Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Paddle Oregon 2017, Part 2 of N

Monday, Day 2. The day of the Eclipse.

Taken with cheap camera at auto setting against the advice of all camera buffs in the WORLD

Early Morning rising. Before you can see well in your tent without a flashlight. Our pod wants to be paddling by 8:00. We want to be at the beach for the eclipse by 9:00 (when it starts).

Everyone is up and moving around. I am a bit sore. Two nights on the hard ground and I am not used to it yet. Coffee is going. Breakfast is served around 6:20. Need to get our bags and tent packed. Carry things to the Ryder truck. Hand them up to the baggage support people. Lots of good support people on this trip. Hard work for you, but lots of attention to making things easier and simpler and doable.

Eat breakfast. Load our boats. Haul the boats down the sand and stones to the water. Jasper Pod was on the ball and we were all there and ready to go right at the agreed upon time. Cool. Off we go.

We are headed to a place called Irish Bend. It is a little park on the river (really a big gravel bar) that has road access and where our caterer is going to be set up. There will be iced coffees and some other treats. If you want longer eclipse viewing, you need to head down the river a few more miles. We are sort of playing it by ear. See where we will decide to stop.

Have to haul the boats DOWN THERE.

Morning on the River. Where is my Coffee?

Beautiful Woman on the River

We arrived at Irish Bend at around a quarter 'till 9:00. There were people there already, but it is a large beach. Last night they had said that the totality would be 10 seconds longer a mile or so further down the river, but at the time I didn’t really understand what that meant. I guess no one else did either. Our leader wanted us as far down the beach as we could get, but I didn’t see how a hundred yards could change our viewing. Turns out I should have done more research on where we were compared to the totality lines. (editor's note: And it turns out our pod leader just wanted to be farther away from all the other people.  I knew that but Jon didn't.)

Anyway, Jasper pod made a landing and set up some chairs on the beach. We had been issued funny glasses and we put them on and looked at the sun. Guess what? There was a little bite out of the sun. The eclipse was starting just like it was predicted!! Go Science!!

There was an eerie music resonating over the beach. There was this guy down the way setup on the gravel stones playing what sounded to be a cello. I went down to check it out. It was sort of hollowed out shell of a cello and had been electrified.

Gideon Rocks On
He was playing it in many ways (strumming, plucking, bow) and he had other pre-recorded tracks he was playing along. Some classic, some more modern. All with a sort of New Age feel. A feeling of magic and crystals and eclipses. He played music that he clearly scripted right up and through the totality. It greatly enhanced the mood of the event. And he was very good. His name was Gideon. So we sat there on the rocks using our cool and spiffy new glasses (The staff just handed them out after that Great breakfast. I had HUGE pieces of ham. yum). The moon was moving very slowly. But sort of cool to watch the sun slowly be obscured. Not much was happening outside of the glasses. I mean, I knew that the sun was, for instance, 25% obscured. So the amount of light getting to earth was 25% less. But my eyes were adjusting for that and it still felt like a normal sunny day to me. At around 50% the same.

At 75%, the heat from the sun was noticeably less. The day was cooler. And then you could tell things were getting dimmer. My camera certainly thought things were dimmer. As we got within about a minute of totality, the music started to get more involved and exciting. He kept that up till the moment of totality, and then he just set up a sort of transcendental cello HHHHHHHHMMMMMMMMM. And it was dark. "Hey, I should see stars". But it wasn’t really completely dark. I got a short glimpse of the sun’s corona with the naked eye, but there was this bright spot that was only gone for like a second. And then it was over and the sun was getting brighter and I realized that we didn’t go far enough down the river.

When we got home and I could check on the map with the totality lines, the line for full vs partial goes right smack through the middle of that beach.

The deal evidently was: If you want music and coffee, go to that beach. If you want real totality, go another mile to Norwood island. Ok. I should have paid closer attention. We will know this for next year.

But now, the sun is back. The day is warm. We have 21 miles to do today and we have only done 3. Oh my! And the River is not running 3-5 mph anymore. We are down in the more flat part of the valley and we have more like 1-3 mph current. So we are going to have to paddle a lot of that mileage.

Now we have some evidence of the great safety planning and communications that are set up for this travel. One of our pod mates, just before totality, got stung by a flying insect of some sort (hey, it was dark). She said she was allergic to Yellow Jackets.  Someone told her it was a Honey Bee.  She used some anti-itch and climbed into her boat for the rest of the tour.  A few miles later, she had developed hives and got a pick up in Peoria from the support crew with a trailer for her boat and an early ride to our next campsite.

No problem, this is part of their contingency plan. In fact, we saw our friend in camp that night. She was fine (although quite colorful with hives) and rested and ate dinner with us. She also finished the rest of the trip. Great Job Paddle Oregon Team!! It is really good to know that if you have some minor problem (or even a major one) they can pick you up, keep you safe, but try to get you back to the trip. I really like that. Presumably that means that if you are just having a bad day you could skip a paddle day and sleep in (as if).

Going up the little waterway to Peoria landing.
At around mile 15 we were all hot and tired and organized a coup for swimming. Well, actually we just suggested a swim and our Pod Leader was all over that and had us in the river within 5 minutes. It was late summer, but the water is still cold that far up river. Cold and refreshing. There is this thing you can do in swift running water that is about thigh deep. You can sit down on your but and get swept away in the current. Then, when you are ready, you can plant your feet and the river will pick you up and there you stand. Ha. I haven’t been able to stand that easy in 2 decades!! The down side of swimming is that now you are in wet clothes. I think, ideally, we would have gone skinny dipping, but we really don’t know our pod that well yet. Perhaps you can just take time to dry and change. Though in truth, if you are kayaking, your pants are just about always wet. Hard to stay dry when you are getting in and out of the boat and your feet are wet.

Why are your feet wet?

Sort of depends on how you enter and exit you boat. There are different techniques for different places. If you enter and exit from a dock, for instance, and you use a skirt, you may not get your bottom wet at all. But when you enter a boat from a shoreline, you need to get your boat out into the water before you enter. So now what? You could get into the boat on land and have someone push you out, but now that person is stuck on shore. So here is the way that I do it. Put the boat into the (shallow) water. Point it the way you want to go (or up-river, if the current is strong). Walk out to your cockpit. Throw a leg over the boat and straddle while still standing. This only works if the water on each side of the boat is less that a foot deep, by the way. So make sure you aren’t on some steep drop off. Now you can sit on the back edge of your cockpit. You are sitting on your boat, with your feet still on the river bottom (balancing) and your kayak seat is in front of you. Now, put one foot into the cockpit. I would recommend putting in first the leg that you can’t bend very far because of that Rugby injury in college. No, the other one. Ok. Now you have one leg in and you are still balancing on the other leg while sitting on your boat. Put your paddle on the bottom for balance, swing your other leg into the boat, and slide down into the seat in one smooth motion. DON'T FLIP OVER. The last part is pretty important and oft forgotten.

