Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wrong Turn

Astronomically winter.I made a wrong turn on my portage to the lake,
and this took me past a man who asked, "how's the fishing?"
A tired joke for me, except that this man read me right,
and said it with a big wiseacre grin,
which brought a laugh up and out of me,
and I realized that I was fishing

Monday, December 28, 2009

Always Carry a Spare

I set out on the big lake. It is calm, so calm that I can see bird feathers in the water from a hundred yards. I think that I should photograph some of them, white delicates on dark blue, but there'll be a better one farther along. And yes, I know that is a trick of the mind that lets me continue on. Just at the entry to Union Bay, I spy two otters along the shore. When I get too close they retreat into the rocks that form the seawall and I leave as they won't come out until I am gone. Coming to the east marsh, there are buffleheads and common mergansers, both beautiful in black and white, with the former being small and stubby and the later being large and sleek. At the big beaver lodge, I turn north and head out across the bay to the north point. The ducks seem to be fairly scattered today and not in the tight flocks that I normally see. At the north marsh, I get the hankering to haul out a tire. I get a second one just feet from my dump site. It's not time to go home, so I return to the north marsh and get a big truck tire. They are a big and heavy project compared to a car tire and I can't lift them from inside the canoe, so it makes sense to use the calm day. As I turn toward home, I surprise a heron from just 15 feet. Actually, anytime you surprise a heron from that distance, it is a surprise for both parties involved.

Friday, December 25, 2009


I race over my portage to the lake. I can't get there in time for the predawn shadow, the last minutes of syrupy darkness, but I can still get there before the sun comes up. Ice has once again set up in the south lagoon. It is no more than a 1/4 inch thick, so I bust through it to get into the east channel of the burial island. There is little ice in the channel and what is here is the thin feather patterns of a barely forming freeze. It is like the frost on a window, except bigger. I'm probably to late too spot beaver in the east marsh, but they would hear me coming through the ice long before I could see them anyway. The sun rises while I am in the east marsh, first peeping through frost covered cattails before rising orange into an almost clear sky. Redwing blackbirds begin to trill back and forth at each other. I head across the bay, straight for the railroad island, a marsh island formed around pilings from a rail pier that long ago dissolved. Ducks to the side of me take wing from one of the dirtbergs. I am too far off to be the cause and I spot an eagle, which seems to just be warming up for a later hunt. It lands on a boathouse. Just as I reach the railroad island, the eagle passes having circled around behind me. It lands in a tree at the mouth of the NE lagoon. I stop in the branches of the island's eagle perch. I have made a truly crappy thermos of coffee today. It reminds me of my dad's duck hunting brew from 40 years ago... it might actually be left-overs. A red tailed hawk overlooks the north marsh. I just sit, for a long time. It is cold and it is also a beautiful morning. Edging along #2 island, I scare up 3 snipe. There are always snipe here - something the birdwatchers rarely see because they stay on dry land. Near Marsh Island, I pause and explore the submerged debris field. It is definitely old building remains. There are bricks, wire and other fixtures, plus the old bathtubs that I have noted before. I recover a crushed copper tea kettle. The rest I leave for an archaeologist that is starving for a project.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Portage Bay - no beaver tracks worth casting on the lodge. There is a mix of coots, cormorants, widgeons and a few ringnecks in the south end of the bay. The day is a light haze of high clouds with some blue sky and calm air with a temperature in the 40's. Just before entering the cut, on my way to Union Bay, I pass 3 goldeneyes (a male and 2 females). Geese are in the cut and a hooded merganser meets me at the far end. There is no boat traffic of any sort. The man sitting on the south edge of Broken Island is a heron in my binoculars. As I near, the man moves to the far side of that marshy high spot and finally, flies away. A kingfisher greets me at Birch Island. As I paddle the edge of #2 Island, I flush a snipe - then a second snipe - and as my canoe scrapes against the cattails, a high pitched squeal, a third takes to air. I cross the channel to #1 Island and a 4th snipe darts off, and they do fly like darts. A red tailed hawk sits in a birch on the north shore and I paddle away to the east. Rounding the north point, I come across a flock of 200 coots and ducks. I stop and they move off at their own leisure. I stop in the center of the north marsh to pick out some trash and slip off a log, filling one of my new rubber boots with stinky swamp water. A fifth snipe takes off. Returning, a kingfisher waits on the east point of #1 Island while a heron owns the west point, until I get too near. I retrieve a car tire from the north side of Broken Island. It is both a target of opportunity and an excuse to make the trip last 10 minutes longer. But, the best part of the trip was meeting an older woman as I portaged to the lake. She told me that she canoed as a camp guide near Lake Itasca in Minnesota. And I told her the name of the lake, Many Point, because I went to camp there also. So, we traded canoe stories, because some people find that they have a canoe in their heart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hanging Weather

I put in at the east end of the ancient portage. If this was a hot day, people would say that the weather was just hanging in the air. But, it is cold. Still, the weather is just hanging in the air. It is calm and gray, and maybe 45 degrees. Flocks of coots and ducks are north of me forming dense patches of black specks in the water. It seems that they have no interest in flight, except that once in awhile a few get up to rejoin the main flock when it has drifted off out of safe range. I head up the east side of the west islands passing, the Rock Pile, Broken Island, Birch Island, Number Two and Number One. The names are mine alone. A hawk sits in the osprey tree just north of Number One. In the NE lagoon, I get out and explore the wetland that once was Yesler Creek. New knee length rubber boots makes exploring the marsh much more fun. I share the lagoon with one heron that is busy hunting 75 yards away. Leaving the lagoon, I spot 3 trumpeter swans on the easternmost of the dirtbergs. I close to 100 yards so that I can hear their honking without disturbing them. Crossing the middle of the bay, a flock of ducks overtakes me and I turn to see an eagle beginning an afternoon hunt. It goes for a flock to the west and circles over what might be a coot or pied billed grebe. The eagle is determined, but I doubt that a kill is in order - whatever it has forced to dive is exceptionally skillful at staying under. A second eagle is on a branch just above the south nest. I wonder if they will shift from the north nest that they have been using to this south one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And Paddling Away

I struggle awake this morning and read enough news to show me that the ruling class is every bit as incompetent and misguided as it was in 1914. So, I take my canoe to the big lake and instead of heading north like I planned, I find myself heading away, paddling away, paddling away to the northeast, out into the big lake where no one is. It is gray and misting on the two mile crossing with a raw north wind. Open water crossings, especially in inclement weather and cold water, play head games with me. The far shore never seems to get closer and the near shore doesn't become more distant, until, in an instance, and never in the middle of the crossing, the shore I am heading for suddenly starts to near and where I came from has become small. I spot 10 western grebes on the way. Returning, I head west, straight across. It is a bit shorter crossing. There is a flock of 60 to 70 western grebes hunkered down near the midpoint. My guess is that the weather out on the salt water has sent them here today. Both eagles are at high points in the east marsh, which provides the only real color on such a gray day. The cattails have begun to take on the color and appearance of a cornfield in late fall, golden tan and shaggy. There is just a little ice left in the south lagoon and it breaks like the safety glass in an automobile when I paddle into it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Paddling Away

