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Double-Header Weekend

Often the spring and the fall months irritate me because it’s too cold to kayak and too warm for cross-country skiing. Other avenues of exercise are pretty much closed to me unless it’s in a gym setting (and our gym burned down last February) so it was exciting when the weather seemed to cooperate to provide one of those rare weekends when

White Pass Nordic Center

White Pass Nordic Center

you can cross-country ski one day and kayak the next. Without, at least, long drives for both.

I had thought that it would be the previous weekend but the track-cat at White Pass (west of Yakima, Washington) had broken down. I pretty much need tracks nowadays. Some people find it unusual that a guy who can’t walk very well can cross-country ski but there is really no mystery. The sport of X/C skiing in tracks on groomed trails is almost zero impact and you get two poles to lean on. There would probably be more disabled people doing it but it never occurs to the sport’s organizers that it’s possible and so sometimes just getting access can be an almost insurmountable hurdle (huge snow berms to clamber over, long walks from parking lots, etc.) Of course for kayaking it’s a cinch for someone who can’t walk. I often need help getting into and (especially) back out of my cockpit but in general I find that I can sit flat on my ass just as well now as I could when I was in my twenties. Continue reading Double-Header Weekend

Thank You Global Warming

Ok, maybe it’s not “global” but it’s certainly local. At one time, not too long ago, I could count on having solid ice in front of my lake house from November 15th to March 15th every winter. This is no longer the case. Last year, for instance, there was over 2 weeks less ice. This year the ice I expected to thicken actually disappeared and temperatures, at least this year, are much warmer than usual. So today, just before Thanksgiving and about a week to December, the air temperature at 51F, the water temp at 35F, and the

Instead of a convenient dock, at winter water levels I get a rocky beach!

Instead of a convenient dock, at winter water levels I get a rocky beach!

sunshine all conspired to lure me out of the house and into a kayak and out onto the lake.

Moses Lake, where I live in Washington state, is part of several reservoirs involved in the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. These include the waters impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam (Lake Roosevelt), Banks Lake, the Potholes Reservoir, and more. Almost all of these make superb desert paddling with public and private campgrounds numerous and attractive and launch points spread throughout the area. In fact, if you enjoy paddling big fresh water lakes you’d be hard-pressed to find better water anywhere in North America. At least for three quarters of the year. Maybe now more than that. Continue reading Thank You Global Warming

This is how we know winter is here!

Some people look at the calendar, some folks check the thermometer. Here we just take a look out the window at the Moses Lake. When there is ice on the lake it’s winter… and it stays winter until there is no ice on the lake.

The geese, ducks and seagulls get a chance to rest on the ice as winter shifts into gear on Moses Lake

The geese, ducks and seagulls get a chance to rest on the ice as winter shifts into gear on Moses Lake

This morning when I got up and looked outside it was clearly winter; half the lake was covered by a skim of ice. By afternoon there was still enough ice so that ducks, geese and seagulls could stand on the ice an look out over the open leads. There will still be leads for another couple of weeks but at some point the lake freezes solid to a thickness of several inches. And at some point before that point there will be ice fishermen testing the ice and giving the paramedics practice reviving hypothermic ice fishermen. Continue reading This is how we know winter is here!

Different Cultures – Different Highways

I can never paddle the area around the confluence of the Lewis River and the Columbia River near the small Washington town of Ridgefield without thinking of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1805-06. The  journals (http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu)

Confluence of the Lewis River and Columbia River

Confluence of the Lewis River and Columbia River

contain detailed descriptions of the area and make it very clear that the population of native Americans was very high, indeed. Paddling the area makes it very clear that there is virtually nothing left of this civilization in 2009.

On November 5, 2005, the two hundredth anniversary of the expedition passing the Chinook village of “Quathlapotle”, my paddling friend Pam and I sat with our kayaks beached where my wife’s ancestors had almost certainly beached their own kayaks. But there was almost no sign of any civilization at all, either ancient or modern, except for some pilings along the north edge of Bachelor Slough and a large navigation marker tucked up against the edge of Sauvie’s Island on the other side of the Columbia River.

My own interest in this area was kindled when our family was invited to the blessing of a replica longhouse in the area of the Cathlapotle village (http://www.plankhouse.org/). But modern culture uses the land for its highways and the original village site was inaccessible except by water so the new longhouse is about a mile east of the original village site. That site is part of an archaeological dig conducted during the summers by a nearby university and the beach, the one Pam and I were sitting next to, is distinguished by signs clearly indicating that we should not get out and explore. Continue reading Different Cultures – Different Highways

So You Think It’s Easy Living on a Lake?

About a decade ago my wife and I bought a house on the lake with the expectation that our daughter would live in it, make the payments on it and buy it from us once she got established teaching. Shortly thereafter she married and moved to Idaho. So we had an

My 16-foot Mariner Kayak sitting on my dock ready for an evening paddle.

My 16-foot Mariner Kayak sitting on my dock ready for an evening paddle.

extra house. As it happened having an extra house on a lake is not as bad as you’d think. Except for the extra house payments.

The upside was that when we sold our farm 2 years ago we had a place to move. The downside was that I lost my fishing/kayaking cabin on the lake. Not that I completely lost it (I still live here, after all) but I lost the “cabin feel”. The “kayak wall” in the dining room was the first to go.  It’s now a “kayak rack” outside. Sigh.