To get out, you need to have on the right shoes. Seriously. If you shoes are too big, you can’t get out this way because your toes will get caught on the lip of the cowling.  Now lean way back, bend your good knee, center your leg on the longest part of the keyhole entry, and pull your foot out of the boat. Now lean toward that leg and put it on the bottom.  Here is the hard part: Do a lat push up and raise yourself out of the seat and plump your butt onto the top of your boat behind the cockpit. OK, swing your bad leg out of the boat and now you should be straddling the boat again. To stand, lean forward, grab the front of your cowling, and pull yourself up over the boat, rocking to a squatting position. Now just swing one leg back like a bicycle dismount and you are standing next to your Boat. Way to Go !!

Here is a Genuine Video Demonstration

Sometimes you feel like you are in a canyon

So here we are doing this 21 miles. What does it feel like down on the water. Is it pretty? Are there sights to see? Well, yes. The river is strange. It is all the same, and yet it is different around each bend. For most of the 21 miles we did today, we didn’t see a bridge. Just miles and miles of woods and river. We were seeing a lot of Ospreys. A new one around every bend. They would be flying around and yelling at us. In this slower water we are now seeing a lot of Great Blue Heron. Bald Eagles, Mallard Ducks, Lesser Merganser, Canada Geese. A herd of Elk making an Epic crossing. Ok, I made that last one up. And maybe the Bald Eagles were tomorrow. I need to go look at my photos.

Erosion Control

Another thing I really like is the look of the bottom of the river when it is shallow (less than 2 feet) and swift moving. You boat is flying over this close rocky bottom, usually at a slight angle to the direction you think you are going, and it just looks so cool. I took a movie but I am not sure I can post one of those in blogger. I will give it a try.

Another thing, there are round river rocks everywhere. Everywhere. on the bottom, on the gravel bars, on the islands, up the sides of the river. It turns out they are everywhere around on the Willamette valley. And… they are not from the river. They are not from the Willamette Valley. They are not from the local mountains, they are not from Oregon.

See all of the nice comfy round rocks?

They are from the Missoula Floods. You know about those? This was back at the end of the last Ice Age. There was this huge lake that built up behind an ice dam behind the Rockies in Montana and Canada. A lake that had more fresh water in it than all of the great lakes combined. Now, what would happen is that the lake behind the Ice Dam would rise and rise and rise (over many decades) and when it got high enough, the ice dam, like a giant iceberg, floated up and opened a flood gate! The waters flooded through carrying with it tons and tons of stone and ice and water. Down through the Columbia Gorge it ran until it hit Portland. Well, actually the bend in the river where the city of Portland will eventually be built. This diverted the flow and the ice (embedded with stones) and muck and such flowed into the Willamette valley flooding it to a depth of several hundred feet. There are stones the size of houses that are called “Glacial Erratics” that came down stuck to chunks of ice and then floated around in lake willamette for a while until the ice melted and they ended up sitting on some pile of silt that is now a vineyard. (really, you can go see one HERE).

But all of (or much of) the round river rock (and agates) came down from the Rockies at this time. And when enough water had flowed out, the Ice Dam would fall back down and block the flow and the whole thing would start over again. This happened maybe a hundred times over a few thousand years. And that is why there is so much rock everywhere. (by the way, I got this from a river keepers sponsored Rock Guy science talk after dinner in Albany. All inaccuracies in report are mine. )

Where was I? Oh yes, swimming. We all went swimming. And now, time to get the rest of the way down the river. I wonder where we are sleeping tonight. Will there be something lovely….. like… grass? And perhaps an easier place to pull the boats from the water?

Tonight we are camping at a city park in Corvallis. We get nice grass to camp on, but still a little bit of a slug up a boat ramp to leave our boats.

So nice to be on grass. We set up right over by First Base so we could hang our wet clothes on the infield fence.

Morning Stretches out by first base
For Dinner tonight, we are having barbecue. Pulled pork, corn on the cob, beans, chicken, all of the fixings. For entertainment we have a sort of all xylophone band playing what appear to be hand made instruments. They are very good and fun and have some people dancing on the grass. Tomorrow is only a 15 mile day, so we are going to be able to take it more at easy. The sun is out and hot and my partner and sister and I sit down in the shade behind our tent and listen to the music. And rest. It is very pleasant.

Tuesday Day 3

I wanted to say a little more about the river. This is a good place as we started the day with a quick  ferry crossing and then an exploration of a slow (and eventually) blocked side channel just across the river from our campsite. There are many side channels and back ways on the river. Most of these are caused by a little island or rock bar in the river. The back channels around these can be anything from continuous to seasonal and you sort of have to watch them to decide if they are passable. Many back channels have man made pilling walls that semi-block water flow down the back side. Not sure what that is all about, perhaps trying to keep more water flow out in the main channel to facilitate shipping (100 years ago). Another cause of the back channels is shifting main channel. If you look at a google map view of the river, you can see that there are many channels, and Oxbow lakes create when the meandering channel cuts off a meander or changes course (perhaps during a storm). Let me find a zoom in of a map so you can take a look (try HERE). Today, our little waterway is man-made, however. It is the remanent of old stone and gravel quarries. The little round river stones that I have described earlier are excellent foundation for concrete for building and there have been many quarry operations on the river over the years. There is huge one right down near Portland where a majority of Ross Island was removed (by Ross Island Stone and Gravel company). Today there is a 100 ft deep lagoon in the center of the island.

little side channel excursion

I follow our fearless leader up a creek (with an extra paddle)

This particular side channel was very slow moving water. More of a pond than anything else. Lots of downed trees to paddle around and very, very green. On the bottom in one place we noted shells from some fresh water clam or mussel (we thought they were mussels but our resident marine biologist (while not a student of fresh water) noted that they didn’t resemble salt water mussels).

