It was busy month as I floated Green River twice, first paddled Jetty Island off Everett's harbor, visited both Deception Pass from Bowman Bay and Big Eddy on the Skykomish for the third time each, for the sixth time put in at Shilshole Marina, made first visits to Possession Point on Whidbey Island, Camano Island State Park, and Ebey Slough in the Snohomish delta, and revisited both Sammamish River and Issaquah Creek.
Sunday, March 1st
Near the end of the road in Flaming Geyser State Park, I put in at the small eddy by the signboard and shelter. American Whitewater said the river flow was at 949 cfs, a tad below their recommended 1000 to 2000 cfs. Lower water made for more rocks with eddies and surfable waves, either to avoid or to play in.
Behind mid-stream rocks and features along the banks, I hit every eddy I could and quit counting after the first half dozen, missing only a couple that I tried for. Although I did surf one wave very nicely, my standing wave surfing was not very good today.
Paddling out of an eddy and turning downstream again, especially when it's a bit bumpy below, still needed work, as did my ferries out of eddies. There I tended to get spun downstream too easily, although my backpaddle ferries were more successful.
I avoided an area of water on river right that could have provided play, because it looked like there might be wood in it and I didn't want to find out the hard way.
After about a mile with some Class I water, I reached the river's sharp bend to the left. At the top of the island I scooted across a few cobbles in low water into the left-hand channel and, avoiding the overhanging branches (of what I didn't check to find out), eased down to my take-out. (It's on river left at the little eddy and beach by the model airplane field, just down from the island and well above the park bridge.)
The paddle route continued for another mile or so, with a Class II section, but that would have made the walk back to the car longer than I wanted. From where I left the boat to pick up a little later, I walked the pleasant mile up through the park and along the river back to the car. I'm looking forward to doing it with the NWOC in April.
It was a nice paddle, with mergansers and dippers for company, if a bit short for the hour's drive. I did it only once today, so I guess it was just a Yo.
Tuesday, the 3rd
I beached the boat and walked the few yards into the cold wind over to the west side of the island. Across Possession Sound lay the Olympic Peninsula, the south end of Whidbey Island, Hat (Gedney) Island, and Camano Head.
On a nine foot tide Jetty Island's western shore was a beautiful beach, with killdeer and sandpipers flying in unison, salt marshes, a few trees, and what I take to be tracks of a river otter (or a racoon). On a warm summer day the island would be a delight.
From the landing I paddled north up the channel along the island's protected east shore, passing log booms and a little saltwater marsh to round the point and head into the wind and waves. After a quick look south, as a couple of seals examined me I scooted out of the weather, back to the marina, and home. About four miles all told, to be repeated on a calmer and warmer day (like, Thursday, April 2nd).
Thursday, March 5th
At the tail end of a flood tide I put in at Bowman Bay and headed for Deception Pass. There was a small rip near Lighthouse Point, but otherwise the water was calm. Over on the Whidbey Island side, a couple of other kayaks were heading west out of Deception Pass. (You can see detail for the area snipped from Marine Chart 18423.)
I slipped through Canoe Pass, then crossed the little rip east of Pass Island to Whidbey Island and a view of Cornet Bay.
After a couple of boats passed, I rounded Strawberry Island to find that nearing a ten foot tide it had no beach, only rocks for a landing (a skill that I have yet to even try to acquire). On the island's north side, vertical rock was beautifully hung with ferns and more.
I beached the boat on small cobbles, to find that the relief zipper on the drysuit worked quite nicely.
Back in the boat, nearing Bowman Bay I considered exploring the Rosario Head area. But I thought it would be more interesting at a lower tide -- plus, after almost two hours paddling I was starting to poop out. (Later: A higher tide, not lower, might make the sea-caves north of Rosario Head more inviting.)
So I scooted back to the Bowman boat launch and stripped thankfully out of the drysuit. An eagle, a couple of harbor seals, bufflehead, and a harlequin duck had kept me company.
