Progress continued with paddle trips in West Seattle at Duwamish Head and Alki Point, Snoqualmie River at Zurfleuh, West Point three more times, Big Eddy on Skykomish River twice, and Orcas watched from Sunset Hill !
Thursday, October 2nd
I drove down Hiway 99 through town to West Seattle and put in at the Duwamish Head boat launch (also called the Don Ameche, I think). I scouted north into the breeze to the fishing pier west of the head. The wind chop made things a bit bumpy, with spray in my face if I hit a wave not quite right. The spray skirt over the life vest worked great. It might be unusual that way, but it worked for me.
At the pier I turned back, rounded the head, passed the boat launch, and paddled southeast across the bay toward the west channel of Duwamish River. Although the ebb tide was now against me, I had the north breeze and waves at my back. Near the far shore I paddled between the pilings of long-gone shipping piers and nosed into the relative shelter of the entrance to the river. I studied the industry across the channel as I took a break.
And there was a perfect parking spot, so I had to do it. I parked and unloaded the boat, carried it across concrete, dragged it across grass, carried it, and dragged it again to the cobble-stone beach. It was steep and slippery enough that once I was in the boat, with one scoot and a slide I was floating dry-shod.
I paddled west then south around the lighthouse to the protected water of Cormorant Cove (where a few weeks ago I'd blown out my back). After a rest I headed back north into the waves. The chart suggested a rip off the point, although it apparently needs a tide lower than today's.
Off Alki beach I wanted to try surfing and rode a big wave from a ship's wake toward the steep beach. At the last minute I tried to turn back over the wave but couldn't finish the turn. The now breaking wave swung me sideways and carried me toward the beach. I wasn't completely swamped only because I was "bracing" -- more like frantically poling with my paddle off the bottom.
Four more waves from that wake pumped me up the beach and all I could do was keep the kayak's wave-side edge up to avoid swamping more or even spilling. I finally got the bow pointed into the breaking surf and with two strokes was clear. Note that by now the surf was only about a foot high. The one that first tried to knock me over was maybe twice that. There are a couple of lessons here -- for one, avoid a dumping surf.
I paddled out and emptied the skirt, which had worked great, then played for another hour, out in Elliot Bay some but mostly near the surf and the beach. When I finally landed and hauled the kayak up on the grass, out of the blue a very nice lady offered to help carry it to the car, and we did.
Friday, October 3rd
Down on the flat near the lake, in the fading evening light I almost walked into a small herd of elk. I was back to the car too late for looking at Three Forks of the Snoqualmie, so I might go there tomorrow. (I later read that Rattlesnake "Lake" is actually caused by seepage from the Cedar River reservoir up the valley.)
Today was a day of rest from both paddling and hiking, spent exploring Snoqualmie River from the Powerhouse run (with a half dozen kayakers practicing), up to the Three Forks park.
On the drive up to the Powerhouse, I stopped at Tokul Creek because of folks there looking. Sure enough, there were salmon, many spawned out and a few still swimming, Chinook most likely according to the local who showed up to take a look, too.
I think the Zurfleuh WDFW boat launch on the Snoqualmie just above Fall City would work for me. It's at the confluence with Raging River with access on the campground road off the Preston-Fall City Road.
Snoqualmie's current was slow enough today to enjoy paddling against, so I could explore upstream from Zurfleuh until blocked by an impassible rapid. Upstream would be mostly safe, while downstream, unless I want a long walk back, I need to stay in slower water that I can paddle back up.
Sunday, October 5th
A little later, when I hit the next riffle too shallow and fast to paddle, I beached the boat on an island and walked to its upstream end. Above was another shallow rapid that would also have to be lined, so I called it the end of that upstream exploration. By the Forest Service map, the island looks about three river-miles from the bridge below the boat ramp.
It was nice to paddle with the current, and a surprise to see what little distance that I'd actually covered paddling and dragging upstream. So, back down to the confluence with Raging River where I played for a few minutes, then on to the day's main show, the little rapid barely a hundred feet downstream.
