The Great Willamette Cleanup 2010

5 10 2010

I took on a section of the Great Willamette Cleanup this year – as the lead volunteer. It’s an event put on by Willamette Riverkeeper. In 2010 the cleanup stretched from Eugene to Portland, with over 500 volunteers. As an Advisory Board member with We Love Clean Rivers it was a responsibility to help out. It was no problem as I’ve led enough paddles to know how to organize a group! We were assigned the area near Dahl Beach / Meldrum Bar, which is right where the Clackamas River enters the Willamette River.

We met at about 9:00 a.m. and signed the usual liability waivers, and staged the boats down at Dahl Beach. When all had arrived we had 25 volunteers. Six canoes and two sit on tops. Our section was Goat Island to Cedar Island. I split the group into two pods and assigned Jessie Bader, my Paddle NW meetup organizer the 2nd pod. We gave the overview and safety talk and started on the beach. Then, we were to take on the ends of our stretch and work toward the middle.

We got tires!

We got blankets!

We got tarps!

Someone even left a suitcase complete with stuff inside!

Along the way we found a beetle probably realizing winter’s not to far away…

All in all, we grabbed canoefulls of stuff…and the Willamette was happier by the end of the day!

Thanks to everyone for lending a helping hand! We did a great job on October 2nd!

Waldo Lake – Labor Day Weekend – Sunday…

17 09 2010

All the prior week the forecast was for the weather at Waldo Lake to turn cloudy and cooler for Sunday. Forecast high was 53. So those of us heading down there Friday were expecting to just make Sunday breakfast and leave! But April checked out the forecast using her Android phone Saturday evening and all changed for the better.

Sunday broke beautiful and the weather was blue sky! Warm! Nice! No longer in the mood to rush home – we lingered instead! Saturday evening I had even put away some stuff that I didn’t want to pack wet, like my hammock. Hahahah. It came right back out Sunday morning and I re-set it between two trees where it gave a fabulous view!

South Sister looked fabulous from our campsite peninsula. From another vantage point Middle Sister is also in view as well as Mount Bachelor.

Sunday breakfast for ten was quite the production. We used four stoves…one for coffee…we kept it coming…one for bacon…one for pancakes…one for omelets! Nobody went hungry!

We made pancakes topped with huckleberries we gathered Saturday. The food kept on coming and we chowed down!

The sun continued to rise in the eastern sky, warming our hearts. Some of us would depart in the afternoon but nobody was hurrying – we slowly packed up and took in the view and the sun. My hammock was never empty. Canoes plied the waters in front of our site.

April and Phil stayed on to Monday as the forecast called for even warmer weather! The rest of us left, choosing to take Monday to clean up and unpack. It was the best Waldo Lake trip ever!

Waldo Lake Friday! Paddling in a Sea of Stars

10 09 2010

What better place to hold an end of summer Labor Day weekend kayak camping trip than Waldo Lake! It is one place guaranteed to provide a crowd-free experience! I scheduled three days for my PaddleNW Meetup group and 10 guests participated.

We weren’t disappointed. Friday Laura, myself, and Tim banged out an early departure from Portland to secure the group’s spot. I knew of a pretty peninsula with an easy landing beach that had another campsite one-minute walk away. If we could score that spot, all 10 of us could easily camp and share a single kitchen.

The drive went 100% smoothly for once! No traffic jams nor accidents. The three of us arrived about 2:00. That left plenty of time to pack the kayaks and enjoy a nice day on Waldo Lake.

The forecast was for Friday to be the warmest day followed by a sunny chillier day Saturday and then cloudy/even more cold Sunday. We were motivated to enjoy all we could Friday.

The waters at Waldo are a blue, sometimes purple blue I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s one of the four most pure lakes in the world. Those lakes are Baikal (Russia), Crater Lake (Oregon), Tahoe (California) and Waldo. Waldo doesn’t have any incoming streams. The water comes from snowmelt and underground springs.

We packed up the boats at the Shadow Bay boat launch, and then headed out onto the lake. This was to become the best Waldo Lake weekend ever!

The campsite I had in mind is on a peninsula just south of Rhododendron Island, with a beach landing. Plus it’s got a 2nd site steps away. As the leader of this trip I was a bit concerned that one of my sites would already be taken – and then we’d need to occupy separate sites where paddling between them would be required for shared meals.

As Tim, Laura and I grew closer to my preferred site, I witnessed paddlers approaching on the other side of the peninsula so I sprinted to go ashore before they did! My concerns were unfounded – these were merely day paddlers! That meant we were to get both sites – perfect!

The peninsula site is spread out with a “kitchen” consisting of a flat log suspended above

two “couch” logs – so cooking equipment can be spread out all along its length.

With the spot secured we set about making it our weekend base camp and then waited for the rest of our party. Jessie, April, and Joel made it without incident. Francis and Michael went off to the further south end of the lake and took quite a while to find us…

Joe Yuska arrived much later at night. It was so clear and still he told us we really should paddle by starlight…we did, and it was so dark and still, the lake reflected the sky – and you’d think you were paddling in a sea of stars!

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: 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!

