June busted out with a second adventure to Deception Island, followed by more play in the rapid at Big Eddy before a walk to Barcley Lake, a bit of breeze on Little Kachess Lake, a paddle to Craft Island on North Fork Skagit River, a lovely hike up Tonga Ridge to Mount Sawyer, a pretty paddle up Tucquala Lake on upper Cle Elum River, a walk to Evans Lake, and another paddle to Jetty Island, for good measure.

Saturday, June 6th

Deception Island from Coffin Rocks.

At first I couldn't get started, and then I almost didn't make it back.

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot at Bowman Bay, it turned out to be a free day at all Washington state parks. It was also a Saturday in June, with beautiful weather and a low tide, so of course there was no place to park.

I dumped the kayak on the beach and drove around for 15 minutes until a spot opened up, parked the car, and finished unloading.

With a minus tide and glassy seas, I paddled the mile out through Gull and Coffin Rocks to Deception Island. On the north side of the island I beached the boat in a lovely little cove. After a short break, I proceeded to paddle a circumnavigation of the island.

I headed around the northwest corner of the island and south along its west side. Exposed to the ocean down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the shore felt a little dangerous as waves from small swells crashed noisily into rocky inlets.

But paddling cautiously by, I found that it wasn't particularly hazardous if I stayed out of the frothy inlets. I even played a little at timing the swell to maneuver between a couple of rocks.


Two kayakers off the south side of Deception Island.

Off Deception Island's south side the calm sea held beds of bull kelp to maneuver through, rocky coves to explore, and tiny islets to dodge. Two other kayakers wandered by, and a harbor seal took a look.

I anchored in a kelp bed for a while and kept company with an eagle sitting in a fir tree on the island above.

Continuing to paddle around the island, I counted three little coves with shingle or cobble beaches for easy landing -- one on the east side and two on the northeast. Unfortunately, none of the three offered an obvious route up to the rest of island.

I paddled around to the island's northwest corner and landed the boat in the same rocky cove that I used a month ago. I pulled the boat up as far as the cliffs allowed, called it good enough, and scrambled up the cliff to the island's meadow.


Another view of the cove on the north side of Deception Island. Click for an enlarged snapshot from the first trip there.

I ate my brunch amid grasses, flowers, and wind-shaped trees, soaking up the sun and views. Down below, a boat motored in next to the rocks and a couple cast their lines out. A little later, half a dozen small dorsal fins broke the water, but I'd left my binoculars in the car! A bad telephoto picture later proved inconclusive.

Walking back, I found that I wasn't alone after all. Another boater had actually hauled up his sit-on-top and was camping there for the night. It was a great spot for it.

Meanwhile, I was about to have little lessons in tides and currents.

I'd been there for nearly two hours, and when I scrambled back down, the water had come up to within a couple of feet of my boat.

Good Lord, if I'd stayed up above much longer I could have lost the boat! Thanking whatever angel it was for looking after me, I dragged the kayak to the water and climbed in.


The view north from the west side of Deception Island. That's orange lichen on the rocks. Click for a different, enlarged view.

It was now hours past the low tide and the current was flooding in. I figured I could use that current to help paddle over to Reservation Head, next to Bowman Bay. (See the chart). I hooked around to the south side of the island and headed east. Uh huh.

My plan was working fine until I realized it wasn't. The current that streams past both sides of Deception Island naturally flows toward Deception Pass. And it was now carrying me not toward Reservation Head, but toward Lighthouse Point.

Up ahead, I could see the whitewater of a flooding rip current streaming around the point. If I got into that, it could be interesting. To get back to Bowman Bay, I'd either have to portage the Lottie Bay isthmus or wait hours for slack water -- assuming I could successfully ride the whitewater of the tidal race around the point.


Looking east past distant Lighthouse Point toward Deception Pass. In the water below, there's kelp near shore and a developing eddy line further out.

I angled more toward Bowman Bay, hoping to ferry across the current coming through Northwest Pass. After minutes of hard paddling, I checked a rock on shore that I'd lined up with. I'd hardly moved!

I adjusted my angle again, still hoping to ferry across and out of the current, but when I dared to check the rock again, again I'd barely moved. Now starting to feel a little desperate, I turned again, hoping not to paddle uselessly against the flooding current or to get peeled back with it into the whitewater off Lighthouse Point.