Editor's note: If you go back there, you might spot my Nikon on the bottom as well, full of my first two days of fabulous photos.  When the paddling gets slow, I get bored, and careless, and, well, whoops, there it goes off my deck and into the river.

We are supposed to get a lecture in Willamette river mussels later in the day (OK, we missed that lecture, but here is a pointer to the news source ).

We are paddling through Corvallis. Things are getting pretty flat and the river is sort of lazy today. That means that we have to paddle more to get our 15 miles in. For those people not from around here, Corvallis is a college town, home of Oregon State University, which is the technology school for Oregon (well, along with OIT). They are the Beavers and the University or Oregon (in Eugene) is the Ducks. My college mascot was also the Beaver (link) so I like to root for OSU. Not that my rooting helps them much.

And on we paddle.

An interesting thing about being down on the river is that the banks are often ten or more feet high. Often 20 or 30 feet high. But the surrounding valley is pretty flat. So when you are down there, most places you look you see trees and plants and wildlife. It feels like you are paddling through a pretty wild area. Just you and Nature. Yeah, sometimes you can see a farmer's field up there on the banks, but usually it is trees and the occasional cabin. But, in reality, we are paddling through prime Willamette Valley farm land. There are farms all over the place, They come up to within 50 feet of the river and stop (probably because of the river slope) and you can’t see them. You also can’t see the roads and the saw mills and the Quarries and all of the other things that are going on just up there out of sight. Take a look HERE and then zoom out. This is a stretch of the river where we stopped, along with everyone else, to get some nature talks. See how it looks all nice and wild.... until you zoom out. We missed the talk on fresh water mussels, but we did get to hear about Peregrin Falcons.

People at the Peregrin Falcon talk

Now Peregrin Falcons were almost extinct for a while because of the use of DDT. But in recent times they have made a pretty strong recovery. They are an interesting bird because they do pretty well living on structures made by humans. They like to nest on cliffs, so they also will nest on tall buildings and bridges. There was a local government (perhaps Audubon?) conservation guy there talking. He works a lot with Peregrins and has done a lot of banding, especially on birds found around Portland. There is a very successful nets of these birds on the Freemont Bridge in Portland. He told this one story of how there was a construction site under the bridge where the local construction guys would take very good care of any nestlings that happened to fall down from the bridge. He went to the site one time because the guys had found a Peregrin baby on the ground. They were protective of the baby but stayed away from it. They told this story. A while ago a baby Peregrin and been on the ground in their construction site and their boss was interested in it and tried to take care of it. But when he went to pick it up, mama came screaming down out of the sky at 200 MPH and splayed the boss out cold. The workers figured that any bird that could clock their boss was OK with them.

And why are these babies on the ground? Well, they are nesting on the Freemont Bridge. This is a big, pretty bridge on the NW side of Portland. It crosses the Willamette close to the start of the Multnomah channel. Anyway, the Peregrins evolved nesting on cliffs. If you are on a cliff, there is usually an updraft caused by the topology of the cliff. So a baby peregrin, when it is time to test its wings, would come up to the cliff edge, spread its wings, and sort of lean into the updraft. if it fell, what would usually happen is that the updraft would blow it back up to the nest, or at worst, it would come back to the cliff just a little way down from the nest. But on the Bridge, the birds fall (glide) all the way to the ground.

The area where we heard this lecture on Peregrin is also a good part of the river to hunt for Agates. May have found one.

A bunch of Juvenile Great Blue Heron (GBH)

River Mile Marker

A Pair Eagles fishing and messing with each other
A little further down the river we came across a pair of Bald Eagles. They were playing with each other and flying around and fishing. Such Beautiful birds. Too bad that when you usually see them they are trying to steal fish from hard working Osprey.

We get into our campsite a little later. We are one of the early pods for today, so we get a to select a good campsite in the shade and the grass. We are in a big park that is part of the city of Albany. I really liked this campsite. There was a big flat bank right at the take out. We didn’t have to carry the boats very far and lots of space to put them, and lots of nice grass to camp in.

For dinner Tonight we had Fajitas and the fixings. My partner and I also got a shot at the back massage. Oh, that was very nice on the shore shoulders. (The city of Albany had an information booth set up for us, with a few folks staffing it.  They brought asian pears to share, and hosted the city trolley to pick paddlers up for trips into town who wanted to venture out and see Albany.  I went to ask if they had a Costco, and explained my sad saga about my camera that went swimming.  The nice lady said yes.  Then I asked if they had Uber.  She said yes, we call him Jim, and pointed to her counterpart.  "But he's busy, so I'll take you!" She was ready to go, to drive me into town to Costco so I could get a new camera.  Such a friendly city, Albany, you should go there and check it out).

The Mayor of Albany came and talked to us. Albany sounds like a pretty nice town. They are spending a lot of money on making the town nice and attracting people. One thing she talked about was called “talking waters” which was a project to treat waste water. Seems like they turned the thing in to an organic processing area that is also a nature walk. They won international awards for it. Look HERE.

Oh, the other wonderful thing about our camp in Albany. There were shower trucks.

Shower Trucks !!!

One of the things I guess I take for granted in our first world blessed culture is the ability to be clean. So when you haven't had a shower in a few days, actually taking one is blissful.

But Shower Trucks?

What is a shower truck? Well, it is about the size of a standard 12 wheeler trailer. Along the side are doors for 5 shower rooms. Each room has a little changing area, a sink, and shower (that is just big enough for two). The trailers hook up (with a garden hose) to the city water but they have their own propane heating and electricity (for lighting and fans). And they are WONDERFUL. And you can take as many showers as you want.

So. How does such a thing as a shower truck come to be? What is the market? I asked this question. I guess there are a lot of events where people get together and camp and could use showers. And there is also the argument that you need things like this for national emergencies and so they have to exist and so you might as well have them around for common use such as Paddle Oregon. A quick internet search seems to indicate that these things are pretty big business. Everything from serving the homeless to having better facilities at a construction site. So there you go. Showers.

And I took ANOTHER one (shower) in the morning.

Why? Because we still have 2 more days of paddling to go....

to be continued.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Paddle Oregon 2017. Part 1 of N

Paddle Oregon 2017

The paddle has been over for a few days and I am still sore and tired. I am trying to figure out if this was an adventure or a vacation.

Something in between, I am thinking. I mean, it is the rare adventure that has huge delicious catered meals every lunch and dinner, but it is also the rare vacation that has you sleeping on the hard ground, getting up when you still need a flashlight in order to pack up your tent and be on the river by 8:00. So. Something between.

