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.





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!





Evening Paddle Organized by April – and My Old Kayak Britney Shows Up

16 07 2010

April Obern scheduled an after work paddle for tonight and a number of us showed up. Jessie, Phil Stanton, Jim, and two ladies with the same…Kristi! One of them I sold my Riot Brittany last year…and it was great to see my old boat out there!

I must say my old boat (not really very old!) looks great with Kristi in it! Such a pretty yellow/orange blend. Very pretty shape!

It was a beautiful evening. Temperature 86 degrees – wonderful to be on the river. And, the river was very warm! So several of us were rolling for practice.

When we passed the Ross Island Lagoon, a tug and barge was pulling out of its dock. We had to pull over to the port side of the passage to allow it to pass.

Kind of looks like the barge sent enough waves to capsize Phil! Not so, in this photo, Phil is just practicing his roll.

What a nice night! We really enjoyed being out there!





Timothy Lake Primitive Kayak Camping: Day 2

1 07 2010

Morning broke bright and clear! The sunlight bathed the forest opposite in a warm glow – reflecting perfectly on the water in between. Another nice day on Timothy Lake had begun.

Slowly but surely, tents were unzipped and kayak campers emerged, rubbing eyes and hungry for breakfast. The fire was brought back to life and camp stoves revved up for cooking. Seemed everybody had the same idea – oatmeal with assorted accompaniments like nuts, yogurt and fruit. Coffee and tea were consumed heartily!

Nobody was in a hurry; we were content to experience the day’s warm-up and then take our time breaking camp.

Our mellow mood attracted a guest! For about 15 minutes a hungry Pileated Woodpecker pecked the douglas firs in and around our campsite foraging for breakfast. Up and down the trees it went, offering numerous photographic opportunities. This was the first time I’d seen one in Oregon, and I felt privileged in its presence!

The day’s plan called for a relaxed return to our start at Gone Creek Campground, with a lunch along the way.

Towing a threesome!

Wow, the color of the lake was truly spectacular! I could not figure why it was such a bright blue this time around. We nuzzled into a sunny, south facing campsite for lunch.

Next we hugged the rocky east side of the lake on our return. I tested out my new LevelSix tow belt. Very nice gear – and my fellow paddlers provided plenty of resistance!





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.