At last, I got the boat's angle right and began to make some progress across the current. Fifteen minutes of sweat later, the current finally eased. (Sweat, because in that situation, I felt I couldn't stop to rest.)

I paddled into a cove near Reservation Head and took a breather. A half hour later I landed in Bowman Bay, very happy to be there.

A detail from Chart 18423.

This is a detail from Chart 18423. Click to enlarge.

To summarize, when I sighted on the rock, I was using a landmark to take a range. With more time, it can be done more deliberately, lining up two points on land.

It seems that flood tide develops a good current through Northwest Pass between Rosario Head and Deception Island. While not as fast as where it's squeezed through Deception Pass, the current can be enough to make paddling from the south side of Deception Island over to Reservation Head and Bowman Bay a little difficult.

kayaking puget sound... notes "a fun, small, surfable standing wave on the flood on the west side of Lighthouse Point." What I saw was whitewater flooding past the point.

To avoid being carried into that whitewater streaming past Lighthouse Point, I turned and tried to ferry across the water flowing through Northwest Pass. The difficulty then became that in open water it's hard to see the direction of the water's flow.


June 9th

Falls and pools in Denny Creek.

Off Interstate 90 an hour from home, Denny Creek trail is interesting. After crossing under the I-90 viaduct looming a hundred feet above, the lovely path takes you to Denny Falls. There you'll find slick-rock water-slides over polished rock, foaming water sluices, short waterfalls, calm pools, and sun-warmed rock, all available for your pleasure.

Bunchberry, Queen's Cup, and Lily of the Valley.

It's a great place, especially in the heat of summer. Even without the creek, the walk itself is worth it, as it takes you through a cool forest past giant Western Red Cedars, the floor carpeted with flowers.


Sunday, June 14th

The hiway bridge beyond the top of Big Eddy.

I intended to hike to Barcley Lake, and did get there eventually.

I thought, since I was driving by, that I'd nip into the WDFW access site at Big Eddy on Skykomish River for a quick look.

On the beaches at Big Eddy the crowd was a great example of polyglot America, while on the water most anything that could float was in use. Adults and kids were swimming across to a rocky island or to the far shore to leap off a log hanging ten feet above the water.

After eating brunch, I put the kayak in the water. The water was barely warm enough for swimming -- 60°F when I measured it. But the air was much warmer -- 84 degrees by the Sienna's thermometer.

Those both meant that I didn't need a drysuit or anything else to play on the water. Dressed in PFD, hat, sandals, and shorts, I joined the rafters, tubers, mattressers, swimmers, and other kayakers.


A playboater in the rapid at the top of Big Eddy.

A playboater in the rapid at the top of Big Eddy. Click for an enlargement.

I paddled away from the crowd and ferried across the pond to the far shore (skirting a fly fisherman), then worked up to the bottom of the upper rapid.

The low-water rapid (about 750 cfs) was all eddies behind boulders and jets between, with standing waves to be ferried and surfed, and more bouldery eddies and jets all the way back across the river, 30 yards or so. It was perfect for play in a kayak.

After two circuits playing across and back, I drifted down to ferry across the pool's bottom above the lower Class II rapid, then paddled back up along the shoreside eddies to the upper rapid again.

One of the playboaters showed up, and when I said he could surf it, he said he'd never (!) and followed me. And we both did for a bit, although I was tiring out by then.


Mount Baring in the evening, from near Barcley Lake.

After loading up the car, I drove the few more miles up to the trailhead for Barcley Lake. It was a beautiful two-mile walk through mossy old-growth, with ferns, flowers, and all. And always looming overhead, Mount Baring.

With a dam and muddy shore, Barcley Lake itself disappointed. Continuing the hike from there steeply up to Eagle Lake could help remedy that.

Tuesday, June 16th

Miles from the lake, the glaciers on Mount Daniels shone in the sun.

Off I-90 on Exit 62, going to the right gets you to Stampede Pass. To the left, six miles up a paved road took me to Little Kachess Lake, its campground (unit 131), and its hand-carry boat launch. As two half-immersed babushkas watched from the water, I backed the van down the reservoir's drawn-down "beach" and unloaded the kayak.

I worried a bit about the south wind. I wanted to paddle north a couple of miles to the far end of the lake and explore its inlet. But if the strong south wind kept up, I'd have a job paddling back against it. Kachess Lake and Little Kachess Lake together provided enough fetch to build up serious wind and waves.

