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!





Clear Lake and Clear Lake Resort, Oregon – The Submerged Forest

13 11 2014
Laura rowing Rod

I take the back seat as Laura navigates. Two of the Three Sisters rise in the background.

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No photoshopping here. There really was fog to Laura’s right and sun to her left!

The 2nd weekend in November my friends and I traditionally rent cabins at Lake Billy Chinook and kayak. This year we threw tradition out the window. Instead, we rented cabins on Clear Lake at Clear Lake Resort. Clear Lake is famous for its clear water and submerged forest. Thousands of years ago, a lava flow moved across the McKenzie River at this location, blocking its flow and creating a lake.

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A tree trunk in the submerged forest.

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The “seascape” at Clear Lake.

South End Clear Green Water

In the shallows, sometimes the water was emerald green.

But there was more. The river ran through a forested valley, and the trees were submerged in the lake that formed. Today, at the head of the lake, water emerges through fast-flowing springs, and the water is crazy clear. At the foot of the lake, a waterfall spills to form the headwaters of the McKenzie River.

Clear Lake Oregon is popular for canoeing, kayaking, rowing and scuba diving. Those plying the surface can peer down into the sapphire and emerald waters, and scuba divers can see the submerged forest up close and personal.

While most November days in this part of Oregon are rainy and cold, this day was calm and sunny. We lucked out!

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Our cabin. Sorry about the focus…some moisture on the outside of the lens!

Today, Laura and I arrived first. Our group had booked two sides of a tandem cabin. Each side has two bedrooms with double beds and a double futon in the living room. A propane-fueled pot bellied stove heats each side, and there are kitchens on each side. Cost? $99 for two nights per side. Heck if you have some friends along it’s super cheap! Other facts to know…A hiking trail runs around the lake, and there are hiking options nearby along the McKenzie River. Hoodoo Ski Resort is 30 minutes distant. And there’s cross-country skiing at Ray Benson Snow Park. For mountain bikers the nationally famous McKenzie River trail awaits.

The Clear Lake Resort provides a fire pit for the cabins and we took advantage of that.

Group camping/cabin cooking presents some interesting possibilities. What to eat? What’s easy? In this situation we settled on Wok cooking. It’s practically impossible to screw up wok cooking no matter what. Plus it’s FUN. So we brought the woks, each member bringing along a different wok ingredient. Mini carrots and corn, water chestnuts, pineapple, nuts, jasmine rice, mushrooms, bok choy, broccoli,  shrimp, chicken, peppers, etc. plus a myriad sauces. YUM!Jim and Becky sapphire pool Woking

Sunday, we picked a 4.5 mile hike which ended at a really beautiful pool on the McKenzie river. Sunday it started to rain, but it didn’t matter. We got a picture of Jim Hashimoto and Becki above a sapphire pool!

All in all, the cabins at Clear Lake Resort Oregon are worth a visit!

 

 





Waldo Lake Oregon – Water Doesn’t Get Any Purer Than This!

26 09 2014
paddling,waldo lake,oregon,camping,kayaking oregon

Paddling over the indigo waters on a calm morning.

 

There are a lot of breathtaking places to paddle in Oregon. Many places with jaw dropping views. But only one, Waldo Lake Oregon, has such pure water and easy back country kayak camping – with no power boats to interfere with the serene experience!

Waldo Lake is unique in Oregon. It’s 22-miles around, making it the 2nd largest natural freshwater lake in the state. It’s natural – not a reservoir. It’s high elevation – 5,414ft. No power boats. Just human powered craft, like canoes, kayaks, or row boats, and when the wind picks up – you’ll see sailboats plying its waters. The water is so pure Waldo Lake set the world’s deepest visibility record – you can see down 157-ft! It is almost as pure as distilled water.

I organized a group of 12 friends (and Cameron, a 3-year old happy camper) who convened at Waldo this past weekend. Waldo is renowned for its primitive camp spots on the west side of the lake. But this weekend, dry conditions caused the Forest Service to issue a ban on campfires outside established campgrounds.

 

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Katie, Christian and Cameron

We needed a fire to cook a salmon for six – because my friend Daniel Fox, who was paddling from Victoria BC to San Francisco, had stopped in Astoria, Oregon and just caught a nice Chinook salmon on the way! It had to be cooked on the fire. So, we settled on camping at North Waldo Campground. It was almost full when we showed up – only three campsites – and we needed all three! It was totally last minute. We all had packed compactly for wilderness camping. Once the car camping decision was made I pulled out everything. The barbeque, the tiki torches, the tablecloth!

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Happy hour watching sunset!