I start in the south lagoon. There is still ice here and a thin layer of fog forms on it. After two warm days with rain the ice is deceptively weak. It pops and cracks as I scoot the canoe across it. Once in the canoe, I find that I can break through 2 inch thick ice. Unseen flaws have formed in the ice during the rain. The canoe rides up on the thicker ice and then a crack zips out like a thin black bolt of lightning, the canoe sags and settles into the water. I cannot round the burial island. Instead I play with blocks of ice for a while, and then, move off. Yesterday, I toiled all day on a problem that I could not solve. Today, I need to paddle away. I need to paddle away until I wanted to paddle back. I circle Marsh Island once, noting buffleheads, bathtubs and nurse logs and then head through the cut. It is very calm with greasy clouds, clouds that the sun comes through as a yellow oily smear. I head straight through Portage Bay and follow the west side of Lake Union. Then into the Fremont canal. It was once a thin creek that dropped twelve feet in about a half mile to Salmon Bay. That was over a hundred years ago. Salmon Bay is busy with Kvichak launching a new boat. There are two large cranes and a tug to handle the job. The tug wash nearly blows me into a moored boat as I pass. I stop at Fishermans Terminal for lunch and I am ready to return. I have paddled away enough. At Kvichak, the boat is less than halfway out of the shed. There are scaups in the canal. I don't know why they prefer here, but they do. I rarely see them in other parts of the waterway. I head down Lake Union and take out at a place that is 200 yards south of my normal spot. The view is all different. Such a difference for such a small distance, but all the buildings and boats are a different scale from here.

Monday, December 14, 2009


The thaw is on, but the ice in the south lagoon where I put in is still 3 or 4 inches thick. Ducks are back in the open water although most are still out in the main bay. A heavy mist starts and it cuts the visibility to about a mile. There is a dreamy effect to the view. I see no swans, yet. Most of the ducks are near the north marsh. The widgeons provide a constant squeaky whistle, which seems a rather ridiculous call for a duck. Next time I get to design a duck I will keep that in mind. In the north marsh, I find myself sitting and watching, waiting for something that may never happen. The ducks take to air and an eagle comes into view flying east to west across the bay. It takes a half-hearted dive at one duck, but continues on until disappearing into the gray. And then, all returns to what it was. The flock is spread wide so that the opposite ends are beyond the limits of my peripheral vision. I like this, not because the ducks are infinite, but because for the moment they seem to be so.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ice Games

Cold weather, cold enough to form good thick ice comes so rarely to my home. I put in at Portage Bay and play with ice, never getting more than 200 yards from my start. I break, cut and position sheets of ice on old pilings in the bay and when done with that, I find that I can stick even larger sheets into the mud that forms the bottom. I balance them carefully, as vertical as possible so that they will survive as long as possible. The sun begins to break down the ice, our weather not cold enough to keep it in suspended animation, soon the big sheets have a spider web of flaws running through them, which only serves to send the sunlight off in a thousand directions. Some of them will make it to sunset.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It is still cold, maybe about 20 degrees this morning, but sunny and just a light north wind. I put in on the big lake and I am rewarded by three river otters just 10 yards off of the shore. At first I though they might be muskrats, but one climbed up onto the lower rung of a ladder on a dock to eat a small fish. They seemed to be heading south and they disappeared before I had the canoe in the water. Paddling north, the sun bakes my back while the north wind stings the tips of my ears with cold. Ice has spread in Union Bay. The east marsh is frozen firm and there is ice forming on the marsh edges that face the big lake. The ice is over an inch thick just 3 or 4 feet in from the edge. I spend a couple hours cutting large slabs of ice and balancing them on the rotting pilings that are found in the area. Sometime during the day they will pick up the sunlight from just the right angle and give someone something to wonder about. While carrying ice to a pylon, a splash happens to my right. I think for a second that someone has thrown a rock, then a kingfisher springs up out of the water. There are three swans in the bay. I see them from a distance and don't bother to get closer, so it is possible that there could be some immature grays - they blend in with the background from this distance.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ice Crackin'

It is still cold and the ice has thickened. I start in Portage Bay by balancing over the canoe and scooting with one foot for the first 10 yards until the canoe settles through thinner ice into the water. Straight away, I head through the cut into a calm Union Bay with one eagle circling and brilliantly lit by the low winter sun over an unseen coot. This time the coot gets away and the eagle flies off low across the bay, and almost as if it is throwing a tantrum, it scatters a hundred ducks without showing any real interest at all. I crunch through the edge of the growing ice in the south lagoon. This is not like the ice last year, which froze during snowfall. That was weak and airy stuff and I paddled through it for most of the two weeks it was present. This ice is skater's ice, window ice - it is clear and dense, almost as clear as window glass. A half inch of it is hard to bust through with the canoe and 3/4 of an inch supports the boat completely. There will be no passage around the burial island, so I head north across the bay after talking with a kayaker who is enjoying the weather as much as I am. The swan from two days back is nowhere to be seen, but the view is one of my favorites - deep blue water with its horizon defined by a thin golden band of cattails, higher brush, and finally blue sky. Ice is forming in the west islands and along the north shore, so, it has definitely been cold and calm at night. There is a constant whistle/squeak of widgeons in mid bay.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Swan

It has been seasonably cold, not that it is always like this, but at some time during all winters, it is. I start at the south lagoon, which is partly frozen. The ice is only 5/8 inch at the thickest, so the canoe moves through with out too much difficulty. The ducks that like to winter in this patch of water have had to move elsewhere. These are dabblers mostly, mallards, widgeons, northern shovelers and so forth. I pick sheets of ice up and look through it like window glass. It is good smooth ice and would make good skating if it were a few inches thick. Exiting the east channel of the burial island, an eagle flies by heading north. A second one follows soon, but swings around back to the south and lands at the old nest that I spotted last year. Perhaps that nest will be used this year. As soon as I get to the north edge of the marsh I spot a swan 3/4 of a mile across the bay, and as I coast a few yards, a bald eagle appears just 10 yards to my right sitting on a log in the water. I am downwind and it is obviously eating a fish. I head across the bay and let the boat drift into the NE lagoon where a heron stands watch. Then, west past the swan - there is only one, I thought that I might find some immature gray swans. The grays are harder to spot from a distance. All of the birds are focused and behaving as if a storm is approaching. I return using the shelter of the west islands. The wind has been coming up since I started. It is cold enough that I wear gloves for the first time this season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Part 2 - DD8 and DD9

Dry Dock #8 (just barely in view on the left) and Dry Dock #9

You can't see much from land, but this is where the big boats go,
the ocean going, the working class, the boats that know the harsh difference between the lore of the sea and - the reality of the sea.
Each year, one or two don't return. The ones that do might come here.
Re-fitted, re-painted, re-worked, re-launched.
Paint is chipped, broken metal cut off, new metal welded on.
DD8 is where the Wawona, 165 feet of wooden schooner,
rotting in the water, was erased.

