Monday, October 24, 2011

The Bailey Peninsula aka Seward Park

I meet J. on the west side of the big lake near Seward Park.  The park is a forested peninsula and a favorite to canoe by because it is one of very few places in the city where one can paddle under big trees.  This is the first time that J. and I have met in person.  Within a minute of putting in, we spot several beaver just south of us.  Eventually, we count five and get two good tail slaps.  They are all solidly "medium" sized beaver.  No matter what happens, the trip will now fall into the good category.

We coast along the shoreline, taking in redwing blackbird trills, widgeons, gadwalls, some Clark's grebes, and watching the lake bottom through unusually clear water.  J tells me of seeing a beaver not long ago sitting on a float near the shore and when we get over to it we can see that it is covered with the remains of beaver feeding - trimmed branches and cattails strewn all over it.

We talk art, we talk plants and trees, J being botanically skilled and me being botanically challenged.  We talk about floating trash, how people see and use the water, development etc.  We are of like mind.  We are confused by the same stuff.

It begins to rain and rain hard for a half hour as we stop in at another park just a half mile south of the peninsula.  We briefly walk the park while the canoe collects rain water.  J points out trees to me...his tree eyes are about the same as my bird eyes.  Blue sky is coming and the rain tapers off as we get back in the canoe. 

We return the way we came, only facing the opposite direction. 

We find a pair of the strange ducks below near the fish hatchery.  Large duck/small goose sized, it is probably a domesticated muscovy duck on the lam.

I believe this is an escaped muscovy duck

Friday, October 21, 2011

The First Buffleheads

I put in at the south lagoon hoping for the arrival of the buffleheads.  As I finish the ritual of getting ready, a guy paddles up in a shiny red canoe.  He rams it onto the gravel beach, gets out and drags it free of the water.  The brief exchange of "hi" and "hey" is all of the conversation.  While we are traveling in the same craft, we are of two different minds.  I lift my canoe by the gunwale, for even though my canoe has long since ceased to be a thing of beauty with the scratches of 500 trips on the outside, splotches of mud inside, and pink and tan foam glued down where my knees are when I am paddling in that posture, I lift my canoe and set it in a half foot of water, and then finish loading my ever heavier field pack.  I set one foot in the center of the canoe, grab the gunwales with my hands and push off with the other leg gliding scooter-like out into the marsh.  I drop to my knees and go away.  My well-worn canoe has taken me to countless discoveries and adventures...his canoe is just a boat...he treats his canoe like I treat my car.

It is a sprinkling grey day.  Some cattails have gone yellow and some remain green.  The lotus pads are brown and torn at the edges and only the centers of the leaves try to stay on the surface.  There is a cool and growing south wind.  It is an archetypical fall day in the marsh.  It matches all of my memories.
willow gnawed by beaver - in case you were wondering
 I leave the east marsh and head cross bay to the north point.  It is hard to see ducks at any distance due to the chop in the water, but every once in awhile, I read motion out there.  At mid-bay, I spot a dozen buffleheads, the first ones of the fall.  And, I drift with that, and I then catch the nasal wheezing of widgeons, who have finally arrived in force - I spotted a lone widgeon some 2 weeks ago in the south lagoon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not yet

Harrison Portage...The city has removed the invasive plants from the put-in....this is just about everything except for the trees.

As I start north, a seagull some 100 yards ahead plunges straight into the water from 15 feet up.  It climbs back up and circles for a few minutes, hoping for a second chance at its prey.

I pass a small Clark's grebe.

At the mouth of Union Bay, there are three western grebes, necks laid back along their bodies.  Most birds are resting when they hold that pose, but the western grebe will often paddle across the surface in with its neck down on its back.  It looks quite strange.

I break my paddling briefly as I head up towards the NE corner of the bay and when I do I hear the whistling of bald eagles.  I find them on the diodar cedar that they prefer as a perch on this shoreline.  It is probably the north nest pair.  I have not seen them in perhaps 2 months, and I assume they were following a salmon run.

In the NE lagoon, I check for tracks in the usual spots and find raccoon and rat and something in between in size that I don't recognize.  It has rained hard recently, so the blackboard is pretty clean.

I run across the north shore and down the western islands thinking that this is one of the nicest days that I have seen in some time.  It is almost clear, low sky fall sun, blue sky, the yellowing of cattails and leaves, the shattering of summers lily pads, with a cool wind from the northeast, a long sleeve day.

I check with 3-stars in the south lagoon, as usual.

The migratory ducks have not arrived yet.  I imagine that they have started on their way.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


A while back, my friend, L, who was visiting from our home state, asked me while we were out walking, " Do you ever think about what a beautiful place this is?"
I may have taken 10 seconds to answer, which is a very long silence if you think about it.  When I looked her in the face, I probably had on my dumb question expression, but not because it was a dumb question, more that I was caught off guard.  In fact, the simple question deserved thought and the ten second pause was one of gears turning in my head.
I answered, "Yes, I do."

As I walk the Harrison Portage, I wonder if all those people hurrying by in their cars on some schedule that may or may not be their own ever think about how beautiful this place is.

C, T and MP come riding up the switchbacks as I sit pause to write in my notebook.  It has been a long time and they stop for a good talk.  T even comes up with some good ideas for an art project of mine, his creativity probably unrecognized by most and untapped by himself, for that matter.  The portage pays for itself, yet again.  I thank him for clearing that creative tangle for me as they head off.

The big lake has that oddball chop going, a clunky chaotic wave that I can reconcile mathematically, but not in a natural common sense manner.  It has something to do with the unnatural in the lake, I suppose.  The chop labors the paddling, each stroke requiring a different amount of correction to maintain course.

Calm returns at Potlatch Point, as it usually does.  With the onset of fall, the lake is low and I glide towards the Big Lodge over the sandy bottom that lies just 2 or 3 feet down.

I catch linseed oil scent
my paddle, hand carved
my paddle, well used
oiled after its last trip
the scent now in my hands
I will carry the trip with me 
long into the evening

Signs -
I spot the some fresh peeled tree limbs in the water.  The beaver are switching foods with the season from green plants to inner bark of trees.
I see the first widgeons of the fall, a pair in the south lagoon.
I flush a green-backed heron from the base of the workbench lodge.  It might be the last green-backed heron that I see until next spring.
I find a lot of beaver scat on the east tip of Marsh Island.  It looks like rotting balls of chipboard.  There is more here than I have ever seen in one spot.
I find the leftovers of a crayfish claw nearby.  A sign of raccoons or otter.

I stop and talk with 3-Stars, mostly to check on his well being, but also to see if he has observed anything that I have not.  Then I continue on to the bottom of Portage Bay.