In which I wandered to Jetty Island, Green River, and Shilshole marina; first hiked down Freshwater Slough in the Skagit River delta and a week later kayaked it; and in a Diesel 60, played in Lake Union, the Shoreline pool twice, Green River again, and finally the Powerhouse run on Snoqualmie River.
Thursday, April 2nd
I made the northeast end of Jetty Island (green "7") in twenty minutes, and five minutes later relaxed in the kayak to chat with a grizzled and talkative boater pulled up on the beach.
Twenty minutes later I rounded the north end of the miles-long island and paddled south down its west side, just inches above the shallow water's sandy bottom.
A marsh hawk, also called a harrier, hunted its way down the island, doing its marsh hawk thing as it stopped and hovered in the breeze. Turning the boat to look behind, I saw four bald eagles flying silently overhead, none fully mature, a mob of teenagers. Below them the island went silent. A few minutes later four great blue herons led me as I paddled along the shore.
I entered the shallow lagoon and eased into the right-hand channel, next to the lagoon's enclosing spit, a steep-walled low bank of sand.
I probed with eye and paddle for water deep enough to float my boat, working as far as I could into the lagoon. Finally, I let the boat beach itself against the sand, sat and stared around me, and ate my sandwich. When I turned to head back out, I was starting to realize what a great place this will be in summer's heat.
"Veronica of Langley, WA just sent in a report of a Gray whale, observed while she was flying over Possession Sound this evening. She spotted the single Gray whale at 6 pm, feeding off Jetty Island near Everett, leaving a big plume of sand behind as it fed."
So it would seem that I might have seen a Gray whale if I'd stuck around a little longer or looked a little harder....
The report on my first visit here has an aerial overview of the island.
Saturday, April 4th
The Stilly South Fork is an easy river to scout, since you can see a lot of it from the road. Where you do have to walk, the woods are friendly and the river easily accessible. The river was milky with glacial flour. In some easy water, a half dozen kayakers practiced their back-ferries.
At the Turlo and Verlot campgrounds one could put in and run a little bit of Class 1 water, maybe one plus, and then just walk back for the car. Plus, those two low-elevation campgrounds are as pretty as they get.
The walk is through very pretty woods. At the base of the mountain it looks and feels alpine, with ice-water streams, trees avalanche-torn, the mountain wall looming above, a half-mile wide and most of a mile high, festooned with rock buttresses and draped with waterfalls.
Update: After weeks of a record-breaking heatwave, in early July a young woman was killed when a piece of the roof of the ice cave collapsed. Her companions were not badly hurt. The trail to the ice caves was closed.
When I got it right, the bow's momentum swung it out of the current and back into the eddy, at the same time sweeping the stern of the boat out of the eddy into the current, then back into the eddy.
A flat-spin 360 using the river's current, playing in the eddy-line of a mid-river rock -- cool.
Tomorrow evening the whitewater class starts. We'll eventually kayak the same stretch of Green River. I thought I'd paddle it for the third time, first. So into the drysuit and away at 2:30. I paddled up the put-in eddy to the bottom of the first little rapid and ferried across the jets between the rocks. Then I peeled out and back-paddled down the riffle to the first big eddy, on river right.
I tucked into a little grassy backwater below a cobble bar, with a view down the river, and ate lunch. A lone merganser floated downstream, picking at the water as she went by. A dipper passed, flying upstream. I munched and stared and took a picture.
I quit counting the eddies that I tucked into after I counted a dozen, probably doing half a dozen more after that.
My eddy turns, using an energetic bow draw in, were not always as effective as I wanted. But, during one turn behind another midstream rock, I remember hearing the noise the stern of the boat made as it swung sideways through the water.
I front-ferried and back-ferried a half dozen times each from bank to bank across the river, and from one rock's eddy to a neighbor's. My ferries weren't always successful, either, mostly because I misread the actual direction of the current's flow, I think.
I front-surfed waves half a dozen times and tried to back-surf a few. I still have trouble staying on the wave when front-surfing, but it might be getting better.
I almost dumped it twice more, once because of another rock that I got sideways to and didn't see, and once because, too relaxed and too casual, I misjudged my lean coming into some fast water.
Above the top of the second-to-last rapid, at today's slightly low water level of 942 cfs, I spotted a pillow of water and froth in time to swing the boat around to sit in a little backwash.
I got so perfectly situated there that I put down the paddle in the middle of the river, just above a Class I-plus or Class II wave-train, and used both hands on the camera.
After the river's big left turn at the waterfall, in the main channel to the right of the island, a bit right of center I think, I found the rock that had the perfect eddy lines for the flat-spin described above.
The log jam on river right just above the island provided an unexpected benefit. Go past the logs and the gravel-cobble bar, then tuck into the first eddy on the right below the bar. Head up as for as you can into a little backwater formed by the bar and log jam. It's complete with a rock grotto overhung with cedars and decorated with maidenhair ferns.