Unrepairable, un-seaworthy, uneconomical.
I saw the tops of her decks in DD8 on her last day.

Part 1, 1850

Unable to reconcile the nature of Union Bay and the industry of Lake Union, which for your information are separated by one mile of water, I split today's journal into two parts.

I put in on the big lake and decide to make this 1850 day. Settlers arrived here, permanently, during that decade. It is in the mid 30's with not one cloud anywhere and with a light cold wind out of the north. There is a small chop on the lake so that the surface is a dark blue green with black static running through it. Mt. Baker is clearly visible, snow and glaciers all white, on the north horizon, eighty miles away. There are buffleheads and canada geese along the shore, a cormorant or two, and four common mergansers. The common mergansers, a very large and pretty duck, have just arrived recently in the lake (this year). The 1850 skyline is about 100 feet higher, Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedars, maples, and alders replacing the rooftops. The lake is 10 feet deeper and it drains by a river 10 miles south, a river that no longer exists. It is steep where I put in, so that shoreline hasn't changed much, but in many places, where there are now houses, there is instead a quarter mile of shallow water and marsh. The Duwamish live all up and down this and other nearby lakes and along the rivers. Smoke, on a cold day like this, would be the most obvious marker of their village locations. At the opening to Union Bay, a potlatch house stands on the south shore while the point forming the north side is a tangle of forest. Exposed to winds during storms, there would be some massive trees lying on the ground there making land passage difficult. This bay is considered a rather well-to-do village site. In the NE corner of the bay is a longhouse, 2 more are a mile north from the current north shore, that mile being open water and marsh. Another stands near the smokestack that marks the University steam plant. The south shore is a good 1/4 mile south of its current location, and the largest island, the burial island, is the only island in the bay and it is much smaller than it is today. The Duwamish place their dead in boxes and place the boxes in trees on this island. Since then, it has been misused by the settlers and their descendents. This would be fine weather for hunting waterfowl, which would be present in much larger numbers than it is today.
I stop and talk with two bird watching friends on the north shore. The eagles are not out right now, but there are two red-tailed hawks. I am informed that one of them has learned to hunt coots and ducks like the eagles do. One catches a mouse while we watch. The eagles show up as we stand, but they do not go to hunting directly. As I paddle down the west islands, both eagles land on a drift log 30 yards away. They have a dead seagull there. One picks at it, but I get the idea that they would prefer coot and the gull is considered leftovers. I continue on through the cut, which can't be done in 1850, because the cut won't exist until 1916. Instead, there is a well used and ancient portage of maybe 200 yards that takes one into Portage Bay. I continue on into Lake Union, a far too nice day to be inside.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

53rd Week Anniversary

It is one year and one week since I started keeping this journal, although I thought that today was the anniversary. It's not the year that is important though, instead, it is the fact that now I will begin to see the seasonal patterns of life in the marsh. I start in Portage Bay. It is in the 40's with a strong SW wind and it is overcast. I point out the beaver lodge to some little girls who wander by and one tells me that she once saw an eagle hunting a coot. Her description was accurate.
I pass east through the cut and let the wind blow me north while I write, passing a flock of coots along the way. The wind blows me through the channel between the west islands and shore. I am not sure if I will be paddling back across the bay or walking around it.
A western grebe and some buffleheads.
The birds are laying low today.
Into an inlet and out of the wind.
A heron and two more female buffleheads.
Cattails rustling in the wind. A comfort sound for fall. Whitecaps have formed in the bay. This means that the wind is near 25mph. Crossing in mid bay is not going to happen. The nice thing about the marsh is that there are always little inlets, just big enough for a canoe, to tuck into, completely out the wind. A short hard grind takes me to the lee of marsh island. Then east to the east marsh, where I spot one eagle, but can't watch it because I have to keep fighting the wind. I enter the east channel of the burial island finding a large flock of mallards seeking shelter, as I am. A tall golden tree, all others skeletal, swirls in the sky above.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lake Union

I walked up and over the hill to start in Lake Union. It's about 50F with a good south wind. The clouds have broken up for the first time in several days. It is still mostly cloudy, but at least there is some definition in the clouds. I round the south end of the lake. It is mostly just big plastic yachts with names like "Adventure" and "Wanderlust" until I get over to the Society for Wooden Boats. They have a great collection of usable wood craft. I sit in the protection of the Swiftsure, an old lightship. I once got to roam all around the inside that ship. A DeHavilland Beaver float plane chugs past and then turns and guns it's motor for a downwind takeoff. Then, once again, it is as quite as the middle of a city can get. I enter the lagoon on the SW corner. It used to be a rough spot, overgrown with pilings in the water. The Wawona's masts were stored here, floating in the water, for some time. The area is being redeveloped for a park. It looks pretty sanitary at this point and I hope it will return to something a little more natural as time passes. This lake is in bad need of some natural shoreline. I paddle north and poke into the gaps between marinas to see what the shoreline looks like. A seagull with a broken wing sits out the rest of its life on a bit of rocky shore. People walk by on the trail above, but they can't see this due to the steep bank. I continue north and then east into Portage Bay, which is noticably calmer in spirit than Lake Union. The day is too nice and so I go through the cut and pause on the far end in calm water.
The wind has sprinkled leaves on the water.
Willow, alder and birch and some I do not recognize.
The first sun in many days brings a calmness to Union Bay.
What seemed to be a gray fall is still vibrant with gold and red foliage rimming the water.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Home Repair

