Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bachelor Island

Bachelor Island

Yes. Kayaking again. But my arms are getting buff.
Good thing too, because this paddle had a bit of weather that made for some challenge.

But First: Bachelor Island.

View Bachelor Island in a larger map

This is one of the low lying essentially old sandbar islands that litter the tidal confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers. I am sure Lewis and Clark and something interesting and misspelled to say about them. In more recent times, Bachelor was put to agricultural use, but today it is a “Natural Preserve”. I am beginning to think that a Natural Preserve is any piece of land that has had all of the tree's cut down and the ground ruined by over farming. But perhaps I am jaundiced. Perhaps these farm lands were abandoned because the clean water act made them stop using pesticides on land that could only run off into the river. Shall I look it up?

OK, Lewis and Clark called it “Green Bryor Isd” on their way west. They probably meant Green Briar Island. On their way back east they changed the name to Quathlahpotle Island. (This is clearly a misspelling of Quathlahpotel). Either they didn't like the name Green Bryor anymore, they had forgotten they named it, or they were completely aware that everything they were naming had already had a name for centuries and so re-naming something every time you passed it was just a part of the natural course of events.

In any regard, we started our journey today at the public landing of Ridgefield, Washington. This is a nice little town right down on the banks of the columbia floodplain. The Amtrak line from Portland to Seattle goes right past the town and the landing. I saw 3 trains go by (2 Amtrak, 1 Freight) just in the little time that we were loading and unloading. One of the trains may have been local commuter, I guess I need to look into this, because riding the train up to Bellingham for the weekend would be a blast. Did I get distracted again?

Ok. So. We are launching at the ramp on Lake River. Curiously named Lake River because it is a tidal slough that flows out (and in) to Vancouver lake. So you can paddle all of the way from Vancouver lake to Richfield if you have that kind of time.

But today we are headed to the mighty Columbia.

A few fishing boats power by us. The shallow water seems to be on the south side (river side) of the channel, so we stayed over there to keep away from the wake makers. About a quarter of a mile along we took a left turn down a side channel called “Bachelor Island Slough”. Lewis and Clark called it something like Pigeon creek, which I like more.

Entrance to the Slough

What are all of these piling for?

My Kayak partner (who was leading this trip) told me that the last time she had been on this paddle, the slough was very narrow and difficult to navigate. The water was only around 18 inches deep for the entire length. Today we have a 50 foot wide channel and plenty deep enough in the center for some kayak dump and rescue practice (which we did).

I have been wanting to try out a Tempest, which my partner just happens to have, and so we did a deep water boat switch. Now that was interesting. It gave me a good chance to see the difference in stability in a boat with soft chines and hard chines. Not sure which I like best. I was having a hard time keeping the Tempest going in a straight line, but that may have been because I didn't have the skeg down. Will have to try again sometime.

When we finally viewed the Columbia, there were breakers coming down the slough at us. I was worried that the wind that had sprung up on our backs could be churning that up, but it was just a few waves so we figured it must be the wake of some passing giant.

Then a pair of eagles flew over our heads. Cool. These guys come back later in the story, so keep an eye on them while we paddle. Right at the entrance to the Columbia river, we pulled over on a handy sandy beach to switch back into our own kayaks and have a snack. (And to stretch and see what the wind was doing!). Some dark clouds are blowing in form the North, but they don't really look like storm clouds. Just sun blocking. It quickly got a few degrees colder as the sun winked out for the day.

Journey on the Beach

I looked up river and there was a very large commercial freighter headed down river with a substantial bow wave.

The boat is maybe half a mile away and I know the wake is going to be interesting when it gets to us. So I watched (but I forgot to have my camera ready). With no particular sign of the waves coming, the river lapping at the stern of our beached boats suddenly disappeared. It.... sucked back. And I thought, “oh Shit, just like a tsunami”. And then the wave came up and I had to walk briskly to one boat and pull it up the beach a couple more feet. That was really cool. I could see the waves breaking to our left up the slough. That is exactly what we saw when we were arriving. Must have been 2 freighters.

Before we started down the main river my partner gave me a safety talk. She warned me to stay outside (in the deep water) away from the lines of pilings that we would be passing. The currents can be wicked running between them and you can get flipped over and sucked under. Well, OK, scare the crap out of me why don't you. It can be hard to feel manly when your female kayaking buddy has to keep asking you if you are doing ok. Good thing I rate safety over manly. I must be mature.

