Monday, July 23, 2012

Clearing of the mind

I have been grinding away, moving, packing and selling our home.  That done I dove into a beadwork marathon.  My head is full.  I grouch at my poor wife on the phone, my brain not able to organize dates.  This morning I toss out a canoe trip to my friend A and she bites.

Having sold my canoe storage facility, I have the canoe resting atop the car, so a short drive to someplace that I rarely paddle in is the plan.  We load up and head to up the lake to the Samammish Slough.  We get there and find that the keys to the padlock that I have on the canoe are at home.  I am a creature of methodical process, and with my process disheveled the process breaks  (A is messing with my old Stanley tape measure about this time and I point out to her that it is 32 years old - case in point).  We head back for the keys as I announce that we weren't supposed to paddle there today anyway.  We head to the Duwamish River instead.

The Duwamish is one of the nations filthiest rivers and a marker for the oddness of Seattle, a city that generally thinks itself to be greener than thou, but ignores the vile grossness of its underside, as long as not too many people are looking at it.  We start in the area called South Park.  There are few places to launch a canoe on the Duwamish as most of its banks are private and heavily industrial properties.  There are four Superfund sites on the river.

Tire Wall

I guide the canoe near the shore as we head upriver.  The tide is down and it is an almost archaeological experience as we attempt to identify various man made debris.  We pass through the remains of the 14th Street drawbridge to the site of Boeing Plant II, a factory building that ran right to the water.  Only a low brick wall and a sign announcing it as a future wildlife site stand above the seawall.  The seawalls on the river are arbitrary combinations of this and that - metal here, busted concrete there, metal stacked on concrete, wood over rock...  The strangest of seawalls are the tire walls.  Hundreds of old tires piled up, held in place by pilings or who knows what.  It all seems to be a construction from pre-clean water days.  None of the former geniuses that ran things ever intended for anyone to see this.

Boeing Plant II/Superfund site

A little over a mile up we get to the "turn around point", a round dredged area in a natural bend in the river that was made for barges to be spun around in.  The river begins to improve from here as the industrial areas fall behind.  There are primordial ooze logs in the silty mud banks.  We start to see the first of many kingfishers, a couple of great blue herons.  A spots a green backed heron.  We are above the tide level and there is a current to paddle against.  A points out that the water is becoming clearer.  Debris is less frequent, but still an exercise in deciding its origins.  We find a metal hulled speedboat in the mud and a crushed trimaran on the opposite shore.  At one spot there is such a cornucopia of things in the bank that it must be an old dump.

Interior of an old wooden barge


A bit over four miles up we get to the "rapids".  It's not much of a rapid, just a short spurt of fast water.  We give it a try and almost beat the current but not quite.  We decide it to be a good spot to turn back.

The air goes calm and balmy as we head down.  The tide has risen and the river current goes slack within a mile.  We are paddling. We are into the rhythm of an all day paddle even if it isn't that long.  It's automatic.  It just goes on, not grueling, never dull.  The mind has a place to go.  A baby osprey sings at us from a nesting box on the right hand bank.

2 comments:

Dan McShane said...

Thanks as always for your perspective on our waterways

jowdjbrown said...

We head back for the keys as I announce that we weren't supposed to paddle there today anyway. We head to the Duwamish River instead.ausräumung köln