Monday, June 24, 2013

Sparks Lake: Cascade Lakes

Sparks Lake: Cascade Lakes

Another early start to a wonderful day. Something a little different today.... the Sun is Out !!

Today we are headed to another of the Cascade lakes. This one is actually a little closer to town than Hosmer and is probably uphill and so a “filler” for Hosmer.

This one is Sparks Lake.

View Sparks Lake in a larger map

The boat ramp for this beauty is down a bit of a dirt road but there is a good size parking area and a bathroom down there, so don't panic. Our party of around 20 kayakers arrived early enough that we got parking spaces up close to the ramp. I am feeling pretty manly today because I have 2 redheads in my car and, more importantly, 3 kayaks on my Subaru !! Oh Baby !!

Lots of volcanic rock at the launch site. My partner took off to climb. She was trying out her new 10 fingers kayaking shoes, which the kindly REI salesperson assured her were also good for rock climbing.

We launch out onto this lake and right away I see a school of 12 inch fish (trout!!) in 10 feet of clear water. Must be over a 100 of them. Where are the fishermen? Not much else to see at first until we paddle west a bit and turn the corner of the boat ramp inlet to the large northern section of the lake. Then..... Wow !! There is a fine view of mountains to see in the sun. Dead ahead is Sisters (south?) with Broken Top off to the right. To the far right, over my shoulder, is Bachelor. I find it very funny that Mt. Bachelor set up shop right here next to the 3 Sisters. He knew what he was doing. It is around 10:00am right now, and the wind hasn't started to blow yet. The lake is a nice mirror with just my ripples out on it as I cut around and practice some edging.

The rest of the group is ahead of us but they went around the edge of the lake. We are cutting across the middle to catch up with them. And you know what? This entire section of the lake is only like a foot deep. Perhaps deeper in some places, but huge parts are so shallow. I got out for a walk.


Journey off on a trip without me.

We had been told by the nice Ranger at the boat ramp that a good thing to do was to take the little creek off on the north side of the lake and head up to the upper Sparks lake. He said not many people got up there and a lot of wildlife could be seen there. Well that is what we want.

One of the club trip hosts was leading the group and he found the entrance to the creek and stuck his paddle up in the air (over the tops of the bushes that line the creek) and lead us in to him. There were actually a couple of entrances into the creek and the one we went up was only about 6 feet wide and sort of hard to navigate in a 16 foot boat. I should have realized that this was foreshadowing.


Up the creek we paddled. The current was running around 2 knots when we started and as we went on and on upstream, the creek kept getting more and more narrow (started around 30 feet) and so the current was steadily faster. After about 20 minutes the current was running at 3 knots and we were really slugging it to make headway. The bad part is that the creak was winding back and forth with very sharp cut backs. Everytime that I would come to one of these turns, I would have to stick the bow of my boat out into the current and then the river would push my bow around and I would have the choice of either going broadside to the current or back-paddling to bring my stern in line and then trying to go forward again. A lot of work. Very hard on my shoulder. Everyone was having a hard time. Where was that “other lake”?

The land all around the little river was marsh flats of thick vegetation. At about head height. I think we could have gotten out and walked on it, though it looked like a fragile environment.

We finally got to one point and the lead said the creek went under the road. This is when I realized that we must be on the wrong creek. Dammit ! We were all pretty tired, so we gave up and floated with the current back down the river to the main part of the lake.

We we got there I found that someone else had scouted the real way to go. Just head to the tree line and turn left !! Of course. Up a short easy low current creek and there we were. In the secret lake. We paddled around to the west shore and found a nice beach and pulled up with our 15 some kayaks. Of course, anytime you find a nice beach you know there has got to be a catch. In this case the catch was that the beach had been found first by the local Geese. Which means that the landing was covered in goose poo. And what is that moving around? Goose Poo Eating Roaches? No..... chorus frogs!! Hundreds of the little critters. Only slightly fewer of them then the mosquitos that came down out of the trees. Oh well. Best eat lunch in a hurry.

Local Lava

Frogs on Goose Poo Beach

Goose Poo Beach Lunch Landing

On leaving Goose Poo beach we headed a little further North to another incoming water source for the lake. My partner and I put on our Spray Skits so we could practice some edging. We figured that in this shallow water, if you started to flip, you could always brace off the bottom. On the way back out, we passed that beach and there was another visiter there. This time a lone deer come down to check out what we had left. Perhaps it was eating the frogs.