Even though we were going down river, the tide was coming in and the wind was picking up right in our faces, so it felt like we were paddling up hill the entire way. There was a little current down stream, but I don't think it was nearly what it would have been if the tide was fully on the ebb. So watch for that. Even with this light current, the 50 years downstream of each of those pilling lines was salted with upflow eddies and whirlpools. Not a big deal, though it did push me around a bit and made me wander what it would have been like with a real current running.

We tried to stay over close to the shore of Bachelor Island when we were not dodging (what I now knew were) death trap pilling lines. But still the wind pushed waves were getting larger and the paddling was a slow slugging.

We did get rewarded with an Osprey making a fish dive right in front of us. Dammit Osprey, give me a 10 second warning to deploy my camera, will ya? I also learned the number one rule of instablity. What is the first thing you do when you feel that you are loosing your balance? Sit up straight? Arms under you? Low Brace? No, take a forward paddle stroke. Get moving. You are more stable when you are moving. Forward Paddle. Forward Paddle.

And so we Forward Paddle all the way down the length of Bachelor Island (named for 3 bachelors that moved there in the 1800's. What would we call an island today if a bunch of unmarried guys went out to live there?)(Not that there is anything wrong with that).

Just at the tip of the island, we come back to Lake River, and the beach that we intend to use as our picnic location. As we approach, there is this large aluminum sport's fishing boat coming in from the river. He is several hundred yards out and we should have time to cross the little Lake River channel and he can pass behind us. But as we paddle, he doesn't turn. In fact, if anything he is aiming more and more right at us. And he isn't slowing down either. Does he not see us? Hell, I am wearing a bright red PFD, Dry Suit, and Spay Skirt. He is blind or a fraking asshole. Finally, not 50 feet from the shore, I yell “He isn't turning, backwater.”

And we stop. And he wasn't turning. Or slowing. And he goes zipping past us about 20 feet away. What an ASSHOLE. Or as NPR would say it , “What an ASS<bleep>”. (You can't say “hole” on the radio, you know). So, some bigger wake over my bow and then the last 30 feet up onto our beach for lunch and some follow up cursing.

So, at least in these weather conditions, this was a sheltered beach. And there is a large tree log to hid behind if the wind whips up. It was getting ever cooler, however, and we both put on fleeces and had some hot tea. After lunch we quickly packed up and headed east for the last little push back to Ridgefield.

But, time for one more little show. Up ahead I saw an Osprey doing something strange. I thought he was hovering and fishing, but he seems to be dive bombing a tree. Over and over again. We get closer and I see that in the tree is a bald eagle. The osprey is very upset with this eagle and spends a lot of time and energy making passes at the much larger bird. The eagle is nonplussed on his branch.
I have pictures.

Though not great pictures....... sigh......


We continue on, and after a bit the osprey comes winging over our head. Then the Osprey heals and dives and plummets into the creek ahead, to come up with a fish !! so cool. Then the Osprey flies away from you us and now, close over our heads, comes the Eagle. “He is chasing him” says my partner. Oh, she is so right. That eagle just powers after that Osprey, and catches him, and (now things a far away, so what I think happens), the eagle takes the fish from the Osprey. Now the osprey is chasing the eagle, but I don't get to see what happens. Well, that certainly explains why the osprey was so upset with the eagle earlier. What is up here? Is the eagle not capable of fishing? Are they fighting each other for territory? Are Bald Eagles just big bullies? Hmm.

We ended up back at the landing. Easy pull-out here either on the actual concrete landing or the mud too the side.

Animal life seen: Bald Eagle, Osprey, Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, sea gull. Some trees.

Some Adventure !!

We got off the river around 7:00. So we were paddling for....... 6 hours? That sounds a bit long somehow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Willamette River (Boone's Ferry Landing to Willamette Park West Linn)

Willamette River (Boone's Ferry Landing to Willamette Park West Linn)

If you want to do a down river run on the Willamette, there are scores of choices for put-in and take-out points. On this particular day we chose our take out as being as close to Oregon City as we could get without actually going over the falls (or breaking other laws). There are a few “Willamette Park”s, this one is off exit 6 right in West Linn at the confluence of the Willamette and the Tualitin rivers.
View Boone's Ferry to West Linn in a larger map
We wanted around 3 hours of River time. The river was listed at flowing at 2 mph (which is moderate fast) and a person can do an extended paddle pace of around 3 mph (which means going upstream would be damn slow). So our combined forward progress would be around 5mph. What with wanting fun and explore time and all we chose a handy put-in location pretty much right at the 405 crossing of the Willamette near Charboneau.

