"And you know I'll be where my heart feels free, and my thoughts are free to fly.
Oh mama, please don't make me lie, I need my freedom, need my open sky." ~Railroad Earth

22 July 2014

Day 4: Putzing around on the Willamette River

Bridget and I started the day with some english muffin/eggs/avocado/tomato sandwiches before heading out for an epic kayaking trip. We rented a stubby Otter recreational boat from Peak Sports in downtown Corvallis. The put-in was allegedly a block away, so Bridget carried the boat while I drove to meet her. 5 blocks later, I found her staggering along, half dragging the boat through the grass. I parked to help her carry it the next 4 blocks. We launched onto the Willamette River and soon realized that paddling upstream would not be the relaxing morning paddle we had envisioned. Naturally, the response was to call Bridget's dad to see if he would meet us in Albany (10 miles downstream) a couple hours later and shuttle us back to my car. His response was a firm "No, I'm working today," which we found rather suspicious since he is retired... We struggled up ~ 1 mile of river before reaching a shallow spot with rapids where we were forced to turn around.

Launch site on the Willamette River

As we were relaxing in the confluence with Marys River, I decided to take a little nap by laying on the back deck, flinging my sunglasses off the top of my head and into the (luckily) shallow water. I recounted that a similar event had happened with Alice a few months prior, on a much deeper reservoir. With 15 minutes left on the boat rental, we started the float back to the launch site. Within site of the beach I once again decided to lay back, again flinging my expensive icelandic sunglasses off the back of my boat, this time into much deeper water. I watched them slowly slip into the darkness, like Jack in the Titanic.

The loss of the sunglasses, however, afforded me the opportunity to chat about kayaking with a couple of the guys working at Peak Sports while I tried on some new pairs. Apparently they had seen one other Greenland style paddle in the past 8 years. I attempted to demonstrate some greenland style kayak strokes inside the store (without a paddle), which really just resulted in an awkward solo dance.

Bridget and I stopped for a free slice of bread at Great Harvest before heading back to Bridget's house for showers/packing/lunch. Headed up to Portland this afternoon!

Date: 7/22/2014
Distance: 2.3 miles
Duration: 2 hrs.......

21 July 2014

Day 3: Corvallis Chillin'

We did not get enough sleep last night. Our late return from the Oregon Dunes and Bridget's marionberry smoothie adventure (at midnight) resulted in a very late bedtime. The homeowners' dog (she is house sitting), Maddy, finds it necessary to clippy-clop around the house every 20 minutes, shaking her cowbells in the process (she also looks like a cow). Hence the lack of sleep.

Maddy + Bridget
I accompanied Bridget in some morning errands:

  • Returning her high visibility PPE shirt and purchasing 4 rolls of duct tape at Wilco (I'm pretty sure the band is not named after this store)
  • Coffee break at The Beanery (a very Corvallis thing to do)
  • Stopping by her office at OSU to make/print some shipping labels, and meeting some of her (very important) friends in the process
  • Stopping by the shipyard (which I was disappointed to find does not have ships nor water) to package up some equipment for her upcoming research cruise to Romania (!). We asked her colleague whether we could borrow his SUP and received a confident "No" for an answer.

I was put to work taking photos of important things, like this label that proves the wood has been treated and does not contain insects:

Bridget in her natural environs:

Bridget in the office
Bridget in the shipyard
Bridget on her couch (Bridget right now)
After our tired/lazy day we decided it was far too much effort to paddle the 20 miles to Rogue Hops Farms and instead made pizza and invited Bridget's friend Nick over for dinner (he also works on coastal erosion and flood hazards, but along the Oregon coast). We made super thin crust pizza, ate all of it, drank (or didn't drink) IPAs, and were in bed by 9pm. Yes.

Bridget with dog and chicken

20 July 2014

Day 2: Southern Oregon Coast

Sunday morning started early: I woke up around 5:50am after a reasonably sound night of sleep (having your own tent is a glorious thing), packed up the tent, and shared a sad goodbye with groggy Alice. The Mendocino coast road was foggy at 6:20am:

I drove for a few hours, until lack of coffee and gasoline led me to find the cheapest gas in the Eureka/Arcata area. Upon putting my visa card in the pump the machine returned a "Card Not Recognized" error, and I realized it was a gas station for truck drivers and other special people, myself not included. No wonder it was $0.20 cheaper. I reluctantly returned to a Chevron station and refilled on cheap coffee and expensive gas.

Since I'd spent a good amount of time in Humboldt/Crescent City/Smith River on past roadtrips, I booked it through the rest of northern CA with only a short stop at the Crescent City jetty/pier. The "Welcome to Oregon" sign came and passed, and I took a short break to hike down to Whalehead Beach.