Next we headed toward the south end of the lake. We passed back across the shallow section (hey, a bald eagle. Take his picture !!) and then moved into an area where there were lots of old lava rocks and basalt walls and deep water. I think we could always see the bottom, but I could be wrong. And now we also found all the rest of the people. More Kayakers, SUP boarders, Canoes, a few row boats. But no engines !! (I think they are not allowed on this lake). We paddled down and to the left and came up a little finger where we found place where the lake empties into some lava tube. We couldn't actually see the place, but we could hear the water tumbling down into the earth. This area had lots of very sharp boulders and rock towers. The lava and rock in this area is very young; maybe only 10,000 years. So there are still a lot of sharp edges and broken formations. Much of this area looks like somebody did a bomb run last year, but no, it has looked this way for centuries, since the lava cooled.

Where the water runs out. Can you hear it?

On the way back I convinced my partner that we should do some safety practice. So we changed into wet suits. She did some rolls, told me how cold the water was, and then shamed me into doing a wet exit and self rescue myself. I have designed and built this little battery operated bilge pump that I have been trying instead of using a hand pump. It works OK but still doesn't empty the boat as fast as I really want it to. I also need something better to balance the boat as I get in. Something better than a paddle float, that is.



The boat ramp was a very different site on exit. The people had turned out !! there were maybe 60 cars and trucks parked around, with 20 or so waiting in line to get close to the water and pick up or drop off their small boats. Of course, it was nothing like it would have been if people had power boats and trailers!!

Hosmer Lake – Cascade Lakes

Hosmer Lake – Cascade Lakes

Up in the mountains of central Oregon is a string of lakes called Cascade Lakes. These lakes are formed by old lava formations and snow melt and they are all inter-connected by underground rivers and perhaps through old lava tubes. We are going to visit a couple of them on this trip.

View Hosmer Lake in a larger map

We are starting out from our very centrally located base of operations here at Mount Bachelor Village. This is a great little condo place with views along the Deschutes river. I guess the prices in Bend are pretty reasonable if you come just before the summer season kicks off (which means, when the snowline on Mount Bachelor is high enough that the summer sports can really get going). Just a 30 minute drive from our condo is our first lake destination, Hosmer Lake.

That is Mount Bachelor
Is it any coincidence that the Bachelor took up residence next to the three Sisters?

A Bob of Kayaks.

Look at the size of those Lily Pads !!

These Cascade lakes are generally pretty shallow. Perhaps only a couple of feet through much of their area. Hosmer is bordered by reeds and water lilies (already past bloom, alas). There were a lot of fly fisherman in the water and, with our group of 16 kayakers, the little boat ramp parking lot was pretty full. But kayaks and fly-fishing paddle floats don't take up much room and everyone was friendly and easy-going, so we made out OK.

Out on the paddle, we immediately ran into some interesting birds. First, an Osprey in a dead tree (being bothered by some little bird. Why do they do that?). Then a set of ring neck ducks. (Note the purple ring in the picture. I was assured that it was rare to get such a good picture of the ring).

Ring Neck Duck
Osprey (and Tree)

I was having fun paddling through the reeds. If you get going fast enough you can zoom through the reeds like a space ship. You have to keep paddling though, or you stall out and then everyone paddles past you laughing and making “jon is in prison” jokes.
They never suspect what lurks in the reeds.

The reeds gave way to a boggy like region. Low grassy islands surrounded by low shrubs that I am going to identify as blueberry. So tall grasses growing amongst the shrubs and some scrub pine on the little islands themselves. What was that moving off over those reeds on that island. A head poking up and staring at me. Another head. Long skinny necks and red flairs on the head. Is that some sort of snake. Are the reeds infested with cobras? I paddle closer. Must be a bird. But what kind of bird? Surely not a heron. Not a goose. I am thinking something like an ostrich but that is as crazy as cobra. What are they? I coast up to the bank of the island. I can't really see the interior because my view is blocked by the shrubbery. And then the.... the things.... get upset and they set to squawking. They sound like an old model T just turning over. Man they make a raucous. I tried to make a recording of the sound, Can I put it here?

What IS that? A giant Snake?
No, A Sand Hill Crane. Named "Bob"

Is that a Male and a female? Or a youngster?

The civil engineer turned eco-activist (whom we shall call 'Bob') in the group identifies them as Sandhill Cranes. He asks that we back off and not stress them. He says the fact that they have not flown away means that either they are thinking about nesting here or they have already had their one baby, which is called a calf (editor's note: "Bob" says it is actually called a COLT. Sorry "Bob"). I got some pictures anyway. Don't tell "Bob".

My partner wanted me to hold her kayak so she could stand up and take pictures of the cranes (over the top of the shrubbery, don't you know) but I wouldn't do it. At the time it was because she wasn't wearing a wetsuit and if I dropped her she would be cold and I would be miserable. She scoffed at me. But later I realized that I couldn't have done it because I didn't have my spray skirt !! See, when you hold someones kayak firmly, either for re-entry or for them to stand up and show off, you need to lean over on their foredeck and grab on and put your boat way up on edge. Now you are in a good leverage position and the boat your are holding is very secure. However, your boat, way up on edge, will naturally have the cowling under water. And so, if you don't have you spray skirt on, your boat will fill up with water and you will sink and drown and freeze to death all the while making sure that your partner is perfectly safe and stable and dry whilst standing and shooting pictures of Sandhill cranes. But I digress.