I got 3 Kayaks on my Subaru!!

There are a lot of places around the Portland area that are called something ferry. Scholl's Ferry, Taylor's Ferry, Boone's Ferry. Boone's Ferry was a big one south of Portland near Wilsonville. It was originaly built and operated by a grandson of Daniel Boone and continued in service until a bridge was built across the Willamette near the ferry site in the 1950s. (I think we may have passed the remains of that bridge).
Boone's Ferry Landing

We put in at the Boone's Ferry landing, on the South East side of the river. Even at the launch dock, the speed of the current was apparent. You had to point you kayak a little up stream to avoid getting pushed into the downstream dock.

The first part of our trip was a sunny river holiday getaway float. Lots of beautiful expensive houses on the high banks, each with a smaller but often equally beautiful expensive dock thing down by the water. Hard to just call the docks. They were more like party houses. Some were 2 stories tall, with nice windows and teak and special housing for boat storage. All were floating and moored to VERY tall steam posts the size of telephone poles. Gives you a good idea how high the river can rise.



On this particular day, the water was up, but no where near flood stage. Still, we had a few places where the current was moving faster than we had expected and this limited our exploring somewhat. For instance, about 3 miles down for the start we came to the confluence of the Moala river. Bill (one of our more experienced paddlers) had gone up this stream before and we all thought that would be fun, but after pushing up stream for a few hundred yards we realized that this was just going to wear us out, so, we turned and shot out back into the Willamette.

After this we shot into a spot where the river got really wide. Now, I sort of expect the river to be more challenging when narrow (and fast). And it is. But in this location, when it got wide it got (relatively) shallow and there were lots of upwelling areas. Places where the river current was bouncing off of something on the bottom (I am thinking rocky protrusions) and skittering to the surface to make whirls and eddies and random currents. Usually they don't mean anything, but they will, on occasion, push your boat around in unexpected ways. So I am wary of them.

In truth, there are a few things on the river to be wary of. The water is dark and cold, there are snags and logs and fishing lines under the water. Things could surprise you or tip you over. And the water, even in the spring, is cold enough to kill you if you can't get out of it efficiently. Which is why you should travel safe and prepared. All of the 5 people on this outing, for instance, were wearing emersion gear (dry suits). You wear these over a warm layer of normal clothes and they will keep most of you completely dry for an extended dunking. Plenty of time for one or two of your buddies to come by and make a rescue or for you to get yourself together and perform a self rescue. Didn't need to do that today, but there was this one time.....

About 6 or 7 miles down the way we came to “the narrows” (see map). This is a place where the local basalt rock upwelling (ha!, 2 uses of upwelling in the same post !!) has been cut through by the river. A pull-back on a topo map shows the rock ledge pretty clearly. It also shows the river make a big elbow around the rock before cutting through. The place where the river makes its break is rocky cliff on both sides (as you would expect) and has rocky island still remaining in the narrow center. Lots of current, lots of pretty rocks, plenty of swirls and such to play in.

We found a little rapid water and went in circles for a while practicing entering and exiting the swift water. I am still learning how the current will push your bow around on entry. You have to expect it and lead it and them paddle hard to maintain your control while going upstream.

At the end of the narrows, we crossed over the main current. This was another education for me. We did something called “Ferrying”. Which essentially means aiming up current quite a bit from where you want to go. This was working find until I hit a little whirlpool that jogged me around to the wrong direction and made me worry about going into the drink. It seems like I am worrying a lot more than I am actually flipping. I probably need to flip over and be rescued a few times just so I will stop worrying about it.

A little about wildlife. On this trip we saw: Bald Eagle, King Fisher, Canada Goose, Blue Heron (just one off in the sky). On the little islands in the narrows we saw the red barked Madrone trees along with Oregon Grape and the ever invasive Scotch Broom, Himalayan Blackberry, and Poison Oak. (OK, Poison oak may be native, but I still want to eradicate it).

