Saturday, March 22, 2014

Great Blue Weekend

Great Blue Weekend

Rain, rain, rain. Must be the Pacific Northwest.

So when you get a merely “partly cloudy” day, and the temperature spikes to 65, it is time to go kayaking. With all of the rain the rivers are way up. So I called an emergency Action Adventure
Team outing to paddle through the trees in the extra spring sized Scappoose bay.

I stole this from Chip. He was using GPS......

One of the things I like to do is to go back to a place over and over again so I can see it at different times of the year. Scappoose has different seasons. This time of year, for instance, it is a little chilly and rainy, but the Columbia is at high water so the bay extends into the trees of the nearby islands and you can paddle right through the forests. It is pretty cool. Just be careful of submerged branches and irrate beavers (at night) and head off through the woods in your boat.


Chip and my Partner both have compasses on their boats. A pretty good thing when you are in a big flat area covered with trees and all of the obvious paths or river courses hidden from view. Chip had also brought a hammock. We spent some time scouting out likely clumps of trees and discussing the in's and out's (literally) of doing some hammock camping in these conditions. We didn't actually set up the hammock, we just talked about it. Much less complicated. How DO you get out of your kayak and into your hammock without taking a swim? Inquiring minds want to know. And I want to film the attempt.

Lots of people out in the woods in their kayaks. Sort of funny, we were running into little groups every 10 minutes or so. Just people out paddling through the forest. Perhaps they didn't have compasses. We were not seeing much of any other kind of animal life, however. I think the Eagles were hiding and the Ospreys haven't shown up yet for the season. A few Great Blue Herons nesting in a tree. That was a little exciting but they flew off when we got close. There is supposed to be a Rookery around here someplace. We decided to go in search of it.

Canada Geese

We crossed out of the trees and headed south up into the bay. Just sort of paddling. In the summer you can't paddle in this section because it is a 6 foot high mud bank. Today it was a 2 foot deep lake. And there across the new lake and scrub bushes, was couple of large oak trees just chock FULL of huge nests. And even Huger birds.

Chip likes to refer to these things as Pterodactyls. When they fly out of a tree and over your head it is easy to understand the reference. They have a wing span of nearly six feet and they make a Jurassic Park squawk that will have you looking over your shoulder for velociraptors. And they are very majestic. We coasted up pretty close to the rookery trees and had a wonderful view as the adults would come gliding in. I think they must already be sitting on their eggs. In the set of trees we saw there were maybe 30 nests. At 2 birds to a nest, that is a few heron.
What is this guy?

Look at all of those birds

Gives you an idea of how light they must be

Great Blue Herons are found throughout North America, but Wikipedia doesn't think that they breed in the pacific northwest. Ha!! I have photographic evidence !! Unless, of course, they breed in Canada and then come to the US to raise their young. But that would be just plain crazy. I would think you would want to do your mating in like Florida or the Caribbean and then raise the kids in Canada where there is universal health care.

When I look back at these pictures I seem to see two different aspects of the Heron. Some look like the birds I expect. Others sort of look like a fairy tale drawing of the heron. Like the beautiful princess heron. Might be a juvenile, I just don't know.

Pensive in Nature

We sat quietly and watched these guys for half an hour or so. Then we had a little snack of apples and cheese and headed back to the launch. On the way Chip was picking up flotsam, so my Partner and I took up the challenge when we saw a hunk of styrofoam hiding in the bushes. We were very suprized when we pulled it out. It was freaking huge.

“Can't we just put it back?”

No, the consensus was that we had to figure out a way to haul it over to the boat ramp and out of the ecosystem. Dammit. I hate it when I feel all green and eco friendly.

First I tried to tow it.

Then we tried to put in on Chip's Stern

We tried batting it along with our paddles and our bows, but that was very slow going. Luckily I am an Eagle Scout and always have some line handy about my person. Also luckily, my partner was smart enough to figure out how to attach the line and tow that thing. It wasn't heavy, but it sure did drag in the water a lot.

Then my partner said, "Give me that"

And Off she went

My partner did the hard work

That night, when we got home, we were too tired to unload the car so we just left the boats on the roof and the gear in the back. The next morning I said, “Hey, let's go agate hunting. The car is already loaded !!” And so off we went.

Willamette Park in Portland is only about 15 minutes from our place and we were hoping to get into the water, paddle to our agate hunting beach, and back to the dock in 3 hours. Cause we do have other things to be doing, you know. The Willamette is pretty high water right now also (not record breaking, but still high) and there was more current than normal and a good breeze blowing. I always can tell when it is going to be a little exciting of a paddle because the little sail boats are out on the river and they look like they are having fun. Even the one that was upside down.

Lesser Merganser

Flock O Merganser

We crossed over to the East side and headed down the channel around Ross Island toward the city. We were going with the current and had that substantial wind at our backs and we were pretty much flying. We could do a knot or so above the speed of the current just from the wind pushing our backs and paddles. The wind was more of a factor than the water speed (which was probably only about a half knot). We were seeing a lot of birds on this trip. First a lone cormorant on a stump in the river. Then a flock of lesser merganzers (my partner is laughing). A red tailed hawk (wow you have good eyes. How can you possibly tell that is a red tailed hawk, way up there in the sky? Do you agree that it is a hawk? Well it is a raptor of some kind. Yes, well, 90% of the raptors you see flying in Oregon Are Red tailed Hawks. So you can't really see that bird. You are making an identification based on statistics? Yes.). And, of course, a number of separate pairs of Canada Geese. And a mallard.

We passed by a couple of crews of Dragon Boat paddlers out practicing. Except they informed us that they were really outrigger canoe paddlers. A blind man could tell the difference. Note that there is no Dragon. What were you thinking anyway, you kayak paddlers don't know.... I didn't catch the rest. Busy paddling away from them. Maybe their Dragon boat will sink.

Definitely not a Dragon Boat. 

Then we got to the North tip of Ross Island where our agates sit and wait for us. Hey, there is Bob the Bridge. He is almost completely across the river. Here is a few recent pictures and you can read more about Bob here

We drifted down under the Ross Island bridge to get those pictures of Bob and when we turned back toward Agate Beach, we realized our problem. The wind was Fraking Blowing hard. We were only a few hundred yards away from shelter but it was a hard pull back to the beach. And we got pelted with some rain. It was going to be a hard uphill paddle back to the car. But First..... Agate hunting !! (I found the first one, which meant I got a kiss. It is tradition. Never go agate hunting with the guys).

The OHSU Sky Tram. River to Hill in 5 minutes

And then they all Died. Oh the Humanity!!

On the way back, we stayed to the East side of Ross Island to stay out of the wind. That is when my partner saw a Heron on the shore. Wait, 2 heron, No 4. And then a couple took wing. Hell there is another rookery tree. How cool is that, a nesting flock of like 20 Great Blue Heron right here practically in the center of Portland. I am thinking this rookery is new because I have been to Ross Island a lot and have never seen it.

Ross Island protected us from the wind up to the South tip of the island. We had about 10 minutes of struggle there and then ducked into the beach behind some trees to rest for a bit before we tried the crossing. I was a little worried about that but the wind sort of blew itself out while we were resting and so the crossing wasn't that bad. We got back to our car right on schedule. A very pleasant little adventure and we didn't even have to load up the car.

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