Looking north from the island. Fearing the wind, I shortened the trip and turned back from here.

I stayed close at first, waiting to see what the wind would do, and poked as far as possible up nearby Box Canyon Creek (not far).

I decided that if the wind didn't get much worse, I'd get back okay if I didn't go too far. So I paddled north, heading for the island about a mile up the lake, with the wind and small waves at my back.


On the way back I found some protection from the breeze.

The pretty little island was a bit over-used, but dramatic, too, with the trees whipping in the gusts of wind. I watched the lake to the south, eyeing the wind and waves I now had to paddle against to get home. Hoping to find a little calm along the shore, I figured if I just took my time I'd get back.

Off I set, quickly working over to the nearby shore, and sure enough, if I kept in tight, both the wind and waves eased off, except on the windward south sides of little points of land. Sooner than I expected, I was back to the put-in.


Wednesday

Once more, I walked the Meadow Point flats in Golden Gardens Park on a minus two-foot tide. The water was warm as I splashed through the eel grass beds and sandy shallows. As the tide came in, I worked my way north to the Blue Ridge delta and took a break on a log, before heading back along the beach.

Thursday, June 18th

Nearing Craft Island from the south branch of Skagit River's North Fork.

From Blake's Resort ($10 to park, use the bathroom, and launch the boat) on Skagit River's North Fork, it's around a mile's paddle downriver to Craft Island.

I'd been thinking about it since my walk there and now the afternoon's minus two-foot low tide was theoretically timed right for it -- an ebb tide to help me down the river, a couple of hours of slack low water for time on the island and sand flats, and a flood tide to help me back upriver.

Well, I was late as usual and missed the downstream ebbing tide. In the wide river's lower reach, I had to settle for just its lazy current to counter the flood tide that was starting to push upstream. In the end, it seemed to be a wash.

Near Fish Town I turned south down the North Fork's southern outlet toward Craft Island. As I paddled, I ferried across from river right to river left, and its alternately sand and marsh-grass shore.


Marsh grass and bedrock bordering the Skagit, from near Craft Island.

I landed on the beach just past Craft Island's rocky point and pulled the boat up as high on the sand as possible. Wandering up the island, I found a comfortable spot out of the wind, ate lunch, and watched the people out on the sand, below.

A wildflower list for these islands would be nice to see. (I take the ubiquitous yellow composite to be some kind of Arnica. See the entry for a month ago.) Craft Island seems to have a mix of both western and eastern Washington flowers and shrubs.

The thin soils of the bedrock balds combine with the saltwater winds and rain-shadow drought to make living here as precarious for plant life as in the high alpine zones. When I mentioned krummholz in the Craft Island walk last May, the word seemed very apt.


Another view west from Craft Island. My blue boat is just visible on the beach. Click for an enlarged version from a month ago.

The sky was lowering, the wind freshening, the weather worsening. It felt like time to get out of there. Paddling back up the first upriver leg, heading north, I found the building wind and waves were against me. I ferried over to the far lee shore, out of the worst of it.

I was a little worried that the tidal flood supposedly helping me against the river's current wouldn't be enough to make a difference. In fact, it seemed to help quite a bit.

Where the South Fork's southern outlet joined the main western branch, I turned right, to the east. The building northwesterlies were now at my back, and so were the building waves sweeping upriver.

As wind and waves rose, so rose the possibility of surfing home, although the waves didn't quite become big enough for that. But, as they swept under the boat and I wallowed up and down their faces, they did get big enough to hurry me back up the river to Blake's, warm coffee, and a warm bathroom.


Saturday, June 20th

On the flowered path up Mount Sawyer.

After stops along US2 at Big Eddy and Eagle Falls, from the hiway I drove up Forest Service spur road 4830-310 to the Tonga Ridge trailhead. Three miles hiking up 1200 vertical feet put me on top of Mount Sawyer, the high point on the ridge at 5505 feet.

The trail began in woods and ran along a ridgetop for a bit. Still mostly in woods it contoured around Mount Sawyer. At about two miles, a cairn marked the turn-off for the summit trail.

The trail started climbing so steeply up the open meadows that it worried me, but it soon eased into a reasonable contour up to Mount Sawyer's east shoulder and up to the top.


Mount Index and Mount Baring and purple penstemon, too.