As we left the shelter of the Narrow's islands and headed back into the combined strength and width of the Willamette river things got a little dicey again. The wind had picked up and it was pretty much right at our backs blowing us downstream. This was fun at first, but the farther away from the islands we got, the more the wind had room to blow up the river, and the large the following swells got. They were coming over my bow and pushing my stern around and I really wasn't in the mood to get rescued. (and no, the “FALLS 10 MINUTES DOWNSTREAM ARE NOT SURVIVABLE” signs had nothing to do with it).

OH COME ON!! Looks survivable to me.

I ended up coming ashore right at the Willamette Park landing with around 1 foot waves breaking on the boat launch. Doesn't sound like much, does it? I took a picture and you can't even see the waves. But when you are sitting about 2 inches below the water, then they at least feel bigger. Sigh. I need more practice.

So, study up before you do this trip. At the height of the summer, the rapids and whirlpools and whitecaps will all be gone, and the water will be warm enough that you won't need a dry suit. But, you won't have the 2 knot current pushing you down that 10 miles either !!.

Oh, by the way, right where that last picture of the falls was taken is a great Scottish Pub.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Devil's Rest (The Back Way)

Devil's Rest (The Back Way)

This is a special hike that is not on any of the maps I have found. A fellow hiker told me about it one day and after a little searching I found it and now try to do it a couple times a year.

Devil's Rest: The Back Way at EveryTrail

You start out at Multnomah Fall. Yes, the place where all of the tourists go. If you are going on a nice day like today was (And Easter Sunday to boot) you may have a parking problem unless you get there good and early. I have a somewhat secret parking place I like to use (or at least try). Instead of parking in the big main highway lot on 84, I enter onto the old historic highway at the turn off right after Rooster Rock, then drive down toward Multnomah. I look for parking at Wakeenah and Multnomah lots, but I never find any, but right after the bridge over Multnomah creek, there is a large secondary lot and much of it is unpaved and there is usually some parking there. That is what worked for me today.

Lots of people out today. Lots of families coming out after church. Lots of young women who have been waiting all winter to go out in public wearing as little as they can get away with. Lots of young men waiting all winter to see them do that. Sigh.

I had packed a medium heavy pack, with my stove and mixings for Easter Dinner, and I set out to make my way to Devil's rest (or at least close to it).

The first mile of this hike is the hardest. It is also the mile filled with tourists. So if you are slugging it a bit, at least you get to people watch. I also take satisfaction in that I can now climb this damn hill with a loaded pack and be doing pretty good (of course, the youngsters in flip flops carrying children are doing better....).

Never been to Multnomah Falls? Oh, you gotta go. It is like 30 minutes east of Portland on I84 and it is one of the most beautiful (and high) falls you will see. And the surrounding cliffs (and the Gorge of the Columbia River) are nothing to sneeze at either. So even if you don't want a big hike, head on there one day. Bring a camera. Bring the family. Park in the I84 lot and take the walkway under the highway and enjoy the view. On a hot summer day, hanging out at the bridge over the lower falls would be pretty sweet.

So, the first mile. 9 (or perhaps 10) switch backs. Around 1.4 miles, 800 feet. This is a very well maintained and paved trail. Plenty of places to rest. Lots of good views. Lots of people. Lots of dogs. And during the summer, lots of poison Oak (so stay on the sidewalk). When I was first starting into this hiking thing, I did a lot of resting. Now I do 10 or 20 seconds at each switch back and just power my way up.

I remember the first time I did this ascent. I am not sure why, but I thought that when I got to the top there would be this big flat plane with the river running toward (and then over) the cliff. But that isn't how it is at all, when you get to the top (at switchback 9) you enter into a secluded river valley. A miniature gorge. With very tall and steep sides of its own and with lots of waterfalls and rapids of its own. This is a very wonderful area. There is a kodak picture moment about every hundred yards and you really need to spend some time JUST LOOKING.

You also need to spend some time watching your step. This trail was blasted out of the canyon wall (like Eagle Creek) and there are lots of sheer drops and some very rough and ankle threatening sections. Also, there is a lot of water dripping across the trails, so things can get slippery. (Oh, in the winter there is ICE that has turned me back a couple of times). Most people just runs right across it, laughing as they go. Show offs. If you have one bad knee and a sprained ankle (like me) then use your trekking poles and go careful. And stop and take a lot of photographs!


At about the 2 mile mark, the trail splits. To the right takes you on the my normal Multnomah, Wakenah loop. To the left is the trail to Larch Mountain (and, the Majestic Larch). Today, we go left.

