Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Which is why the kayakers looked so ridiculous. Not 100 yards from where the bikini-clad grade schoolers were diving and laughing in the clear water, a group of sea kayakers were getting ready for a trip. If you didn't know any better, you might think they were gearing up for an expedition in the Chukchi Sea or some kind of antarctic survival episode. All dressed in wetsuits and drysuits, with waterproof boots and gloves... one goober was even wearing a helmet. Really? A helmet? In Commencement Bay? For what? And do any of you realize how stupid you look?
I understand that the water is cold and that prolonged immersion can be fatal. I get the concept of safety and how every precaution taken is potentially a valuable part of keeping yourself alive in the event that everything goes south. I have a drysuit and I wear it.
In the winter. When I'm by myself. If I'm solo on the open coast in December and the waves are double-overhead and there is snow on the driftlogs above the tide line. A drysuit is an amazing insurance policy, a difference-maker between life and death when the elements are against you. On an 80 degree day in Commencement Bay, where the only ripples on the water are coming from passing fishing boats, when there is no wind, and when I am paddling with a dozen other people who know how to assist me should I suddenly forget how to kayak... on these days, wearing a drysuit is not necessary.
But I can't help thinking that there's more to it than that. It's more than just unnecessary... all this gear may actually be a hindrance to what brought me here in the first place. Part of why I go to the places I go and do the things I do is that I want to feel the environment that I am passing through. If the weather is inclement and cold, if the situation in which I find myself is dangerous and tenuous, I'll use whatever gear I need to use to allow me to get to where I need to go. If, however, the conditions are comfortable, I want to feel that comfort. If I'm wearing barrier clothing to keep out the water, to keep out the sun, what am I doing here in the first place?
And don't recite that old saw about dressing for the temperature of the water. Bull hockey. On an 80 degree day in Puget Sound, dressing for the water means a bikini - those girls had the right idea. I wore a pair of shorts, with my shirt tied around my waist, as I paddled past the intrepid kayakers. Imagine, if one of those walking Goretex commercials were to capsize and come out of his boat, how quickly he would be rescued and put back in. With the air temperature a'sizzling, it would be a matter of minutes before he'd be warm once more. And I bet he would feel refreshed, when all was said and done. Which is the whole point.
I want to feel the water. If it's cold water, I will think of it as bracing, rather than perilous. I will use my common sense - it has seen me this far - and I will stay away from the herd. And if someone wearing a helmet comes paddling toward me in Puget Sound, I will turn and go in the opposite direction.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Big paddleboard story in the Tacoma News Tribune today, with the boy on the cover of the Adventure section. Not a bad video on the Trib web site either. Just go to http://www.thenewstribune.com/ and click on the SUP video in the video section. Then get out on the water.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Still, I've always wanted to follow that route, up the Elwah and out the Quinault, from one side of the range to the other. Over the Low Divide, to the headwaters of several of the peninsula's great river systems. There are trails now, of course, but I have heard that, if you know where to look, you can still see the blazes cut into the bark of the old trees, the three horizontal slashes that marked the route of the Press Party Expedition.
I'm going. After hemming and hawing for entirely too long, the Press route is where I'm headed at the end of July, using the time that I was to have been out at the coast. It's a giant, four-dimensional Rubik's Cube, this juggling of time and job, family and self. Always a balancing act. It's just gratifying when a plan comes together.
I want to go ultralight, but taking basic climbing gear... crampons, light axe. I think it went well last year in the Dosewallips, but I think I can get it even lighter this year.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
It takes about a half-hour or so to make the switch between the SUP and the kayak. In that time, the wind dies down a bit and the effects of the current, while still strong, are less of a factor on the displacement hull of the boat than they had been on the flat bottom of the paddleboard. With two blades in the water and the ability to maintain a glide through the swells, it takes a mere 40 minutes to get to the beach at Westport.
The current is strongest in the channel near the Westport harbor. Crossing over to the sweeping sandy beach at Westhaven State Park, I pass from this swiftly moving section to the still water of the cove behind the long south-side jetty. The waves here are smallish and dumping and getting on shore is largely a function of being pushed to the beach by the white froth of the tumbling surf. I stretch my legs and walk on the sand while I eat my snack, take a bearing on my destination, and get ready for the return.
The waves that I had anticipated never really factor into my trip. I can see breakers off in the distance, at other places along the bar, but my route stays in deeper water and with the current getting closer to slack, the turbulence and disorder that I'd been preparing for never really materializes. The paddle back to my starting point is unremarkable and fast, and it isn't long before I'm back in the van, heading for home once again (after a stop at the Blue Heron Bakery in Olympia).
I'm fairly sure that the trip could be done on a SUP without too much difficulty. The currents will always be an issue, but they can be accounted for. When the wind combines with the flow of the water, however, it gets difficult to maintain forward progress. I've noticed the disparity between kayak and SUP cruising speeds in the past - it's a mattter of hull design, not paddler power - and I am still convinced that the way to take advantage of both vehicles is to combine their positive traits and form an entirely new way to travel. More studies should be done.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
With all that, on a gray and misty Saturday morning, I went for a paddle on Lake Quinault. I took the SUP out from the Falls Creek campground near the village, and set a course for the middle of the lake. I was surprised, having never paddled here before, how quickly I was able to get across the lake. I didn't go all the way to the north shore, but I could have, and rather quickly. From my vantage point near the center, I could see the whole lake.
It was derby day on the lake and the fishhooks were flying, especially along the shore. I worked my way back to my starting point by paddling toward the southwestern corner of the lake, then back along the waterfront, just out of casting range. I saw one good-sized trout being taken on board a Bayliner, but that was the only catch I witnessed. Fathers and sons lined the more easily accessed points, and we exchanged smiles and waves as I passed before they went back to their task and I went back to mine.
I wasn't out there long, a couple hours, tops. After I got back and dressed, I drove up to the Quinault Store for breakfast. I don't remember the old owners, but the establishment is under new management now and I did notice an improvement. There's a small cafe in the back with good food and smiling service, which set me up well for the rest of the day. It was, after all, barely 9:00 AM.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I've also been thinking about the Puget Sound Challenge and those that are still getting out on the weekends and chipping away at the route, here and there as time allows. My friend Jackie was in the shop this weekend; I know she'll be out there. Likewise Tom and Marilyn and the others. It should be a great weekend for a paddle. I wouldn't mind doing a section of that again, maybe over on the canal, and compare it to the way it was when I passed through the first time.
I'm not doing either of these things. I am, however, heading for the coast, taking the southern route through Olympia and Montesano. I've got research to do for an upcoming guide book - pretty pedestrian stuff for the most part - locating boat launches and public access points from Aberdeen to the Queets. Hardly exhilarating fare, but I'm hoping it won't be the sole focus of the time I'm there. I'd like to get to Taholah, maybe get away from the roads. I'm taking a kayak and a SUP, and hoping to use them both. If the weather changes, I may head inland to Lake Quinault... quién sabé?
More to follow, I'm sure.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Meanwhile, there are other places I need to see. Now I have an extra week to see them.