I was a bit ahead of schedule, so I spent some time driving through Bandon and checking out the harbor.
Coquille River Harbor/mouth. Google turns my pictures into cool panoramas...
Breezing through Coos Bay, I met Bridget and her friend Stephanie in Winchester Bay at 3pm. Our meeting point was the Windy Bay Sourdough Bakery, where Bridget and I split a sourdough bagel and tasted all the mustard samples. mmmm. We looked at a map of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and selected the nearest trailhead: the Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. The complete loop, along the Threemile Lake Trail, the Tahkenich Dunes, and back along the Dunes trail is 6-miles.

The first leg of the trail meanders through the woods past some small lakes, with glimpses of the coastal dunes. In some locations a river of sand had come pouring down the hill, covering the trail:

The second leg of the hike was along the dunes, which made for much more difficult hiking. Since the dunes are constantly changing, the trail is less obvious. We found our way by connecting some tall wooden stakes placed strategically in some of the higher dunes. These dunes are interesting because they are fronted by a narrow forest - normally the sand dunes are directly along the ocean.

Just when we thought we couldn't take any more sand steps, the trail took a turn into the strip of trees along the beach, and we scurried down to the beach.

Tahkenitch Creek Lagoon

After ~45 minutes of recovering and snacking on the beach, we traced our footsteps to the trail intersection to return along the other side of the loop. A couple miles later we realized we'd taken the wrong fork in the trail, requiring an extra mile of "hiking" along HWY 101 to get back to the cars. The highway took us along Tahkenitch Lake, so while our joints were aching we managed to enjoy the extra leg of the hike. We maintained spirits by blasting country music from cell phones and doing ridiculous dances to extract honks from passing cars. Stephanie found a dead bird on the side of the road.

Upon our late return to the cars we commenced a massive spontaneous picnic of the usual pitas/veggies/hummus/fruit.  On the drive home we made a spontaneous decision (conducted through the car windows at a stoplight) to chase the sunset. We arrived at the coast seconds before the sunset:

19 July 2014

Day 1: The Big River and MacKerricher State Park

Alice and I followed each other up the 101 and west on the 128, stopping at a BBQ joint on the way to buy coffee and a mini bottle of champagne. Nena tailgated lots of people on the windy 128 with Alice close in tow. We stopped at the Paul M. Dimmick State Recreation Area to scout out a potential launch site on the Navarro River, but upon peering over the bank it was evident that we needed to go down river. There was very little water in the river at this point, and most of it was standing in small pools. Instead, we continued to the mouth of the Navarro River where we spent a half hour wandering around the beach. The lagoon was closed and filled with algae - a stark contrast to the flowing open lagoon that Lisa and I observed a couple months prior. We were able to access parts of the beach with natural arches that Lisa and I couldn't reach this spring:

We decided to continue on to the Big River in Mendocino and put in at the public beach just inland of the HWY 1 bridge.

We paddled up river with the incoming tide for over an hour, turning around when we realized we were not going to find a distinct landmark to map our route. We chatted about all the usual topics. The return felt long as we pushed against the wind and tide, but we played with kelp and watch a river otter munching on a snack. Alice found some curious bright blue giant barnacles. We stuck our noses into the pacific ocean for my last California coastal paddle.

After some rapid snacking on old tofu and veggies we continued up HWY 1 through Fort Bragg to get gas, ice, and water. When I asked the station attendant whether she sold oil, she asked me which grade and I said cooking grade.

At MacKerricher State Park we paid exorbitant camping fees ($43/night + $8 extra car fee!). We meandered along the beach boardwalk, attempting to take an attractive selfie and failing miserably. Alice: "that was really exceptionally bad."

We returned to camp, toasted our champagne, and cooked some veggies with pasta, making it to bed just after the planned bedtime... 

All in all, a very typical Nena-Alice kayaking/camping experience for our bon voyage adventure. I'm going to miss this girl!

Kayaking Stats
Date: 7/19/2014
Distance: 9 miles (guess)
Duration: 3 hrs

The Start of the Journey: Goodbye San Francisco Bay

Today marks the start of a 24-day cross-country road trip from San Francisco to Boston. I'll be heading up the west coast through Corvallis, Portland, Seattle, and the San Juan Islands before taking a turn and heading east through Bozeman, Bismarck, the Great Lakes, Rochester, NYC, and finally Boston. My hope is to post every couple days, which means my writing will be much more stream-of-consciousness. Apologies in advance for the typos and lack of research. I'm excited to share my experiences as they happen!

A quick recap: In March I found out I'd been awarded a Fulbright grant to study flood management in the Netherlands at the Technical University of Delft (TUDelft). I spent a few weeks hemming-and-hawing about whether or not to leave my great job as a coastal engineer in San Francisco and how to relay the news to my company. In April I broke the news, and the outcome was positive! They offered to let me continue working part time remotely during my year away.

Fast forward: much packing and selling and spreadsheeting later (I'll have to post my planning spreadsheet template at some point), I'm sitting in the Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot in Larkspur waiting for Alice to begin the first leg of this next adventure. Tonight we'll be staying at MacKerricher State Park on the coast in Mendocino County. We'll be kayaking on one of the nearby rivers today - location still to be determined.

