Willapa Bay, Washington, 8/12-8/14, 2016

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by pawsplus, Sep 1, 2016.

  1. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    I've been AWOL for a bit, mostly b/c I don't paddle in TN in the summertime--it's just MISERABLE!! But I went on my annual visit to see my mom in Vancouver, and on the way I stopped off to meet and go on a trip with none other than our own wonderful AstoriaDave!!! He and his wife Becky invited me to stay at their home and go on a kayak trip in Willapa Bay, and they were such gracious hosts. Sometimes people you “meet” online are just faking a persona, but the Dave I met IRL was exactly the same great guy we all know and love here on the forum. Meeting him and learning from him was the highlight of my trip.





    I flew into Portland on Thursday, 8/11, and Becky and Dave picked me up at the airport for the drive to Astoria. I had never been to Oregon, and it is just as beautiful as the rest of the Pacific Northwest/Canadian West Coast, but with its own special flavor. All I really knew about the Oregon Coast was Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea, and there’s a lot of them still out there. But it’s got a lot more going for it, too.
    I had shipped a big box of my camping supplies out to Dave ahead of time, and we spent most of Thursday evening getting our gear packed and ready to go. Friday morning we headed out to the Willapa Bay Wildlife Refuge launch site, where we met Dave’s ex-wife Belinda. Becky, alas, had injured her wrist so was unable to go on the trip. Two couples were meeting us on Long Island later in the trip.



    It took us a long time to load the boat. Dave and I were paddling his double, so we were a little short on space. Not only do two single people need more stuff than an actual couple, but Dave was also accustomed to packing his boat with his stuff, not with my stuff. But we finally got it all organized and we launched, heading out at high tide towards Sandspit campground on Long Island. It took about 90 min to get there on water that was nearly glass until a wind from the north picked up when we were nearly at the island.









    Once we landed, we set up camp. We had a lot of sites from which to choose, as no one else was there. Dave picked a spot under the trees, while Belinda and I set up our tents out on the pebble beach (well above the high tide mark). In the afternoon, we set off on a hike to the Old Growth Cedar Grove, but after a short time Dave said he was feeling tired and needed to go back. Belinda and I marched on by ourselves, and took lots of pix of nice old trees.







    That afternoon Dave and I were able to work a little on navigation work at the picnic table, but he was still not feeling very well.
    By the next morning, it was clear that our planned trip to work on navigation skills on the water was not going to happen. We were all pretty worried about Dave, but he assured us that he just needed to rest. Around mid-morning, the second couple arrived—Beth and Randy, in their decked canoe, which they paddle with kayak paddles. They have a TON of space for storage and brought lots of stuff. So the rest of us headed out on a hike to the other side of the island—Paradise Point. It was a beautiful hike, during which we saw an entire area full of huge snags and ate a ton of evergreen huckleberries (picking several bags full as well for pancakes the next morning).





    When we returned to camp, Dave was still not feeling too well, but later in the evening he put up a tarp. I had been hoping to see Tarp Man in action, and I was not disappointed! I learned how to tie a bowline and a taut line hitch (which is a VERY useful knot!) and I think the tarp we put up was pretty awesome (although Dave said it was not his best). I'll let Dave tell you about the TeSelle Variation LOL.





    The next morning everyone but me (as I’m vegan) had pancakes with huckleberries. The fact that Terry had mistakenly brought brownie mix instead of pancake mix, which she added to Beth’s small amount of pancake mix, just make the whole thing more interesting. They smelled like hot chocolate while cooking!



    We launched a little before noon, at high tide, and went back to the put-in the same way we came. We had planned to circumnavigate the island, but in the interest of Dave’s health, amended our trip plan. The weather was a little overcast this time, with small waves and a little wind.







    Once we got back to Dave and Becky’s place, I had to scramble to get all my stuff reorganized. I was sending back in the box most of my camping and paddling gear, but taking to Vancouver with me (to visit my mom) my booties and gloves (or so I thought!), paddle float, and a few more items. After a shower, a nice meal out in a great restaurant, a trip to the Astoria Column (of which I failed to get pix, alas), and a good night’s sleep, I caught the train in Kelso, WA to head to Vancouver. More on my paddling adventures there in the following trip report!
    I do want to say publicly a HUGE thank you to Dave, Becky, and their friends for being so welcoming and accommodating while I visited. Dave is truly one of the Good Guys of the world. 
     
