Saturday, July 30, 2011


It is a day when I need comfort and escape, which contradictory as they seem, I find them not so. I rise early, brew coffee and bake a coffee cake. It is a recipe from Mrs. Olson, who lived down the street when I was a kid. I watched the first moon landing on her television. That cake and my canoe will feed me for the entire day.

The tide is falling to a minus 2 ft. level today. So, the trip to the Snohomish Estuary needs to be somewhat scheduled.

When I put in I find a stiff, but do-able current to work against as I make my way the mile upstream to the the top of Smith Island. The osprey are active on the far side of the river where they have a couple nests, but I have to keep paddling to make any headway. My schedule isn't and can't be planned to avoid upstream paddling - the idea is to minimize it. When I round the point and head back down Union Slough, I still have a current to work against even though I am heading towards the sea. This is the tidal flats of Smith Island draining and taking the path of least resistance. It is no big deal.

At the first slough exiting the island's center, I stop on a sandbar for a moment. Swallows are whirling about for their breakfast. I have a cup of coffee. It is a fine day.

It is a pleasant paddle down the slough with banks of primordial ooze - dinosaur words out of context come to mind - eocene, cretaceous, brontosaurus. This has happened before. It is triggered when I see drift logs and trees encased and pasted with silt and mud. They might be only a year old, but when they are painted and washed in fresh silt they look ancient, they look very ancient. They require interpretation. I wish I could do something with them. They photograph poorly. "It" doesn't translate. They have to be seen. They are fascinating.

At the bottom of the slough, where it meets Steamboat Slough, 2 harbor seals are swimming. They keep their distance from me.

I cross Steamboat Slough over to Otter Island and decide, for no particular reason, to head counter clockwise around it. I have to head a half mile up Ebbey Slough to start and the current in Ebbey is, currently impressive. There is a grounded boat laying on its side and there is another where I turn off of the main channel. While there is very little trash anywhere in the area, there are a lot of abandoned boats.

I stop and watch a red tailed hawk. The red tailed hawk stops and watches me. Otter Island does not have the ghost trees that Smith Island has. Otter was never farmed, never had a levee on it, so the trees that are here are trees that belong here, unlike Smith where trees took root behind man-made barriers, which are now broken - hence the dead ghost trees.

It's about 2 miles around Otter Is. back to the main channel. I turn back preferring to paddle the back channel again. There were many tracks along the shore, although most of them had been washed once with the tide. I turn a bend and find two deer on the bank a hundred yards up. When I get there, they are gone, of course, but there are fresh raccoon tracks on the bank.

I decide to head back up Union Slough, the way I came. This time it is shallower. Low tide is nearly here, but this narrow slough is more pleasant than one of the larger options. I have to wade for much of a half mile in the middle portion, but there is a layer of sand over the primordial ooze that makes it go okay if I don't stand in one place too long.

There is a head wind on the main river for my last mile, but with low tide, there is a strong current and the going is easy.

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