The salmon turned out delicious and there was plenty for all. Simple – cooked in olive oil wrapped in tin foil and some dill added. On the side were veggies cooked in tin foil. Really yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folks at site #32! Waldo Lake awaits.

Morning all awoke at a different pace. At campsite we were up by 7:00 and ready go to by 9:00 – but a visit over to George & Kristi’s site revealed they’d just awakened when I got there at 9:30.

My breakfast was just oats, berries and yogurt…Kristi’s was more like home! Either way breakfast in the woods is better than at home!north waldo campground,waldo lake camping For me, anyway.

 

 

 

 

View west with kayaksIt was time to set out on the lake. There is much to explore. There is “the burn” on the north side, full of coves and warmer water.On the west side there are primitive camping sites for miles. There is a trail to a lookout, up 2,000ft, where views of Central Oregon can be glimpsed. And halfway down the west side of Waldo Lake, Rhododendron Island. It’s a good spot to land your craft for a picnic!

The water of Waldo Lake is “dramatically ultra oligotrophic” meaning crazy clear with little organic matter. Chemically speaking, it’s more pure than distilled water. At an elevation of 5,414 feet, it’s so high it has no incoming streams. The water comes from snowmelt or springs. As such it’s so pure that a food chain is not supported. We saw only four seagulls and certainly no ospreys.

Words cannot really describe the clarity or color of Waldo Lake’s waters!

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Shadow, some 60 feet down. In deeper water the blue darkens.

Out in the middle of the lake, the water can appear purple-indigo. Look up ultramarine blue.

I took a photo of myself from under the water.Rod from underwater - Copy

We experimented with taking underwater photos from all sorts of angles.

 

 

 

 

kayaking waldo lake,paddling oregon,camping oregonOne such photo was taken by Bill Baxter from underneath his kayak! It makes the surface kind of look like blue mercury!

It was a glorious day! Our group split up. Some, led by April, set out to kayak to a trailhead and climb some 2,000 feet to an abandoned fire lookout. From there you can see the lake plus all of the Central Cascades Region of Oregon including Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters Wilderness, and Bend.

The rest of us paddled south to have a picnic at Rhododendron Island. On the wind protected side of the island it was HOT!

 

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Bill shows Cameron a frog!

After lunch we dared the chilly waters. Bill seemed less concerned than most and was out there with mask and camera quickly.

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You can see across as well as down

 

It took me forever to finally get all the way in the water. I should have just dove in!

Julie’s thermometer said it was 66 degrees. That is not terribly cold!Half Underwater

We all got together for a Mexican “bar” meal back at the campsite. It was a make-your-own burrito affair.

We set out the ingredients, then one would wrap up in aluminum foil & melt/heat over the fire!

Katie gets Cameron ready for the water

Katie gets Cameron ready for the water

It was a good reward after the hikes, paddling and picture taking!

We all agreed we will come back next year.

NOTE!! Waldo Lake is full of biting bugs/mosquitoes until mid August.

Plan your trip for late August or September. We think the best way to experience Waldo Lake is to camp outside the established campgrounds on the west side of the lake. There are plenty of gorgeous sites. But if your preference is for car camping, we recommend making a reservation – we managed to get the last three sites! Waldo Lake is unusual in that it gets more busy after Labor Day – and that’s because everybody’s avoiding the mosquitoes.





John Day River Oregon: A Day Running the River!

9 07 2013

IMG_0587Fraternity brother Tully Alford and I spend some “bro time” every summer camping. This year, for our first camp-out we returned to the John Day River. It’s in dry central north Oregon, an area way below the radar of many outdoor enthusiasts, yet if offers tremendous opportunities for those venturing there! Imagine floating down a canyon-walled river. With every turn, a new world unfolds. Not a house or road to be seen. Eagles and hawks float above, bass swim below. Yet only two and a half hours from Portland!

This year we decided to float the river – camping and the using a river shuttle service to pick us up and deliver us to our car at the end of the run. The John Day River is famous for long, flat stretches of running river with rapids connecting them. And for beautiful canyons with layered rocks overhead.

IMG_0579We packed up my new 2013 Ford Escape with Jackson Kayaks Rogue 9 and Rogue 10 kayaks. These kayaks are perfect for this trip, because they are good for the whitewater stretches, but also have a rear hatch – good for storing gear and food – and a skeg for the flat sections so they can be paddled straight.

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Tully getting ready at the put in!

As Tully had no experience in whitewater I gave him a tutorial on entering and exiting the main current into eddies. And, I explained that in rapids there are these things called “holes,” though I couldn’t really explain what they do. So you know, a hole is a backwash behind a boulder. If your boat gets stuck in one, it can be difficult to get out. Your boat gets “sucked in” by the hole.