In addition to its views, Tonga Ridge is known for two things -- flowers in the summer and huckleberries in the fall. On the walk up, I'd counted well over a dozen different flowers in bloom. I'm compelled to try to list them all, so here goes.

Flowers in bloom included lupine, anemone, bead lily, bunchberry, valerian, paintbrush, tiger lily, pearly everlasting, bistort, yarrow, thistle, penstemon, lousewort, saxifrage, aster, phlox, and that ubiquitous yellow daisy.

Shrubs in bloom were pink heather, white heather, spirea, pipsissewa, mountain ash, and more.

Rather than a list of summits seen from the top of Sawyer (the dozen on which I've trod, and the many not), I'll just mention Mount Daniels and Mount Hinman.


Mounts Daniels and Hinman over a slope dotted with soft-yellow lousewort. Click to enlarge.

A note about birds. For the most part, I've quit listing sightings of birds, animals, and such. Let me briefly make up for that lack.

Today, from Mount Sawyer, I watched Vaux's Swifts (pronounced Voxes, like foxes), those expert flyers of mountains and cliffs, as they carved through the sky. I listened to the heavenly voice of a Hermit Thrush and wondered at not hearing the ethereal, soaring song of the Swanson's Thrush, until I remembered that they're happier lower down in deeper woods.

The song of the Swanson's Thrush, which I did hear later in the evening while driving back down, has become for me a kind of welcoming song. Every time I've gone into the woods this summer, I've listened for it, and I've heard it every time.

Another notable winged familiar has been the Osprey. Everywhere I've gone where there's water, and that's been most places since last August when I bought the boat, I can count on seeing at least one Osprey, and probably more. Of course it helps that they have a noticeable call and glorious habits of flight.


Wednesday, June 24th

Launching through the flowers at Tucquala Lake.

Exit 80 off I-90 put me on Bullfrog Road, which took me to SR903 and up its paved road along Cle Elum River through the villages of Roslyn and Ronald to Salmon La Sac.

Once into the National Forest, there were dozens of campsites along the river, both official and dispersed (a few even with porta-potties). While most were very nice, note that even mid-week on a gray if warm June day, most were filled with campers.

Cle Elum Reservoir was low, exposing twenty feet of muddy shore.

Above Salmon La Sac Forest Road 4330 climbed steeply up for ten miles of washboard to finally reach lovely Tucquala Lake.

I didn't bother to scout for a better place, but just launched the kayak where the road first neared Tucquala Lake. Although the lake's bottom was a bit mucky, it was an easy put-in through the flowers.


Seen from part-way upriver, Mount Hawkins was framed by Sub-alpine Firs.

Here all was undisturbed, including the three miles of Cle Elum River above Tucquala Lake. This gently flowing stream is bordered by marsh and meadows and surrounded by an open forest of Sub-alpine Firs. Beyond rise the ramparts of the Wenatchee Mountains.

A gentle breeze was blowing down valley, in addition to the river's slight current (one knot, if that). I paddled up the narrow, twisting and turning stream looking for protection from the breeze and the slight current, too. I ferried back and forth from marshy shore to marshy shore, and explored the occasional side channel.


Floating down upper Cle Elum River, past Tucquala Meadow. Click to enbig.

At first, the country felt oddly foreign, as if I were paddling through some subarctic marsh in the far North. Well, it wasn't in the far North, but it was a beautiful subalpine marsh.

I managed three miles to the far end and a bit more, when Cle Elum River finally stopped me at a rocky riffle too shallow to paddle up. (I had had visions of paddling to Hyas Lake.) So I headed back down, with the easy current and occasional breeze at my back. As I lazily drifted downstream, the sun came out.

Through Tucquala Meadow, bunchberry, salmonberry, and more covered the shore of the gentle, cut-bank stream.


Saturday, June 27th

The path to Evans Lake was bordered with flowers and ferns.

From the Stevens Pass hiway, Forest Road 6846 took me up Foss River to the trailhead for the half-mile walk to Evans Lake. Although short, the walk is through shady woods, which gave lovely relief from the record-breaking heat. It was 87 degrees when I left the car.

The forest floor was carpeted with bunchberry and queen's cup. Beside the path stood a magnificent old cedar at least eight feet through, its spike top bleached by sun and wind.

When I left the shade of the woods at the lake, the sun's heat was stifling. A fly fisherman had given up for the day and when I mentioned the mucky lake bottom and my desire to go swimming, he suggested a log down the shore. I wandered along and after a bit found the log. It was perfect.