Around the corner and our guide (e.g. the club member that has been here before) finds the little creek that leads up the creek that is the fill source for Hosmer. We paddle up the 1 kayak wide creek for a few hundred yards. Along the way we pass a few trees that have fallen in the creek and then had kayak sized sections removed from them by chain saw. Sure signs of intelligent life. We finnally come to a little beach area right in front of a darling little water fall (well, rapid). We beached the kayaks here and ate lunch.



Indian Paint Brush
Shooting Star

Purple Flower (also called "Purple Bob")

Lot's of new wild flowers for me to see. The main new one that I identified (well, ok, the wild flower expert told me, we will refer to here as "Bob") was a beautiful purple shooting star. There was also some very nice Indian Paintbrush. I got a few other things that I need to look up in my flower book once I get home.

After lunch we started to retrace our steps and were rewarded with our first sun-shine of the day. The lake changed color and became even more charming than it was. I loved the shadows of the lilies on the bottom. What fun. Never did see any fish though.

We retraced our paddle back to the boat ramp. The wind was picking up a little, but this little lake is pretty sheltered and even when the wind picks up I don't think that you have worry about wave action.

But talking about the weather, that is one thing you should worry about a little on these high mountain lakes. We are paddling right now on the first day of summer, and the weather started out cold enough that people were wearing a few layers and rain jackets and still getting very cold. Lots of cold feet. Wear wool socks, at least, if you are prone to cold feet. My partner was kayaking here with her family last August and they were caught in a rain storm where the rain was so thick you couldn't see the shore just 50 feet away and then it turned to large hail and they had ice on their boats before they finished the paddle. So. Layers. Rain Coat. Perhaps your spray skirt. Change of clothes in a dry bag in the stern.

Last little event of the kayak. We got dive bombed by a lovely bird that was zipping around the lake. Hunting something. Bugs? It had swept wings that looked a lot like an osprey but it was smaller and the wings had white slashes on the bottom. Night Hawk. I think I will cheat and steal a picture from some other source for you.

Bob, the Night Hawk

or this one:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Deschutes River (through Bend)

Deschutes River (through Bend)

The first kayaking event of this very long weekend vacation was a quick easy splash-in on a slow moving part of the Deschutes river that runs through the middle of the little central Oregon city of Bend.

View Deshutes River, Bend in a larger map

We started out in the grassy field right in front of Tumalo Creek Kayak store (oh, stop in and look at their wide selection of Kayaks !!). There seems to be a direct correlation with places to land kayaks and Goose shit, but enough of that. This particular location is just up stream for a bridge and dam. So you need to pay a little attention to heading up river, but really the current was only 1 knot or so and not a big deal. Just don't float down stream to see what that roaring noise is.


Back on the up stream paddle (ignore that screaming in the distance) we are now traveling through the Old Mill district (now the New Tourist Trap district) and seeing the lovely clothes and high-end fishing stores go by. Oh, is that REI? And Cold Water Creek (some very nice dresses there, let me tell you). Off to your right is the river floating put-in (or perhaps take out), which is a large sand ramp leading from the river to a very pretty little park, complete with large mod art, a playground, a music stage, and a dog run. The river is maybe 60 yards wide at this point; moving slow and stately. The water this time of year is pretty cold. But the sun was out and it was a very pleasant day. Lots of people out along the river walking and biking. Many down enjoying the river. So cool to be able to paddle through a little town like this, especially one that has so incorporated the river into the daily life of the people.

REI is under those smoke stacks.

New Condo along the river.

We paddle up further and the cliff wall on the west bank comes in close to the river for a very nice view. Large orange-yellow boulders and scrub pines. Sort of south-west looking. Modern office buildings up on the bluff overlooking the river.

Along the way we are seeing some nice wildlife. A muskrat. Lots of Canada Geese. A River Otter was reported (perhaps they saw the muskrat). Then you turn a bend and you are at the end of a long canyon and the river suddenly becomes not so lazy. Up ahead you can see rapids running until you loose sight of the river. We all came up to the very start of these rapids (they are flowing toward us, so no chance of going over them by accident) and we just played in the currents and did a little moving water practice. Fun. A little scary at first but not very dangerous.

Playing at the base of the rapids

After that, just a pleasant light paddle with the current back to the starting point. We paused along the way to take in the views. My partner picked me some forget-me-nots from the riparian shrubbery. But very shortly we were back at the cars. Oh, look at that, a brew pub in the same parking lot. How convenient !!