Monday, June 29, 2009

Mapping the Portage

The day is warming up. On my portage to the lake I note the sun baking the south side of a hill in a pine grove and that the scent of old pine needles is dense in each breath. It is an old smell, something preserved in the memory of my youth.

I put in and talk with visitors from San Jose. The eagles are soaring above us.
A long line of canada geese is swimming ahead. It is 15 adolescents (3/4 the size of an adult) and 3 or 4 adults. It looks like a junior high school field trip.
An otter pokes its head out of the lily pads on the south side of Marsh Island. There seems to be two of them, but the other is back in the brush. It has been awhile since I have seen an otter and I note that I have never seen them in the same place twice.
The breeze is unusually fresh today. It is a comfortable and pleasant wind, just the right amount that you could live with it everyday.
Two cinnamon teal are in the cattails on the north shore. Across the bay, I see the big female eagle circling. Then I notice the male above me. I watch it fly to the perch at the mouth of the NE lagoon.
I head for the big lake and south to a takeout.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Longer Day on Bigger Water

Writing in the canoe - 8am

Sunny, wind out of the NE, but just a 3 inch chop on the water, a bright reflection off of the water right under the sun.

The floating bridge to the north forms a dark low wall across the lake, a great wall of China. Is it a defensive wall, or an offensive wall?

On a whim, I change from N to NE and head for the other side of the lake (it is 2 miles to the passage under the bridge). I cross a broad Gilligan zone, but there are few Gilligans at this time of the morning. Now, I can turn my head to the right and see Mt. Rainier.

On the east shore, I pass a fisherman and an immature eagle slips down the hillside and out over the lake. It heads north.

Heading back west, the lake is calmer than before. The water is smooth undulations reflecting light in turn. I see the TV towers and the dome of Holy Names, my house is midway between. The Volunteer Park watertower (a great and free viewpoint) is harder to spot with it's shallow conical roof blending into the treetops that form the skyline.

Almost to Union Bay, an osprey flies overhead. The first I've seen this year.

More motorboats. A motorboat full of guys passes. They have clad themselves in "wife-beater" shirts, which look so fine on their Barney Rubble bodies.

I'm not done, yet. So, I continue west, through the cut, through Portage Bay, and south to the bottom of Lake Union.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just a Paddle

I walk my boat to the south end of Lake Union. It is gray and warm with a steady 10 mph wind out of the southwest. The boat launch I planned to use was closed for park redesign, so I set in over a low rock wall from a parking lot a hundred yards north. It works just as well. Sailboats are out in Lake Union today and I have an easy downwind paddle to the north end of the lake where I head east into Portage Bay. From there, it is farther east, through the cut into Union Bay. It rains. I put my rain jacket on. It stops raining. I take my rain jacket off. I paddle into some lily pads near marsh island. It rains. I put my rain jacket on. It stops raining. I take my rain jacket off. I continue past the burial island and around the east marsh. A drifting buoy that is beginning to break up is in the cattails. It has been in this area for several weeks and I assume that the owning government agency is not going to retrieve it, ever, so I tie a rope to it and tow it. It looks weird, following me with it's head tipped toward me with intent. It tows easier than a truck tire, in case anyone is interested. I bring it to shore, but it weighs so much that I can not lift it at all let alone get it in the canoe. So, back into the water and I tow it to my exit point, where I roll the great beast to the nearest garbage can, not that I expect the garbage man to take it, of course. But, it is not in the lake shedding foam and plastic bits.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

I set out from Mathews Beach to cross the lake and take a turn around Juanita Bay. The main crossing is a bit over 1 mile. It is cloudy with a light breeze out of the NE, but halfway across the big lake the wind freshens to 10 mile/hour straight in the face. Juanita Bay is a combination of marsh in the east and big fancy shoreline houses on the north shore. The lawns are uniform in color and condition and no doubt, they get frequent chemical treatments, which wash into the lake. The shoreline is cleaner than I would've expected, but that may be due to winds that swirl around the hills and push debris out of the bay - not quite the direction that the prevailing winds are in general. I follow the shoreline and collect about 30 gallons of stuff. I hear a swoosh behind me and turn to see an immature eagle grab a fish from the water. Otherwise, not a lot of bird life considering the amount of marsh. Paddling out of the bay, the Sheriff's boat pulls up to tell me that I was in a protected zone. Apparently, it is marked by buoys, but since I followed the shoreline closely, I never got within reading distance. I never quite understood sealing off "preserves" to low impact travel like hiking or canoeing. Seems that exposing people to such places in a positive manner is a much greater benefit to all. It also seems particularly odd to seal of lakeshore and marsh that has a major arterial road running through the middle of it and hundreds of fertilized and herbacided lawns draining into it. Who's fooling who?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ants in My Pants