Perhaps a little background.

Paddle Oregon is a 90 some mile canoe and kayak trip down the Willamette river in Oregon. It has been put on every year (I think this was the 18th year) by the Willamette Riverkeeper organization as a sort of outreach and awareness operation. Oh, they probably make a few bucks too, but that isn’t the main push of the event.

They normally have around 120 paddlers. They divide up into pods of 12 paddlers and 2 leaders (staff, guides, safety personnel , whatever) and go from campground to campground doing 15-21 miles a day down the river.

They have had different routes over the years, covering different stretches of the river, but they have decided that most of the paddling down near Portland is too boring (big slow river), has too many motor boats, and the camping isn’t very good (you really need a big grassy park that will let you invade) and so they have been further south for the last few years. This year we started just North of Eugene and paddled through to downtown Salem. And most of that was farmland and forest. One of the things that has historically limited the size of the trip is the size of one of the camp grounds (The Rogue Brewery near Independence). But this year the camping area was all torn up with construction and besides, no one wanted to listen to the Hops Trucks running all night, so they moved it down the river a couple of miles to a piece of privately owned river bottom land that the local farmer was gracious enough to let us use (more on him later).

So, now that the limited size camping was gone, and we could have more people on the trip, there was that other little side show, the 2017 total eclipse of the sun. Which was going to be on day 2 of the paddle at around 10:00 in the morning. So, suddenly, they are selling tickets (at $900 a pop) for an entirely different event and people sign up. I think there were 230 paddlers (that probably counts leaders). That is a lot of pods. A lot of paddles. A lot of porta-potties. (editor's note:  I have had emails up to the last few weeks that there were still openings for paddlers for Paddle Oregon in previous years, so I don't think they usually fill all the spots they have available, or maybe they fill at the last minute).

Willamette Riverkeepers has been doing this shindig for a while and they seem to have most of the bumps worked out. They have a superb caterer (Dalton’s Northwest Catering) who takes care of food and water and seating and entertainment, and they have a team delivering clean porta-potties and hand washing stations to each campsite. The entire support staff is extremely helpful. They say that they will help you with anything you need and they pretty much mean it. For instance, my sister was traveling with my partner and I and she had a shoe blow out. We needed some duct tape or something like that to hold it together. She approached a staff member about it and she said no problem and took the shoe and brought it back To Her Tent later on in the evening all fixed up.

They did have a few issues with the larger than normal crowd. For one thing, it took a while longer at the launch to get kayaks to the boat ramp and get people into the water. I mean, you have 230 people, call it 230/14= 16 pods and each pod takes…. 10 minutes? to get to the water and launched. That is over 2 hours. That is much too long. But they sort of figured it out after the first hour and things got moving faster.

Before we launched we had a big, group-wide safety and orientation talk. Where we heard about who was there from which states (a bunch of people from Montana, some newlyweds) and then we were told some of the more important things:

1) You must wear your Personal Flotation Device.

2) Even though there are leaders/safety people in your pod and additional rescue/safety people spread out on the river, it is YOU that are responsible for you own safety. YOU have to take the necessary actions to keep yourself safe and YOU cannot be depending on anyone else. Keep your eyes open and don’t do anything stupid.

3) Above all, this is your VACATION. So relax, take your time, and enjoy yourself.

So, Number (1) and (2) above are absolutely true and absolutely essential.

Number (3) I think is a bit of a stretch. What they probably meant was;

3) Above all, this is your VACATION. But you have 21 miles of paddling to do today and you can only travel as fast as your slowest pod member, so you had better not dawdle or take a bunch of breaks hunting rocks or whatnot and get your ass down the river or you will miss hors d'oeuvre, massage sign-up, and the best tent pitching places. And the Total Solar Eclipse. (Editor's note: And don't arrive a minute early, because we have a lot of set up to do, and all you people running around asking 'when do we get shower trucks?' and 'where is the beer?' make it difficult for us to set up).

Ok, we only had two 21 mile days.

Well. How about we walk through the days and hit the highlights and lowlights and Eclipsed Lights?

Saturday.  Day 0

If you were anywhere in Oregon (or probably the US) over the last 6 months, you have heard the rather dire predictions for traffic that would ensue with hundreds of thousand visitors descending on Oregon for front row seats for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. I mean, some of the predictions were down right scary. For instance:

Scenario 1:
  • Madras Oregon. A little town in the Totality. Has a 4 lane highway running through it. 2 lanes in many places. Expecting something like 40,000 additional cars on the morning of the eclipse. Diners are gearing up to serve 10X the number of people they usually serve. We stopped in there a few weeks before and everyone was all about eclipse readiness. Did they have their eclipse memorabilia ordered and ready? Did they have all of the food they needed? Did they need extra sanitation facilities? People were renting out their yards as camping areas for $400 a tent slot. But now, imagine that there are the 40,000 additions cars driving through at 9:00am (an hour before totality), traffic is bumper to bumper but now it is time. IT IS TIME. everyone pulls over to the side of the road. If they can. Or else they just park in the middle of the street. Traffic stops. The temperature is high. People keep their engines running to use the AC. Some people didn’t bring drinking water. They can’t get to a place where there is some. People are starting to have heat exhaustion. Emergency services can’t get through because the roads are blocked. But that is OK because you can’t call them because the CELL phone system is completely overwhelmed. 15 minutes before totality, the first big fight breaks out. A lot of shoving. The old guy that won’t move his RV has a heart attack. It takes 10 hours to clear the traffic. By then 20 people have died and 100 would be hospitalized except the hospitals are already full.
Scenario 2:
  • 60,000 extra people are expected in Lincoln City (a little place on the beach). The traffic jam on the 2 lane road that comes in from Portland runs from the coast 50 miles out to Interstate 5.

So. We are worried about all of this. How much is real? How early should we go? What is crazy and what isn’t? We decide to drive to the put-in the night before the event starts and camp in the little park there with some other paddlers and some of the volunteers for the event who are going to be there to begin early setup.

No water. Pit Toilets. Camp in the mowed stickle burr reed grass. But…. no Traffic.

Special Note:
  • The joke was on us. The Scenarios above never happened. There was some obnoxious traffic on I-5 but Armageddon was avoided, perhaps due to everyone being scared away by the dire warnings on NPR.

Sunday. Day 1

We got up early expecting to be sitting around with nothing to do for a while. But, to our surprise, the Caterer had already shown up and there was…. COFFEE !!!