Right away we hit this section that had some storm damage about 2 years ago. Lots of HUGE trees are down. The have fallen from above the trail and down across the trail and then splintered as they hit THEY OTHER SIDE of the canyon. Pretty cool. The trail has been cleared, but the trees remain. (do I have pictures?). Pretty quick we hit a metal foot bridge across the river. It too was hit by one of these falling trees and got a big bend. It was closed for a while, but now it is open with a warning to only have one person on the bridge at a time. See, this way when it collapses only one person gets killed.

This section of the trail is just so redundant. Just one more incredible fall or rapid after another. Yawn. On this trip, though, there was some Trillium lighting up the day. A gift on Easter! Better than searching for Easter Eggs.



At one point on the trail you will hit a sign that says “High Water Trail”. That is the way you go if the river is so high that the “low water trail” is.... welll... underwater. Today (and every other time I have tried this) the low water way was fine. It is also only about 100 yards, so taking the high road isn't that big of a deal.


Just a bit after this section you will it a dirt road. Bunches of signs telling you things. But none of them tell you what the road is. That road is sort of a secret (I think). It is called the Multnomah Basin road and it runs from someplace I haven't found yet up to the Skamania Lodge. This is a private lodge of the Portland Hiking Club (or perhaps the Portland Adventurers Society). I will look it up and forget to post it later. Anyway, Thanks guys for maintaining that bridge! (though they need to do more maintaining because I don' think they can get a car across right now. Perhaps they need to charge more dues).

Anyway, we are turning right at the road and we are going to follow that road all the way to Devil's Rest (sort of). First we cross the suspiciously broken looking bridge (it has footpath stuff set up but has warnings for vehicles), then we start to climb up out of the canyon. This isn't a steep ascent, but it does go on for at least a mile. Still, it is a car road and easy to follow. We eventually come to a locked control gate, there is a little path around it and then we are up on the top of the Plateau. Half a mile and we will come to a little “parking” area and a sign on the tree indicating park lands and a hiking trail. Turn Right and in a 100 yards you will intersect with the Devil's rest trail.


This is the spot I like to stop and make camp for lunch. It is a protected area, there are good spots for setting up a shelter (don't need one today) and it is on the trail so you can say high to fellow hikers on their way to Devil's rest. (oh, and every other group will ask you how far it is, so make sure and have some witty answers ready).

I like to call this spot Devil's rest. It isn't really, but the real devil's rest is just a bunch of rocks about ¾ of a mile further on. Yeah, it is a little higher up, but it is completely surrounded by trees and there just isn't any view there.

So stop here. Take a load off. Make some Tea. Eat your lunch. There is a nice view of the columbia and the sun is shining. There is even the sound of a little waterfall just over that cliff in front of you. I like it.

After lunch you have some choices. You can go straight down and back to the car. About 2 hours from here. Or you can continue on to Devil's Rest and then on West on a non-official trail called the Foxglove Trail which will take you around to Wahkeena springs, down Wahkeena valley, and so back to the car. We are a little short on time today (I have some homework) so we are going to go home the short way, but what the hell, lets go some of the way toward Devil's rest and visit this one really great view point. It isn't hard to find. Just head toward devil's rest and there is this one point where the trail will turn and start doing some switchbacks upward. Just before that, there is a survey marker and just after the survey marker there is a point where the trail branches (though the right branch isn't real visible). That right brach goes through some trees and in 100feet hits a cliff and some nice rocks and great view of the Columbia and Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Adams (both with a lot of snow this time of year). Nice.



Ok, enough. Grab my trekking poles and head for the car. It is all down hill from here. I follow the devil's rest trail down to the Multnomah trail and follow the ridge back around to the crossroads we have already seen one this morning. Now we are back on Multnomah creek and retracing our steps.

A little different this time, however, because the sun is going down and it is setting in such a way that it is really lighting up the canyon. So Green !! And so many people out today. So many Tatoos ! (oh, I like that one!)

I don't know what it is about me. The close I wear? My Age? My general appearance of stunning competence? Or perhaps the big backpack, but I have LOTs of people stop me and ask for information or directions. I had one guy say, “Excuse me but I have a question”. It is like I am a ranger or something. Of course, the really funny thing is that I always know the answer. Perhaps it is my mutant ability.

Hey, it was a great hike today. 10.1 miles !! Thanks for coming along.

Cheers !!