Sunday, September 15, 2013

Agate Hunting: Hayden Island

Agate Hunting: Hayden Island with Bob

Once you get the Agate hunting bug into your blood it sticks to you like a mixed metaphor. We really needed to go out and find some more agates so we would have enough to work in a rock tumbling machine. I have this idea about making presents for people for Christmas using rocks that I found kayaking. See, if you are a good friend (or bad relative) of mine, you might get a rock !!

This week I am having a personal security crisis and have decided that everyone I name in my blog will be called Bob. Sorry Bob, that I couldn't use your real name, but Bob and Bob would get upset with me.

View Hayden Island Journey in a larger map

My Partner had it on good authority that the place to go to find agates is a little rocky spot on the beach on the Columbia side of Hayden Island just down near the western tip. We wanted to share this bounty with a few of our friends (what if we got too many to carry in one boat?) so we invited some of our Kayak Portland buddies to an impromptu meetup, kayak, and rock hunt. We thought we would meet at the little boat ramp out by Kelly Point Park, do the little paddle around the end of the Willamette and then the short distance up the Columbia to Hayden Island. Easy Peasy. A short paddle. A quick pounce on those wily agates, and presto !! Bob's your Uncle.

So we make our plans, we get an unexpectedly large number of “yes” replies to our invitation (i.e. more than zero) and we set a meet time of 2:30 (after my partner's sunday softball game). Things were going good. The team “BAM!!!!” won their season opener quite handily and we were in the car and heading for the launch with LOTS of time in our schedule. Then things started to go a bit wrong. Bob1 called to say he was running late and his girlfriend Bobette called to cancel completely. Then Bob2 called to say that he was down at the park, but the entire entry to the park was closed to traffic by the police because this was the day of the annual Hemp Fair. He asked where we wanted to meet instead and if we wanted him to bring some brownies. We decided to divert to the Alder Creek Kayak store out on the East end of Hayden Island and we sent out secret invisible messages to all of the other potential agate hunters. (I can send invisible messages on this thing called “iphone”. The messages just drift through the air, completely invisible, and they float at lightening speeds straight to the “iphone” of my friends. Really. Hey, can I have another brownie?). At Alder Creek we learned that they would close and lock their boat ramp at 6:00, so if we were not done by then we wouldn't be able to get from the water back to our cars on their ramp. Down at that end of the island, the side is very steep, and if you don't have a good ramp or stairs to climb, you are going to find it hard to slug out of the shore mud. So we needed yet another plan. “Don't despair” said the Alder Creek Guy (who I will call “Bob”) “you can gain access at Lotus Isle Park. Just park on the street right before you get to it.

That reminds me. I have been having a bad time today with men calling me "Sir". Now, I know that it is fair and proper for any man to address another as Sir. As in "Pardon me, Sir, but might I trouble you for the time?". But there is a certain way of saying "Sir" that clearly says something like "God Damn you are old, I sure hope you don't have a heart attack while I am talking to you with my young strong masculine voice".  It started with the Umpire at My Partner's game (notice how I never call her "Bob"?).  Anyway, the ball field was a little muddy in one section and they brought in a bag of dirt to un-muddify it (de-mud?) but they couldn't get the bag open. I was sitting on the other side of the chain link watching and I had this knife in my pocket so I called out , "Hey Ump,  need a knife?". Now this guy has been kidding and joking with all of the other players (including flirting with my Kayak Partner)  but he looks at me at says "Yes Sir, if you have one that would be great. Thank you, Sir." like I was his Dad's commanding officer. And now,  in the parking lot of Alder Creek Kayak, Bob2 meets us and my partner and he walk into the store just ahead of me. The guy (“Bob”) that is manning the desk looks at the two of them but doesn't say anything, and as I walk in he addresses me and says, “Can I help you, Sir?”  It is like the other two of them must be my children. Clearly I am the old guy who needs some help.  Pesky kids.

Bob1 had still not caught up to us. We could forgive him since he said he was bringing his 4 kids (squeakers all) and their 4 kayaks. Oh my. 4 kids. 5 Kayaks, and him in charge of lugging the whole lot. We really wanted to wait for him so we could help him get stuff to the water.

Sandy Embankment. And Dog. I swear this is steeper when you are carrying a kayak up it.

We found the park and it is as described except there is a 30 foot descent, down steep sandy cliff, to get to the river. Actually the going down wasn't that bad. Just drop the boat and drag it down. It was the going back up that I wasn't looking forward too. Bob1 shows up with a car just FULL of boats, but most of them were small Perception kid's boats, the kind you can lift with one hand. In fact, my Partner put one boat on each shoulder and carried two of them down to the water. Damn show off. Always has to have all of the fun. And of course, she loves kids and quickly had all of the squeakers telling her the good stories.

We were all here now and we got everyone into a PFD and into a boat and started our processions down the river in search of Agates. We were already an hour behind schedule. We also had a bit further to go than originally planned (well, twice as far).

The 2 youngest of the little ones really were not profient enough to be paddling along at any reasonable rate of speed, so Bob1 just hooked them into a line and towed them. My Partner also grabbed one of the older kids and gave him a lift. Getting into the spirit of things, I picked up the tow of the oldest (“Dad, I am so tired, can I please have a tow?”) and we all started making some progress.

These guys were so cute. And good sports.


The first part of this jaunt is all of these beautiful floating houses that line the banks of that part of the Columbia. Now these are not “house boats” per se. They are houses that look pretty much like normal land houses except they are floating, usually on huge old logs in the river. They are also usually very expensive and often have other special water features, like a garage door that opens to reveal a place to float-park your boat. These places are really beautiful. I have some pictures here as words just aren't going to do it.

This guy had a great LGB train setup.