  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth. Great photos, too! It was our pleasure to show you what paddling on the Willapa is like. Wish I had been on firmer ground to complete the experience. Come back next year, protractor at the ready, and earn your navigator's merit badge!

    Turns out the local arts and entertainment weekly supplement from the Daily Astorian had a feature on the guy who made preservation of the Cedar Grove a reality. I think this link should work:

    http://www.coastweekend.com/cw/coastal- ... the-forest

    Lots of other areas in BC, and a few in OR and WA, have similar remnant groves of old, twisted, gnarled and flagged cedars, but this one survived a perilous escape from logging, likely because its elders are pretty beat up, and not prime saw logs. But, they are still good habitat for a variety of birds and other critters on the Refuge.

    In a couple days I should have a few images to add, and a more complete description of the Teselle Variant.
     
  3. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Huge bays with mongo tide flats subject to large tidal excursions are spectacular in their enormity and for their irrepressible constraints on point to point paddling. The Willapa is no different, so that the locals have evolved a "paddle in, camp, hike, eat, sleep, eat, hike, eat, sleep, eat, paddle out" approach to enjoying its pleasures. Sometimes the weather enforces more eating than hiking.

    About that point to point paddling business: We had planned to finish this trip by a clockwise rounding of the N end of our island, scooting across the crux shallows ahead of a falling tide, and blithely paddling back to our launch point, a roughly 10 or 11 mile exit. But with my questionable status, we had to scrap that plan, retreating the four and a half counterclockwise miles to "start." Turns out we might have made the clockwise exit. The eastern aspect of the island has rapidly changing scenery combined with swifter currents and manifold backwaters to sample as well, motivators for that rotation.

    I have done the circumnavigation 4 or 5 times, and enjoy it for the complete picture it gives. But it is a subtle thrill, with no orcas, no humpbacks, just a lot of open water, very sketchy short period seas, and a good chance of a stranding on mud that will entrap you if you try to "walk" out, sans an airboat rescue. I dig it for its ever changing wildlife, especially the waterfowl, and the mandatory "slow the #u$& down" pace of the game ... the rhythm of the tides and ever evolving lighting. Old bull stuff, I suppose. Well, maybe the ready access to prime shellfish has something to do with it, also.

    On to some photos, following post.
     
  4. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Camp, northernmost site on the west side, Sandspit CG, elaborate, comfy pit toilet with 24 hour ventilation via solar power and storage battery. Ours was one of three fire ring/picnic table setups, with nice small cobbles for tenting. My tent is on an upland bench, adjacent to the common table. A little tight for seven. The other sites are similar, with one recently refurbished.



    Typical bay flats, unspectacular unless you are surrounded by them. Elizabeth's tent, on the cobble.



    The others, spread out to the north. This spit runs NNW a mile, terminating at a permanent clamming structure, has some public shellfish ground, and a very productive agate beach. Elk forage just inland, and access to the 20 miles of retired roads begins here, also.



    That pit toilet. One hole, with space for 15 spectators, human. Or, one elk.



    Dinner. Chef Terry at the helm, surrounded by salivators.



    More photos to follow.
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    The best Tarpman could do with the able assistance of Bearded Bruce, who barely escaped a battering as an end pole fell over when the bottom end slid out, during anchoring.



    And the Elizabeth Enhancement, to ensure the end pole did not slide out again.



    Elizabeth and Belinda, telling stories.



    Randy and Beth's reaction.



    What happens when the Sven saw slips (aftermath). I spared you from: More blood than I have ever shed all at once.



    The implement of destruction. These mothers are sharp. Definitely bad karma on me, this trip.
     
  6. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    And that accident with the saw occurred when the rest of us were hiking! Thank goodness Dave was able to stop the bleeding and it didn't end up worse than it did!
     
  7. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    It really was not a bad wound, just a vascular area which bled a lot. The main injury was to my ego. I chose a stupid way to use a sharp tool, though I agree waiting for others to return would have been smarter yet. I had by chance stocked up on fresh bandaids the day before, which were in packets loose in my E bag, hence easy to get to.

    I think I am headed back out in 2 weeks, when the bow hunters will be gone.