I put in at Portage Bay. There are some coots, some Canada geese and some buffleheads hanging out here. It is overcast, maybe 45F, with somewhat raw south wind.The beaver lodge that sits just 20 yards from the launch shows numerous signs of recent work. The beaver have left clear trails in four places leading from the water to the top of the lodge as they added branches to their structure. I look for good tracks, but find none as they seem to slip and slide in the mud just as much as I would have. I find a rusty half of a metal drum on nearby shore and haul it out with the canoe. I paddle north and just around the point into Lake Union for a short stop at Good Turn Park. I woke up last night thinking about the park. It is one of my favorites, a spot that is out of the way for both people on land and people on the water. In fact, it is more difficult to find from the water, so much so that I have never seen any other paddler use the park. But, more important for me is that I sense something good about the place. Maybe it is the name, Good Turn, which I think to be an excellent name for a park, but there is probably more. One time, I took my canoe out here - even though it means an extra half mile walk to home - and there were two boys playing here by themselves. It looked like cops and robbers to me. We didn't speak and I became just a temporary moving piece of landscape as the chase continued. I could see the creativity of the game and the ever changing rules. It was something kids should be allowed to do more often. I continue back east, and into the cut. Six Canada geese overtake me, low and silently as the wind carries any sound that they make away from my ears. I stop and admire the workings of their wings as they fly straight away from me. In the east channel of the burial island, I notice that the green has left the cattails and they are now a earthy golden color. A great blue heron gets up in protest of my arrival. Its blue gray colors, which I often take for granted, steal all of my attention.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I put in on portage bay in the early afternoon. Dark clouds are moving in from the west. Where I grew up one could expect a ferocious thunderstorm and high winds out of such clouds, but here it will most likely just be rain, and it is already windy. Some coots in Portage Bay. Exiting the cut I spot a common merganser. A big flock of coots is moving out in mid-bay, so I look for an eagle and find one in a semi-hover a few hundred yards north. It retreats to the paper birch on one of the islands to rest before continuing with the hunt. I don't circle the bay today, but hang closer to shore due to the weather. I see two nutria not far from the eagle's perch. The temperature drops and it starts to rain hard. I head down into the protection of the south lagoons where I eventually take out.
Today's photo courtesy of the dumping rainstorm that followed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I put in on the big lake. It is calm and unusually sunny. There is a smear at constant elevation through the clouds that rim most of the sky. Underneath one can see the first snows of the winter on the western faces of the Cascades. Above, in a few spots, cumulus clouds push through an invisible barrier, but not too high and not so high as the towering monster clouds that occur in the midwest. Only a few birds in the big lake, just some widely scattered grebes and cormorants. The white throat of the grebes is spotlit by the low bright sun. Once in Union Bay, there are many more buffleheads around and I spot a few green winged teal, which are probably moving through on their way to someplace a little further south of here. I just keep moving until I get to the south end of Portage Bay. Then I walk the canoe back up the hill.

Monday, November 9, 2009


It's raining, solid and steady. When it rains like this, people here tell visitors that it hardly ever rains like this, but it actually rains like this quite often. S says I am crazy to go out in it, but she says that mostly because she is supposed to say that. She knows that I will find something of great value out there today. I start in the south lagoon. There are six northern shovelers nearby. They are large and pretty in coloring with an unusually big and broad bill, hence the name. By the marsh island, a hooded merganser mixes in with a few wood ducks, which is pretty normal behavior for them. I spot a heron and wonder how much harder it is to hunt with the rain disturbing the surface of the water. I the main bay, there are buffleheads and a large flock of coots. When I near the bottom of the west islands, I notice the resident bald eagle pair tag team hunting. They pause for a moment in a paper birch on one of the islands, then back out to circling and swooping at an unseen bird in the water. I stop short of my intentions, so that they can use the paper birch if need be. They catch nothing on the second try, one eagle returns to the birch and one to the dirtberg out in mid-bay. On the third attempt, the male of the pair snatches a coot from the water and flies off. The female gets nothing and will have to keep hunting. I get into the NE lagoon and smell home heating oil. The old 6 foot pipe, which is listed as an overflow pipe, has a current coming out of it. I've never seen water actually flow out of this pipe, but the recent rain has probably created an "overflow" situation. Yuck that has collected in the pipe for some time is now being flushed. I head back south across the bay. Paddling in the east channel of the burial island, I drift off, aware that I am mentally off the material observation and finally going with the canoe. Beautiful fall leaves. No one anywhere. Sound muffled by raindrops. I ease up on a heron that is sleeping in a tree, a headless form because it has tucked it's head so deeply down onto it's chest between the edges of it's wings. It stays put while I pass. Taking out now makes no sense, so I paddle on and through the cut to the new launch at the south end of Portage Bay.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I start in the south lagoon. Heading up the east channel of the burial island the smell of newly exposed mud loaded with decaying vegetation is almost visible in the calm air. The lake is down a couple feet and the stuff that makes life is exposed. It is a good smell despite what it sounds like in print. Out of the protected channel, a stiff cold breeze comes out of the east. It will make waves in the big lake, but in the bay it takes a very strong wind to make the smallest whitecap. I head to the NE corner, which turns out to be well protected from the wind. A kingfisher occupies the eagle's lunch counter perch this morning. I can paddle the edges of the cattails now that the lily pads have died off. My trash cleaning efforts have paid off more than I could have imagined. There is very little new trash at the bog edge and it is mostly cans and bottles. Most of the plastic is stuff that I couldn't reach last year, and there isn't much of it. There are, however, a lot of tennis balls. While picking some trash near one of the west islands, 200 coots start thrashing the water and I turn to watch an eagle circle low over them three times. It is not a dedicated effort at hunting and the eagle flies off after giving them all a good scare. I head through the cut and down Lake Union.
(I forgot to mention that I scare up four snipe at four different places along the cattails. Three flew off at their amazing high speed and one ran quickly into protection of the reeds.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Northern Shovelers Have Returned

I started today at the newly refurbished Portage Bay boat launch. I always avoided this spot in winter because I would have to wade 20 feet out in the mud just to float the canoe. I met the grounds keepers who just happened to be doing some follow-up work and complimented them on the excellent job. In the photo is the Portage Bay beaver lodge. A track up the side and fresh branches piled on top confirm that it is still in use. Once through the cut into Union Bay, a heron skims the surface, a pied billed grebe sinks as I approach, and six Canada geese fly directly overhead in an echelon. A work crane is to the east, a bad sign signaling the beginning of new bridge work - work that will widen the ugly and noisy highway that runs through this pretty spot. More coots are in the bay and they form a large mass out in the middle. The lily pads are so thin now that I can paddle the marsh edges with ease. I surprise some ducks and coots rounding a point. They have not yet learned that they are easy eagle food when they are so close to the shore. I retrieve a little trash and see mostly tennis balls. This may be a good sign because tennis balls are deliberately tossed into the lake, and if they are more obvious than other trash it may mean that trash takes longer to accumulate than I thought. From the north point, I see one eagle sitting at the lunch counter. I paddle over to a down wind location to see if it has been eating, but there are no feathers in the water. I spot some northern shovelers today also, the male which is very beautiful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buffleheads Return

Land based artwork has kept me out of my canoe, but at least I was outdoors while that was going on. I put in today on the big lake. The water is all chop, a SE wind blows, but in this part of the lake, which is bounded both north and south by floating bridges, regular waves never seem to occur and the junk comes at me from all directions. The chop is always a foot high and sometimes two and I paddle from a kneeling position for extra stability. Rounding the point into Union Bay, the water calms and I pause to write and drink a cup of coffee. A small flock of black and white buffleheads is in front of me. They have returned from the arctic while I was in the woods making maps. -paddle - I near the biggest beaver lodge, which stands out more now that the summer vegetation has turned gold and begun to drop. A very large eagle sitting on a light pole signals to me that once again, it is duck eating season.

