Welcome to my descriptions, stories, and sometimes out and out lies about my weekend adventures around the North West. Though most of these are about Hiking, I may take you on some other outside adventures. Please leave me comments or suggestions and have fun.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Yes. Kayaking again. But my arms are
Good thing too, because this paddle had
a bit of weather that made for some challenge.
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
But today we are headed to the mighty
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.