Saturday, August 18, 2012

Killing Birds

'A' calls and asks me for a ride up to Smoke Farm.  She has a meeting and no car.  I have to take art up, so it is a kill two birds with one stone moment.  With the canoe is currently stored on the roof of the car and the Snohomish Estuary and the Stillaguamish River on the  driving route it could be a "kill three birds with one stone" moment.

After the meeting we entertain a paddle on the lower end of the Stillaguamish, but after a bumbling drive through bottom land farms we find that the boat launch is a DNR site and I don't have the required permit.  We head on to the put-in on the Snohomish instead.

Rather than repeat a trip into the Spencer Island area, we head down the river toward the sound.  As on our other trips, we have osprey in sight at all times.  At any one time there always seems to be 3 or 4 and at least one or two nests. We see kingfishers, sandpipers and great blue herons.  There are some caspian terns, but except for sea gulls, the osprey are the most numerous of the birds that we spot.

It is near low tide, maybe just a bit after.  The current is near slack in the river and we have a headwind.  We circle an island finding deer tracks in the mud of the recently fallen tide.  Our paddle is along old wooden sea walls and 20 foot high pilings where barges and log rafts were once tied.  It is all deteriorating and while it is industrial, it is old industrial and we talk about how we can still see what it might have been at one time.  The "industrial" is not opaque in this river.
We paddle on and with the motion well remembered in the muscles, we can watch for birds and seals (we see two) and take in new sights of a new terrain.  As we near the mouth, a distant crane leaning over a beached sailboat changes into two large sailboats that have been stranded by low tide, their owners milling about waiting for the rising tide to erase their poor seamanship. 

I tell 'A' that we should go over and portage our canoe past them.

Ahead lies Jetty Island, a sandy breakwater island made by piling and stranding old wooden barges and ships.  Neither of us have been there and with the weather calm we can safely head out across to explore.

Jetty Island

The island is wonderful.  It is a mix of dune and brush with some very large drift logs on the beach and derelict boats and barges in various states of exposure.

Western Red Cedar
What 'A' is looking at

 The island is visual candy and we wish we could explore more (it is 2 miles long), but we can't.  We return to the canoe and head back up river on a strong flood current and tailwind that makes the return pass as quickly and easily as this sentence.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A new bow man

The move to the far coast is not far off.  My last days of canoeing on NW waters are becoming more precious than ever.  I have a hundred or so friends to paddle with in not enough time to even get close.

My friend, 'P' comes along today.  It is our first trip together.  She used to row and prefers not to go to the familiarity of the big lake, so I take us back to the Duwamish, to the little sand bar on the inside of the bend, underneath the osprey nest.  It is a beautiful spot that I was surprised to find, a place worth visiting again.

We paddle up the Duwamish, but it is different than my last trip with 'A'.  We find a Ganesh figure (the elephant headed Hindu deity) in the mud on the bank.  We almost pass it and then turn back knowing that there is something wrong in leaving it there.  It is in three pieces, but I re-assemble it well enough and place it on a stump.

At the first fast water, all of the rocks are submerged.  I did not know that the tide came this high.  The rocks were 18 inches exposed last time I was here.

It is a usual good bird trip.  A great blue heron, a green heron, several kingfishers, some sandpipers, some ducks and Canada geese.

We talk a lot.  P tells me how she broke her wrist a couple years back and when she returned to rowing, it was no longer so appealing - the competitive and the teamwork required was too much.  We agree that canoeing is everything that rowing isn' least the way we are doing it.

The return goes fast, a third of the time going up stream.  The rocks at the first fast water are a foot out of the water.  Two osprey greet us at the take out.  This fall, I will travel across the continent to the far coast while they fly to a place as far south of the equator as we are north of it.  They will be back next spring.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seed Bombing

'A' and I put in at the very north end of the big lake and paddle east into the mouth of the Sammamish Slough.  It is a fine sunny summer day, not too hot with a light breeze.  The big lake has been kept high (it is dam controlled) and it is clear that the lake at the other end of the slough is nearly at the same level - there is no perceptible current.

An osprey passes over with a fish in its talons.

We pass a large flock of teal that are scurrying off into the marsh island at the mouth of the slough.  There are more ducks here than I remember.  I don't think that I have come up here in the summer that often, but I don't remember clearly.

This is A's first trip on the Sammamish and the Sammamish is always a bit weird.  It comes at you in waves...expensive waterfront McMansions, which then give way to open brushy wetlands, then one of the best situated trailer parks in America, then a golf course, another fine trailer park, some forest land, another trailer park, park land, and not so bad backsides of industrial parks. 

There are, as always, a good number of great blue herons.  We also flush a green heron a few is reluctant to leave its current territory.

Those are the details.  But, this is a long trip for a half day.  In fact, it is a very good half day of paddling.  We are covering more distance at a higher pace than I have ever done on this river.  'A' is becoming a strong paddler.  At a short break, we talk about how canoeing is different than any other form of travel that either of us has done.  We parallel a bike trail that is well used today, and I point out that we are on a different path than "they" are in many meanings.  'A' mentions how we seem to arrive at places that should take a long time to get to quicker than one expects.  She points out that we travel by canoe on ancient routes that are no longer the "usual". It is meditative travel, and we arrive by the back route unseen and unexpected.  Even we don't expect it.  After two hours I am ready to return but I say nothing.  A thinks we should turn around in another half hour, so on we go for 30 more minutes.

seed bombing

On the return we stop to eat blackberries that hang out over the river, and we seed bomb.  'A' has brought the last of her native seed bombs, clay balls with a variety of native plant seeds mixed in.  We hurl them at likely spots in need of some love.  'A' remarks that neither of us will probably ever know if any of them will grow.  She seems to be satisfied with the unknown of it.

We have covered just short of 16 miles.  It is a good half day.