To end the down-stream ride, I drew the kayak into the right-bank system of rock eddies and worked back up from eddy to eddy along the bank, to right below the little drop.
When I tried to ferry across the fast water of the slick, I got my bow too far over and was kicked around and forced to run downstream before again hauling myself into a shore-side eddy and making my way back upstream. I played there for a while, riding different parts of that little rapid, but couldn't get comfortable enough today to try to surf.
There I sat, resting. A moment later I nudged the bow of the boat up onto the rock itself where again I quietly sat as the current went whipping by. Very cool.
I played in the whole width of that little drop (droplet?) until I was afraid of tearing something, tried to paddle up the drop's only possible route that I could see, which was the big central slick, failed heroically, and beached on the cobbles. I dragged the boat up the edge of the rapid, put in again for the short paddle back to the boat ramp, and home.
Monday, October 6th
Off West Point again, sitting out at the green channel buoy, I watched a sea lion try half a dozen times to swim up onto the three-foot-high base of the buoy. He made it eventually. But he jumped off after a big, fast tugboat went by and the approach of its serious-looking wake.
The tugboat's wake swept toward me, endlessly long, maybe four feet high, the breaking wave curling and foaming at the top. I backed up and watched it, calculating if I dared try to surf the mother. Fear and good sense prevailed as I played it safe, now paddling directly toward the wave and hoping to hit a gap in its foaming top and skip the wet part. But I missed the gap and found myself paddling directly into the breaking wave. As I swept up and over, I drove hard through the foaming top as it washed over my bow and threw spray in my face.
In the relative calm behind the tugboat, the next waves were just big rollers, not surfable but not threatening either, and I could relax, exhilarated, and shake the water off. I was glad for both the spray skirt and my good judgement. I might have been able to surf that thing, but if I'd lost it, I'd have been a long way from shore in very cold water where I didn't really want to have to practice a wet entry.
Sitting by the buoy a bit longer, I finally noticed that the wind and chop were building, so I paddled back to the calm water south of the point and eased down to the clay banks and hung around there for a spell. They're kinda neat on a higher high tide. Then it was home for the Seahawks' Monday night win.
Saturday, October 11
Having scoped out the route I'd paddle (toward river left), I determined I'd be unlikely to be able to line the boat back up the rapid, so it seemed that a downstream paddle was out for now.
Then onto the water. I first played in the little waves at the bottom of the rapid at the eddy's upper end. Below the little boulders, I practiced ferrying from eddy to eddy, and peel-outs and eddy-ins, trying to use the textbook paddle strokes.
And then I got up my courage and paddled into some of the bigger waves there, with tops curling and foaming back into small holes, formed both behind the boulders and from the standing waves in the energy release below the little drop.
Stroking and steering I surfed the foaming curl of one hole then another. Now that was outrageous! And tricky! Twice I almost swam, but for a quick brace when the hole sucked and flipped me sideways.
So, one lesson learned is to trust your braces; second lesson, even little holes will suck you in; and three, get looser.
I paddled down to the top of the rapid forming the pool's lower boundary, and teased myself getting as close as was reasonable without getting into trouble. And paddled back up to the upper rapid to play some more behind and between the boulders.
At one point, I sat resting in an eddy behind a boulder, watching as three rafts of kids came by. The last raft missed its mark and I suddenly was backing up real fast as it nearly careened into my boulder.
I figured this was my chance to be guided down Class II rapids, and get back to the car with company. When I asked if I could go with them, they agreed. The kids spent a half hour jumping off a log ten feet above the water, with dry suits and PFDs of course. I beached and had a pee.
I set off downstream with the family ahead of me, and watched them shoot down the line in the rapid that I'd scouted earlier from shore. That encouraged me and I followed down the short run of bumpy and splashy water. A few minutes of easy water followed until in the distance I could see a line of big boulders dividing the river into three or four channels. It was the second Class II rapid.
