Monday, October 30, 2017

Idiot Creek Bridge Update

Idiot Creek Bridge Update

It has been two weeks since my partner and I hiked the Idiot Creek Loop Road section of the Wilson river trail in Tillamook forest. If you recall, a big part of that was because there was a new bridge across Elk Creek that gave us dry shoe (and probably dry butt) access to the main part of the trail. At the time we wondered what would happen to that little bridge when it rained. Well, last week it rained big time (6-10 inches on the coast range). This week when we got to the trail, the Bridge Was Gone !!

Without Bridge
With Bridge

But a little too completely gone.
Turns out it is stored for the winter over there on the other side.
So..... no bridge for crossing and doing the Idiot Creek Loop Road hike probably until late Spring.

See the bridge hiding up there?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Idiot Creek

The Newest section of the Wilson River trail (well, that I know about) is the section from Elk Creek up over the hill to Idiot Creek Loop Road Trailhead. When they had originally put the trail in (just a few years ago) they had these plans for this big elaborate bridge. It would go across the main part of Elk Creek just below where the two main branches of Elk Creek join. There is a section of the bank there that has high rock on both sides and the bridge was going to be put in up on those rocks. This was going to be an expensive nice bridge, suitable for horse traffic. I think the forestry department lost funding before the bridge could go in. This all means that if you want to hike the part of the trail up to Idiot Creek you need to ford Elk Creek.

Fording Elk Creek isn't too much of a problem (except when the creek is in flood) but you are probably going to get your feet wet. In fact, the safe way is to get you feet wet. I got stuck in the middle once on some slippery rocks, I should have just taken my shoes off and gotten my feet frozen. I have been up this trail one time a few years ago, but I was blocked from getting too far by a big slide. My partner and I were hiking up Elk Creek trail last week when we got to the ford and found (to our surprise) that a little bridge had been put in. Cool. We could cross with dry feet and go explore this new trail. (update on the Bridge)


Idiot Creek is a funny name for a trail. This is actually the Wilson River trail but it is the section going to Idiot Creek Loop Rood Trailhead. Now Idiot Creek Road is an old lumbering road (a dirt road) that is on the other side of the mountains from Elk Creek and winds around Idiot Creek. Idiot Creek dumps into the Wilson River right where the town of Idiotville used to be. Don't believe me? Try a google on Idiotville.

I had run into a ranger up the trail several years ago. He had told me about the plans to build the bridge across Elk Creek but also about the long range plan to extend the Wilson River trail pretty much from the town of Tillamook all the way over to Gale's Creek. The only section that I don't think is done yet is the part from the Idiotville Creek Road Trailhead over to where you can latch in to the Gale's creek trail complex. Right about where Route 6 first Crosses the Wilson River on that one big bridge. There is actually a trail under that bridge that loops around to University Falls and Gale's Creek campground.

Today is going to be Sunny, but sort of chilly. We parked at the lot out by the road (the road into Elk Creek Camp is closed this time of year) so we had already done about a mile by the time we saw the bridge and decided to explore Idiot Creek Loop. The trail starts out pretty level. It is a newly made trail, not a part of an old logging trail, so it is more narrow than Elk Creek Trail, but also has its switchbacks better planned so things are not as steep. You start by following the right branch of Elk Creek (the Left Branch is what we usually follow going up Elk Creek Trail). But we quickly climbed away from the river. Down below, it seems like there could be a number of flat places covered in fern and fallen branches that might be good places to camp. But it is really steep down from the trail and I wouldn't want to try to climb down (or back up). After about half a mile we came across a large old remains of a washout. Ten or twenty years ago a bunch of mud came pouring down off the mountain, bring a lot of old stumps and new trees with it.

The trail cuts through it and then begins a set of switch backs up the mountain. The trail doesn't really go too far up the valley. Just back and forth as you wind your way up. Looking at a map, I see that all we are doing is going up this side of the hill to get ourselves over a little saddle and then down to the Idiot Creek Loop Road Trailhead. Well, as we go up, there is some interesting scenery.

What is that sticking up in the air?

We can hear some machinery whining and when we pass over another part of that big wash (further up the hill) we have a clearance where we can see across the valley onto the sun lit Northern side. Up on the top of the hill we can see a periscope like thing sticking up with a bunch of ropes coming down from it. This is a lumberjack's piece of equipment. It is used to move logs around on a hill side. (after lunch we are up high enough that we get a better view).