(C) 2013 Chip MacAlpine

We pass under the I-5 bridge. More houses. Then we get to the old railroad bridge (this is the bridge that the passenger train up the coast takes) and we reach the undeveloped half of Hayden Island. Now we have a much lower lying part of the island, the shore is half as high as before, and the beach is usually a sandy beach, with the occasional rocky outcropping or old ship wreck. The kids had had enough of this entire boating thing and really wanted to go to the beach and have some fun. So we bid adeau to Bob1 and picked up the pace. It was like 4:30 by now and we hadn't even made it to the end of Hayden Island.

Hayden Island has been a bit in the news of late. There is some movement afoot to develop the undeveloped end of the island. Perhaps more floating homes. Or maybe a toxic waste dump site. Something nice. But there is also the insidious voice of “the people” that want a large wild area dedicated to “birds” and “small mammals”. Perhaps even a “park”. It is the democrats, I tell you. President Bush would have had those trees down and had a good toxic waste dump in place quicker than Bob's your Uncle. There was a man of action.

No Agate Beach

So, lots of controversy. What really is happening is that Portland wants to annex that part of the island (currently in unincorporated Multnomah County) and then put in a Port of Portland terminal to ship stuff to places. Perhaps LNG to China. Or Wood to China. Or Coal to China. Also Wheat to China. Other people (like the residents) want a park. The main thing that put a hold on the “Shipping all of Oregon to China” port was that they were depending on better highway access that was going to come from the new Columbia River Crossing bridge....... that was just killed by the State of Washington. (It seems that Washington was fine with the part of the bridge running from Washington to Oregon, they thought they could use it to get rid of Canadians seeking South, but they had no use for the Oregon to Washington part, which they deduced would only let more Californians into their fine state).
So, no bridge, no access, no new Port. More trees. Go Washington. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself here.

Man, we are paddling forever here. We pass under the power lines and now we can at least see the shipping yard which I believe marks end of the island and the start of the confluence of the Willamette. This is the place that we would have been in like 20 minutes had we launched from Kelly Point Park. Today there is a big car carrier parked at one pier and a pretty big container ship being unloaded at the pier with the big cranes. And all around it, in the channel, are lots of people doing water skiing and jet skiis and motor boats and just having a good time. We were in kayaks.


We finally get to the end of the island and come into the swirly water that always occurs at the end of islands, where the currents from both sides get together and makes eddies and sets up re-enforcing vibrations and such. So it is squirly. But not so much that we intrepid Bob's were deterred. Also the water was pretty shallow there. We could have just stood up. Or been impaled from below by a nail encrusted log. On the other side of the island, we were in the main channel of the Columbia. The river is pretty low this time of year and the tide is just starting to turn (from falling to rising) so there isn't a lot of current. We glide up out of the rough stuff into the lea of some (wheat?) transport barges (that judging from google maps have been there a long time).

Looking back toward the squirly part.


I was getting tired and getting a little anxious about the return trip, so I headed over to shore and beached myself hoping Bob and my Partner would follow. They did, so we had a snack on the beach and then walked up the shore a bit. We ran into a young family walking the beach and we asked after agates. Oh, No, they said, no rocks on this beach. Well, perhaps up there a ways where you can see the sun. Of course, I thought, the agates would be in the light. Where you could see them better. They are so kind and generous, those agates.

Not an Agate

And so we walked up the beach and into the light and there we found the magical agates, pulled into alignment by the conjunction of the local lay lines and the magnetic influence of the overhead power lines. Oh how they shown in the sun!! All bright and glisteny, with the promise of true love and long life.

OK OK. We found nothing but sand.
And it was like 5:30 and we had 2 hours of paddling to get back to the ramp and almost exactly that much sunlight left. And did I mention we had exactly NO agates? I counted. Twice.

We hurried back. Racing the rapidly setting sun. Got some cool pictures.

I felt a little guilty leaving Bob1 to tow that troop of kid scouts back to the landing (and he really did tow all 4) and then to have to carry all 5 boats up that sandy embankment and stow everything by himself. So we hustled. But we had just waited too long and we didn't see him on the water. The sun was going down and we were pushing our stay out limit as it was when we made the beach.  We needed 2 people a boat to get the damn things up that embankment. It wasn't that it was steep (though it was) it was that the sand was pretty deep and you would sink in and slide backwards when you pushed off. But we got to the top. On the top is green grass and a nice playground area that was completely overrun with screaming laughing munchkins. I was surprised so many kids were out so late until I realized that they were Our munchkins and they were just hanging out while Dad (AKA Bob1) finished putting the boats on the car. So we did catch them. I don't think we got to help him though. He was just too damn big, strong, young, and self sufficient. But at least he never calls me "Sir".  A little note here, I have some really adorable pictures of Bob1 towing his lovely little family down the river and some of my partner helping out, but I am not going to post them. I try and protect peoples identity here and I try to be especially protective of little ones. I mean, these pictures will be up for their entire lives and those of their grandchildren (when, unless they are capable of saying something like "Google?.... no... never heard of it")(Sort of like DEC) and I don't want to embarrass them. Well, OK, I don't care if I embarrass them, but what I do care about is evil people seeing their picture here and then being able to track them down. If you are an Evil person, don't try to do that or I will cut your heart out.

Oh, there are a few pictures here, which were chosen to be unidentifiable and safe and have been approved by Dad.

It was dark by the time we got the boats loaded and headed out. We did near 10 miles. We had a really great adventure. But, yes, we had no agates. We had no agates today.


  1. I tried to subscribe to your blog, but with no luck. I read many of the kayak posts. Thanks so much for sharing, and perhaps I'll meet you on a Meet-Up paddle someday (I've yet to get to my first one).

    1. I think I have fixed the following thing. YOu can follow now via an email address. Let me know if that doesn't work for you. Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog !!