Paddling adventures big and small in the Rocky Mountains of the US.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Smoky but wonderful night on the Missouri River below Canyon Ferry Dam. Our usual paddling crew showed up for a nice night of relaxing paddling. As you can see in this photo of Jim, the water was pretty much like glass.
We saw lots of wildlife including bald eagle, osprey and several deer.
Man was I excited when I got a call for good paddling buddy Jim Holland Saturday night asking what I was doing on Sunday. I paused for a moment, thoughts of Church service I was intending to attend with my wife Dawn and then said" Nothing. What do you have in mind?" He said he and Paul Otto were thinking why not drive an hour and a half up to Henry Morgan FAS and paddle to Russell Gates I was all in!
The day was spectacular with bright blue sky and ice cold, fast moving water to float. Water levels were a bit north of 1,000 CFS near Ovando and it was a fun, fast paddle.
We used the great shuttle service at Ovando (I think it is called Ovando Shuttle...) and were on the water by 11:08 and had a 4 hour trip ahead. Lots of Merganser duck pairs paddling along with us as well as a little lost gosling at the take out at Russell Gates. The little fellow had taken a shine to this rafter and she was doing her best to get the little fuzz ball back in the water to hopefully find Mom.
We had a bit of trouble finding a good spot to pull over for lunch as the water was so high that the normal spots had no eddy to speak of a steep drop offs. Jim finally found this nice grassy beach and even provided a easy seal launch back into the Blackfoot after a snack!
Here is a little video to get a better idea what a day on the Blackfoot is like.
On the way back we stopped to admire this 1972 Bell 13' trailer for sale in Avon. Jim was sorely tempted to take on a project and Paul has been looking a small trailers but I think he wants a little less of a fix up project.
Great outing on the Helena Valley Reservoir last Tuesday. Gregg, Paul, Dawn & Scott, Greg & Wendy and Susan Paddled for about 1 1/2 hours on glass like waters and enjoyed seeing pelicans, ducks, geese, herons and swans. Great time of year for a start of our weekly paddling.
Full disclosure this was not paddling but my good friend Andy just bought this cute 12' aluminum fishing boat with a little putt-putt motor that we took for her maiden voyage down the Missouri from York Bridge to the Hauser Dam.
This bridge is fancy but not as fun and the old steel bridge that it replaced! I used to have fun as a teen jumping from the tall old bridge but decades of water flowing around it had weakened it and the gov't had to replace it.
It was a beautifully calm, tranquil day up canyon.
We had a blast and even if the motor was a bit loud, we were the only ones around to hear it.
Sitting watching a foot of fluff fall in Helena I am reminded of last fall where I had the opportunity to paddle on our local resevoir in a fall snow squall. It was amazingly warm. The squalls came and went fast, with beautiful light interspersed with gray snow flurries.
Susan, Jim and Paul invited me to join them on a week long trip to the Puget Sound in September. Susan's childhood friend, Linda had an empty house they were fixing up for resale and said we could bunk in there. So with Jim following us in his Subaru picking up his Mom and meeting us in Oak Harbor, we piled into Susan's trusty car (more on that later) and took off for adventure. Our trip was pretty smooth out through Spokane. I convinced our group to travel up over Highway 2 instead of taking the interstate with the rest of the hurried travelers. This took us through the charming small town farm county of central Washington and stopped for the night at Confluence State Park in Wenatchee. It was a very urban camping experience but a safe easy place to camp for the night.
Next day we stopped at a favorite place of my mine, Leavenworth Washington. This idyllic Bavarian village nestled up against the massive Cascade range has become a destination in central Washington. A college friend who hails from around there explained to me that back in the early 60's a few businessmen upon realizing that the new interstate highway would bypass their town and cause economic hardship on their little town. So they came up with the idea of transforming the town into a Bavarian village. No government money, just an idea and a will to survive. Now the whole town (including the McDonald's, the Post Office etc.) is in on the deal. There were lots of fun shops including a store that sold nothing but funny hats!