Monday, October 12, 2009


It's all politics rolling around in my head as I walk my canoe to the south lagoon. As soon as I am in the boat it is all birds in my head. Turning the point of the little island, a heron is frozen in hunting position. I see the first hooded merganser that I've seen in awhile. A northern flicker looks for ants on a downed log before flying to the side of a rotten tree, and a stellars jay sits at the tip top of a tall tree. I head out on the east channel of the burial island, grabbing a dozen golf balls from the bottom. I reach in up to my elbow to get them. The water has returned to a hypothermic temperature - cold. Then straight across the bay to the lunch counter in a light east wind. It is cloudy, but they are winter clouds and it seems that the light is filtering through high ice crystals and not through water droplets. A kingfisher sits in a tree at the railroad island (formed by the remaining pilings of an old railroad stub. Ducks are in loose flocks with some widgeons and gadwalls returning to the mix. Coots are carelessly near shore, so the eagles are not intensely hunting them, yet. Half of the cattails are yellow, and half of the cattails are still green. They are all mixed together though, and this makes a beautiful patterned wall. I scare up a dunlin... I spot one large western grebe in the bay and a smaller look-alike in Lake Union.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


We put in at the south lagoon just as the sun dipped behind the false horizon. The water was very still, the evening air motionless. The birds are busy - this is a busy time of day for the ducks and geese as they finish their feeding. There is frequent chatter and quacking and also the tipping of duck butts into the air. We get closer to them than we would in broad daylight. I show S the dirt atoll that has risen from the bay. A small sandpiper picks bugs from the mud of one of the little islands. Near the north shore of the bay we let the canoe rotate. There are dramatic differences in the sky depending on the direction we face. It is gray to the east and the color changes gradually until it becomes yellow-orange in the west. As we sit and the sun drops farther past the horizon S says that it is like watching an oil painting change into a watercolor.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I set out in the rain. Fall has arrived with the steady winds that come with it although today is calm, the first calm day in several. The rain drops absorb the traffic noise that one usually hears on the big lake. Only a whir of industrial toys that are nearby is discernible. This weather will mean few others on the water today. After a mile the rain lets up some, and the noise of cars on the floating bridge returns. As I near the north
marsh I recover my first 1970's beer can of the fall season. The lake level has dropped two feet and the marsh is giving up it's treasures as the bog stuff contorts. The ducks and coots are up here today, as usual. There are dozens of exposed pilings now. At one time a railroad stub ran out onto a pier in this area. I do not know for sure if these pilings are the remains, but they are in the right location. The trees and shrubs are beginning their shift to fall colors. Shades of purer green are giving way to tinges of yellow and red. The cattails and irises now have yellow edges on their spears and the collective effect says, "fall"

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I get up early and put in at the south lagoon before sunrise. Something in the back of my mind, imprinted long ago, always tells me that a small amount of self imposed torture will have disproportionate benefits.It is calm and not dark, but the world is in shadow. I head up the east channel of the burial island, preferring not to come out into open sky too quickly, but I really didn't think about it... direction by hunch. As I near the north end of the east marsh, a beaver swims across my path towing a branch. It doesn't seem to notice me until I am 10 yards away and it dives with a slap of the tail sending water 4 feet in the air. I continue on to a distance where it might feel safe, I pour a cup of coffee and then I sit still and watch. While I wait, there is a splash closer to my left and a moment later a second beaver surfaces. I decide I had better look all around, and there is number 3, just 50 yards behind my left shoulder. 1 and 2 continue to the lodge, but 3 swims a big wide S, watching me carefully. This leads my eye to number 4, which is motionless in the water. I figure out that I am interfering with their business, so I move back 20 yards. The sun comes up. A kingfisher flies overhead chattering all the way. 3 has now moved off toward the lodge and I see it no more. 4, however, continues to swim slowly back and fourth. Twice it dives with a slap of the tail, even though I haven't moved. 4 seems to be the guard beaver. After I back off another 50 yards, it watches for a few minutes and then disappears. I wait 10 minutes and with no more sign of beaver, paddle off across the bay. A 4 man shell rows by at speed heading into the sun. The coxswain, perhaps the wife of one of the rowers tells how beautiful the morning is by the expression on her face, which is brilliantly lit by the new sun. She glows golden. If it was my wife and I were rowing, I would stop and watch her and damned be to the other three in the boat. I find geese, ducks and coots on the north side of the bay. A redtail hawk lands in a tall alder tree. There are lone coots around. The eagles are probably still eating salmon. Independent coots, the rebels, are eagle food during the winter.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twenty Questions

Just as I'm putting in on the big lake, a guy comes up and starts a conversation. I had no aims when I left the house and had decided to let the canoe find it's way and already I was going in an unexpected direction. He asked if there was a reason that I used a canoe instead of a kayak. I replied that it was somewhat intangible and gave the surface answers that satisfy most people, but he didn't buy it. He asked then if I was from the upper midwest and I answered, Minnesota. "There, he said, "you've been imprinted." He was as right as anything and I know that my subtle Minnesota-Norwegian smile appeared, briefly, but even this perceptive fellow most likely missed it. Those smiles are not classified as such in dictionaries as they don't resemble smiles. They are only recognizable in relation to the previous facial expression. Very often, my canoe trips bring back the memories of Boyscouts paddling up the Ottertail River, crossing Round Lake and continuing up to a beaver dam that seemed far larger than I would have thought possible. Before returning we would take a short swim in the beautifully named lake, "Ice-crackin". Anyway, we exchanged names and shook hands and I headed north. It took 15 minutes to get my head back into my canoe, but it was all worthwhile.
Soon, I spotted a lone horned grebe that was catching small fish on almost every dive. As I rounded the point into Union Bay, a flock of canada geese in v-formation materialized from gap in the trees. As I reached the east marsh, an eagle coasted down and set on a log boom to my right. Ducks scattered, but this eagle has probably been eating salmon bits as there is a run of coho right now. A green backed heron sits on a branch protruding from the "workbench beaver lodge". More grebes near the cut, and I continue through Portage Bay and down Lake Union.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Can Tell

