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!!

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