Running the John Day River is characterized by long stretches of flat water separated by rapids. The plan was for me to run the rapid ahead and Tully follow me through. This worked great until the very end of the day.

I was very impressed! Tully made it through everything and found it fun!

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Tully chills out after a rapid…

Tully began the day in a wetsuit but as the temperature rose, he felt heat-distressed and at lunch took it off. The Jackson Rogue 9’s hatch took the wetsuit with lots of spare room. Lunch was sumptuous. We found a shaded peninsula and made sandwiches of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, turkey, lettuce, cheddar cheese and tomato. Plus fresh oranges for dessert.IMG_0588

Back on the water. The river and canyons unfolded one after the other. We heard, but could not see, Bighorn Sheep in the hills above. We saw bald eagles. The occasional Smallmouth bass swam below.

The run was from Spray to Service Creek, about 17 river miles. We were told it would take all day. I never believed it, but it was true. We set off at 10:00 a.m. and took out at 4:00 and we were pretty tired. It was a great day. The John Day River took its prize in the last rapid, the hardest of the day. As we approached, I could only see the horizon line and nothing of the features below. We had agreed we did not want to bother scouting, because none of the other rapids were all that hard. As first paddler I went in. Immediately I noticed three holes and lined up my kayak to pass by each one. However, on the second hole, there turned out to be another right behind it, invisible from above. After scooting by the 2nd hole, I darted across and paddled hard past the surprise hole. Tully was not able to do that, and got stuck in that hole. I did not know this until I had made it completely past the rapid and into the pool beyond. Then I looked back and saw carnage! Tully holding on to his boat, but the paddle, spray skirt, his glasses, etc. were floating by and sinking. He looked pretty shaken up and I towed his boat to the shore and he grabbed on.

We kayaked the last stretch and hauled out. No matter, we had a GREAT day on the John Day River!

The evening meal was grilled salmon, salad and mashed potatoes. IMG_0581

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And lots and lots of beer! Tully caps it off with a rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple.” There’ll be some more campouts coming this summer!

 





Cabins at The Cove Palisades at Lake Billy Chinook 2012

13 11 2012

13 friends rented all three cabins at The Cove Palisades State Park on Lake Billy Chinook the weekend of November 10-11!

The Cove Palisades State Park closes in October but its cabins are available for rent all winter long. The cabins feature a living room with kitchenette and futon and a rear bedroom. Heated and with running water and with lovely views, they each sleep five. One can paddle the lovely canyons of Lake Billy Chinook from then until winter sets in.

Why go? For us human-powered recreation junkies, the thought of summer on the lake makes us cringe. Party boats, wave runners and speed boats ply the lake, their noisy exhausts reverberating off the canyon walls. There are over 100 boat slips at this marina alone! But once closed, the lake is very pretty in its quiet solitude. Further, if you reserve all the cabins, you can have the lake just for you and your friends!

I’m a happy camper with my morning cup of Joe!

This weekend, we drove over snowy Government Camp pass – in fact it was snowing on and off the entire way to the destination. Laura and I had made plans for Friday dinner – we’d grill steak on the cabin’s propane grill, and enjoy baked potatoes and salad as well as grilled veggies. These turned out delicious!

Later, Jessie, Mike and Joel, our cabin-mates for this weekend, showed up. Then we saw April and Jim. I drifted off to sleep – and yes Laura and I were up first in the morning.

Laura and Jessie by the fire.

The cabins share a five-foot diameter fire pit with a lake view. Saturday morning, we shared a fire to warm us up and had a breakfast. Jim and I each brought bins of wood.

As the sun rose and began to warm up the area a bit, Jessie, myself, Mike and Joel gazed upon the lake.

Although gray early on, it was to be a beauty of a day!

Soon it was time to paddle. Thirteen paddlers. Rod, Jim D., Jim H., Jessie, Joel, Laura, Becky, Bob, Andrea, Kristi, April, Mike and George. Getting a group of that size going doesn’t always happen in a snap.

Andrea and April almost ready…but some cars are still on roof racks!

Laura and I get our boats down to the dock early,
and she is ready to go. But as I look back toward the parking area, there are lots of kayaks remaining on roof racks! It’s going to be a while.

Last to go are Kristi and George – so Mike and I help things along by carrying their boats down to the docks.

Today is Becky’s first paddle! So we pay extra attention to her needs.