There are obvious advantages to living next to a lake when one is a kayaker. If I have the urge to paddle I don’t have to load gear in the car and kayaks on the rack; I can just pull a kayak down to the dock, get in and paddle away. The disadvantage is that after a few years you’ve paddled to every possible place on the lake and there is precious little that’s new. It is, however, excellent for training workouts and for just getting away. Continue reading So You Think It’s Easy Living on a Lake?

Deception Pass is for Sissies

Located about 60 miles north of Seattle, Deception Pass is the name given to two channels (separated by a rocky islet) that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island in Puget Sound. The narrow nature of these channels combined with the huge

My 1972 21-ft Streamline Trailer and Dodge Pickup at Deception Pass Campground

My 1972 21-ft Streamline Trailer and Dodge Pickup at Deception Pass Campground

volume of water that must fill the basin between Whidbey Island and the mainland of Washington State means that when the tide changes the water runs swiftly. Deception Pass is, depending upon your skill level, either a wonderful playground or a place to avoid at all costs in a kayak. I’m here to debunk at least a little of this.

I just spent a weekend paddling the Deception Pass waters in virtually calm conditions. Except for a few eddy lines my 8-year-old friend Hailey could have made this trip. From my camp spot on the Whidbey Island side of the Pass (Deception Pass State Park) I could take my F-1 kayak and paddle miles of protected water. But by choosing to paddle during the right tides and in the right weather I could safely mooch around Deception Pass; no whirlpools required. Let me explain how I did it. Continue reading Deception Pass is for Sissies

2009 West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium

Held in Port Townsend, WA every year since about 1984, the WCSKS has remained the premier single event learning experience in the Pacific

Beach at Fort Worden State Park at Port Townsend, WA during the 2009 WCSKS

Beach at Fort Worden State Park at Port Townsend, WA during the 2009 WCSKS

Northwest (including B.C., Canada). It is generally held in September as the kayaking season is winding down so that exhibitors are often offering significant discounts on boats and equipment.

Sea Kayak seminars are different from simple kayaker get-togethers. Continue reading 2009 West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium

Igniting a Spark

Okay… it might be a bit much to think that spending 30 minutes showing 120 kindergarten students two kayaks and the gear that goes with them will change their lives but I’d like to think that one or two of them might grow up to be paddlers. Or even a couple of their teachers. For the

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Kayak

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Kayak

3rd year in a row I drove to Royal City, Washington (where Sue and I used to own a 125 acre farm/orchard), garbed up in a drysuit, PFD, bootees and sprayskirt, and gave a short talk to the 6 kindergarten classes at Red Rock Elementary.

This year I took the F-1, an example of an Inuit (Greenland) kayak and the Mariner II, an example of a very modern, very fast sea kayak. One is a skin-on-frame with the only modern components being the skin (ballistic nylon) and the two-part polyurethane that makes it water-proof. The other is a state-of-the-art (2007) slender (21.5 inches), long (17’11”) kayak (rated as a “very fast kayak” by at least one rowing society in Puget Sound) made from Kevlar. Continue reading Igniting a Spark

Paddling Eagle Pass – Banks Lake

Banks Lake is the main reservoir feeding the vast irrigation system of the Quincy Irrigation District in central Washington State. Grand Coulee Dam was constructed to provide the electric power needed to pump water from the Columbia River (called Lake

Steamboat Rock from State Route 155

Steamboat Rock from State Route 155

Roosevelt behind the dam) up through huge pipes into Banks Lake. From there gravity (assisted by some strategically located pumps) funnels the water to thousands of farms along I-90. Moses Lake itself is part of the reservoir system that includes the Potholes Reservoir and Billy Clapp Lake; both of which provide interesting and mostly rain-free paddling.

Steamboat Rock State Park nestles against a basalt monolith that rises out of the waters of Banks Lake just 7 miles south of the town of Grand Coulee and 25 miles north of tiny Coulee City at the southern end of the lake. Adjacent to the park is the Eagle Pass area that is a jumble of granite rock islets that make perfect flat water paddling. Continue reading Paddling Eagle Pass – Banks Lake

Playing Catchup

We have been having some Internet connection problems at our house and I have not yet isolated the problem between the Qwest ADSL line or the ADSL modem. Still working on it. However that doesn’t mean we have not been paddling.

Pam brought her Cape Falcon Kayak F-1 over from the Seattle area over the weekend so that Sue and Hailey could try it out. Sue likes my F-1 but, then, so do I. Pam likes her

Pam's F-1 before covering... 2 sizes smaller than mine

Pam's F-1 before covering... 2 sizes smaller than mine

F-1 but she prefers her longer fiberglass kayaks (and is trying to sell off a few of her spare boats in order to buy something new). I generally paddle the Mariner Express or the Mariner II when I’m out paddling any distance but if I’m just dinking around it will be the F-1 every time.

So we took the two F-1 kayaks over to Kristy and Micheal’s house. Kristy is our daughter (Sue and I) she lives on a more protected lagoon connected to the main lake by canals with cool little bridges to paddle under and lots of twists and turns. Her house is 3.5 statute miles from our house and it’s pretty handy to be able to paddle between them. Continue reading Playing Catchup