With two hours of daylight left, I drove down to La Conner, found its Swinomish Channel ramp (Maple to Caledonia to Third to Sherman), then drove lower down the river to Blake's Resort ($10 to launch, $27 to camp, hot showers take quarters). Then Conway and I-5 to home.
Friday, the 6th
A couple of days ago I picked up a cheap two-part plastic paddle at Goodwill for $1.79. So now I have a spare paddle on board, its two halves out the way up snug in the bow of the kayak.
After Web research and a visit to NWOC a week ago (who called Snapdragon in Bellevue for me), I found that Snapdragon will make me a neoprene spray skirt for the Manitou Sport, a nice one for about $150. But for me to stay in the boat and be able to roll, I'd also need the Necky thigh pads (if they'd fit since I haven't called them yet), and maybe some hip padding, too. It all seems like too much outfitting, so for now I've decided to wait on all that and just try to keep upright, although I do still want to work on re-entry.
While at NWOC I signed up for their whitewater class -- two evenings on the water at their Lake Union shop getting used to the river boats, two evenings in the Shoreline pool learning to roll, and two outings on the Yo-Yo run on Green River (which I did the upper mile of the other day). First class is April 6th.
Saturday, March 7th
Two circuits of Big Eddy -- up to the bottom of the rapid at the top of the eddy, then across the rapid with eddies behind rocks and jets between, waves to try to surf, more eddies and jets, and a ferry to the far bank on river right. (Picture is at left.)
I paddled down the pool along bedrock and oozed through a channel formed by a gravel bar. A pair of mergansers kept an eye on me.
In faster current at the bottom of the Big Eddy pool, above a Class II rapid, I ferried to catch the eddy behind a midstream rock, ferried again to catch another rock's eddy, and finally over to the left bank. I rested there while admiring a gold panner's bit of color, before paddling up along the bank to do it all again.
The snow-melt water was cold at only 40°F (4.5°C). When I finally paddled up to beach the boat, a dipper sat on a rock where I wanted to go. At the last moment he flew. Driving back I watched a deer run across the hiway.
Sunday, the 8th
[snipped from facebook.com/OrcaNetwork]
"March 7 at 4:31pm – Happy to share that our first 2015 "Saratoga" Gray whale has returned! #723 was seen today traveling south along Whidbey Island, rounding Possession Point. Let's hope he turns around and heads back towards Saratoga Passage.
Reported by Jill Hein aboard Mystic Sea."
I took the ferry from Mukilteo to the Clinton landing on Whidbey Island, then drove south the couple of miles to Possession Point Park. I launched off its sandy ramp in sixty degree weather, paddled south around Possession Point to a glimpse into Cultus Bay, then a half-mile leg of a triangle out to the green "1" bellbuoy, inhabited by two sea lions. With a view across Useless Bay to Point No Point, I headed back in toward the high sand bluffs of Possession Point and the beach at "big black rock." I beached for a pee, then paddled back to the park to take out. For most of the one-hour trip the Sound was built of glass-topped gentle swells. Mountains from Baker to Rainier framed one side, and the Olympics the other. But no whale.
With plenty of daylight left, I drove two-lane blacktop across the island to look at Dave Mackie Park. No easy put-in there that I saw, but a man got his rowboat across the beach to the water with the same exact dolly that I have. So there.
The Sunday ferry from Clinton back to Mukilteo required nearly a two hour wait -- another lesson.
Monday, the 9th
The first rapid offered four jets between five eddies. Start at the put-in on river right, take the first drop on the far right, eddy right to rest, then ferry jets and eddies across toward the left bank.
Drop two, however, because of the low water today (373 cfs or "too low"), wants to use the central, main jet, which means that you'd have to move back toward the right bank to get to the central jet. Does any of that make sense?
