Monday, May 9, 2011

The Grand Tour

It is a grey and calm day. I start my portage to the big lake, a plan that will take me through the marsh so that I can check on the goose nests, but at the first corner, I turn west instead of east. I will go to the dead lake and from there to the salt water. It has been a very long time since I have paddled in the Salish Sea.

I cross the dead lake and paddle down the Fremont canal without much to comment on except for the stillness of the water. The canoe always travels fastest in calm water. An occasional seagull pin feather, sitting on the dark water is the beauty of this stretch. At the west end of the canal I enter the fresh water section of Salmon Bay, a half mile of industrial water with Foss tugboat and their drydocks on the south and the dozens of the fishing fleet all around. As much as I miss the wildlife habitat that could be here, this shipyard/working fleet use of the shore is palatable to me, unlike the massive pleasure craft and houseboat moorage back in the dead lake.

I arrive at the lock just as two boats are exiting at my level. The Yachts are directed into the big lock and I, after waiting no more than two minutes, am waved into the small lock alone. Passing through a lock is a transformation. Not only do I drop from one level to another, but I go from fresh water to salt. I go from beavers and mallard to seals and sea lions. I go from small water to wide open expanses.Link

No sooner than leaving the lock do I find two harbor seals moving in to watch me. To see one at distance is to see a marine mammal. To see one from a few feet is to look into eyes so black and bottomless. One could fall endlessly into those eyes and the selkie becomes believable.

I pass a few goldeneyes and a few buffleheads. I stop around the point and stretch my legs finding what look like faint river otter tracks with their odd pairing of prints. As I continue I spot another seal up ahead. I see it once again as I near. It comes up again, very small. It takes a moment and I now realize that it is actually a very large river otter.


Near West Point I spot a flock of 15 brants. They are an understated goose, less noisy and less flashy than their Canada Geese cousins. They pass through this area in spring and fall. I know where they are going, which is why I like them so much. They will continue north flying all the way to the arctic islands off of northern Canada. Of all the birds we see here, these will go the farthest north.

I spot a harlequin duck sitting on a boulder in the water as I reach the turn into Elliot Bay.

There are many new landslides all along this bluff. The people with the excellent sculpture collection have tempted fate. My favorite piece of their collection still stands having missed tumbling to the sea by no more than a few inches. It is all bubble wrapped and prepped to be relocated, a mummified stone standing a hundred feet above.

I am getting tired. I portage the two miles across the lowland to Fishermen's Terminal. Then back through the Fremont Canal and the dead lake. It has stayed calm. I do my final two mile portage up and over the hill. I occasionally smile or nod at people as they pass, but I am too tired to talk.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Hi scott, Really enjoyed your post this week. The ice is finally off the lakes in Alberta Canada and we can again enjoy the song of the paddle. My sunday was spent on Islet Lake just East of Edmonton. My daughter and I enjoyed viewing many Beavers and Canada geese. I couldn't get closer than about a hundred metres before they got nervous and took off.
I tried the paddle I carved last year for the first time. I am working on the next one.

My journey lasted about an hour and a half. My 4.5year old requested to go home. Best to keep the troops happy.

Thanks again for your blog! Terrific!