I spent almost my entire work week, last week, supporting a site in Ohio (to, from, and actually there), and was glad to be back to the PNW.
Daytime temps that felt to be in the 80’s, with the same as the percentage of humidity, is something I am no longer used to dealing with…thankfully. Not a great re-introduction for me, especially when wearing a hard hat and safety vest; both of which seemed specifically designed to restrict evaporative cooling more so than provide any aspect of safety, at least at the time. Despite this, there were a couple of things that I did enjoy about the trip.
1 – Fireflies. Not something you get in the PNW, and also not something I usually think about when traveling. I pulled into a parking spot at my selected dinner location (30 minutes from the hotel that is surrounded by fast food!) and was immediately aware of a vast cloud of them in the trees just off the property, as I turned off the rental car. Always a thrill, in my youth, the unexpected sign of them brought back such fond memories that I probably would have gone catching them, if I had the proper jar…and if the second enjoyable throwback had not almost immediately arrived, as well.
2 – Midwestern Thunderstorms. After sitting for what may have been less than a minutes, watching the fireflies, a flash caught my eye in the rear-view mirror. Craning my head back, I could see the wall of thunderheads coming towards the little town where the restaurant had popped up. A vast wall of rolling gray, with flashes of brightness or long tunnels of glowing clouds, every few seconds. Yes, I enjoy a good rain. Perhaps more than most people. It took a similar experience, years ago, for me to realize that the dramatic punctuation that comes with these storm systems are what I generally missed in the Seattle weather.
I barely made it into the front doors before the downpour came, but got a full whiff of the distinctive smell of approaching rain, as I ran. It rained constantly, and very heavily, until 5 minutes after I finished my meal. I think it was trying to drown out the horrible music being played in the dining area…
I digress…my apologies…this post is about Saturday’s return to relaxation.
That’s right…the first kayak outing of the year!
We loaded up Saturday morning, around 10am, and hit the road for the roughly 1-hour drive to our favorite put-in point on the Yakima River, deep in the canyon stretch. A bright and sunny day, but only in the mid 70’s as we drove. The water was nowhere near the summer temps, but mid-50’s, according to the department of reclamation. I pulled on a dark polo shirt and black cargo pants, both in nylon for quick drying, and grabbed my old Trout Unlimited hat. Our son opted to not come with, hence the 4 kayaks, but the rest of us were excited to hit the canyon!
We put in right next to mile marker 19, which is a couple of bends in the road upstream of Umtanum (MAP – Thank you Worley Bugger Fly Company!), with the second car left behind at a public fishing landing just upstream of the Roza Recreation launch (#15 start – #18 finish).
The water was fast, with the flow running around 3000cfps. I don’t try wading even the easy areas, usually, until it gets down to 1800, or less. Great day for kayaking, though!
The canyon certainly did not disappoint, at all. The sun poked out from time to time, but never hid behind thick enough clouds that we got a real chill. By the time we were pulling the kayaks out of the river, it had made it to mid-80’s. Perfect!
The water kept us moving nicely, with the entire trip of almost 11 miles taking us just slightly more than 3 hours, but was steady enough that we could eat our packed lunches while drifting and only occasionally paddle to avoid the obvious signs of significant, barely sub-surface rocks ahead.
And the scenery? Stunning. Absolutely what we had hopped for on this first trip of the summer.
My favorite sections, though, are those that take you a bit farther away from the state highway that tries to follow the river. Of all of those areas, the one that I find the most striking is where the road peels off before a nearly sheer wall rises up to the river’s left.
As we continued on, we also had the privilege of seeing a wide range of avian life, to include swallows, geese, and even wild turkeys in the grasslands on the right bank.
At one point, however, we had the additional pleasure of a young deer coming right out of the tall grass in search of a drink of river water. It seemed not to care that we were so close, and refreshed itself before strolling downstream a bit.
In other stretches, the absence of vehicle sounds and the slow drift of the river provided an opportunity to just listen to the various bird calls, feel the breeze, and lazily wonder how far one can drift, asleep, before you find a rock the hard way.
As we came out of the area of the tallest sheer walls, I spotted a flash of color along the far shore and made haste to the area. My current-fighting was rewarded with a significantly nice find, that does not fall into the category of items that should be looked at, photographed, and left in place…
Nice find! One that my lovely wife immediately suspected would lead to trouble…which it did. I was also reminded of a brainstorm I had failed to follow through on, in a previous summer. That of a deck-mounted, electric squirt gun, then could be fed by a hose that is simply weighted and hung over the side. I’m thinking peddle-actuated, so one does not have to stop paddling in pursuit of the intended target(s), and solar recharging, to avoid the only remaining way one could “run out of firepower.” More on that later this year…if I get around to it.
Ultimately, though, this float was much more about just being away from the regular world, surrounded by family and nature, and just letting everything else drift away. I suspect, were I being watched throughout the afternoon, I would have been found simply staring at the water on quite a few occasions. For much of the float, the water is shallow enough that one can slide off a sit-on kayak and walk or run next to it to cool off. An almost hypnotic secondary effect of this is that you can also just unfocus your eyes and watch the rush of rocks passing below.
A great day, in a beautiful location, spent with my lovely family members. Nothing could be better.
p.s. Not sure if the email posting of this will embed the videos. If it does not, feel free to check the posting on the website, if you’re curious.