Jessie lends a hand at the dock, stabilizing Becky’s boat, which she rented from Portland State University’s Outdoor Program.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 40’s and light winds, less than 10 mph. Once on the water the sun comes out and I began to believe I was over dressed! I didn’t bring a baseball hat, figuring it was too chilly. Lucky for me Kristi loaned me a sun hat she brought along.

The dominant features of Lake Billy Chinook are sky and canyon walls. The sun’s arc across the sky changes the glow and colors along the walls.

Jim D. about to head into Crooked River Canyon.

I’m not a geologist, though I took Geology 101 in college. What I can say is that examining these canyon walls tells a story. It is a story of violent volcanic activity taking place over millions of years. Layer upon layer of rocks and ash reveal the episodes. Basalt columns formed as the rocks cooled – some dozens of feet thick. Other layers are softer – ash from distant eruptions. Rain and thermal warming/cooling cracked the structures, sending rocks, sand and boulders down the sides.

We search for a lunch spot. One drawback of this lake is the few sandy takeouts. Mostly the drop off from lake shore goes straight down. We find a narrow area to disembark, but most of us just take lunch in our boats.

During lunch we see a potential change in weather dark clouds back toward the cabins, so most of us head back. But Bob, Jim D., George and April continue upstream.

Once back on shore, we retreat to our cabins for snacks, naps and getting ready for dinner.

It’s not long before dark! Tonight we have a great party by the fire pit. No shortage of firewood! The stars are out! It’s dark enough to easily spot the Little Dipper and the North Star. The Milky Way glides overhead.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings!





2011 Clackamas River Cleanup presented by We Love Clean Rivers!

20 09 2011

All photos by Mark Gamba.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the 9th annual Down the River Cleanup on the Clackamas River took place. Organized by We Love Clean Rivers, the event mobilizes an array of groups in a collaborative effort to clean 15 miles of the Clackamas River. I’m on the board of directors.

With a Staj Pace as our new event coordinator, new branding initiative completed including logo, new website, stationery, etc., we hit the ball out of the park this year! Participation was up over 60% with a record 421 registered volunteers. We also removed record amounts of trash from the river – 3.4 tons!

We had LOTS of FUN! Folks met up at Barton Park before 9:00 a.m. for coffee and bagels, registered, then organized into 15 pods (each cleaning one river mile), and after safety briefings, set off to clean the river.

Pod pre-launch briefing

Pods are made up of kayaks, drift boats, rafts, and some divers. It was a HOT day, over 90 degrees. I saw more red neck flotillas of inflatable mattresses and beer coolers going on the river than ever.

Cleaning in the river means collaboration amongst different recreational groups. Divers go below. Snorkelers are utilized. And bank-based cleaning is performed, too!

The emphasis is all about fun. Participants set off in a festive mood. Kids are definitely part of the collective cleanup muscle!

Youngsters taking ownership

Each pod rides the river to its assigned section and begins to clean.

Some rafts or drift boats are designated “garbage scows,” and folks bring trash to them. Some become quite laden with tires or metal objects.

By far the most numerous items are beverage cans. There is no question that cans are being dumped by river runners into the river.

Just look at this dumpster!

Holy Garbage!

The garbage is sorted by kids and recyclers. Further, it is picked over by artists, who will convert some into art or jewelry. This stuff will be sold at the RiPPLe PDX event on October 6th!

The day is book ended at the conclusion by a party/picnic celebration! Participants enjoyed music, a catered, organic picnic, three bands, Sierra Nevada beer, and the chance to win outdoor gear at the silent auction!

Nice job everyone! THANK YOU!

We enjoyed some really upbeat music!!!

60 feet of deliecious catered food!





Yale Lake July

23 07 2011

Well, there is a chain of reservoirs north of Portland, Oregon, in the Lewis River system. They are about an hour’s drive north depending on the route one takes. They all lie in Mt. St. Helens’ shadow…and one, Yale Lake, has a grand view of this notorious peak.

I’ve been there twice this month. First time with my meetup group. We arrived on a Thursday and checked out the Siouxon Creek arm of the lake.

It’s clear and beautiful, and we paddled all the way up to the river’s confluence.

Arnold had lunch…whoa…a whole apple pie! Arnold is always good to have along.

Amanda is one of my favorite meetup members! She’s very outgoing, athletic, and fun! She was our tour guide. We had some beer at the Laurelwood in Battleground, after the paddle.

My first time up there I couldn’t see the visual treat Yale Lake is famed for. But I returned on July 22nd late in the day and was rewarded with a spec-tacular sight!

WOW.

I also managed a video…on this day there were 2-3 motorboats on the lake plus a canoe. I understand it’s jammed with water skiers on the weekends!