Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween Scare-O-Paddle

Halloween Scare-O-Paddle

Paddling at night can be an unworldly experience. Paddling on Halloween with a bunch of lit up goblins and monsters can be positively otherworldly.

Julie, the leader and founder of the Kayak Portland Meet-up, is trying to get a tradition going for a “end of the season” group paddle. In this case, “end of the season” is to mark the turn from “Ok to be out in warm clothes” to “Geeze dude, you really need emersion gear to be out”. Halloween happens to be a good time of the year for this occasion, and it doesn't hurt that it is OK to go a little crazy with personal and boat decorations on that day. Well, Night.

This year the Pre-Halloween Saturday night paddle got postponed due to rain and wind and so we re-scheduled for the next weekend (which was November 1). Extra bonus for being the day after Trick O Treating, the Pumpkins are all free at the grocery store! The group event was scheduled to start at 6:00 (right at sunset) and my kayak partner and I got there way early (a first). What did we see? Not only were a bunch of friends cars were already there, but our friends and their Kayaks were already gone. What the? Well, there were other people still showing up and unloading and putting on custumes and such so we were pretty sure we were on time.

And then our friends came up out the water. They did not look like monsters from the lost lagoon. They just looked like tired people in dry suits. They had been up to something. In fact, half of the “senior staff” of the meetup were too tired after their pre-paddle setup activities to go on the actual paddle. So sad. But the rest of us were going, and now we knew that there was something special out there...... waiting.

Turns out we had something special that we had all brought with us. Everyone had gotten into the dress up spirit of the event and had either brought a costume to wear (Bill had a particularly good green nose) or had decked out their boat in lights and spiders and balloons.

My Partner in Adventure Appropriate Gear. 

I don't think I need to fuzz the faces for this posting
Not at all sure what this is..... but I like it.

The battery powered LED lighting technology has improved greatly over the last decade or so. You can get a string of (essentially Christmas) lights that are power off of a few AA's that will burn for hours and hours. You can also get cheap individual “Finger lights” that will burn many hours. My partner used the finger lights that she twist tied to safety lines on her new Valley kayak. They were left over from our Trick or Treat evening. We gave them out to the Princesses and Ninja instead of Candy at our house. My partner said that this was doubly good because not only did we contribute less to the Obesity of American Children, but we had no left overs sitting around at our place to contribute to the obesity of...well.... us. We did have leftover finger lights, however.

My glowing Rear Boat

I had gone on a different line. A few years ago I was experimenting with the perfect portable lighting to carry on camping trips. I had come across these 5 meter strips of LED lights. You can order them from Ebay (or Amazon) for like $10. They are 12 volt strips and I cold plug them into the 12V multi-function car jumper and tire inflator and air mattress inflator that I carry when I go car camping. Instant Decorative campsite lights !! And hey, says here they are waterproof and self adhesive. Now if I just had a waterproof 12V power source. Well, on a different occasion, I was experimenting with built in water pumps to clear the water out of my kayak after flipping over. I had built a power source out of some AA batteries in a 8-battery (12 volt) configuration that I had placed in a waterproof hardbox with a switch on the outside. Hmmmm. The self adhesive lights went right on to the slick surface of my Eddyline journey. Since they were waterproof, I placed them to be just below the waterline. I thought it would look cool if they lit up the water. The power supply goes in it's usual space, hooked to the velcro patch behind my seat. I was a little worried that “waterproof” might not mean what I think it does and that either the lights would pull off the boat (and get tangled on a log and then pull me under) or just refuse to stay lit. But everything sure looked good upside down in my Garage the night before!

My partner was itchy to get out on the water and paddle her new boat (It evidently spontaneously bought itself on Wednesday evening) so I had to hustle some to get out on the water. We had also been put in charge of making sure that no one started up the river ahead of the group. Unclear if this was a “paddle in the dark” safety thing or just a “don't ruin the suprise” thing. Either way, twilight was good and secure by the time that we all grouped up for a safety lecture and the 11 of us brave explorers headed up the Willamette river toward the narrows. Oh, Sorry, I meant to say, Set out on our hazardous journey into the threatening maw of the Haunted Narrows.

