Archive for the ‘kayak’ Category.

5 days on Ross Lake

Christine and I just returned from our first kayak camping trip, a 5 day paddle on Ross Lake. Ross Lake is in the North Cascades, about 3 hours northeast of Seattle. The lake is 24 miles long, a mile or two wide at the most. It is not directly car accessible, so it stays pretty quiet despite being close to both Seattle and Vancouver.

The portage from Diablo to Ross Lake.

To get there we drove up the North Cascades Highway to Lake Diablo. We put our kayak in at Lake Diablo, then paddled 5 miles to the base of the Ross Dam and paid $25 to Ross Lake Resort to portage us and our gear up to the lake. There are alternative ways to get to Ross Lake, but this is the easiest method if you have your own boat.

Storms move in as the sun sets over Cougar Island

The lake is surrounded by mountains and there are tons of camp sitesalong the shore or on the islands. We reserved 4 nights worth of them and set off for our first one atCougar Island. Cougar Island was about 3 miles from the dam (don’t forget that we had already paddled 5 miles along Lake Diablo).Itwas a great campground with only two sites set on opposite ends of the island. We had a neighbor, but barely heard or saw him. At Cougar Island we became aquianted with what we called “feet fish”. We later learned that they are a bait fish that were illegally introduced about 6 years ago. There must be millions of them in the lake now, and you couldn’t go swimming without them swarming around you.

We were greeted that evening with a thunderstorm. Those are always fun and exciting for us because Seattle rarely gets them. The storm blew through quickly, didn’t get anything too wet, and cooled it down nicely for dinner.

The next morning was Monday and I woke up to thick fog. The lake already seemed quieter with much of the weekend traffic having gone home. We were due to move toTen Mile Island, about 7 miles up the lake. We choose a longer route and stopped by both Big Beaver campground for lunch and Devil’s Creek for a exploration. Devil’s Creek is a very deep canyon that you can paddle about a mile into. It is incredible looking up at these cliffs going right into the water and it felt 15 degrees cooler in there (nice on a hot day).

Inside Devil's Canyon

It was already 3 or 4pm by the time we got to 10 mile island and 2 of the 3 camp sites were taken. The last one was very exposed,right next to some loud campers,and didn’t offer good kayak parking. We decided to look around and found a much nicer site at Dry Creekand set up there (it is okay to move sites if you tell a ranger what is going on). The new site had great views on 3 sides of water and mountains, and a lot of space for our gear. We stayed at Dry Creek for two nights, using the day in between to go for a short hike and to get in some relaxation.

Wednesday came along pretty quickly and it was time to move again. The lake felt deserted at this point, the only people around were those who were staying the week. Our paddle back down to Spencer’s (our next campsite) was very quiet and we only saw one or other boats. The day was hot and we took a pretty exposed route to check out a waterfall across from 10 Mile Island. By the time we stopped for lunch it was 2pm and we really needed a cooldown swim. We hung out at Rainbow Point (with more feet fish than we had seen anywhere else) for a couple of hours, then headed onto Spencer’s.

Collecting driftwood for the fire

Spencer’s was another really nice campground. It offered two sites and both were pretty private. Ours had a great swimming area and a lot of open trees. I wanted Christine to try out hammock camping, so we didn’t setup the tent here. Pretty shortly after arriving we started to hear thunder and it began to rain. It rained on and off that evening, but left large enough dry areas for us to make dinner and enjoy one last camp fire.

Spencer's campsite.  This is a pretty typical Ross Lake campsite, including a huge bear locker for food and gear.

Sunset over Spencer's

I woke up pretty early in the morning to more thunder. Everything was pretty wet (except for us), so we packed up pretty quickly and headed out. The lake was silent and calm and we had a nice and quick paddle back to the dam and our portage home.

We took our time heading back to the car on Lake Diablo. Neither of us really wanted the trip to end and were enjoying the scenery. Lake Diablo is glacier fed (Ross Lake is not) making it both colder and greener than Ross Lake. We thought about camping another night on Diablo, but the best looking camp site was taken so we just headed back to the car. When we got back to Seattle we learned that we missed a week of record heat.