Then followed a float with a chance to recover, then a longer piece of Class I, followed after bit by some more easy Class I. And then the clay banks on river left and the railroad take-out at the north end of Goldbar (across from La Hacienda).
Beware of boulders you don't see that lie just below the surface, especially in low water. To spot them, look for pillows or waves or other evidence of a disturbance in the force. And if you do end up sideways to a rock, or even sitting on top of one, be ready to brace damn fast.
Look downstream. Don't let concern for hazards or action right in front of you keep you from looking downstream for a better route. Then if you have to, back-paddle and ferry to get to it. Just make sure you get up to speed again to get through any holes you can't go around.
Thursday, October 16th
Sunday, the 19th
Paddled Big Eddy again for a couple of hours, then drove up to Milepost 34 and in the waning light took a vegetable route down for a closer look at Boulder Drop. Very scary.
What did I learn today at Big Eddy?
1-- A boat more appropriate to whitewater would be nice to try. Watching an old-school river kayak come down the rapid just above the hiway bridge, I noticed how its bow's rising bottom, its rocker, lets the boat glide over the kind of backwash and junk that I plow through.
3-- In faster water the angle for a ferry has to be pointed closer to the current itself to keep from getting the bow turned around downstream. See Zurflueh, just above.
4-- Draw more. For a quick change of direction I'm trying to quit using a stern reverse and pry, which slows the boat so much (not always a bad thing), and instead use a bow draw. As to that, I don't need so much bow as just draw to make a turn work, especially if I can get my edges working and actually use the waves.
5-- Watch for reactionaries, either to use or to avoid. I'm missing them in what to my naïve eyes still appears the general clutter of waves.
6-- My braces work, and good thing, too. In even slightly bigger water I've got to remember to keep the upstream edge up as I lean into the turn and/or brace into the downstream froth.
Sunday, the 26th
So for the next hour and a half, the half dozen other folks at the park and I watched for their spouts as they blew and their splashes when they breached. In small groups they traveled back north up the Sound, eventually out of our sight.
At West Point with calm water and threatening skies, a great combination for a paddle. Out to the buoy to catch a wake, but none appeared worth the effort. So over toward the shallows by the clay bank where I finally found a great little wave to surf in on. I should remember to get there at a lower tide to first map the rocks, and then to surf when there are swells rolling in.
So, to a break on the beach for a pee, a sandwich, and a smoke, then back out to the buoy, then over to the north side, then out again, then riding a bit of a wake back to the put-in. There in the calm shallows, I played with extreme edging and found that I could be somewhat stable even clear over to almost a complete 90 degrees of list. Stable, that is, with a solid brace to hold the angle, off the shallow bottom at first then sculling after that.
Wednesday, October 29th
At some point I decided that the wave I wanted wasn't going to show up, and that I should make for One Tree Point and Fourmile Rock.
The slight southeast breeze in my face added to the paddle, as later in the day I expected it to be at my back. Looking down as I paddled along, I could see the glistening white of shells against the sandy bottom. The top of an occasional barnacled rock passed ghostly below.
Nearing the point at the southeast end of the bight there were half-a-dozen Harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus !) resting and preening on a shoreline rock, who I would see again on the way back. The gently eddying water around Fourmile Rock was emerald green.
Immediately beyond the rock lay the Perkins Lane parklet, where I put in at the cobble beach below its old concrete ramp and walked up to the park's small table and had a bite to eat, a smoke, and a stretch.
In toward the bluff I bumped over the top of a barely submerged rock. Wondering how I had missed seeing it I went back. When I found it, I realized I should have noticed the pillow of water it was putting up.
Shortly after that I got my wake, or almost. At a lower tide there might have been something better there, but I stroked hard to ride the two-footer for a bit. (I've been reading some about the different planing boats -- play boats and surf boats and squirt boats and creekers. And then there's my old displacement slug.)
Finally back at the lighthouse, I decided my hands weren't blistered enough and chugged on out to the buoy. There I did catch a little bit of wake for a ride back in, but had to paddle like hell to stay on it.
And here's the journal for November and December 2014.