It can be fun to paddle at night. Things look different in the dark. Most people have gone home (where things don't eat them) so things are quiet. Misleadingly serene. Off on the east shore of the river, a freight train blows it whistle. Overhead the last of the Geese wing buy looking for a safe haven for the night. The spooks are becoming restless and they peer at you from the darkening shore. The stump monsters stir up from the deeps. They reach their branchy arms up and a kayaker has to be careful to avoid their embrace. You have to be especially careful if you have lit you kayak up like a fraking search light and so ruined you night vision. I had least had enough foresight (earned from a previous boat lighting experience) to only light up the read half of my boat. So I could at least see a little in front of me.

About a mile from the boat landing at West Linn is the islands and waterways that define the Narrows. This is the same place that the club went to a few weeks ago for the Willamette River-keepers cleanup day. In fact, we were going to the same campsite that my team had cleaned up that day. So it was just like that day only raining, cold, dark, and the river was up and the current was flowing. It would have been scary except all of the boats had all of the festive holiday lighting. Then, out of the gloomy water ahead, a light loomed. What was that? Sort sort of floating gremlin trying to attract us with his eiry light? No, it was a special signal jack-o-lantern that had been placed to mark a large raft of logs and growing plants and other debris that had been washed out of the narrows by last weeks heavy rains. Julie said that it had been anchored there and she marked it some people would be careful of the ropes running over to the shore and secure the 40 foot long menace to navigation.

Fairy Lights (by Kerry)

Shortly after that decorate obstacle we came to the side channel that goes up the west side of the islands. Now we see the cool part. Both sides of the channel have been marked, every 100 feet or so with lights and pumpkins. Some one explained to me that they were PAN devices. Pumpkin Aids to Navigation. It was like we had our own port to the fairy world, lit with the magic of our friends hard work.

We paddled up the channel and the increasing current flow. Some boats had a tough time getting up that stream and we all got strung out a bit. This is one of the problems with trying to do something like this for a group event. The age, strength, fitness and boat type of each participant comes into play at about this time. The long boats are easier to paddle then the short boats. The right side of the channel has much less current than the left side. So the more experienced people were up front and waiting at the turn and some others were in the dark moving water wondering if they should turn around and head home. And anytime conditions are a little more unusual like that, there is the greater danger of flipping over and needing a rescue from the cold water. No rescues required tonight though. We all came back together at the cut through to the other side of the island, and we swooshed through to the rocky muddy beach that was all lit with up with those solar powered yard lights.

We did have some challenge there. It was dark and it had just rained and there wasn't enough room for everyone to get out of their boats at the same time. We putted around a little waiting our turns. One person did take a quick plunge (kayaks can be a little unstable right at get in and get out time) but soon enough we were all up on the shore trying to get a campfire lit so we could get warm and roast marshmallows and such. Since I was there a couple of weeks ago for the cleanup, someone had come and dumped a bunch of shipping pallets there on top of a big plastic ground sheet. For firewood? Must have been brought in using a big boat, certainly didn't float there by themselves. Oh well, we will just burn a little of it up. It is really hard to light freshly rained on wood. Luckily I had my little stick stove and the Goblin with the big nose had some white gas. Took a bit but we had a nice little fire.

Ghouls making fires (by Julie)

Spooks by the Fire (by Julie)

Then we all talked halloween. Did you know that there are “Trick Or Treat Destination” towns? Silverton is evidently the place to go around here. A couple of the kayakers live there and said they had over 300 little monsters demanding candy last night. They said that people were bringing kids in “by the pick-up truck full”. These were evidently people “From Salem”. Not sure why that was funny, but most people were chuckling. There were so many little goblins out roaming the streets that traffic through the town (there is really only one road) was stopped by all of the random street crossing. Silverton is a very pretty little place and I think a lot of money has wondered out there. And I guess they invite some of this on themselves by doing a lot of decoration. I had 15 kids at my house in the city. Good thing because I sure didn't have 300 finger lights.

When you paddle (especially in a dry suit) you get warm. When you stop (especially in a occasional light rain) you get cold. So we did some socializing and then it was time to reverse our boat entry process and head back down the river. For the down the river stage we first had to go up the medium strong current through the cut, but after that it was a coast to the cars. Along the way we all fanned out and picked up all of the electric lights and glow-sticks and such that had illuminated our haunted entry. Even that was fun, since it is a little bit of a challenge to snag a light from the shore when you are trying to stay in your boat (in the current).

We want to make this a yearly event. If we get more people, we will need a different destination. Too bad, I really liked that little channel, nestled there between the cliffs and the islands, all alight with pumpkins and christmas lights and glowing ghouls.

PICTURE CREDITS: I took a bunch of pictures from things posted to the Meet-up public site because it is so dang hard to take pictures at night.