We eventually made it out to Puget Sound and arrived at the famous Deception Pass Bridge. Not only is the bridge crazy high but the tide surges below made for very interesting water! We did get a chance to paddle out near here but elected not to go crazy and shoot the pass!
Day 1 on the water was a great start. We put in literally 2 blocks from our temporary home just outside Oak Harbor and paddled around Penn Cove and visited the Mussel farm. We took notice of the great seafood and dined like starving castaways on pounds upon pounds of mussels we picked up on the beach at low tide. In fact we ate very well all week thanks to our generous hosts Linda and Stu.
The first day was great weather, sunny and warm. I had feared we might have all grey days but his was a wonderful surprise. We had a good time wandering around the picturesque town of Coupeville. We had a great lunch and brew in a Pub called Toby's, how fitting! We finished up our visit with some huge ice cream cones before paddling back to the Oak Harbor side of Penn Cove.
Stu and Linda's giant tandem
Day 2 paddling was the dark overcast I had expected. We were joined by Stu and Linda in their cool vintage tandem fiberglass sea kayak. It must have been at least 21ft. but weighed less than my 17 ft Necky. It was cavernous inside you could pack enough gear for a week or more! We paddled out from Oak Harbor Beach Park and kept close to shore as we paddled south for an hour or so. Then we decided to cross to the East towards Crescent Harbor. It was the longest crossing of the trip, maybe a couple miles, some boat traffic to watch for as well as some swells and crosswind/currents to deal with. After a lunch on a rocky spit we paddled back to the marina and enjoyed watching the harbor seals sunning themselves on the docks.
Day 3 Canada It rained like you would expect for this part of the country so we took a day off and drove up to Vancouver BC to check out the Feathercraft folding kayak factory. Now these are more like very hi-tech kayaks that you can fold up into a small suitcase and take in your VW or on a plane into the back country. They are the real deal! Sadly our funds did not allow for us to bring one back but it was fun to see how they are made.
Day 4 Deception Pass The current beckoned so we set out from a nice protected cove just south of the pass called Coronet Bay. From there we paddled East around the point on Deception Pass State Park and then did get close to the pass itself. However the very strong surges and rips were really boiling the water so we chose safety over adventure and did not venture out into the current. It was another great day on the water however and a treat for all. As Paul and I were coming back from Deception pass in Susan's Subaru, it started acting pretty strangely. Instruments were going berserk and various lights were popping on and off in the dash. Right in the middle of traffic in Oak Harbor, it died, dead, finish, kaput. However Jim is a great mechanic and armed with his tools and with a little luck (we stopped right next to 2 auto parts stores). So in less than an hour, he had a new alternator in and working and we were barely late for supper at Linda and Stu's.
Day 5 We drove to the South of Whidbey Island for one last paddle before packing up and heading back to the Mountains. We put in at Langley and headed out past a big sand spit into some pretty cool swells . We were making good progress into the wind and waves but turning around in these conditions was a bit dicey. Nobody swan but it was exciting! Lots of homes had no parking so they all had cute little tram systems to get from the parking lot down to their property. They also had a clever boat dock that allowed them to lift their powerboats up onto the dock and park it rather than leaving it in the water.
Day 6 Paul and I took off in the recently refurbished Subaru and headed inland over the North Cascade Scenic Highway. This takes you through some amazing country and we scoped out plan to camp/kayak at Ross Lake National Recreation Area. We continued on and stayed at my wife's cousins Don and Sandy Pease high above Twisp Washington. They have an amazing log home and Don is a wood working genius. They were very hospitable and we really enjoyed their company.
Homeward Journey Oh yes, remember the Subaru and it's new alternator installed by the side of the road in Oak Harbor? Well it still had some surprises. My lovely wife Dawn had met Paul and I in Spokane and I tranfered the Necky to the truck and Paul set off alone in the Subaru. We were about a half hour behind him and we got a trouble call from near Frenchtown. The car was runnig hot and was low on oil so we picked up some oil and met up with Paul (conveniently located at a local tavern) and filled up the oil and followed him home. He made it OK and as far as we know the subaru is just fine! It was a classic adventure from biginning to end!