I woke up early this morning. It was dark and I was in bed, but I was already in my canoe. Fall is here. It will be unusually warm today, maybe 15 or 20 degrees above normal. The thermometer will say summer. The simplest and easiest measurement will lead one astray, as simple and easy information often does, in all things. It is fall and while at the scientific level there are dozens of measurements that say so, it is the qualitative that tells me so. The light has changed. Gone is the harsh washed out scenery of summer days when my photographs were all about the parlor tricks of nature; early light or dramatic clouds that filter rays and cast shadows. The fall light brings deep rich tones and long shadows. In fall, my photographs are about composition first, and keeping the shots with good light. The air has changed as well. The nights are longer, cooler and damper and day seems to struggle to return summer's warmth. The longer nights bring unplanned but orchestrated smells and flavors. It's not of showy flowers, but of the hidden deepness that sustains life. Summer air was tinned spices while fall is fresh cardamom seeds crushed this very second under my rolling pin. Winter will change all that, deadening the spices, but it will bring its own beauty in an even trade. Observations - the lily pads are browning at the edges. They show a summer's wear with chunks missing and deep tears. A flock of 100 coots has returned to the bay. Cormorants are sitting on the new dirtbergs that have hit the surface in mid-bay. I spot two green backed herons, some great blue herons, wood ducks, and two horned grebes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The canoe takes me.

From the canoe ...
My country has gone insane. Religious and political ideology combined with greed and hateful speech. It's awful, it's maddening and I am ashamed and saddened.
In my canoe, the wind is behind me, coming over ten miles of lake under a low thick overcast. My canoe is completely sane. It is purposeful, even if I am not. It takes me. (the period drops in on that sentence of its own accord...) My canoe drifts, it rocks on waves, if floats, it carries load, but mostly, it takes me, and, I let it.
The big lake, all rock walled and with two long floating bridges turns ordinary wind waves into chop. I stay a couple hundred yards from shore, as I move north, for easier paddling. I am on my knees until I reach Union Bay, the boat is more stable in that position. But no waves come over the gunwales and the only real thrill is when a yacht sends a large wake my way. It adds with the wind waves and I ride a couple chest high waves. Along the south shore of Union Bay the air smells green, the wind blowing it across the east marsh. It is the smell of fresh cut grass, only cleaner and more natural to the taste. It has many more flavors than a lawn. Three pied billed grebes are to my left. Their talent is to sink, not dive, without trace into the water, and they demonstrate for me as usual. I stop at the big beaver lodge, which is covered in summer vegetation so that no casual visitor would recognize it. The lake is down 15 inches or so from early summer. Of notice, cormorants have begun to return. They seem to be the first birds of the returning fall. I circle the bay, pass through the cut, the next bay, and down Lake Union, just going where my canoe takes me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September 2, 2009 Lake Ozette

My last day. I'm up at 6:30, make coffee and oatmeal and tear down camp. I'm in the boat in 45 minutes. One of the guys that was camping here comes over to talk. He is impressed at how fast I can take down and pack. They're going to Allens Bay and I recommend that they think about camping at Birkestol Point, because it is that much better than Allens Bay. I head out on very calm water, stopping to explore the forest a bit when I spot an old man made stone jetty. The area was settled by scandanavians although most of them left before the first road was put in (1926). The rainforest takes back anything that is left to stand, so most homesteader structures near the lake have disappeared completely, other than the stone jetty and some fence posts made out of old timber railroad rails. You can recognize where they cleared land by the stands of 80-100 year old trees, which also do their part to bury any remaining signs of homesteads.

I spot a deer. Deer around here are not tame, but since they are not hunted they are not afraid of people. I walk to within about 20 yards for a photo and then leave it in peace. Back in the canoe I paddle up and around the North End and head back south to Swan Bay and my car.

September 1, 2009 Lake Ozette

A second party came into the bay last night. They camp a hundred yards away. This spot wouldn't get busy until there were 4 or 5 parties, it's a pretty big area for camping. We exchanged greetings from a distance and I imagine they are enjoying the solitude as much as I am.
Up at 6:30. The waves began crashing on the beach and have woken me up. I take a look and they are all of two inches high. A clue as to how silent it has been at night. I'm in no hurry, so I sit around and drink my ersatz coffee. 2 stellars jays are checking me out and a woodpecker is working over a branch to my right. It is overcast and dim, so I can't see any colors on the birds. I paddle a 1/2 mile south to the Ericson's Bay trail. It is a two mile hike to the ocean and comes out about 6 miles north of the Allen's Bay trail. I have no doubt that both of these trails were put in by homesteaders who brought supplies in from the ocean. Most of them had moved away before the first road arrived. I spot an electric insulator in a large cedar on the way and a winch that looks like it would've been ideal for pulling wire near the shore.This is the Sand Point area. Probably the most heavily used beach for about 20 miles in either direction. Since the beach is three miles from the parking lot (if you don't have a boat), and the parking lot is already a fairly remote spot, it stays very nice indeed.

August 31, 2009 Lake Ozette

I've already started to lose track of days. I can never trust my watch, it resets itself in my pocket from time to time.
I make bannock for breakfast, with strawberry preserves and coffee. I discover that my soap is not here, so I use sand to scrub the cooking oil out of the pan... and I will smell bad by the end of the trip. I will paddle to Allen's Bay, maybe a mile, to see if the Allen's Bay trail still exists. The trail is on old maps, but not on new or NPS maps. As soon as I round Birkestol Point, I can hear the roar of the ocean surf. Upon landing, the trail is easy to find - the first place I look, in fact. It is not at all hard to follow, but it is not at all easy to walk. (Photo - the best of the Allen's Bay trail). There is dew on the plants, the remains of an old board walk are broken and suspect at best and there are frequent downfalls to clamber over or under. This is rainforest and one must remember to walk like an eskimo - baby steps with feet under your weight because any wood is slick as ice. I've learned not to turn my nose up at using a stout hiking staff when walking in the coastal forests. This is a very bad place to break a leg, especially when alone. My brimmed hat shields my face from brush. I wear my rain jacket, but my boots and wool pants are soaked by the time I get to the ocean at Kayostia Beach. It is beautiful and no one is here as it is several miles of shore walking from any other beach access. It was entirely worth the effort.

There is a memorial here for a Norwegian ship that sank in 1903. Only two of the crew survived.
I don't know, but they may have walked out on the same trail. The rest are buried here.