Cascadia Water Trail Day 1: McMicken Island and Joemma Beach

8 07 2010

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest! Time for island hopping on the Cascadia Marine Trail!

As a Meetup organizer, I’m always thinking of ways to put quality events on the calendar. My PaddleNW group has a lot of novice paddlers, yet I’m always jonesing for a challenge. Sometimes a challenge is the conditions, other times it’s planning/packing for overnights. And for me, as the guy leading, there are group management responsibilities. Equally challenging is forcing myself to schedule what to me is a boring paddle.

We hadn’t done a multi-day paddle with a different destination each day before. Further, we’ve only done one salt water overnighter. I thought it’s high time for an island hopping trip. Research revealed the Cascadia Marine Trail in Washington’s Puget Sound as an excellent choice for such a trip! There are paddle-only campsites sprinkled all around the Puget Sound.

For the July 4th 2010 holiday, I planned a multi day kayak camping trip for my Paddle NW Meetup group. The planned route would take us from Zittel’s Marina to McMicken Island and then camping at Joemma Beach, followed by a day on Anderson Island and then return to the put in. We’d be using sites along the Cascadia Marine Trail to camp.

Kayaking in the Puget Sound requires more planning than a trip to a lake or along slow moving rivers near Portland. It’s bigger water, and tides are a major consideration. Simply put, you must plan for the tides, or you might get caught facing a strong current. Tides can be 14 feet in the Puget Sound. They accelerate at narrow points between land formations, and sometimes the current is over four knots and squirrely. So I planned our route to be with the tide as much as possible. Gear must be stout enough for strong winds and waves. A VHF radio is strongly recommended. Charts are mandatory.

All arrived at Zittel’s Marina, near the tip of Johnson Peninsula, within ten minutes of each other – about 9:00 a.m. Our group was myself, Warren, Bibi, Deborah, Michelle, Monte and April. Everyone was

Gotta squeeze this in!

experienced at this type of paddling except Bibi and Michelle. I spent time preparing them for this trip. Two weeks prior, I held a wet exit and rescues class for them. I also spent time educating them on packing for a kayak camping trip. For the 48 hours prior to this trip I e-mailed back and forth trying to ensure they had the right gear. Bibi got extra dry bags and an extra compact camping pad. Michelle did well on food preparation. But my concerns were justified.

Michelle didn’t stage her kayak packing prior.

That morning she was struggling to get everything into her boat.

She brought an over sized sleeping bag without a dry bag. That could have spelled real trouble. And her spray skirt wasn’t really sturdy enough to shield from lots of water coming over the deck.

Luckily Warren carried an extra spray skirt. Michelle had a great time, but she was just unaware of the potential danger! Everyone had appropriate immersion wear.

At the put in, we gathered and began packing kayaks. Deborah’s gear was the standard…dry suit, booties, PFD and the VHF radio all are good to have! The Puget Sound is about 50 degrees. Sometimes wind and waves come up unexpectedly – so well fitting spray skirt, bilge pump, dry bags are totally a must!

Everybody packed quickly. We got off to McMicken Island, our lunch destination, by about 10:00 a.m.

I was insistent that we get well up beyond the mouth of Dana Passage by 11:00, because that’s

high tide; after that the tide goes against us. Dana Passage can have some strong current. The day began cloudy and it looked like there might be showers. But with calm wind we made good time!

We were escorted by seals and porpoises along the way!

Our friend!

Bibi: Lunch was good!

Up at McMicken we beached on the back side of the island, and made ourselves home at the picnic tables for lunch. McMicken is a state park – it’s a day use island, though. You can’t spend the night.

Lunch was a festive affair, followed by a hike around the north side of the island.

Then we took off southeast, for Joemma Beach State Park – our stop for the night. Paddling was pretty simple. Winds were less than 5 knots and we only encountered power boat waves. The sky opened up revealing a jeweled south sound for us. The Olympics briefly revealed their snowy peaks.

At Joemma, we went about setting up camp. Turned out we had all the marine trail and pedal campsites to ourselves, and even the picnic area! Good thing, because the sites were small. So small only one tent per site was possible…nevertheless we took everything over!

The camping at Joemma Beach is high above the water so you get a great view! The picnic area afforded a generous kitchen, and a parking spot for our kayaks. Warren and Deborah, both using bivvy sacks, slept down there to guard the equipment.

Down on the beach, we risked arrest by starting a little campfire.

By the fire!

Not long after we were enjoying it, a ranger showed up…with a bucket for water to put it out! She was totally cool. She helped us extinguish the fire and then showed us a place where fires are allowed.

This night fireworks began to light up the sky on the shore opposite our campground. We spent time on the pier watching….some people had some serious coin to fire all those fireworks, some went on for hours!

Sunset was very mellow, with reflective views of the sailboats anchored just offshore. Warren relaxed reading a book to the view.

There’s a long pier which affords a great view. April and I made the most of it!

Eventually, the days activities wore us down and it was time to crash for the night. I elected to forgo my tent fly – excellent choice. The stars were brilliant! I brought a face mask and ear plugs, which came in handy as the sky was bright by 5:00 a.m. and I was told crows were a-crowing!