Tuesday, July 23, 2013

CedarOak and Up to the Clackamas

CedarOak and Up River.

Here is a nice little paddle. We started at the public (and free) boat ramp at CedarOak Park on the West Bank of the Willamette, just south of Portland. This time of year the river is low water and warm and this section of the Willamette is teaming with speed boats, Jet Skis, and Bikinis. My Partner and I were looking mighty low tech in our people powered boats, but I think people were still amazed to see us out in all of the chop that was being stirred up by the stink pots.

View CedarOaks to Clackamas River in a larger map

Just up river (South) of the CedarOaks boat ramp is a little lagoon where lots of people park their boats and catch some rays. We tooled up that way to see what was what. Some nice houses on one side and this peninsula on the other. We ran into a mommy duck with her like 7 very friendly ducklings. Never have seen ducks that let you coast up to them like these guys did. We hit a dead end this time, but I think that during the rainy season (or maybe just high tide) the peninsula is an island and we could have paddled through.

Back out in the main channel the surf was up. There were 10 or 20 ski boats tooling back and forth in that area. Most of them towing some sort of raft toy with a few kids on it. They made lots of waves and wake. It was a noisy America only play area sort of thing, but good wave practice and sort of fun once you got into it. My partner commented that I was very quiet today. I was sort of low energy. So I flipped over. Nothing like cold water and a little rescue practice to wake people up and get the blood flowing. After she emptied my boat and got me back in she jumped out too, just to cool off.

Now we were ready for some fun. So we crossed the channel to the East side. Had to cross past a bunch of boats and I took two waves over the bow that actually put liters of water into Journey. What fun. We now were opposite a beach and boat ramp. There were maybe 20 trucks with trailers parked out on the rocks and sand. They all had jet ski's they were putting in the water. Lots of Jet skis around. We paddled up through them getting tossed around a lot.

My partner and I were arguing about the inlet I could see up ahead. I thought it must be the Clackamas, but she said that the Clackamas was near the 405 bridge. She knew, she used to go swimming there. We paddled up another hundred yards to find that we were both right. There was the 405 bridge and sure enough, there was the Clackamas river.

The confluence of the Clackamas and Willamette is a funny place. Lots of very white Oregonians on the beach and out in the 2 foot deep water. Many sporting tatoos and cigarettes. Then a few $50K boats rafted together in the middle of the little channel, evidently waiting for their jet skis to come back. All swimming all around it are hundreds of water foul. Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, one real goose....a barnyard escapee?

The Clackamas, as it dumps into the Willamette, is a running river. That is, you can see the current and the water looks something like you would expect a mountain river to look. Not like the Willamette, which is slow, dark, and deep. So as we paddled up the Clackamas, we were quickly getting into some current. Right in front of us, just a couple of hundred yards from the confluence, we met up with a fun set of rapids. There was a deep fast area over against the far side and then a large wide area where the water was sort of just spilling over the rocks. We got out here and pulled our boats through the shallows to the nice pool right above the rapids. From here we could see the old railroad bridge. We watched some rafters coming slowly down river and running the rapids. At this point my partner and I were planning on running the rapids ourselves, but I was just as rapidly talking myself out of it. She wanted to run them wearing our skirts to keep the water out. I was thinking that if we tipped over we would not be able to get out quickly and would be banging our heads on the rocks as we zipped down the channel. Not fun sounding. We opted for just eating our lunch on the beach and then portaging back. We got a little fast water work but not what we were originally thinking. I need to find out what a long boat would do in water current conditions like that. I am thinking that it would really want to turn sideways.

Get someone young and strong to carry your boat.
Oh, and Cute.

That white is the fall line. It is more impressive floating up to it. But not much

We we got back to the slow water near the confluence we had a surprise. The little rock shoal that had been in the middle of the river on the way up was Gone! Submerged ! In just an hour the tide must have come in and covered that little outcrop. I had no idea that we were still that tidal this far up river from the ocean. I guess that means that both the Clackamas and the willamette are tidal up to their first falls.

On the way back my partner wanted to cross right over to the west bank of the willamette and avoid all of the nonsense with the jet ski people and their boat ramp. We did that, but it didn't save us too much nonsense. The motor boats, and the Willamette Jet Boats were out in force and we got plenty of big waves. Still, good practice. And good fun if you are ready for it.

So Fast it was blurry.

Jet Boat does a splash Spin for my Partner.

We got back to the boat ramp in good order and then did some rolling practice. I really need to get some lessons in how to roll. Right now I can only do the part where you turn upside down. I think I also need to rig some sort of easy outrigger. Perhaps the paddle float thing on a spare paddle and attached somehow so I don't have to hold it. Hmmmmmm.

This was a fairly exciting and people filled paddle. Very much the american summer urban adventure. So cool to have such a nice river running through the middle of your city.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kayak Surfing Lesson

Kayak Surfing Lesson

Some of us rented a house for the weekend out on Cape Meares and when we woke up Sunday morning, the weather was looking nice enough that we figured we would try a session of kayaking in the surf on the nearby beach. OK, it was actually my partner that really wanted to go and since our friend, Bill, was giving a free safety lesson I pretty much had to go just to not feel like a party pooper.