Yippee. That is a reason to get out of bed. It was also pleasantly cool in the morning. I wasn’t too well rested. I haven’t slept all that often on the ground in the last 40 years and it is hard to sleep on your side on a little hiking foam mattress. Luckily my partner and I had splurged (space wise) and brought REAL pillows. Oh my.

Organizing by Pod

The safety talk

In line on the ramp
So, we are up and having coffee. We are at the Marshal Island Access boat ramp just outside of Junction City. I figure it is called Junction City because, as far as I can tell from the Train Whistles during the night, it is the Junction of like 1000 extremely active railroad lines. The registration opens and we get our T-shirts and pod assignments and such and then just laze around and drink coffee and eat a pleasant breakfast from the caterer. Oh, I guess we also went back out in that dang field and folded up all of our stuff and stuffed it into the 2 duffels per person that we were allowed to put on the Ryder truck that would be shadowing the event by hauling our gear from site to site.

Many of the other paddlers were meeting at 6:00AM at the take-out in Salem. They left their cars at the Wallace Marine park and put their boats on trailers and their butts into a couple of big buses and road out to where we were, where they got to stand in line again to register.

(Other folks just got dropped off at the put in park. It was like some grade school drop offs, keep the cars moving, no one parks, lots of helpers to haul your boat off your car and your bags out of the back.  Our son helped us the day before and was so efficient we were left with a step stool we didn't intent to take, found under the pile of our 4 duffle bags and 5 Ikea bags of paddle gear).

There were signs out in the field with the pod names on them and the idea was to put your boats there and meet your pod mates. My kayak partner and I pull our 3 boats over the Jasper pod sign. We have an extra boat because our sister is meeting us here this morning. (She spent the night at another sister's house that is like 15 minutes away from here and is getting a ride over. Hey, there she is!!)

This was my first chance to get a look at our fellow paddlers. What sort of people would they be?Well, of course, they were a lot of sorts of people. A lot of Doctors and Teachers. A lot of people that were retired and now taught paddling. My overall take was they were people that were…. retired. They were old. They were also in ridiculously good shape. This is where all of the skinny, healthy, retired, white people are going for an Adventure Vacation. Seriously, my partner was probably the youngest person in our Pod. I may have been the second youngest. I am 60. (I figured I should tell you that cause if you have seen pictures of me you probably think I am 37).

The other thing that is different about the Pods is the boats that are in them. In my Pod, we have mainly kayaks, but one of our Leaders (Marilyn) is in a single person canoe and one other couple is in a two person canoe. But there is another Pod that is mainly tandem Kayaks and another that is mainly 2 person canoes. Hard to tell how the pods are picked. Some of them do have young people who appear to be related to the event organizers, and some pods are made of friends who have done the trip before and asked to be together. And evidently there is one Pod that is expected to be slower than the rest and is called the Poke Pod. Not sure I liked that.

My pod seemed to be all people that had never done Paddle Oregon before (I may be wrong about that) but 3 or 4 of the paddlers had a LOT of paddling experience. One gentlemen had been white water kayaking for decades and was well known by our guides. He also told good jokes. EVERYONE was very excited, and very friendly.

Ok, Time to launch. Lets go.

Ok, so, the pods in front of us have to go first. Ok.

(By now we've been standing in the hot sun for more than an hour.  I had to sunscreen the backs of my knees during our pod talk because I was getting burned back there.  There were a few trees, maybe 20 of us could stand in the shade (out of the 200).  We wandered down to the river to watch some other launches and lingered in the shade there.)

Lets Go.


Get going.

Get in the water already.

Hmmm. Let’s walk over and watch people launch.

Man, They are slow. They are launching 2 boats at a time and each boat is taking over a minute. We need a bigger beach here, instead of a boat ramp.

Some of the event leaders have figured out the problem, however, and they start us staging better. That is doing it. Now we are moving about as fast as we can move all of our boats (cause, it takes 2 or more people to move each boat and you have to go back a few times).

At last, into the water.

Our pod actually launched pretty fast when it was our turn. Everyone was helping out and we went down and hung out in a little back eddy just below the boat ramp.

Don’t know back Eddy?

Hanging out in the Eddy
And Eddy usually happens when something sticks out into the main current and diverts it out a bit. Usually a log or an island or a wall or something. In this case, it is the pile of rocks just above the boat ramp. The rapid current shoots down around the obstacle and makes a sort of suction happen against the still water on the other side of the obstacle. The water gets sucked up toward the fast moving current which makes a new current moving in the opposite direction. A current moving UPSTREAM. Sometimes these currents can be pretty strong, making the line between up stream and down stream be very obvious, and difficult to cross.

But today, in this case, the boat ramp is making a rather slow moving eddy, and we just sort of hang out there where we get our directions on how to proceed. We are going to peel out across the eddyline and then try to Ferry across the river to the other side. A Ferry, in paddle talk, is where you point your boat up stream at around a 45 degree angle to the current and try to cross the stream without going down river very much. We tried this, but it was a bit too much of a first try operation and a few boats ended up going sideways in the current. which means going down stream. So we all ended up heading that way to keep the pod together. Generally, you have one of the 2 leaders out in front scouting the river. Looking for things to stay away from (like rocks and snags) and pointing which side of the river we want to head for. Then you have the other leader running sweep. Their job is to make sure everyone is keeping up and (probably) to do a rescue if you happen to go all bottoms up on them. 

So, the river is high. The water is fast. We are going fast and there are a lot of ripples in the water, and rocks and trees and such. This isn’t white water. This is all Class 1 stuff. So doing it in a kayak or a canoe (instead of a white water kayak or raft) is a reasonable thing. As long as you stay away from the obviously dangerous stuff. The problem is that obviously dangerous stuff is also the interesting and exciting stuff. And people want to go over and play in it. We had one guy that was a VERY gifted kayaker. He could do amazing things with his boat. I was very impressed with him. He liked to zoom over and look at all of the dangerous and exciting stuff. But he did this in a very careful and controlled manner and I never thought he was actually DOING anything dangerous. That, evidently, wasn’t true for other pods.

We are going down the river. We are going fast. It is a good ride. We are all getting used to our boats and to the river. Our leaders are doing a good job of keeping us together and off of the snags. Then we round a turn and there are a couple of boats in the overhanging trees on the right bank. One of the boats in upside down against the bank. Our leader goes over to help out. Our pod groups up down stream to wait. 

