Fort Flagler, WA and the Seals

28 10 2021
Suzanne and Bob at Fort Flagler

Right after my September visit to Lake Quinault, I continued up the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, past Port Angeles, and on to the Port Townsend area where my friends Suzanne and Bob live. They live on Kala Point, south of town, on Port Townsend Bay. Bob built himself a dandy wooden sea going rowing shell. We decided to meet up at Fort Flagler State Park, on the other side of Indian Island for a paddle/row. I brought along the Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 I borrowed from work.

Bob launched from Kala Point and rowed over, whilst Suzanne and I drove over to Fort Flagler. After getting the Tempest 170 adjusted for Suzanne, we launched.

From the launch site the whole of Port Townsend Bay comes into view. I could see a ferry carrying passengers from Whidbey Island, the town’s famous clock tower, and a sailboat race taking place right in front of the town docks. The weather was calm, and it was low tide. So very little current when we launched.

We came to a sand spit across the way, and spotted a colony of maybe 35 seals. They were all laid up on the beach soaking up the sun. But they were wary and all stared at us as we approached. I paddled slowly, mostly gliding toward them. Then, one by one, they moved into the water. Eventually the whole colony was swimming around looking at us. Sometimes, I could see a seal swimming under my kayak! They’d swim upside down so they could see my kayak above.

As you can see from the videos, the seals were wary, yes, but they were just as curious! The cutest part was the pups and their mothers “kissing.”

The tide started coming in. And boy, in that area, when the tide makes it move, it starts cranking! By the time we turned back, the surface was a one-way river!

The experience was very refreshing. I grew up in the northeast 15 minutes away from the shore. Sailboats and salt water are in my blood, so this was so much needed! I shall return.





Lake Quinault, WA Over Labor Day

27 10 2021
Chiyo in my Current Designs Sisu

My good friends Chiyo and Chester joined me for a couple of days camping and paddling on the Olympic Peninsula at Lake Quinault. Lake Quinault is managed by the Quinault Tribe, and they only allow motorized craft for tribal members and home owners on the lake. So, it can be pretty quiet for paddling. On this trip, even on Labor Day weekend, I saw only one power boat. The lake borders Olympic National Park with its legendary rivers, rain forests and mountains.

Any drive up in the Olympic Peninsula involves passing logging trucks!

I brought along my sea kayak, a Current Designs Sisu, and I borrowed a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 from Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, where I work in Digital Marketing and as a sales associate and kayak guide. One of the perks is we can demo and borrow kayaks!

My kayak, a fiberglass kayak, came through the drive unhurt. The other kayak is a plastic one, and it deformed, in industry terms, “oil canned.” Storing it on edge somewhat helped. But the polyethylene plastic is so soft and can deform with just a little heat and pressure. Either way, we enjoyed our paddling on the lake. My tent is a pretty simple backpacking tent. Chester and Chiyo’s tent is more like the Taj Mahal!

We paddled along the east end of the lake. At one point I went ashore to take a look around. It wasn’t long before I found evidence of the wildlife living in the area! There were big elk prints in the sand!

After our return, it was time for a sumptuous lunch. Two friends from Portland had brought along their kayaks and paddled with us. Chiyo even brought tiramisu for dessert. I was so stuffed at that point, I could not accept.

The sleeping that evening was the low part for sure. Labor Day had its way with us. One of the other campsites ignored the rules and invited half of Seattle. There must have been 20+ people, and about 10 cars with all the camping gear showed up after dark. The camp host made them pay for all those extra cars, and enforced the quiet hours on them. But there was more! Another campsite went on partying until after midnight. Lesson be learned, think twice about car camping Labor Day Weekend!





Waldo Lake: Clear Water Paddling and Huckleberries

26 10 2021

There’s a magical lake high in the Oregon Cascades. Waldo Lake. It’s so pure, you can see down 140 feet! And since there are no powered boats allowed, it is the same experience as hundreds of years ago. Sailing or paddling along its shores is a truly memorable experience. In fact, just sitting by the lake, listening to the water lap at the shore can cure a multitude of urban stresses.

Speaking of stress, we picked a weekend early in August when there happened to be a number of wildfires in the area. On the way up each of us, in different vehicles, experienced smoke so thick we considered turning back. But our experiences told us to push on, because depending on the wind, it just might be good. And voila! In the last 5 miles of the state highway to the turn-off, it cleared up and was beautiful!

Jessie, Joel and I met up with Bill and Julie and their kids. We had two campsites, both walking distance to the water. Many of the car camping sites at Waldo Lake have significant real estate! Some have an eighth of an acre.