One could wheel a boat through the gate to the put-in a little way above the bridge and paddle down to the take-out below the bridge, giving a great piece of Class II water to play in with no car shuttle needed. All for another day.
Friday, the 13th
AmericanWhitewater.org put the river at 783 cfs today, 150 cfs below the first time I paddled this, although it seemed the same to me. But that didn't help today, either. On the upper part I missed more eddies than I managed to tuck into. But I was more relaxed in the waves today, and did manage to front surf one for a short time.
For the drive there I took my first route of I-5, SR18, and Green Valley Road. To take another look at the Cedar River at Landsburg bridge coming back, I drove the Green Valley Road, SR169, and the Ravensdale Road to Landsburg Road and the Cedar, then Issaquah-Hobart to I-90 and home.
From Green River to home, even with the slight diversion on the SE Tiger Mtn Road, it was the same distance either way of 45 miles. But looking at the map, I see that I-5, I-405, and SR169 to Green Valley Road might be the fastest of all.
I'd spot an eddy coming up but a little late, try for it anyway, end up too far down in the eddy's tail, try to power-paddle up into it, fail, and start to get pulled downstream. Then, as my wimpy peel-out failed, I'd get swept sideways into the stream where at last I'd complete the turn, and finally pointed downstream again try to spot the next eddy.
Or, I'd be back-paddling above a rapid, spot a nearby eddy behind a rock, back-ferry over to it, and thinking I could ease into it not get up enough oomph to punch through its eddy line and get grabbed by its whirlies.
Once, a little eddy-line whirlpool very nicely spun me around and up into the eddy itself. That time I'd stayed loose and just gone with the flow, and the flow had worked for me.
Lessons learned: Look downstream for whitewater, slickwater, pillows, boils, and pustules. When you've decided to move, move fast. Decide early if you can make the eddy -- if yes, go for it; if not, give up early and head for the next, which, hopefully, you have already spotted.
About surfing: Surfing a small wave will end quickly if the wave collapses under you. Trying to catch a wave for surfing on the fly, that is without having first stopped in an eddy, is so hard it's unlikely for me.
Sunday, the Ides of March
It was at 783 cfs when I ran it (badly) just this past Friday.
cedar river below diversion near landsburg:
Slalom gates 400-1200cfs II 429cfs (running)
skykomish river near gold bar:
Big Eddy 1000-4000cfs I-II 6030cfs (too high)
snoqualmie river near snoqualmie:
Powerhouse 300-4000cfs II+ 4520cfs (too high)
The two floating docks at Camano Island State Park acted like little breakwaters to protect the launch ramp from the northwest breeze and choppy water. I'd hoped for less wind, but quartered into it as I paddled north for a short mile across the bight to the park's northern beach access.
The chop and breeze behind me, I scooted back south along the beach and around the point a bit, then got a little workout paddling back up to the ramp. Mourning doves, trumpeter swans, three eagles, and a saltwater loon. But no whales.
On the way home I checked out Cama Beach State Park (the cafe for a $10 breakfast?) and drove the two-lane blacktop of the Pioneer Hiway from Stanwood to Silvana on the Stillaguamish River, then back to I-5 and home. Beautiful country.
Wednesday, March 18th
The 10.8 foot high tide was for 4pm, and I headed down Ebey Slough at about 2:30pm. Working a little against the easy upstream current, I paddled quickly under I-5 and away from the noise as a harbor seal coming upstream with the tide took a look at me.
I was looking for an interesting way to Quilceda Creek. When I saw a slough on the right heading into the marsh out of Ebey Slough, I took it.
Turning west, the slough narrowed, squeezed between forests of cattails. A couple of times the way seemed to end just ahead, but ghosting forward I found a turning instead. The channel widened into a tiny bay, then closed in again. The slough continued through the marsh, widening as it went, and at last it joined Quilceda Creek. I was saved!
I slipped into a narrow side channel just as wide as the boat, and parked among the dry grass hummocks. The boat's situation made for an easy step out, to take a break before heading back downstream.