I really enjoyed Ross Lake and expect that we’ll return in a couple of years. It was a great first kayak camping trip because the paddling was easy and we didn’t need to worry about tides or currents. The campgrounds were mostly excellent. It was the perfect mix of relaxation, swimming, and staying busy. The only thing that I’d change if we went again would be to take less stuff. The kayak fits way more gear than a bicycle or backpack, but that doesn’t mean that I need to bring more than I’d take for cycling or hiking.

More photos

Kayaking the Mercer Slough

We went to the Mercer Slough today to enjoy the nice weather with a little wildlife.

It’s a large wetland on the south end of Bellevue, WA. The best wildlife wetlands inside the Seattle metro region seem to be under highways, and this one isn’t an exception. We were both pretty amazed at how large it was though. It was strange to be in area which often felt pretty remote and then you’d go around a bend and see tall buildings just a couple of miles away. Farther down the slough you find office buildings backing right up to the water.

We parked at Entiat Park, but if I were going back I’d park at Mercer Slough Nature Park. Entiat Park has a skinny little area to load the boats and was really busy. There is good wildlife down at that end of the slough, but you could paddle there from the other put in. The end of the slough is a loop which made the paddling a little nicer than just doing an out and back.

We saw a ton of herons, ducks, and turtles. There were a lot of other birds too which we need to look up. No otters on this trip, but they are said to be living there.

A heron takes off with I90 in the background

Ducklings come over to visit Christine

Turtle's sunning

Two Trips, both a little different than planned

On Saturday morning Andrew, Rory, Andre and I drove up to North Bend with goals of riding up to Lake Hancock and Lake Calligan. It was already sunny and warm at 9am, and the weather reports just suggested that it would get even better. I think we all thought there might be snow up in the hills, but we found it much earlier than planned as we started the climb from the North Fork valley floor up to the first lake. Just a little bit up the trail and at about 1500 feet we found our first bits of snow. A 1/4 mile later the road was no longer passable.

We got to the fork for Lake Hancock and decided to ditch the bikes and hike up to the lake. An hour or so later the snow was up to our calves and we decided to turn back. We enjoyed a fast descent in snow turned slush and then experimented with each others bikes before finding our way back to the car. We’re all excited to return the area and eventually find the roads that link it up with our trip from a few weeks prior.

Andre plays "Dr Strangelove"

Andrew rides up through the first bits of snow.

Andre demonstrates his hack for sunglasses on a day which really needed them.  Everyone else followed.

Rory and the rest of us make one last attempt at riding through deep snow.

The trek back down

Nice views abound

Today Christine and I took the kayak down to Nisqually Delta. It was another beautiful day which highs around 70 and clear skies. We were hoping to explore the delta and see lots of wildlife (primarily birds), but due to a two timing issues (time of day and time of year) we saw less than we were hoping for. We still had a great paddle,enjoyed wonderful scenery (great views of Rainier and the Olympics) and saw some cool birds.

Great views of the Olympics.  The boat ramp that we launched from is in the front.

We saw this bird of prey immediately after setting out

Lots of these guys were out and digging for worms.

Mudflats in the foreground, Mt Rainier in the background.

The whole weekend was a great way to kick off spring/summer. I look forward to another busy year of spending time outside. I hope that I have a little time to work on bike projects too.

The Fiberglass Anniversary

Christine and I spent the last 3 days in the San Juan Islands (a group of islands in Puget Sound, a couple hours from Seattle) celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary. We camped at Spencer Spit State Park, which is one of my favorite campgrounds for it’s private campsites and good location and scenery. We had a very relaxing weekend.

I think the most exciting aspect of the weekend, and the one that triggered the title, was picking up a used tandem sea kayak. We’ve been talking about getting one for years. We’ve taken paddling classes, rented them, gone on guided trips with them, but we’ve never owned one. Now we do.

We went on three different paddles over the weekend and enjoyed the solitude, quiet, and wildlife. Spencer Spit was a great place to re-aquaint ourselves with paddling as the waters were gentle and the scenery and wildlife were plentiful. Last night we took it across the island to MacKaye Harbor and that was a bit more challenging and probably above our skill level until we re-take the kayaking safety courses.

I look forward to many years of kayaking and kayak camping with Christine. I don’t think we could have had a better ninth anniversary.