Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Long Day on a Short Day

It will be a long day if the weather doesn't say otherwise. A long day leaves little time for reflections, so much paddling to do and darkness not far enough off.

I do the Harvard portage to the dead lake, and then make a straight crossing for the Fremont canal, noting only that there are no birds on the lake except for a flock of gulls in the center. It is calm enough that I can see their preened feathers from a 100 yards.

a block of wayward foam and the Fremont Canal

At the canal I think about how the next 3/8 of a mile was once a narrow creek dropping 12 or 15 feet to the salt water of Salmon Bay. I spot two male common mergansers and a flock of 90 scaups.

At the end of the canal I enter the fresh water portion of Salmon Bay, now home to several large shipyards. I find the working water interesting, unlike the wastefulness of the boat parking lots of the dead lake. There is a reason for these shipyards to be here.

The weather is holding, so I head for the locks, positioning myself in plain view near the stop signal and waving my paddle a few times to make sure that I've been seen. A sailboat is coming up the lock. When it passes I am called in and I wait only 10 minutes for a toyship to enter. Then they lower us both, the lock tender warning me of the current that I will find when I exit.
A guy looks down asks me what I am hunting for...he is goofy, and disappointed when I tell him that I am just canoeing. He doesn't get it, but I doubt that his shoes ever see mud either. We are a world apart.

In the salt water, I immediately find several golden eyes, one of my favorites. An eagle sweeps past, a hundred gulls get up and fly as the current pushes my canoe past their bulkhead. At the mouth of the canal I find some red breasted mergansers, then the heads of two seals are spotted out in the kelp beds, and I find a second eagle perched in an a alder at the top of the bluffs that define this shoreline.
West Point

As I near the lighthouse at West Point, I spot a baby seal resting on the shore, waiting for its mother to return. It begins to move toward water, so I turn and paddle a great circle around it, never getting any closer than I already was, which wasn't too close anyway, and it stays put as I paddle away. I am orca sized.

I spot some buffleheads, some more golden eyes, and then, a dozen harlequin ducks near four mile rock. A third bald eagle, a very large one at that, soars past never beating its wings once in nearly a half mile. A fourth eagle sits in a tree.

I take out at interbay and portage north two miles to Fisherman's Terminal. It's late afternoon and the light is fading, the camera stays in the box from now on. Cormorants are returning to their night perches in the tall poplars that line the Fremont Canal. It is some entertainment to watch these gangly fliers land on thin, whippy branches with their webbed feet. They circle, and having picked a branch, come in for a landing, then more often as not, change their mind at the last minute, veering off and repeating the process. When they do land, its as if the heavy bird is sitting on the end of a fishing pole, the branch bowing and bouncing under the new weight.

Dusk comes as I cross the dead lake. Night comes as I do the final portage. Sleep will come all too easy.

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