I walk back to my canoe. It is dryer this time because someone has already wiped all of the dew off of the leaves.
Back at the bay, the NPS patrol boat comes speeding into the bay. We wave at each other and they leave me to myself. Allen's Bay is a bit grim as a campsite, so I paddle north along the west shore towards Ericson's Bay, I'm pretty sure there will be a better spot for camp.

August 30, 2009 Lake Ozette

It was a very quiet night. I heard exactly four airliners and later, one small critter padded around the campsite for awhile. Up at 6:30 to a thick overcast and almost no wind. Oatmeal, coffee, load canoe, head south. I follow the east shore past Preachers Point where there is a private house (maybe only 10 private houses - grandfathered in when the lake became National Park land). I head into the bay at the south end, named - South End, but stop on a point to explore the forest a bit. A deer has left tracks on shore. It's old growth forest and fairly easy to walk in.
It is exceedingly still here. There is a fantastic echo in this bay and a play with it for awhile. Then I paddle on to Birkestol Point (on the left of the photo - it appears to be touching Baby Island). I see no one. I am done paddling by noon, and I find that the forest behind my campsite is impenetrable, and I am a pretty good burrower in such stuff. So, I read a lot. Saw an osprey, several kingfishers, some teal, some mergansers and a Stellars Jay.

Photo - looking north out of the south end

August 29, 2009 Lake Ozette

I'm about to bust. My wife tells me to go. She can see that I am too excited to do anything else. I finish up an art submittal and load my gear and canoe in the car.
Four hours later I am at Swan Bay on Lake Ozette.
It takes me less than ten minutes to get the canoe in the water. I only paddle 1/2 mile, to Benson's Point and make camp. I am alone.
In the photo - Garden Island

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Everything is So Blue

I'm back on the water after two weeks. The day is warm, but the wind is light. I am lazy and don't take advantage of the cool morning, putting my canoe in during the heat of the day. But, I put in on the sound and the millions of gallons of 57F water cools the surrounding air and it is all quite pleasant. I head from my favorite Elliott Bay launch west to 4 mile rock and then north to Discovery Park. I see two osprey as I paddle along the bluffs and also a flock of small sea gulls. A very large person in a small kayak wallows in my direction, but I turn around and paddle back. I'm watching the trees and shore for birds and I look forward and there is the black head of a seal, or perhaps sea lion, watching me. It disappears the second that I notice it. I forget to reset my camera's white balance and all of my photos are blue.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


All morning, my head has useless clutter echoing inside. I can't get started on anything, don't want to make art. It's time to be away. I walk my canoe to Lake Union. It is mostly calm and cloudy and it could rain at anytime. I head out across the lake towards the Fremont canal and when I get there I decide to keep heading west. Once through the canal, the paddling becomes much more industrial, but in an interesting way. There are a couple of tugboat companies, including Foss, who have massive ocean going tugs and their own drydock and shipyard (the tugs in the photo are a competitor, Foss's boats are green). From here I keep going all the way to Fishermen's Terminal where the best fish-n-chips in town can be had. I eat near the fishermen's memorial, a very nice piece of sculpture in the right location. I head back and take out and Good Turn Park and walk a mile and a half home. There is less clutter in my head.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Salt Water

It rained last night for the first time in a couple months. Today it is calm with a very light breeze and I put in on the sound north of the ship canal. I paddle south to West Point along the outside of the breakwater. Boat traffic is light and what there is seems to be timing itself for the locks or the draw bridges - the draw bridges don't open during rush hour traffic. There are caspian terns and some small murrelets or auklets (I can't see them well enough to ID) and a few great blue herons, which are sunning on top of the rocks. The tide is moderately low and when I paddle through the kelp bed south of the canal, the bulbs "bonk" off the bottom of the canoe. At West Point, an osprey circles low hunting for fish and none of the people out on the point notice. I return closer to shore, more caspian terns, gulls sitting on the beach in a separate flock. I turn into the ship canal and paddle up to the locks. Several kingfishers are goofing off up here. I imagine that the lock and dam create good feeding for the kingfishers, there are always some present. I take the photo on the way back out to the sound and then return inside the breakwater. There are jellyfish in the water and they look like a huge egg that is being poached, milky white with a yellow core and some white strands floating beneath.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Today I put in halfway down the big lake from where I live. I can paddle over to the tree lined shoreline of Seward Park, which is always pleasant. There is a breeze out of the south today on this cloudy and humid day. It is not really a light breeze or a fresh breeze. It is a distinctly soft breeze where the air gently folds and wraps around any exposed skin and one feels enveloped by it more than anything. I paddle across to the rich island and back, stopping along the shore of the park to fill one of my ballast buckets with blackberries.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cedar River

I went to the south end of the big lake today. I found a place to launch in a park on the SE corner and head out towards the mouth of the Cedar River. The lake is warm, the air humid and calm, the sky is cloudy and it is a comfortable temperature for a summer day. The mouth of the river is littered with large trees that have been washed down in the spring floods. The water is shallow with the rivers deposits for quite a ways into the lake. Geese, ducks and herons are making good use of the drift logs, I even spot a female merganser, a bird that is not seen on the lake too often at this time of year. The bottom 1/4 mile of the Cedar is an easy go, the water is deep and much colder than the lake, it's source the mountains some 30 miles distant. I spook a coyote on the west bank, and it trots ahead of me for awhile, very wary of my presence. The next 1/4 mile is increasingly difficult as the river gets shallower and faster. I get out and wade for a couple hundred yards, the water never rising above mid-shin. The only way up the river at this point is to wade or pole, and I do not have a pole with me. As I descend the river, my coyote friend comes back out and flits ahead of me in the high brush.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Green Lake

I'm in Green Lake today. The lake is near the hill tops and it drains into Union Bay where I paddle more often. A 100 years ago the lake drained on the surface via a nice little creek that ran through a deep ravine until reaching the large marsh that formed the north end of the bay. Now, it runs through pipes, surfacing for it's run through the ravine and then back into pipes until it hits the bay. My mother swam in Green Lake in the 1950's as a member of the Aqua Follies, a touring synchronized swimming troupe. She says that the lake was filthy then and that many of the women got eye infections and that she had to wash her swimsuits twice to get the smell out. The lake is cleaner now, no motor boats and improved sewer systems, although it still has an occasional algae bloom or outbreak of swimmers itch. What I like is that it has a big sky with the surrounding ridges well back from the shore. The shoreline increasingly takes on a natural appearance from the water with willows and reeds and the city's persistent removal of invasive plants. As I finished my first lap around the lake I spotted a green backed heron sitting on a snag.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


It is very hot again today, but not so bad as it was yesterday when it reached 102F, which is hot for an area that sees normal summer highs closer to 70F. I do not enjoy either the heat or the harsh sun, but today I needed to get out and get away from everything. In the NE corner I stop to cool off under the branches of a fine weeping willow that the eagles sometimes use as a perch. The light breeze slips through and under the long foliage and with the shade it provides it is quite a pleasant spot.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Breakfast Club

It's going to be hot today, and sunny. S joins me this morning and we hit the water by 9am. Few people are around. We stop in the shade of a small island on the west shore of the bay for breakfast. I made a 1/2 blueberry and 1/2 peach clafloutis last night and with a thermos of coffee it is an excellent breakfast

While eating we are surrounded by ducks feeding. Their dabbling has the same sound as when you wiggle your fingers quickly in water. Still quite a few baby ducks also.

