Thursday, March 3, 2011

Big tour

A. comes over to the house, a new friend that I met at meeting about a trail that leads into the NE lagoon through a place more commonly known as Yesler Swamp. She volunteers with the Friends of Yesler Swamp and volunteers get perks, if canoeing with me is a perk. I figure she more than deserves to see her project from the water.

Standing on bouncing land in the hidden "meadow" east of the burial island

We begin with the portage west to the dead lake and for the last 1/2 mile she handles the canoe on its portage cart, I think her way of getting into the trip, which is not any different from how I start trips...with a portage. A. has no shortage of enthusiasm. This will be a fun trip for me.

We set out and sneak in and amongst the shipyard of Drydock 8 and 9, a working area more interesting than other built up areas with cranes, beams, machines, and supplies constructing a visual mess that is worth stopping to study.

The wind is gradually increasing, so I steer us north up the lake. The dead lake catches the full south wind, and with the houseboats and marinas choking the shoreline, one is forced to paddle in deep water, exposed to the weather. I'd just as soon like to be around the point in calmer water should the wind increase much more. But, wonders of wonders, Portage Bay is windy, a very rare occurrence where so often the hills shelter the water. But, this is not our destination.

Once through the crossing under place, the fun begins. I point out beaver cut trees and we find that the highway department has taken down the tall alder that the beaver had aimed at the highway (and it would've reached). We pass by the workbench lodge, stop to explore the beaver trail on the west side of the burial island and we pick up the scent of castoreum while returning to the canoe. We cross back over the lagoon and I show her the eroding "artifacts" from the Miller St. landfill. By the time we enter the east channel of the burial island it is lunch time and we sit in full site of several beaver scent mounds. The channel is rather silly with the mounds, must be 15 of them...some beaver is being very territorial to say the least. It is also clear that the water level is up a good 10 inches.

Then, it's into the east marsh, showing off the cattail island that moved a 100 feet last May, the big lodge, and the swamp "meadow" that lies hidden in the north end behind walls of cattails, a place that few know exists. We even haul an old tire out. Then a squall comes in, dark clouds, a flash of distant lightning, and a dumping rain which we miss out on by hiding under a bridge. When it passes, we continue north with an amazing rainbow spanning the entire north shore of the bay.

We pass Marsh Island, stopping long enough for me to point out the bathtubs, which A. aptly names the "bathtub graveyard". It is a name that will stick.

We edge up the islands, hoping to flush a snipe, but they have taken better shelter today. At the west lodge I point out the stand of large alders that have been coming down all winter. Then, approaching #1 island, we spot herons, and more herons. It's a game of, "there's three, no four, no, there's a fifth, there's two more there. It's at least a dozen congregated in a short stretch of shore on the two opposing points.

And then, it is to the NE lagoon, the water portion of the Friends of Yesler Swamp project. We get out on the south shore, the beaver dining room (the north lodge is in this lagoon), and now A. is convinced that the lodge is in use.

As we leave, the wind comes up again and I am most fortunate to have a bow paddler. If I was solo I would probably not be able to make headway. We part at the east end of the ancient portage in a full on rainstorm. Even now, A. continues to remark on what a fantastic day it is. I can't agree more.

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