Monday, Day 2. The day of the Eclipse.
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|
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.|
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 !!
|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.
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|
Tuesday Day 3I 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.
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|
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.