I paddled down Quilceda Creek, passing the slough I'd just used to get there. Ahead was the broad outlet of the creek into Possession Sound, complete with an old roadsign, now unreadable.
After a few minutes of paddling over the mudflats and through the grass flats, the broad channel of Ebey Slough revealed itself, miraculously appearing through the cattails. As I paddled upstream among its pilings, the slough's slight ebb current started to build and I started to look for eddies to use against it.
The cattail marsh of the slough's south shore provided the ins and outs I needed, and I used their protection against the current. As I came abreast of the boat launch, I decided to enjoy the building current by paddling a little bit further upstream in the shoreside eddies, to come back down midstream with the current. And so I did.
Ideally, to use the tidal currents I'd want the usual ebb out and flood in. But that would put me out at low tide -- not good on the mudflats.
But the way I did it today, downstream against the late flood current, exploring on the high slack tide, and back up against the early ebb, was a workable compromise. Next time, though, I'd want to be a little earlier, with more time before the ebb current built too much.
For the same loop but in the other direction, see Sunday, May 17th.
Thursday, March 26th
It was tee-shirt weather and a low tide when I put in at the Shilshole marina boat ramp. I paddled out to the channel marker off Meadow Point (green "1"), then in to the little rock garden north of the point. There I played at dodging between and around the rocks, trying to spot pillows in the water that showed other rocks just below the surface that I might ground on. I rearranged the barnacles on top of one rock, but managed with a draw or pry to miss the rest.
The beautiful bottom lay just below. On the rocks I saw one big crab, a few bright orange stalked anenomes, but not one star fish. The brant were in the eel grass as usual and stayed put for me. As did a couple of very bold, unafraid Canada geese swimming with me in the channel.
On the way back I beached the boat at Golden Gardens Park for a bathroom break. Back on the water I paddled down the outside of the breakwater, past its pocket beach at the bend, to the breakwater's south end (green "3"), and out into Shilshole Bay. With a current from the locks of maybe two knots, I tried a couple of eddy turns behind the red nun "4", before heading back up inside (three other kayaks) to the ramp. About two hours and four miles?
In a few minutes of tee-shirt weather I was in the marsh that divided the river into its two channels, the main Sammamish River and smaller Squak Slough. I lazed through a passage in the reeds and irises until I grounded, to back out and try another spot.
I finally let the boat ground against an iris island and ate my brunch, snapping pictures of geese, a heron, turtles on logs, the little marsh, the dance of light on the water. Later, paddling upstream against the mild current, I ferried from bank to bank to catch the easing current along the banks of the river's bends -- just like the first time here.
Sunday, March 29th
As I paddled along the marshy shore, headed for Issaquah Creek's outlet, I startled a coyote coming down to the water. He didn't stick around for a picture, but he looked good, in fine shape.
Higher water had opened up the creek's little delta, and it now had two forks into the lake with a grassy island between. Through the first fork I eased around the delta's grassy banks and into the creek. It wasn't quite as I remembered it, a more alien world, closed in, with overarching trees above, and trees to dodge in the water below.
Making a knot or two I paddled upstream to the footbridge and then a little beyond. The tree that had blocked the way in September was still there, still not passable without some kind of kayak jiu-jitsu.
The creek today was higher than the last visit. Once out of the lake's influence, in the narrower upper reaches, the creek had just barely enough current, maybe a knot or a bit more, to provide a little ferry practice and such.
I paddled back up and tried again. It went a little better, but I still decorated the boat with greenery. On the way down I practiced more back-paddle ferries.
Back out on Lake Sammammish, there were bufflehead, mergansers, a bald eagle. And then I finally noticed that the sky held herons. Looking around, I saw the rookery -- three tall trees, full of nests and the long-legged birds. More glided in for the evening as I sat and watched.
And here's the Journal for the next month, April 2015.