There is that out of place Maple
Up on the Lunch Time Ridge

Looking at the view across the Wilson River Valley

Now the switchbacks are taking us back West, so that we are pretty much straight up the hill from where we first crossed over that bridge. We hit the ridge and enter into a sort of strange eco-zone. More sun or something. There are different tree's and plants up here. There is a huge Maple, for instance, instead of the usual Doug Fir. We top out in a sunny area and stop there for lunch. There was a good open place to sit down and we had a bit of a view looking out across the Wilson River valley.

We had already been hiking for a couple of hours, but we figured we only had a mile or so left before the ending trailhead, so we decided to push on. I was thinking we were up on the ridge and we just needed to wind along it for a bit until we came to the parking lot. My partner was thinking that she wasn't going to be going out hiking with me anymore unless she had a map so that she didn't have to trust my thinking on ridges and mountains.  There was another set of switchbacks. And Another. Then we came around the corner and had a really good view looking up the Elk Creek Valley to the hills on the other side where a little lumber crew was hard at work completely denuding the backside of the hill of Trees. There was that Periscope thingee (Ok, turns out it is a Cable Yarding Carriage), and a loader or two and a truck. Maybe 4 or 5 guys tearing down a forest.  Here is a good page about lumber equipment.

The standing plank hole
Another stump

I'm not sure how I feel about that. I mean, over where we were, there were tall Douglas Fir and Alder with a good healthy ground cover of Sword Fern and Oregon Grape. Very green and wet and beautiful. Of course, the really big giants are not here. No, they were cut down a hundred years ago the old fashioned way. In fact, a lot of the giant stumps are still around. You can tell they were cut down by hand because you can see the holes cut in the stumps for the boards to be inserted that the hand saw team would stand on so they could saw down the tree above the bother of the roots and elbows.

Sure looks like clear cutting to me

There is a long history of logging in the Tillamook forest. The tree's have all been cleared out from most areas at least once. You can find a lot of the history still hiding around in the forest. Elk Creek Trail, for instance, is an old abandoned logging road. Running up that road, for much of the length, you can find remnants of the wire road roadway they may have used to swing logs down the valley. There are also machinery bits here and there. In other places in the forest you can find water tanks (presumably for steam engines). The biggest piece of logging history is the Banks to Tillamook train line that runs from Banks through Timber and then down the Salmonberry river eventually hitting the coast at Wheeler (see a story here). Though this railroad was built to provide access to the coast from Portland, it also served as an alternate route to haul the timber of Tillamook out of the forest, probably to Tillamook for shipment to California via Log Barges, but also to Portland for more local usage. The railroad was washed out a about ten years ago, by flooding caused by the very logging that it had originally encouraged. As you drive on 26 toward the coast, you can see many places where logging stripped the mountains down to dirt and sticks. The lumber companies make a big deal about re-planting and putting in little signs that say "Planted in 2016".  I can't help but think that it would be a much better practice to take the trees out a little more carefully. A little less cataclysmically. I am sure such a thinning costs more and that would mean that our 2x4's plywood and firewood would cost more, but I still think that would be better. I guess one could argue that more expensive domestic timber would just increase the demand for stripping foreign forests (poor Canada!) One problem at a time.

By the way, if you want to know more about the history the Tillamook forest, you can try the Forestry Center. It is a very nice facility, paid for using the dollars earned with the clear cutting of the local area, and it has a few nice hikes that originate from there. A good place to go yourself or an interesting learning experience for some kid type friends.

When we started this hike, our plan was to hike two hours uphill and then stop, eat lunch, and hike the two hours back down. But we have already had lunch and continued up the hill for another 45 minutes. I swear I have seen the top at least three times now but there keeps being a big piece of stone soaring out of the forest floor and rising above our heads that we have to follow the switchbacks around and over. My partner was game to continue on, but I called it on account of time. We have a few things to do back home (like take a hot tub) and need to get back to the car.

You are hiking the side of the hill almost all of the way
I find hiking in the wilderness to be one of the stranger experiences in modern life. Here you are, out for a nice walk. Having a wonderful time. But you don't stay out walking until the end. You stay out walking to halfway. You can't just instantly teleport back to your car. You can't get off the treadmill and go to the shower. You have to plan ahead to darkness and get your ass off that hill before you get benighted. So. Back down we go. The views going down are just as lovely as those coming up. But we don't get quite as out of breath.

