Life at the Running Y

Life at the Running Y
Life at the Running Y

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baptism in the Winchuck River

(The rest of the photos for this day are HERE on my SmugMug site)

morning hike to Harris ButteAs I mentioned previously, Brookings is in a sort of “Banana Belt”.  Most of the Oregon Coast is chilly and windy much of the year.  There are often beautiful days with sunny skies in the fall, and sometimes when it is least expected.  Those clear warm fog free days happen more often in Brookings than farther north, and even more than in Crescent City to the south in California.  The rainfall here is around 74 inches a year, with precipitation falling on 150 days.  I am comparing notes and paying attention because while we were at Fred Meyer the other day, Mo just happened to throw out the thought that Brookings might be a nice place to live. 

Harris Beach Day 2 (4)The original plan when Mo built her house was to live there ten years or so and then move on to something smaller and more manageable, perhaps a condo in a place where there was no winter snow.  She chose Brookings once, and having lived on the California coast for more than 25 years, the chilly fogs don’t bother her in the least.  I, on the other hand, am a sun worshiper.  I need light and warmth.  I often think I could live in Florida.  I love green and flowers and plants.  Brookings right now is filled with green and flowers, and it looks terribly tempting.

Harris Beach Day 2 (11)Thank goodness a decision isn’t imminent.  Mo has lived in the big house at Rocky Point for almost nine years now, and the “ten years” has evolved.  So many things to love about Rocky Point, and Mo’s home is lovely, with her assistance throughout the building process, it is a very personal space.  The large beam in the living room and much of the woodwork came from huge Douglas firs milled right there on the property. So now the plan is 2020.  Instead of a certain number of years, we picked a date.  Arbitrary to be sure, but in our 80’s, the thought of shoveling snow isn’t a good one.  So, again, somewhere in Southern Oregon, but it could be just about anywhere.  It’s kind of exciting to have this change out there in the future, something fun to think about and now I look at Brookings in a completely different way.

Harris Beach Day 2 (22)Yesterday was one of those gorgeous, sunny days, with temperatures climbing into the 60’s. We hiked a couple of the trails in the park, first to the Harris Butte, and then again down to the beach in the early morning sunshine.  It was a perfect day for our plan to get the kayaks in the water.  We have a copy of the “Canoe and Kayak Guide” for Oregon South Coast, covering the sloughs and rivers from Newport to the California border.  Our choice for yesterday was the Winchuck River, a smaller river near the southern border with an outlet to the ocean.  The guide warned of low water, but this time of year we thought things would be in good shape.  The suggestion was to launch before high tide, paddle upriver till the tide shift, and then follow the tide back to the launch site near the ocean. 

keeping Abby safeThe launch was lovely, on a sandy beach with shallow water that deepened quickly.  We paddled upstream under the Highway 101 bridge and followed the river along the farmlands and river homes along the way.  Even this close to the ocean, the water was really shallow, with some gravel bars and areas that  were less than 4 inches deep.  We managed to get through it without grounding, a good test of the new kayaks, but then as we reached some very shallow riffles the current got very strong as the river made what looked like a gentle drop.

paddling upstream against the currentI think we paddled for a good 20 minutes, going absolutely nowhere, before we decided to get out and portage the riffles along the rocky beach.  We thought if we could get around the riffles, we could continue upriver a bit more.  I held Mo’s boat in the strong current while she got back in with Abby, and then attempted to launch into the current myself.  I thought of my friend Jeanne, a whitewater kayaker who launches her tiny shoe kayak off rocks and over waterfalls.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t manage getting into my boat in a simple fast current.  I must have hit the current sideways, or still wasn’t balanced in the middle, and over I went into the very cold water.  Even though it was only a couple of feet deep, the current was incredibly strong, and it took every bit of strength I had to hold on to my boat and paddle to keep it from going downriver.  Our cockpits are large, open things, and even if we had skirts on, these aren’t the kind of kayaks that you roll over and back up in deep water.  Instead, my cockpit filled with water, and my boat banged on the rocky bottom until I could get it hauled up on shore and dump all the water out. 

shallows and a swift current stopped us just beyond this stony beachI’m glad it wasn’t terribly cold out, with sunny skies, and I again remembered some kayaking advice, “Dress for the water, not the weather”.  Of course, I probably won’t ever do that, since a wet suit seems to be a huge pain in the neck, and I like easy fun comfortable kayaking.  It definitely taught me another lesson, though.  I saw just how easy it is to roll over in a kayak.  In all our years of boating, this has never happened to me, and I get cocky and sometimes don’t wear my lifejacket.  I had it on yesterday, since I usually do wear it in unknown water, but now I will wear it all the time, even in gentle Recreation Creek.  Good lesson.  I didn’t need it yesterday, but I could have.

outgoing tide and the confluence of the river and the oceanAmazingly, I had the camera around my neck and inside the jacket and it didn’t get wet.  The water and 2 bottles of beer were safely stashed inside the closed hull with wallets in a dry bag so all was well.  Once back in the boat, we decided it might be time to go back downstream.  Paddling up, I don’t think we really realized how strong the current actually was.  In no time at all we were back at the launch site, floating easily and quickly by all those cute little river houses out to the sea.

We also read about the danger zone where a river meets the sea, and now instead of heading into the waves to play, we stayed back cautiously.  Again I think of Jeanne, who reads my blog faithfully, who will probably laugh at my caution.  Jeanne climbs mountains in Nepal, jumps off waterfalls in Costa Rica and skis down back country cliffs in wild British Columbia.  I love watching her adventures, but I have no plans to ever try any of those things. In Harris Beach Day 2 (49)fact, yesterday looking at the surf, I wondered out loud how people manage to take kayaks out there.  I think true sea kayaks are more nimble creatures than our comfortable, big cockpit, wide, stable boats.  Maybe someday I’ll go take a surf lesson on a warm day with an instructor.  Maybe.

We saw no sign of the recent tsunami damage at Brookings Harbor

no sign of the tsunami damage last monthWe didn’t get back to camp till 4 or so, and after a very late lunch of egg salad, we both fell into a weary nap. The evening was long and warm, and a bit later Mo built a great campfire that we enjoyed long into the dark night. There wasn’t a bit of wind and the fire felt wonderful.  It is nice that in this state park, campfires are allowed, but don’t plan to bring any firewood from any other area.  It’s called “Burn it Where You Buy It”, and is important to keep beetles and other pests from traveling from one place to another.  The California check station now asks specifically if you are carrying firewood as well as certain kinds of produce.