We head over into the NE lagoon. There are old pilings in the water here and with the lake down a foot or so, they are exposed. An old map of this area shows a rail line in this vicinity. Some day I'll come back here and plot the pilings and see if they map something that looks like and old rail pier.

We continue to circle the bay and marvel at how no one in the massive waterfront homes is outside enjoying their massively expensive waterfront. Our gain... S practices her bow paddler maneuvering as we wind our way through the lily pads back to the south lagoon.
We take out just as more people are beginning to get on the water. A beautiful start to the day.

RECIPE for Clafloutis

about 3 cups of fruit - berries, apples, peaches, cherries etc. mixed or not.
preheat oven to 350F
Butter a pie pan
Dump the fruit in the pan, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of sugar, if you like.
Whisk, all together, 3 eggs, 3/4cup milk, 1/4 cup of half and half (or light cream), 2/3 cup flour, 2 tsp vanilla, 3 tbs sugar. This is a thin batter.
Dump batter on fruit.
Bake for 35 -40 minutes until it is browning
The clafloutis will rise in the last 10 minutes of baking. Remove and let cool some before eating. The clafloutis will fall as it cools and become a thick pudding/custard consistency that can be cut and served in slices. Eat warm, room temp or cold.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I put in today on the SE side of Lake Union. I just paddle and have no real aim today. The marinas and docked boats don't inspire. I head up to the Fremont Channel, but don't have the gumption to continue in that direction. I end up in Portage Bay, but I don't feel like getting out of the canoe yet, so I head through the cut to the south lagoons and take out there.

I walk my canoe home along the dry gravel path through the arboredum. Each step, the gravel crunches and grinds under foot. It hasn't rained in I don't know how long. Whenever I enter a clearing the sun bakes on me and I am reminded of long dusty hikes we would take as Boy Scouts on the dirt roads up in northern Minnesota.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Morning Paddle

I put in at the south end of Portage Bay, maybe 200 yds west of where the portage that gave the bay its name was located. I'm in the water by 7am.

Exiting the east end of the cut, a bald eagle circles to my right, its head down looking for prey.
There are many rowing shells out at this time of the morning on such a nice day.
I enter the channel between the marsh islands and the west shore. A heron guards the entrance, standing tall and erect in a pose that is a cliche'. Then, an eagle sweeps across at a high speed. I think it is duck hunting. It circles behind me and sweeps across once more some 200 yds ahead with its wings set, for sure on the hunt.
Pond lilies are just starting to open for the day. They close each night.
I lodge my canoe into the branches of the winter eagle perch in the NE corner of the bay, disturbing a heron that flies off just 50 yds, waiting for me to leave.
Ducks and geese are beginning to flock in mid bay. Most are adolescents that can't fly, yet. This might explain the eagles duck hunting behavior. A non-flying duck would have to act much like a coot, the eagles favorite winter food, swimming and diving to evade being dinner.
I cross the bay, round the south side of the burial island and take out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Lake

I put in on the big lake and head east, straight into the sun. It is very calm and the water has only the smallest of dimples on its surface.

Halfway across I spot some birds 200 yards to the north. They are smallish grebes moving in an orderly procession to the east. There are eleven. Ten dive, then the last one dives. They surface, then dive again. Having finished writing my observation, I pivot the canoe back towards the east. The grebes have vanished. I watch, but i never see them again.

Near the east shore, a large private Queen Mary approaches at flank speed. The driver alters course and swings wide of me. This is only worth noting because such behavior is so rare.

I paddle into and briefly look around Mydenbauer Bay. I see little of interest. It is all houses and no natural appearing shoreline. So, I head southwest towards the north end of Mercer Island.

I stop in mid-lake, somewhere west of Mercer Island, to eat lunch. The quarter moon is 52 degrees above the horizon and bearing 255 degrees true. Mt. Baker is about 015 degrees true. No one, even now, knows where I am except for me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Writing from the Canoe

It's a warm cloudy day with occasional showers. For a Sunday in July, there are very few people on the water. I see some newly hatched ducklings - ducks seem to hatch their young over a much longer period of time than do canada geese (the geese hatch earlier and in a 2 to 3 week period). Going clockwise around the bay I pass the mouth of the Montlake Cut and think about how it is now obsolete. When it was opened in 1916, it gave ships access to the 30 sq miles of Lake Washington and let loggers move timber to Puget Sound in large rafts instead of by feeding them through the log flume that was built on top of the ancient canoe portage. Now the cut is just a connection for pleasure boats. But the cost of the cut was one river (yes, with a salmon run) that stopped flowing and the lowering of the lake by ten feet, turning rich wetlands into unusable almost dry land.

Beggar ducks are surrounding me. Time to paddle on.

The lake, or at least the shallower parts, is covered with hunreds of thousands of lily pads. These are the white flowered lily pads, the yellow ones bloomed late in the spring. There were many fewer yellow lily pads. The lake is the highest that I have seen it at this time of year. Perhaps that contributes to more lily pads than normal.
The wind is strengthening.
Kingfishers have a minor convention going in the north lagoon. I see five at one time, but there must be a dozen up here.
Paddling south to pick up the last 55 gallon barrel, the wind is picking up the scent of fresh water. I breath deeply through my nose to catch the flavor of the bay. It reminds me of the pleasant aftertaste when one gets water in their nose while swimming. It is an old smell from a long time ago.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Big Item Day

Summer is back, with wind is down, the sun is out, birds are singing, found some junk in the lake.

I walk the canoe to the south lagoons and from there I head a short mile to a nook where I had spotted some large items tangled in trees and drift logs along the shore of the big lake.

Here's a 50 gallon drum. Not so heavy, but not so easy to be fitted in das boat.

And here's some of my favorite material! A 5 foot long block of styrofoam. It's a miracle material - soaks up about 50 times its weight in water and never drys out! This block weighed in at about 150 lbs, assuming that I can no longer lift a 150 lb person, cuz I'm old.

Oh yeah, that is the high part of the floating bridge that almost never appears in my photos because I think it is an eyesore (and it actually runs through an Indian burial ground - strange, but true)