A four-minute walk away were Bill and Julie and their kids. They all brought their kayaks as well.

The smoke was still very close. As it turned out, mornings and mid day were always clear, but then in the afternoon, the wind switched and smoke would to start to cross the lake. Toward day’s end, one couldn’t see the other side. Then at night it would switch revealing a star studded sky.

Sunsets were spectacular!

The following day, after breakfast, we set off to cruise along the north shore, with the goal of finding the headwaters of the Willamette River. We had beautiful skies, warm weather, clear water, and yes, we found the treasure: Huckleberries!

Pictures say it all! Considering that there were wildfires not 10 miles away, we totally lucked out! If you ever come to Oregon to paddle, put Waldo Lake on your checklist. FYI, there are dozens of wild campsites on the west side of the lake with guaranteed privacy!





The Coracle: A Vietnamese Fishing Boat and Handy Dinghy

28 12 2016

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Paddling a coracle. The paddle is held on with a rope.

Along the Vietnamese coast and waterways, I couldn’t help but notice people paddling round basket boats. I’d heard about these boats and couldn’t remember what they were called. I thought they were found mostly in Europe, but here they were!  And I’d never seen one in person. Hot damn. I came to learn they are coracles. Not the most efficient craft for sure, but somehow, these craft have endured for centuries, so there must be positives for them to persist.

Some research reveals coracles have been used since the Bronze Age and apparently Julius Caesar’s army made use of them. Since then, the round boats have spread all the way to India and Southeast Asia. In Ireland, they are called Curragh, and in Tibet, Kowa. Traditionally a coracle is like a woven basket, with a layer of waterproofing on the outside. The waterproofing might be resin and tar, for example. Today such boats still ply the waters, though fiberglass and polyethylene versions are common.

My favorite memory of Vietnam was stopping by a fishing village where coracles were the primary means to get to the quarry. We walked through the village, and its inhabitants were not used to seeing Westerners at all. They looked at us with a bit of trepidation. We learned they were concerned we might be prospective real estate buyers. As if we might buy their whole village. There has been so much development on the Vietnamese coast that their way of life is endangered. No, we were just tourists having a look. Children squealed with excitement to have visitors, though, lining up to high-five us. And then we had offers of food and fish.

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Net repair

Walking through, we saw life as they live it. Cooking meals over coal-fired stoves. Knitting or repairing clothing. Kids playing.

 

 

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Some coracles had motors

Out on the beach there were dozens of coracles plus some larger boats lined up. Folks were mostly immersed in maintenance tasks.

Some were fixing nets, some working on motors. Others were caulking the older style basket coracles.

I could have spent a whole day working with these people. Just to get a glimpse on their way of life would be fulfilling.

 

 

 





Kayaking in the Footsteps of Lewis & Clark

6 09 2016

I have lived in Portland, OR for years, but I’d never visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 following their Voyage of Discovery across the American continent. This summer I made plans to see the place. A little research revealed that besides the fort, there is also a free historical kayak tour. So my friend Jessie Bader and I made plans to make a trip out there.

Fort Clatsop lies on the Oregon Coast, near the mouth of the Columbia River and Astoria, Oregon. We decided to overnight at Fort Stevens State Park Campground. Our first day, we arrived in mid afternoon. So we set up camp and, with plenty of time, headed to Astoria to check out the waterfront. Our kayak tour was the following day at 1:00.

First up was ice cream. Cones in hand, we headed down to the riverwalk along the Columbia River. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, with exhibits like a full sized Columbia River Pilot Boat beckoned. We debated and didn’t enter. But behind lay the Columbia Bar Lightship and the Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

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Just a few dozen yards inland we discovered the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. It is super cheap $1 a ride. It glides along the waterfront running to the end of the line east. Then it reverses and goes to the western end of the line, in town. The seats are benches, with a twist – literally. When the train needs to head the other way, passengers get up, move the seat back the opposite way, and sit down facing the new direction.

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The streetcar showed me some new things about the waterfront. It gets much closer to the docks than the road. There are a number of piers with restaurants and recently opened breweries on the piers.

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We got off and took a stroll down the waterfront.

It was a really beautiful August afternoon. A sea breeze blowing. On such a pretty day, it was easy to forget that Astoria spends most of the year in gray stormy conditions.

But on that day, all is forgiven.

Not so for the Lewis and Clark crew in 1805. For they arrived in the winter season. The expedition spent 106 days at Fort Clatsop, it rained every day but 12 and they saw the sun a total of six times. It’s no wonder they gave names like “Dismal Nitch” to landmarks in the area.