View Bay Ocean Kayak Surfing in a larger map

Kayaking in the surf is sort of funny in that you start in surf that is so small that you probably wouldn't even consider it if you were boggie boarding or body surfing or something, but a 17 foot kayak gets pushed around a lot even by a 1 foot high wave and you can get flipped by just about anything that is breaking if you aren't ready for it.

Geared Up, Skirts On.

We started with just sitting in the sand at the ocean edge in our gear. Full drysuits, gloves, helmets. Yes helmets, don't want to roll your head into a rock or hard bash on the sand. Anyway, we just sat there and let the water come up and hit us. Cold water. Cold Cold Cold. You can feel it right through your dry suit as it hits you. And your head and hands are exposed if you don't have neoprene hat and gloves.

Next we waded out into the water. This was just to get the feel of the strength of the waves and to realize that this was the worst thing that could happen to us. That we flip and have to wet exit our boats and end up in the surf. Just like this. OK. This isn't that bad. A little cold. But you get used to that. Your hands get really cold. Bill says that doesn't go away.

Now it is time for the Kayaks. So we dragged our boats a couple of hundred yards down the beach. We were looking for a calm place away from the Rip Tides.

You see, all of that surf comes up on the beach, and when the water retreats, it has to go somewhere. Some goes back out the way it came, but many beaches in Oregon are shaped such that the current will run parallel down the beach a ways and then go zipping back out to sea. If you look at the wave patterns you can see where these rip currents are. They are often strong enough that they can carry a strong swimmer right out to sea past the breakers. In the cold and treacherous waters off the coast of Oregon, that can, and often is, the end of an unprotected swimmer. But for a kayaker in dry suit and PFD and other emergency gear, it shouldn't be fatal, even if you lose your boat. Still, if you can avoid being drug out to sea.....

Not that much rip where we are. As I said, the waves were small and so were the currents. So let's get out there. In a kayak, you are not really ready for breaking waves and such until you have got yourself into the seat and sealed your skirt to your cowling. Depending on the skirt and the boat, this can take a few seconds. And you don't want to be bobbing around in the water getting hit by every little wave when you can't balance yourself with your paddle and can't stop the water from gushing in with your skirt. So you plant your boat facing the surf but dry on the sand. In a place where you expect a big wave for float you in the next couple of minutes. Then you sit down and get in and seal up. Ok. Did that. Now you sit with your friends in the sand in your kayaks. And you look pretty silly. 

If you did it right, however, pretty soon you get some water, you might rock to break your seal to the sand, and then you float back on the receding water and out into the surf.

The following is more fun if you hit the play button:

Actually being in the surf is pretty thrilling. I didn't really know what to expect, but once I got out there I found that I didn't have any trouble keeping my balance as long as I kept my bow aimed at the waves. I could crash right through a breaker pretty easy. Even the really big ones that would completely engulf my boat and cold soak me did not threaten to tip me over. Ok. However, every time you power through a wave you are getting further and further out to sea. Bill warned us about that. Don't want to get out to where the really big waves are just starting to break. Too easy to get thrown or flipped when you are out in deep water. Not good for beginners. So I would keep my bow faced at the waves and paddle backwards away from them. Forward and back. But I can't do that forever either because the parallel beach current is sucking me away from my friends.
Notice how there aren't any pictures of our faces?

Time to try and side surf. To do this, you let a (little) wave hit you on the side and you lean into it and low brace to keep your balance. Then you try and ride the wave a little toward the beach. When it passes you, you paddle forward, up the beach toward where you want to go.

I did OK with this but eventually noticed that my friends had both flipped and bailed into the shore. So I went in to join them.

This whole process takes a lot out of you. Did I mention the water was cold? My next time out I decided that I needed to work at doing the harder stuff (like surfing a larger wave) until I lost it. I needed to flip over in these small waves so I could understand what the threat there was. You know? If you set your mind to it, it is really very easy to loose everything and flip over in the surf. Ah. Cold. And Sand hard. And now I remember Bill's final instructional words to us: “When you are out of your boat, don't get between the boat and the beach”. Why is that? Because the boat is now full of water and it is HEAVY and a wave will push it into you so hard that it could break something or knock you over and smash you into the sand. Stay oceanside !! Hold onto the rescue straps (if it isn't dangerous) and ride the surf in with the boat. Until you can standup and dump the water out.

Didn't get many pictures of my Partner as she left the camera too far down the beach. 
Need Hawaii-50 Theme Music Here

So OK. Did that. Not too bad. We all rest for awhile and then head out again. But now I find that since I have learned how to flip over, I can't manage to stay upright. AHHHH. Each time you flip you have to go back to the beach and reset. That is very tiring. My partner does well though. She stays out a while and has a couple of good little rides on the waves. (backwards, I thought she did that on purpose).

