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Friday, 22 July 2011

Kayaking: Whitely's to Brown's Landing

I enjoyed my Sunday morning outing so much I determined to go again during the week, as I had three days off work. On Tuesday I did a scouting  mission, checking out various official landing places on the McKenzie and Willamette. Be aware that you can zoom in on any of the picture by clicking on them, and use the back button on your browser to return to this blog.

I found the above map at Taylor Landing, quite a way up the McKenzie. I like its pared-down nature, showing just the major roads, the rivers, and the landings.

In the evening Beth and I prepared for an early start. Beth starts work at 7:30am in the Summer, and she was very kindly giving me a lift to Whitely's Landing on her way to work, so I had an even earlier start to set things up. I drove North to Brown's Landing with my bike on its rack, parked in a prominent spot visible from the river, put the bike rack in the trunk and cycled the 7.5 miles back home before 6:30am. I had estimated 5 miles, but my bike computer told me 7.5. I saw the sun rise twice, once in a gap in the Cascade Mountains, and a second time over the top of them. My legs were pretty tired by the time I got home, but fortunately I wouldn't be using them again for a while. At 6:45 we headed out to Whitely's where Beth dropped me, plus my Kayak and assorted clobber around 7am.

My attempted self portrait before setting out.

Most Landings have this substantial concrete ramp, though Brown's does not as we shall see later. Fortunately my Tuesday scouting had shown me exactly where I could safely land there without wetting a foot.

I'm off! That little wier/rapid caused my worst moment of the day. Not yet ready to paddle after pushing off, the current pushed me sideways into it and I nearly capsized. In fact I grounded and had to push off backwards. paddle backwards some more to get room, and then forwards to shoot the rapid. I'll be ready quicker next time, and not be fooling about with the camera.

Not far on I found a still backwater to explore. Cotton seeds had drifted down to float on the surface, and the lack of current left a glassy surface. The water pressure from the main stream keeps this section full, but without any current, and I saw water boatmen scooting about on the surface.

This fallen tree blocked the way, but I was able to scooch under the end in my kayak. Any larger craft would be stuck unless it could ram over the tree, which is not recommended.

 Heading back downstream, I soon came to the convergence of the McKenzie and Willamette. The McKenzie is just to the right of the gravel spit. The conjoined river widens dramatically, the converging currents causing eddies, backflows, undercurrents, upcurrents and other sorts of fun, though the picture totally fails to convey this.

Along the river from this point on I frequently came across fallen trees that had washed up on the shore. This particular tangle looked quite menacing and I gave it a wide berth, lest I should get washed onto it and skewered or otherwise had my day spoilt. Mostly the trees lay on the gravel shores, parallel to the river, like huge dinosaur bones. A good rise in the water height might lift them and carry them downstream, or they may now be stranded until they rot.

This leaning tree will no doubt be washed out of the bank in the next few years.

Woah. The best moment of the day, by several spade-fulls of bestness. An (American) Bald Eagle, just for me. This picture actually looks upstream, and I'd already passed him and paddled back towards him, just awestruck by his majesty and complete ignorance of some puny blue humanoid. Eventually I got too close and he flew off, but golly gosh, he was big.

Not so majestic, but another oooh moment. A pair of raccoons came waddling down to the bank for a drink and a wash as I floated up to them, trying not to splash or otherwise startle them. By the time I got close enough for a decent picture one had left, and the other was watching me suspiciously, before turning and vanishing into the undergrowth.

More stranded trees.

In the UK Herons will normally be seen singly, as they each stake a claim to a section of river for their hunting, so I was quite surprised to come across four at once. You can see another tipping tree, and just to the left of the patch of grass at the turn of the spit is a bird that turned out to be an Osprey. It took no notice of me, or the herons flying off in herony panic, and continued to munch on the fish it had caught.

Three of the herons landed on this tangle of fallen trees and pretended they hadn't taken fright at nothing. The fourth messed up the pose by flying about in herony panic.

I could be wrong, but I rather think this is an Eagle or Osprey nest at the top of a telegraph pole.

My first sight opf my car from the river, telling my it's time to start steering across to the left.

Reverse perspective, imaging a blue blob on the river as far as you can see, and that's me. The car was parked next to this little tree, and from here you can see that if I fail to make the right choice of stream, I'm going to miss my landing altogether. My course took me across that little rapid between the bank and the island, past the stranded trees, then paddlign mightily back up in the slower current along the bank until I reached a soft muddy bit under a tree.

Here's the soft muddy bit, as scouted on Tuesday. Just right for a kayak, hopeless for anything bigger, and having landed here I needed to drag the kayak up a near-45 degree slope to gain the top of the bank and my car.

Kit laid out to ensure I have everything I started with. Helmet (my bike helmet, just in case of a capsize in rapids), lifevest, main paddle (white blades), emergency paddle in case I lose hold of the main ones (yellow blades), splashdeck (which does keep some water out and warmth in on windy stretches), lunch (half a Subway roll and some trail mix), bottle of Mountain Dew for energy. An old towel is already on the car (to prevent scratches when lifting the kayak), and the mounting straps and rubber wedges too. Nobody was about so I was able to brazenly strip off my wetsuit and climb into dry jeans & t-shirt, though there was a portaloo where I could change if there was a crowd.   

Kayak all mounted, and ready to roll.

My next planned expedition in a couple of weeks' time will take me all the way from Brown's to Corvallis, and looks to be about 8 hours in duration. The most I've done in one day so far is about two hours, so it'll be quite step up. My ever-supportive Beth will act as my support team, seeing me off at Brown's and meeting me in Corvallis for a meal out and ride home.

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