From the canoe -
I spot a raccoon walking the drift logs on the edge of the north marsh. Ducks move into the water as it nears them. It disappears into the cattails, but sunning turtles sliding off of a log signal its approach and soon it reappears. Then it is gone again. A kingfisher flies past. A small iridescent blue swallow dips and darts low over the lily pads hunting insects. A heron stands, still, just ten yards away. My legs burn from swamp ant bites that I got while dragging a truck tire out of the lake. Back in the NE lagoon, there are many wood ducks and dragonflies. A heron flies out of the brush. Herons look so out of place when they fly through dense woods. One would think that those long wings would not pass. I grab another tire. It has sat, for years, just 50 yards from several very expensive lakefront homes. I wonder why they would let something like that just sit there for so long...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Around the Lake in Eighty Days

80 days of canoeing and blogging since November 21. K joined me today. We walked the canoe east to the big lake, which was much choppier than expected. The wind was from the SE, but with ten miles of like behind us, the waves were bigger and more irregular than expected. No photos during the first mile as I needed to keep the boat on course and we were taking some water in over the gunnels every once in a while. The water is reasonably warm and it isn't uncomfortable to be wet, unlike in the winter. Once in Union Bay, the waves subsided, as expected. In the NE lagoon, we spotted several wood ducks and two eagles. There were some herons about, but the cattails, irises and other vegetation have grown up quite a bit and visibility into the marsh is limited until fall. We did collect some trash, maybe 10 gallons, but with the plant life up as it is, much of the debris that I haven't yet removed will be hidden from sight until October. Anyway, gave K a good tour as I am uber familiar with this part of the lake. Then, through the cut and south to the bottom of Portage Bay where we took out and walked back up the hill.

Friday, June 12, 2009

To the North

It is a beautiful June day with temps in the 70's and a nice breeze. I head to the north end of the big lake. There are four bald eagles circling and fishing not far from shore along with two gulls that are doing some fancy diving after fish. I have apparently had some effect on the amount of plastic debris in Union Bay as it is getting difficult for me to collect enough junk for my sculpture project. The north end of the lake collects debris, in fact it should collect everything that hasn't gotten caught up in the miles of shoreline to the south (winds tend to be out of the south). I set out from a park and scoot along the shore. Most of the park's shoreline is overgrown. I dunno, maybe this is to discourage swimming here as there is a lot of debris on the shore. The lake here has a firm sandy bottom, so I can wade and collect junk when I need to. Unlike the marsh, where most stuff is floating, a great amount of the sandy berm forming the shore is comprised of plastic. I find lots of tennis balls, many more beach toys than usual, some picnic ware, and I get my first tennis racket. I cherry pick the trash, collecting the best sculptural materials - I'll be back to pick more later. Loaded up, I paddle a mile out to a distant point and back, just for exercise.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer is here

Back in the water after a week exploring the desert. Summer is here, the water feels warmer, lily pads are growing in the marshes. I set out from the big lake today, heading north. I shoot a photo every 100 strokes, but when I start collecting garbage, I lose count. It's a project for some other time. Lot's of geese in the water now. They have hatched their goslings and are done with their nests. As I get into Union Bay, there are also lots of dead little fish. Seems like too many, but I'm no expert. Crows are enjoying the bounty, but I'm sure herons and eagles prefer live food. I also notice some large carp-like fish. Probably escaped Koi (goldfish) ie fancy carp. They are wrestling in the lily pads. It is a pleasant day with a light wind and plenty of sun. I pick up about 20 gallons of junk, 3/4 of it I can use in my sculpture, the rest is disposed of properly. I also pull out two car tires. I don't feel like getting deep into fetching plastic from the marsh because I get tired of netting dead stinky little fish.