But we finally ran out of juice and had to drag our boats back to the car. It was great fun through. Can't wait to try it again.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cape Meares Lake

Cape Meares Lake

This weekend was the 1 year anniversary of the kayak meetup club that I belong to. The club organizer (Julie) put together a wonderful set of kayak adventures out on the coast. We had a LOT of people show up. For Friday evening, we met at the little boat launch out on Cape Meares to paddle around Cape Meares Lake.

Some interesting history in this area. The lake and sand dune spit used to be a posh resort back in the early 20th century. It was called BayOcean and it was trying to be the Atlantic City of the west coast. It had a dance hall and a huge “Natatorium” that housed a heated saltwater pool with a wave machine. They needed this because the ocean is too frigging cold to swim in without a dry suit. This little town had a railroad, a water system, and even their own electric generator. They spent a lot of money bringing in tourists and investor and potential rich land owners from Portland. Since the Tillamook railroad wasn't built yet, they would come from Portland on a steam yacht bought for that purpose.

But the town's growth was it's own undoing. They built a spit at the entrance to the bar at tillamook bay to make the bar easier to cross (and so easier to bring in supplies and investors), but that spit disrupted the natural flow of sand down the beach and created an erosion problem that eventually doomed the town to destruction by winter storm. Now there is pretty much nothing left of the town and the fresh water lake we are doing our paddle on is there instead.


Lots of parking along the road, however, so our 30+ kayaks could get to the water and have our little paddle. It is a very protected and shallow lake. Lots of lake weed growing in it. Some reeds. A beaver lodge off on the north side. We also saw some lovely water lilies. But we paddled all around the entire lake in an hour or so without breaking a sweat. By itself, this lake isn't worth the drive to the coast, but as a start to a weekend of kayaking, it is the perfect warmup.

A history lesson for the meet up


And the club helped the fun along by have a little game of capture the flag, kayak style. We tied little flags to the stern of every boat. 2 teams, Red and Yellow, and then you just go out and GET THE FLAGS of the other team. When you lose your flag, you are out of the competition so protect your stern. It was great fun, had a few people dip over, but the lake isn't that deep and so wasn't that cold. Much fun was had by all.

Kayaks having a meeting

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge

This is a special post about a very passive adventure. Want to come to a unique and beautiful setting; A setting both elegant and rustic? Then give Timberline Lodge, on Mount Hood, a try. This stone and timber structure was built in 1936 as part of the WPA anti-recession activities and it has all of the power and youth and charm of pre-war America. The kind of place our grandparents would have built when they were young.

I am sitting on a couch in the central grand room at the lodge beside my kayaking partner. She is taking pictures. I am enjoying the sheer massiveness of the timbers and stone. Even the tables and chairs are large solid pieces of wood. Presumably local wood. The story of the lodge, at least the one that I remember, is that things were originally all made of local stone and local wood by local workers and artisans. The lodge is stuffed full with the kind of craft art that an amateur but gifted craftsman might make if you gave him some really big logs and some good hand-forged chisels. For instance, the stairway railings are carved with beavers and elk and all sorts of little animals. The fireplace is filled with giant size cast iron log rails. Oh, they may be actual railroad rails that have been re-forged.


And here we sit at the timber line; at 6000 feet. It is June 20th and it is snowing outside. Hmm. We are actually on our way to Bend to do some kayaking with the club, but we stopped here for a little side adventure. If you are going to come here, spend the night. Get a nice room. There are sort of 3 tiers of rooms. One is bunk beds and campings style. Like for a (rich) ski family or some college kids off on an adventure. Shared bath, that kind of thing. Our room is a single queen with a private bath. A small but elegant room. With nice Pendleton blankets and very good heating. I am sure we have a view of Hood but with the snow and clouds, we can't see it.


The Cascade Dining room, which is only the other side of the central lounge from our room, is a world class type restaurant. I had the elk, my partner had the salmon, both were heavenly. I stole a bite of the salmon. Oh my. We also had the Goose Egg appetizer. They bring this really hot cast iron skillet (a small one), put in some truffle butter, add the very large goose. Let cook. Add mushroom compote. Eat with bread. Very nice.

Medallions of Elk on lightly grilled asparagus with Bearnaise sauce. Balls or Dungunes Crab, toasted, off to the side. A very reasonable IPA.

A very thick salmon steak, grilled but still red in the middle, with scallops and fingerling potatoes. A delicious savory huckleberry compote.

Chocolate Cake and Coffee for desert.

A while later, hot tub and pool surrounded by snow and cold wind. A lovely evening. Did you know that little german boys grow their hair long and look like adorable little girls? Refer to all german children in a gender neutral way until you know for sure. German fathers are a bit touchy.

Feather Pillows. Lots of towels. Wonderful Breakfast buffet (Bagels and Locks to die for).

And outside in the parking long, waiting for the next leg of our adventure, Journey all covered with snow.