A couple of boats hung up on a snag
Around the next bend and the river opens up. It goes around a big tree that is in the middle of the river, on its side with its roots sticking way up in the air on the upstream leg. That is how trees usually present them selves in the river. They are laying down with the root ball upstream. The tree itself may be underwater 100 feet down stream. These can be BIG trees. However as big as this tree is, it is not blocking the river. There is still a good 60 feet of clearance on River Right, and though I can’t see it, probably 40 foot on river left. Plenty of room to stay clear and be safe.

So why are there 2 kayaks trapped in the tree roots and completely underwater on the heavy current right side of the tree and 3 people actually out of the water up on the tree? Doesn’t appear to be anyone in the water or trapped underwater, that is good. The people on the tree appear to be trying to figure out what is going on. There is an entire pod of people beached on a little rock bar (probably the same one the tree is sort of hung up on, just downstream.

We float on by. Plenty of people to either help out or get in the way already present. We find out later that one of the three people on the tree was a leader from a different pod, with a lot of swift water experience, that went back to help. We also find out that one person had a rough time getting out of the boat when it got hung up in the roots and broke a few ribs on the exit.

Jasper Pod lunch stop. See any agates?
Some baby Mergansers on the river.
That was the last incident that we saw, but it turns out there were all sorts of more minor dumps and exits on that stretch of the river. The ranger in the power boat doing rescues said that he had made 8 assists that day, more than any other Paddle Oregon day he had done. One group of canoes said they had one boat go over 4 times. Usually when you go over, by the way, it just means that you get wet. You probably get wet and then stand up and take care of your boat yourself. It is very rare that you would be in a situation where getting wet was dangerous. Why? Because you stay away from dangerous things.

But still. Why all of the upside down boats? Why was this year so much worse than previous years? Well, the river was a little higher and faster than usual, but I don’t think that was the reason. I think it was because of the Eclipse. I think there were more people on the paddle that didn’t read the experience requirements in the Paddle Oregon web page. It lists 3 requirements there.

From the Paddle Oregon Website:
  • In addition to basic skills, we recommend practicing rescue techniques prior to the trip, and encourage that participants have recent experience paddling 10 to 20 miles per day to assure one’s stamina is adequate to enjoy the trip. Your pod will take regular breaks as needed. The upper river has slightly more gradient, resulting in a decent current that will assist us as we paddle down river (although there is always the possibility of a headwind!). 
  • All participants are required to meet two of the following: 
    • Paddling experience on moving water (strong river currents, eddies, etc.) within the last two (2) years. 
    • Moving water paddling instruction within the last four (4) years. 
    • Previous participation in Paddle Oregon. 
But it was clear that some people on the paddle had never been in a boat on the river before. That is not a good thing. Also not something that Paddle Oregon can really regulate. I mean, they can post warnings, perhaps they could require you to attest to your skill, but if you don’t pay attention or just out and out deceive, not sure what they could do. There are some certification bodies, I think, but they are not very active and many people with years of experience on the river may not have ever had a certification class. Perhaps a larger font on the website.

Here is what it feels like to be out in the current. The river is running probably between 2-5mph, depending on where you are in the river and what section of the river. Some parts are shallow and fast and others are deeper or wider and slower. Let's say we are in a 4mph section. Now that doesn't sound to fast, but about as fast as you can paddle is 3mph (perhaps 4 or even 5 for short bursts). Now, ahead of me I can see a disturbance in the water. It is rather high but small. A tree branch or a stone or something just below the water. I am off to the right of it, but I realize the current here is drifting left and taking me toward it. It seems like I have a lot of time to dodge and so I decide to pass just to the left of it. But as I paddle I realize that my angle of approach is not changing and I am advancing on the object faster than I had been expecting. Now my point of reference changes. Instead of me moving toward the thing, I find the thing moving, rapidly, toward me. it is like a torpedo coming right at me and I can't avoid it. I paddle hard but to no avail, it targets me and ZAP, I pass right over it. It was a pretty big rock but the water carried me over with minimum bumping. But it was scary. And I couldn't avoid it. I had not stayed far enough away from it. I could be one of those people trapped in the tree roots. Food for thought.

Anyway, the good news is that the rapid current sped us right on our way and we got into the location of our first camp only a tad bit late for hors d'oeuvres.

Where we pulled up was a typical sort of landing you can see on the river. There was a steep (8 foot) embankment of rounded stone and sand and a little bit of slow moving shallow water at the bank. We paddled over to shore, put our noses a little up current and got out of our boats. (TBD: say more about getting out of boats later). But when I went to pull my plastic 17 foot Tempest up on the nice smooth rocks I found that the shoreline was too steep. No matter what I did, my boat would just slide back into the water. Since I almost had my boat escape from me a few weeks ago in a similar situation on this very river (albeit closer to Portland) I knew that this just wasn’t a tenable overnight solution. So….. up that 8 foot embankment we went with our boats. It wasn’t that bad. The top was sand and we could slide it. My point here was that it was rather physical. It wasn’t real hard, but it was a bit of a slug. And we had to do it for 5 or 6 of the more slidy boats. Lots of activity is my point. Don’t feel bad about an extra slide of roast beef and desert is my point. You are not going to be gaining weight on this Vacation, is my point.

Oh my, I was too hot, and sooo tired (we just paddled 15 miles after standing in the hot sun for 2 1/2 hours and sleeping on the ground).  So hauling the 65 lb boats up the hill with wet feet in the mucky sand and dried hay was not on my agenda AT ALL. Nor was arriving in the middle of a party of people who looked like they spent the night in a hotel, clean clothes, fancy sun hats, and us slogging wet and dirty right through the middle of them.

Our boat wouldn't stay down there.
So, up the hill we go. Plop our boats in the dry grass, and there we are. Right at the party part of the event. The caterer had arrived some time ago, along with the porta-potties and beer truck (yes, there is a beer truck). The Ryder truck with our duffles of gear is also there and the duffles are all spread out where we can make an easy ID of our stuff. So we grab it and walk off to find a decent place to pitch a tent. There is plenty of space available (this is someone's private property) but we were warned to stay away from the orange cones (there be Yellow Jacket nests). The ground, it turned out, was pretty much identical to what we slept on last night. That means a dry grass with a lot of little stalks cut low by some big bush hog machine. The little stalks were a pain. They are basically little natural bungie sticks ready to get the unwary barefoot person or sleeper. We rolled out our tent only to find one of these bunnies trying to stickup through the bottom of our tent. I had to lift up the tent and go under it and cut the thing off with my trusty pocket knife.

