Heather’s raspberry/lemon squares for dessert and marshmallows over the fire.

Then, the Cathlamet fireworks began, and we were impressed! Lots of original sky art for all! Finally, maybe 10:30 p.m. we bed down for the night!