The fisherman was down the lake by the outlet and some campers were out of sight the other way. I stripped off pack and clothes and walked out on the log.


My landscaped cedar diving board allowed me to avoid the mucky bottom.

And in I went. The water was gloriously warm, 72°F when I checked. A few breast strokes, a few back strokes, a lazy float in the heat of the sun, then a side stroke took me back to the log. I dried off in the sun, and ate, and picked a few blueberries. One of the campers launched a kayak and paddled across to the far shore. And I dove in again.

I didn't want to leave my private beach, but I had an agenda for the day, hoping to spot a route up to Top Lake.

Dried and dressed, I walked around the lake. The route to the stream coming down from Top Lake was down a "path" choked with head-high salmonberries. Going through there would not have left me unscathed.

I turned back and walked the few minutes through the lush forest to the hot and dusty car.


The Cascade mountains east of Maloney Ridge. Diptop, glaciated Mounts Daniels and Hinman in the distance.

Deception Falls in low water.

With the air conditioning on full, I explored the Sobieski Mountain and Maloney Ridge roads, hoping and failing to find an obvious route to Maloney Lakes. I did find an old timber-landing with nice views and hung out there for a bit, before heading back down.

When I reached the hiway, I figured there was enough daylight left to make the short drive to Deception Falls worth the few minutes it would take to get there, so I did.


Monday, June 29th

Taking a break up the inside channel.

There was a ten-foot tide in the evening, so I went to go look at Jetty Island for the third time. The forecast was for continued highs in the 80's and an easy south wind, a nice change from our recent northwest wind. But at the Legion Memorial Park overlook in north Everett, there was that pesky NW wind again. I decided it wasn't so bad I couldn't deal with it, so down I drove to the 10th Street marina.

From the marina's boat ramp, I paddled across the channel to the lee shore of Jetty Island, offering relief from both the moderate wind and slight chop. After a few minutes paddling north up the island's reedy shore, I landed for a quick break, while an osprey sitting on its nest on top of a piling complained about my presence.

As I rounded the island's north end (green "7"), a little breeze and its chop came up. Ignoring them, I paddled south along the island's shore. The lagoon, when I arrived, was protected and calm.

I beached the boat in the grass of the lagoon's spit and unloaded my drybag for a stay. Even though its water was 79°F, the lagoon was too shallow for swimming. I wandered the few feet over to the western side of the spit and waded into Puget Sound.


Beached in the lagoon, the city of Everett behind.

Not as warm as the lagoon, but it was 74 degrees when I checked. The summer sun had done its job, warming the water that lay shallow over the gently sloping sand.

I waded back to shore, stripped off my clothes, and walked into the water. Slowly the water rose as I waded out, until it was deep enough for a shallow dive in. I stood and looked to see the beach a hundred feet back.

As I turned to dive again, a Harbor seal popped up, maybe fifty feet away, watching me. Quietly, I slipped into the water and breast-stroked toward him. I watched him as he watched me. After I'd swum maybe twenty feet or so, he dove and I was alone again. I swam out a little further into Puget Sound, then turned and stroked back to the beach.

I gathered my things and walked back across the sand spit to the lagoon and the boat. Out of the breeze, I rested to eat and drink and dry in the heat of the late afternoon sun.


The sand-spit that forms the lagoon. While the lagoon was warmer, it was too shallow for swimming. The swimming was fine outside the spit.

Watching a flock of Least Sandpipers on maneuvers, I realized that the wind was building. On the protected side of the spit, it wasn't very noticeable, but when I walked to the other side, both wind and waves were picking up. I came back and started packing.

Just as I'd settled into the boat, a kite-boarder sliced his way through the shallow water of the lagoon, around once, and out again. More kites appeared in the sky down the island as I paddled out the lagoon.

I remembered reading that the island was a favorite of kite-boarders and why -- when the wind picked up, they liked the action provided by the waves that grew and steepened over the island's shallows.

Once out of the shelter of the lagoon, I paddled back north along the island's western shore. Coming in from the port side of my kayak were the same waves that the kite-boarders favored.

A couple of times things got interesting and I got to practice bracing, when I failed to hear the hiss of a whitecap foaming its way toward me, coming to rock my boat.

And here's the Journal entry for July 2015.


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