We don't have any running water or showers or anything tonight. There is plenty of ice water for drinking and filling your water bottles, but not for washing, per se. And we are hot and dirty so we go down to the river for a swim. The water is cold and a little swift. We sit down in it at about thigh depth and it floats us downstream a way. Just 50 feet around the corner and we find the place that we were really supposed to land our kayaks. A little more protected and a ramp of sorts to make it easier to pull boats out. And a pile of pod signs to direct us where to put our boats. Who knew? But at least now we are clean(er) and cool.

However, we changed into some dry clothes and made it over to the common area for the last of the appetizers and the Free Beer.

Free Beer from Ninkasi Brewery.

The Ninkasi Boys

I seem to keep running into things to talk about. That is because there is a lot going on and much of it is new. For instance: Free Beer From Ninkasi. I get in the (not very long) line to get a glass of beer before I start socializing. The beer is under a pop-up sun screen and real taps off of real kegs are evident. The 2 guys doing the severing are…. impressive. They are sculpted, tanned, impressively bearded, and shirtless. And very happy. All of the women around me seem to be very happy also. In fact, one (unknown) woman beside me gives me a nudge and a wink and whispers, “Wow, pretty impressive, huh”. I just laughed and said, “Well, not my usual choice in viewing, but I agree they are impressive so I will just stand here and enjoy the show with you.” I heard a lot of women during the trip commenting on the “eye candy” available that night. Got me wondering, should I have been worried about those guys being exploited? Is there a double standard going on here? Would eyebrows have been raised if they had been hot young women in bikinis? Hmmm. Yeah. Probably. Did I mention that the beer was very good? They had an IPA and a Pilsner and both were wonderful.

I was not one of the women around him in the beer line, nor the others talking about the eye candy.  In fact, there was special beer and wine service every night on the trip, which wasn't much fun if you don't drink alcohol.  I felt a little left out, both from the drinking aspect and the entertainment conversations around the beer and wine. It was a big, special deal to see the brewery of the night and the wine offerings...

Part of Day1 campsite. Looks like some people haven't gotten off the river and picked up their bags.

Yes Please, Salmon AND Steak
Always had lots of fruit and good for you stuff.

And then dinner was served. Oh my. This was my first real sit down meal with the caterers. I mean, breakfast was just a continental affair and we sort of missed appetizers. This was the real thing. And you could tell it was real just heading in. There were real plates (big ones) and real cloth napkins (the classy places give you cloth, you know). It was served buffet style and there were a LOT of things to choose from. The main things on the menu tonight were Salmon and Roast Beef. Big pieces of Salmon. Huge hand cut chunks of Roast Beef. Great spinach salad and potatoes and fresh bread and lots of other things going on. We were even lucky enough to be early in line. The food was Delicious and there was a lot of it. Suddenly I am feeling like I am on vacation again. Lots of tables set up. Sit down where you might and perhaps meet some new people and talk about your day and your life in general. Perhaps don’t talk about what Trump is doing this week. That would not be very Vacation-like. Do talk about what we are going to do in the morning. Because Tomorrow is……

Monday. Day 2. The day of the Eclipse. (To be Continued)

A picture of camp 1 from the Willamette Riverkeepers Facebook page site:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

High Water on the Willamette (well, and the Columbia)

High Water on the Willamette (well, and the Columbia)

In the Trees at Scappoose

We sure had a lot of rain and snow last winter. We had 12 inches of snow on my front lawn for a week in January. The two snowplows in Portland were very busy. Whenever we have a winter like this, a bunch of people write the mayor and ask him why he doesn’t have the equipment to move all of that snow and clear the roads. He replies that since this only happens about once a decade, it is cheaper to shut the city down for a few days then to buy, staff, train and maintain all of the plows that would be needed. Take the long weekend off, he says. We had like three weeks of long weekends this winter.

And now? The snow in our mountains is melting and all of that water is coming zooming down the local rivers. The Clackamas is high, the McKenzie is high. All pouring into the Willamette (and eventually the Columbia, but enough about that). My partner and I went out to a few of the local boat ramps on the Willamette up above the falls a couple of weeks ago. The water levels were at like 6 feet above normal. The place we had planned on launching from was underwater. The Ferry wasn’t operating yet for the season. Usually by now everything is more or less back to normal, but man, we still have water.

Here are four examples.

Bachelor Island

Bachelor Island is on the Washington Side of the Columbia, across the river from Sauvie Island. My Partner and I did this paddle on our first date that I was pretty sure was an actual date. We even named the beach we ate lunch on "First Kiss Beach". There is probably a story there.

Today, we launched from the new "Kayak Launch" in Richfield (just a skip away from the main boat launch where they let you park and launch for free as long as you stay out of the real boaters' way). The water was so high that the big five foot bank on the other side of Lake River was just gone. We paddled down river a bit and then turned left into Bachelor Slough. This is usually a nothing little hunk of water. Sometimes it is so shallow that you have to be careful not to run aground. Today the water was high and there was a pretty stiff current coming from the Columbia. In this case, the current was around 1 or 2 knots. Now, that may not sound too fast, but it is about half of your usual boat speed, so it turns a half hour leg into a one hour leg. The slough was also home to a couple of large old abandoned cabin cruisers. You know, old ones like for Giligan's Island. They were floating back there on anchors looking like they should sink. And to top it off, they had Sheriff's office tow notices taped to their windows. I wonder if we can read the notices from the pictures I took.


We usually rest when we get to this nice beach at the end of the slough on the Columbia. Today, most of the beach was underwater, but there was still enough room to pull up and rest.  We had some water and a power bar and then set off down the Columbia. I am usually a little trepidatious about this leg down the Big River because there are these man eating Wing Dams out there that stick out in the water. You have to go around them or they'll reach out and kill you. Lots of swirls and such coming out from them and sea monsters like to lurk in their wake, awaiting the unwary.


But today. No Wing Dams. Nothing, Nada. They were all too deep underwater. Perhaps a little swirl here and there. We did run into a couple of little sea monsters (sea lions, actually) but they left us alone. Probably because I look so intimating in my color coordinated paddling outfit.