Monday, April 6th
Today was the first day of whitewater kayaking class at NWOC on Lake Union. I got a Wavesport Diesel 60 to use, which is what I thought I wanted. Even though it has a flat planing hull with edges, it has the volume and upper hull shape of a river, not play, boat. The progressive chines might help account for that, too. NWOC also had a Liquidlogic Remix 59 available, which doesn't have the edges the Diesel does, but does have sharp progressive chines. I went for the Diesel, but I'm thinking maybe I should have gone with the Remix.
Today we covered posture, front paddle, sweep turn, edging into the turn, high brace turn, back paddle, and more. I had a problem that when the boat starting to turn on its own, once started, I couldn't stop or reverse it. Not good. I think I'm just overdoing it, overpowering the boat, as Kevin suggested. The Diesel does seem touchy to me, but I guess it would be, compared to my Manitou Sport. Tomorrow we meet again on Lake Union.
Today was the second day of whitewater kayaking class at the NWOC on Lake Union. The Wavesport Diesel 60 was a lot easier to handle. I'm still prone to spinning out, but not so much, plus my recovery skills are improving, too. Good high brace, so-so low. A lot wasn't covered.
Wednesday, the 8th
Across the marsh grass, I stopped only a quarter mile or so out from the dike, but the walk could go on for miles more -- if timed for the tide.
On the drive down to Big Ditch, there were fields of Snow Geese, although today I didn't see any of the usual swans. The Big Ditch parking area was trashed, unfortunately. And the slough-side walk deteriorated in the blackberries after only a hundred yards or so.
That contradicts my possibly fond memory of Big Ditch from many years ago, when I haunted this delta for a few seasons.
Thursday, April 9th
Past the beach and past the eel grass beds and the brant that use them, I floated into a patch of delicately patterned sargassum. Like the kelp forests that sea otters use in Monterey Bay, the patch of seaweed I was sitting in stilled the occasionally rippled water around me and provided an anchor against the gentle current.
I sat there and ate my sandwich. When a few minutes later I found myself unanchored, I let the boat just float away.
On the paddle back, one little wave came in over the shallow water. I tried to surf it -- did surf it for a few feet -- and turned around at the beach okay. That was the only one.
I didn't see a single starfish on the rocks. I did see a number of big good-looking crabs, both Dungeness and bright red rock crabs, and pretty little bright orange anemones.
Practice at Shoreline Pool, mostly trying to learn to roll, not very successfully. Fortunately, there's another shot at it in a week.
Today we ran the Yo-Yo stretch of the Green River at 880 cfs with occasional showers. From 10am to about 11-something we drove our cars to the airplane field, shuttled back up to the put-in in a van, carried our boats down to the river, and put in a little below where I've been starting. I was again in the Diesel 60. From there downriver to the airplane field took us about an hour and a half. It would have been faster, but for the swimmers, myself included. By then it was 1pm, and we broke for lunch.
After lunch we again moved our cars, this time down to the Whitney Bridge, and again shuttled back up to the airfield. So I finally paddled the last half of the Yo-Yo. That ended with what paddling washington calls "an honest Class II rapid," where, waiting for a swimmer downstream to get organized, I had time to do half-a-dozen peel-outs into that honest Class II wave-train. We beached our boats at the bridge around 3:30pm.
Not very good today front surfing, or catching rock eddies, for that matter. Except for eddy turns, in and out, I never really used the draw or Duffek that I expected to, either. The Diesel's too squirrelly for me, I think, to get really relaxed and comfortable in. I need to try the Remix. But I had a good time and learned a little, too. Dylan and Kevin are talking about the Snoqualmie Powerhouse run for next Saturday. I hope so.
Sunday, April 12th
Starting at the put-in below the powerhouse, staying on river right, the first rapid has six or more boulders with an eddy behind each, stepped one above the other, all in a row, as if made to do in sequence. Then maybe a ferry to the river left eddy.
Today at 1890 cfs, the center of second rapid looked to me like Class II+. (There's possible bedrock in the middle of that drop, if you stay in the slick water.) Big waves for surfing, if you dare. To avoid the big water, or to rest after exertions in the froth, go river right and immediately eddy in.
Wednesday, the 15th
Three times I drove up side roads, and three times I was turned around by snow -- Lake Evans, Barlow Point, Coal Lake, and the Sunshine Mine trail, which I got to, in three inches of snow, but didn't walk. But examination of the river below and the view from the Coal lake road above made the excursion worthwhile.
Looking for a picture of snow geese and Mount Baker, I drifted into the next slough, to find that the incoming tidal current was pushing me upstream at a couple of knots. I didn't go far before working to get back to the main channel.
Pool practice again at Shoreline in the Diesel 60. Not much better this time.
Saturday, April 18th
Finally did the Powerhouse run on the Snoqualmie River in the Diesel 60 with NWOC. The river was at about 1900 cfs. Bigger water than the Yo-Yo on the Green River (above), but fewer places to play. No spills, but close calls a few times. A bad picture of one of its rapids is above.
I spent the next couple of weeks wrestling with demons, but came back with a vengence in May 2015.