Today, Fort Clatsop is administered by the National Park Service. It’s got a museum, gift shop, and dedicated guides to share information on the place.

One of the most popular attractions is the daily loading and shooting of a musket. At 10:00 a.m. a guide gives a talk on the uses of fire arms back in those days, and the way people loaded and fire them.

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After the musket presentation was finished we took advantage of a half mile guided nature walk. And then, it was time for lunch. We found a thoughtfully constructed picnic spot nor far away. On this day it was Euro style, cheese, hard sausage, crackers, fruit, nuts, etc.

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Then we met the tour down at the put in on the Lewis and Clark River. The group would be a family, a couple of individuals, plus Jessie and I. We had two guides, Pat and Cadence.

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A bit of paddling 101 instruction by Cadence got the group started.

The river here is completely tidal. At low tide, much of the area is mud flats. So, the time the tours take place vary all summer, to coincide with high tide. Reservations are required. Our tour was full. We had some lively children, and Pat wasted no time in gaining the upper hand. If they even so much as yawned or stared away, she snapped “A-tten-sion!!!”

On the water, Pat immediately dropped her VHF radio and it was gone, stuck on the bottom. “Well, that’s my second dropped. They’ll fire me!”

With everybody launched we made a three-mile paddle.

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At various points we gathered for a little talk about conservation, or the challenges Lewis and Clark faced.

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The Park Service has purchased additional land adjoining the original site, and has done a good job restoring its property to the way it looked back in 1805. Wildlife has taken note. Many species of birds have returned. Elk and deer are more common.

If you are in Astoria, or camping at Fort Lewis, a stop at Fort Clatsop is definitely worth your time!





I’m Back – From a Back Injury, that is…

8 03 2014

You may have noticed I have not posted to my blog in months. If you’ve read my blogs, you know I’m a very active individual. My hearts desire is to be outside, breathing the air, being active. Whether hiking, trekking the Himalayas, paddling surf, or skiing the Wasatch, I live for outside activities. Travelling overseas is especially rewarding to me, whether soaking up cultural experiences or adventuring rivers or mountains.

My lifestyle is also my work. I have taken kayaking/paddlesports and wrapped into a way to earn my keep. I’ve been a brand manager for Feelfree Kayaks, a company that imports New Zealand-designed, Bangkok manufactured kayaks into the American market. And I’ve converted countless couch potatoes into outdoor enthusiasts as kayak guide / instructor for Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. I never tire of getting great gear into a customer’s hands and then hearing their stories of their adventures using it. To put it mildly, I am a tireless evangelist for outdoor recreation.

But my passion does involve risk. It can’t be avoided. It can be managed, and minimized, but not entirely eliminated. When it comes to kayak instruction or guiding, lifting boats is part of the work. I carry boats to the dock for renters. I set up lakeside trade show affairs involving dozens of kayak models. When guiding, I sometimes have a trailer of kayaks and have to lift then on/off of the trailer. I’ve done it thousands of times. I’m in my early 50’s.

So, the reason I have not posted to this site in months is a mistake I made loading a kayak onto my car. One day, in August 2013, I was in a rush to get extra boats to a kayak class and purposely grabbed a boat and heaved it onto my car. Not the right way. I have paid dearly for it. I strained the illiolumbar ligament in my back. It connects the 5th vertebrae to the hip. When it’s strained, it “refers” pain down the hip. For months, I had pain when sleeping in my back and hip. I could not get going in the morning without 20 minutes loosening my leg. I could not sit in a movie without writhing in pain.

I have been on workman’s comp since August. I still work, but on “limited duty.” I have cancelled a September trip to Yellowstone National Park, and a trip kayaking down the Mekong River from Vietnam through Laos and into Vietnam. Plus a two week ski trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming and Park City Utah. It has been depressing. Yet I have never skipped one single physical therapy routine.

If you’ve had back problems, you know my plight! But I am a fighter. I have been with a chiropractor and massage therapist. I have been with a physical therapist. I have been with a osteopathic doctor. And now, Pilates. Thousands of hours of work later, I am much improved. Slow, steady progress. So, I continue my daily two hours of physical therapy work. Yes. Two hours.

I have content for a few things I have done, some hiking trips and ski trips. Stay tuned, they are upcoming! And in just a few weeks I am snorkeling/camping/camping on the barrier reef in Belize!

I’m blogging again because I am proof positive HARD WORK PAYS OFF! I can engage in activities again. There will be new content very soon! You may see some content about working with physical limitations! I will never give up.

See you soon!

Rod