Now that is beautiful

As we were going down the length of Bachelor Island, we were looking for possible camping spots. Even with the river high, there were still some good high sandy places that people could (legally) camp. We were going passed the last one when I pointed out to my Partner that we might want to land and cook our lunch since First Kiss Beach might be underwater. She wanted to risk it though, so we pushed on. The current in the Columbia was going good and we got to the beach quickly. Well, we got to the place where the beach would have been quickly. No Beach. Hell, the beach was deeper underwater than our paddles reached. Ha!
No First Kiss Beach

Then another strange thing. I figured the current we had in the Slough would be mirrored in this part of Lake River, since that Slough current dumped into it. But no. Hardly any current in the river as we went back up to the landing. We did run into a community project, however. People had been making and placing bird houses for the local swift population. There were dozens of these beautifully built and decorated houses mounted on old pilings in the river. They were fun to see. And already full of swifts!



Ross Island

We live in the city of Portland. If the weather is nice, we can paddle around Ross Island (a little island in the Willamette River inside the Portland City boundaries) as a quick get-away and exercise workout. It takes about an hour to paddle around the island if you put your mind to it and don’t stop to hunt for Agates. Well, there was no hunting for agates (at least, very little) for the past couple of months because there were no pieces of land showing where you could get out of your boat and search. Toe Island? Completely underwater. I mean, almost unfindable underwater. A good four feet down to the top of the island. Some tops of bushes were showing. A bunch of new logs caught up in the mess. Even down at the north tip of Ross Island, where we often stop to sit on the beach and enjoy a picnic and view of the city. Even there we were paddling through the trees and looking down on our usually resting spot.

The keep out signs were almost under water

Paddling across the North End Beach

The water isn’t running fast or anything. So it isn’t like some of the scary flood times in the winter. It is just high and slow. How can that happen? Perhaps the Columbia is also high and slow (but enough about her).

The nice row of house boats seem to be OK, however. The rising waters didn’t flood them a bit. Strange. They probably have flooded basements.

There is a path (the River walk) that goes down the west side of the Willamette, past a nice little condo and boat dock area. In a few places the walkway is flooded under four feet of water. You have to go out to the main street to get around it. 

All that is left of Toe Island

This goose is nesting on flotsam

Once again, this sort of thing usually happens in the winter, but not this late in the spring.

Candiana Bar

This rock and sand bar (which also has a good stand of trees on it) is just up river from the San Salvador landing in St. Paul. If we want a short but good rock hunting trip, we will launch from San Salvador and then paddle our way up river to the Bar. This paddle is just about always a challenge. It is very seldom that we can paddle hard enough up current to make any headway unless we hug the sides of the river (where the current is often much less intense). Usually, there is a 4 to 6 foot embankment on both sides of the river (often there is a 40 foot cliff on one side also).

Its hard to tell what the river is doing from a still, So I am trying to embed a video.

Two weeks ago, when we headed up, the embankment on the east side was pretty much GONE. The water was just too deep. The river was running fast and hard, but because of the added depth, there were more places on the side to hug. We could paddle through some grass and such, for instance. So we were able to get most of the way up river until we came to a large tree that had fallen and was sticking 40 feet out in the flow. When we tried to go out and around it, we were caught in the current, which was even more intense shooting around the end of the tree. The water flows and bangs and makes things exciting, but, even when paddling full out, we just couldn’t make any headway beyond the tree. So we did a ferry crossing and headed over to the West bank. You know a ferry crossing? That is when you keep your boat headed around 45 degrees up stream and paddle. You cross slowly, but if you are lucky you don’t loose too much of your headway and get swept back down the river. The way the river runs, if it is too swift on one side, there is usually some slower water or even a eddy on the other side. That is how it was today. 

I guess the water was up here sometime ago...

I will tell you that the crossing was a bit exciting. In truth, the depth and speed and swirliness of the river had me anxious and concerned. That makes you even more wobbly. I have a bit of a fear of going into the river in the cold water and running into a submerged tree limb and being impaled. My partner is rolling her eyes now.

On the west side we were able to rest a bit. Usually there is a rock bank where we stop to catch our breath, but not this time. It was a foot underwater. So we worked our way up that bank as far as we could and then ferried back across, this time fetching up on the tip of Candiana bar. There was still a good amount of rock bar sticking up out of the water and we had a great time agate hunting. I am still amazed how deserted that island is. It is a pretty nice beach, though I guess it is pretty hard to get to (well, unless you have a power boat). I don’t think I would take anyone with me that I didn’t consider a strong kayaker. If you flip over in the current, it would be hard, cold rescue. (and you would be a mile downstream…). We had a great day of picnicking and Agate Hunting.

See the Agate?

Scappoose Bay

I have been saving the best for last. My oh My, the water is high at Scappoose bay! Now, some pendantic sorts may insist that the Scappoose is off of the Multnomah channel which is a part of the Columbia (though enough about her) but I have looked at the maps and it is pretty clear that the water in the channel is coming from the Willamette. Also the Willamette River Keepers claim the channel and I am with them. So Scappoose.

Across the bay is a low lying island/peninsula. There have been times when you can paddle a little up in the trees and get up the little streams easier than others. But today, they water was WAY over the trees. Like 5 feet over the roots. You could pretty much paddle anywhere you wanted right through the woods. Pick your path and dodge the tree trunks and duck the limbs. And… shit… is that blackberry bramble? OK, you really want to avoid raking the blackberry thorns across your chest as you glide through. That is a bit uncomfortable. Could take your eyes out or something.

ah ah, the brambles got me ah

We went there with a big group (30 something) of kayakers from our Meetup, Kayak Portland. It was great fun. Some people played follow the leader and some got tired of being at the end of the line and headed out on their own through the woods. At one time we found ourselves in this big pond that turned out to be the farmers field that we usually see cows grazing in. I had never seen the farmers house before, because we had never been up so high out of the culvert we are usually paddling in when we go that way.
In the Cow Pasture

Scappoose Bay, by the way, isn’t really a bay. It is a big pond that is an offshoot from the Multnomah Channel. This part of the Columbia (Willamette) is running North-South (which is hard to remember) so if you get lost in the trees, you want to head West to get back out to the main part of the bay and the highway.

Mt St Helens from the Bay
My partner and I split off from the group and paddled through the forest until we came to the main part of the bay, then we turned south and went to the Great Blue Heron Rookery that we often visit. It was the wrong time of day or year or something, however, because there were not many Heron at home.

Summing Up

The water level is coming down, but is still higher than I am used to. I'm not sure when we will see Toe Island again. I will have to keep you informed.