We examined the map on the sign post at the parking lot and decided that we had been very close to where the trail would even out, wrap around the summit and then head downhill to the Idiot Creek Loop trail head. We will hike that final part another day. We saw no one else the entire time we were out hiking, and that is just too wonderful to not seek out again.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Paddle Oregon 2017: Part 3 of N

Day 4

Jasper Pod prepares for the day

We had an easy and fun launch in the morning. No big escarpments to cross. No swift waters. Launch our boats, ferry across to the other side and wait for the pod to form up. Then we can start on down the river. It was a little cold this morning. Where is that sun? We grouped up at one point (where there just wasn't a good place to land) to steady each other boats and let some people put on warmer layers. Nice to travel with people who know how to help out like that.

I Ferry across. Don't I look like I know what I am doing? That is good Photography

The big excitement for today is going to be navigating the confluence of the Willamette and Santiam rivers. The Santiam (at this point) is just about as big as the Willamette and will be coming in from the East (River Right). Anytime two medium sized currents come together you can get some jumble and mishmash and our pod leaders don’t have any news on how rough the confluence is today. Might be a big rock bed there also. We have a long paddle today (21 miles) and have been working hard at it for a while when we round the bend and can tell that something is happening up ahead. Our lead boat is a one man canoe, today, and she tells us to string out and follow her so she can guide us through the upcoming turbulence. We start over on the left side of the Willamette and then head across the river intending to go through any little white water there is and right across the Santiam mouth. From the start of the crossing, we can see way across to a large sandbar. There are a lot of boats up on it, many pods have decided to take a break here. As it turns out, the crossing is pretty simple. In fact, some people crossed much faster than they wanted and ended way up the beach with the other pods instead of down river with us. No problem. My partner and I pulled up on the beach we went rock hunting. Lots of rocks. But no agates (today). It is hard to find agates when the sun is right overhead. Easier when the sun is low on the horizon and sort of lights up the little suckers.

We did walk up the Santiam a little ways. Cold Water. The Santiam river itself is not very long, perhaps 8 miles, but it starts from the North and South branches of the Santiam which themselves feed into big reservoirs (one being Detroit Lake, a popular ski play and camping lake).


Just down river from the Confluence we start to run into a lot more obvious human habitation. First we cross over the line of the Buena Vista ferry. There are three operational ferries on the Willamette river. This one, one at Wheatland and one at Canby. All three of them use the same ferry construction. They are small (perhaps 6-9 cars max) flat two sided boats. They are powered by an overhead electric wire that runs on a little trolley system on a cable overhead, and they are held in place on the river by an underwater cable that they pull themselves along on. I think they also have a backup generator on board as well as auxiliary propellers.  A little more of a history search shows that the Canby and Buena Vista crossing are using slightly older boats that carry six cars and use overhead power, while the Wheatland Ferry is newer and bigger, it can carry nine cars and supplies its own power using a generator. I am a little unconvinced as to the accuracy of these reports. We may have to drive out to the Ferries and get better details. You can ride one (in your car) for like $3 and they are certainly a fun little thing to do with your family. Hey, take the kids out to ride the ferry and for a picnic by the river. You could hunt for Agates!! I would probably recommend the Wheatland Ferry for that. Willamette Mission park is right there and provides a good place for a picnic and exploration. Of course, I have only seen the other two ferries from the river, so perhaps there are some good parks close to them also.

A lttle downstream from the Ferry is a medium sized wooded island. We went down the left channel and then stopped at the North tip for a bio break. My partner and I went agate hunting in the shallow water at the tip and we got several of our Pod mates following along with us. Pretty soon people were finding agates and getting all excited. Not sure why it feels so good to find a rock, but it does, and it appears to be contagious. And fun. And cheap. Well, until you start to bring them home and have to go out and buy the rock tumblers and grit and such.
Hops Production at Rogue
Down and around the corner, through another small set of fast water, and we are at a Rogue Brewery site. This site is an active Hops farm, we can see the harvest machinery going as we float by. In past years, this had been the location of Paddle Oregon’s 4th (and final) stop. But this year the camping area was all dug up and muddy and not suitable for as large a group that we had. So we are going to float down a bit further and stay at a friendly local farmers bottom land. (On a side note, this may be a good thing since people didn’t like all of the noise of the round-the-clock hops harvest trucks at Rogue last year).

Boats on Murphy's Bar

The place we ended up staying is called Murphy Bar. This is really just a rock bar that is underwater in the winter. As camping sites goes, it was probably my least favorite, mainly because the entire area was gravel and there were very few spots to put up a tent that you were not on rock. My partner and I arrived a little later than most so we didn’t get a prime camp site. We were pretty much camped out on the shoulder of a dirt road. If I do this trip again, I am going to have better bed technology. It may be that the best thing is just a big air mattress. There is certainly room in your luggage for such a thing. I hesitate to use an air mattress because if you get a hole in them you end up sleeping on the ground (which has happened) but… perhaps with a good patch kit and some caution… The other possibility is a foldable cot. I saw both things in use walking through the extended campground and I admit to being a little jealous. Of course, I couldn’t decide if I was more jealous of the cot or the mattress.

My Kayak Partner and I relax at Dinner
I think it is a Paddle Oregon tradition to have a really big, great dinner on the last night. I must say that I think it will be difficult to have something all that much more super than the previous evenings, but our caterer seems inclined to try. Thanks to one of my Pod mates, I have pictures of the menu and the heap of Crab that was there. I will also say that the Prime Rib was HUGE and sliced to order and delicious. There was also good beer from Rogue and some fun western singing from a local group. It was a fabulous dinner and evening, even if we didn’t win the raffle for the 2017 Paddle Oregon Eclipse Ukulele. (too bad, I would have played it for you. Do you like “Sloop John B.?).

The owner of the farm came out and talked to us and told us something about the history of his farm and family. I wish that I could remember the details, but he was a good story teller. One thing that I remember was him talking about technology and how farming is changing. He said that he invested a bunch of money for computer controlled mapping and plowing technology. Now, I wouldn’t think much of this, but he said (I am trying to remember numbers) that a field that had taken a person driving a tractor 13 hours to plow was now done in 3 hours. Not only that, the plowing was such that more crops could be planted in the same area. Wow. Translate the use of the tractor into money spent on equipment and you see that the computer control is something a third of the cost compared to a human driver. The other thing I think I remember was him saying that he had 1000 acres planted. He mentioned that he was making the land we were camping on available to many people to use. I guess anyone can camp on it during the year (not sure about that) but he has also had many other groups come out and use it for free. The only thing he asks is that the groups free him from legal responsibilities. What a nice thing for him to do.

Day 5

Our last day (really half a day) on the river.
Some Mergansers

We had only drifted down river about a mile when we passed Independence. This is a nice little town with a very handy park on the river. My paddle club (Kayak Portland) has used it as a put in for a Independence to Salem paddle before. This length of the river has lots of nice rock bars for Agate Hunting. Today is only 15 miles and we are now going past many more homes and small communities. There is one little place that is called “Social Security Hole”. It is just a little park along the river where people evidently like to go and fish. Lot’s of articles on it on the web saying what a pleasant park it is and how friendly the local people are. And evidently the fishing is good.

My Partner found a big Agate
Our sister paddled with us, doesn't she look great in our blue Journey?


But the river is running and the end of our journey is drawing close. We have time for one more lunch on the river and do a full pod picture. Just around the bend is the big bridge in Salem and under that is the pull-out and the inevitable cluster of people getting their boats and gear onto their cars and heading home. You can stall for a little while and enjoy the serenity of the river. You even get one more little exciting bit where you have to paddle to stay away from the slightly dangerous current going under a local college boat house (you can tell that it is slightly dangerous because of the big signs that say “DANGER (slightly)” and the presence of a Paddle Oregon staff safety boater hanging out under the sign.

But then were are paralleling the highway and the city surrounds us and we are at

The End

Ok, that was too abrupt. I mean, we have to give hugs and handshakes to our many new friends that we have spent the last 5 days paddling with. Interesting and fun people all. People that you have share strange confidences with over the last few days. People that you would Ride the River (add link to novel) with. People that you may even see again one day. Perhaps in another Jasper Pod. Hey, there is our son with the car. Time to go.


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.