The past couple weeks have been incredible. While saying goodbye every day is sad, it's been great to spend time with the amazing California friends I've gotten to know over the past 3 years. I'm already looking forward to my return to the west coast :)

Alice took some daring photos while driving...

09 July 2014

Independence Day on Richardson Bay

Hello Tennessee Valley, you beautiful dramatic landscape!

For 4th of July Alice and I decided to visit her favorite spot in Marin: Tennessee Valley. The hike takes you 1.8 miles from a parking lot through the lush valley to an open coast beach. Tennessee Cove lies between Muir Beach and Rodeo Beach - both of which we visited last year on a coastal paddle. Dark sand covers the narrow, steep beach at the end of the trail. Alice dodged crashing waves to run around a point and explore another narrow beach on the other side. Ten minutes later I began to wonder whether it was time to send out a rescue team, but she soon sprinted back around the point.

Our busy itinerary didn't allow for much beach lounging, so we hiked back and drove to Alice's adorable apartment in Mill Valley. After much putzing around, mushroom marinating, and the usual discussions, we got our butts in gear and loaded Alice's boat on my car. Our mutual boredom with launching from Seatrek in Sausalito led us to scoping out a more stealthy launch site. After a couple unsuccessful launch-searching-adventures, we found a perfect launch site at the mouth of Coyote Creek in Richardson Bay. The only catch: we had to park in the Holiday Inn Express parking lot, which was built in the middle of the marsh in 1972 and will very soon be under water thanks to sea level rise. We stealthily and speedily unloaded the boats and launched from a tiny little rocky beach next to the walkway over Coyote Creek. The time was 7:15pm.

With 1 hour of sunshine remaining, we kept the paddle short and sweet. We headed south under the 101 bridge, visited the seals, and peered into some floating boat houses. A river of fog poured gently over the Marin Headlands, disappearing on its way down the hill.

On the way back, Big Purple and White Lightning posted for a photo shoot. These boats are going to miss each other! Luckily they'll have one last float together in the Mendocino sea caves in a couple weeks!

When we returned to the Holiday Inn, we were relieved to see Tess (my blue subaru) still parked and ticketless. I leave you with a portrait of Big Purple and a silhouette of Mount Tam:

Date: July 4th, 2014
Distance: ~4.5 miles
Time: ~1.5 hrs?

I should really start being more precise with these distances/times... the time is always a complete guess, and in this case so is the distance because our destination was a red sailboat, which google maps does not capture...

06 July 2014

Tomales Bay Overnight #2: Inverness to Fruit Tree Beach

A couple weeks ago a patchwork group of us spent a night camping out on Tomales Bay. Last year's trip was super fun and we wanted to recreate it. This year we started on the west side of the Bay, near Inverness, and paddled north until we found a beach that was sufficiently wide for camping. For the rest, I'm going to be lame for this trip and refer you to Rob's blog post (click the Journal tab), which awesomely and succinctly describes this year's fun. He also has all my photos, so go look there! :)

Dates: June 21st and 22nd
Distance: ~8.5 miles
Time: 2 days!

The National Park Service map of boat-in sites a bit more helpful...

15 June 2014

Kayaking: Part of a Hard Day's Work

This will be a brief one... Friday was (likely) my last day of fieldwork at my job - I have 5 weeks left now, so things are starting to wrap up (or at least that's what I'm pretending). We are working (with a few other agencies/companies) on an oyster/eelgrass pilot restoration project off the coast of San Rafael (project website, recent article in the SF Gate). ESA (my company) is monitoring the physical processes like changes in topography, waves, and also water quality. On Friday we conducted a site-wide bathymetric survey that we will be comparing with a pre-project survey to see how the oyster beds may be affecting regional sediment processes.

Damien preparing the kayak for the bathymetry survey
We used a GPS/depth sounder system strapped on our sylishly-camo field kayak to do the survey. I haven't had a chance to calculate exactly how far we kayaked, but we paddled east and west and north and south across the site for about 4 hours. It was exhausting, but we finished just in time to return the equipment to the rental place. It was also just in time to head to San Francisco and meet up with Doug and his friends to watch the Giant's game from outside the stadium.

Friends (Doug and Ken) playing
Happy Doug and Ken
I parked at Pier 52 and paddled over to AT&T Park (~1 mile). Doug and Ken arrived shortly after. Doug surprised me with two strings of purple lights to decorate my boat (you can kind of see them in the photo below) - they match perfectly! Big Purple now glows radiantly.

Big Purple watching the game with her snazzy new twinkly lights
We floated around and snacked on some sausage/cheese/crackers while waiting for the BBQ-canoe to arrive. I was pooped, so I only stuck around for ~1.5 hrs and missed the BBQ/capsizing/tequila-bottle-tossing/firework madness that ensued. Instead, I spent the next 36 hours in bed nursing my unusually sore back, blistered hands, sunburned face, migrained head, and bruised lip (I dropped the kayak on my face while lifting it onto the work van...). Apparently this is what it feels like to get old, but until further notice, I'll blame it on the un-quantified number of tough paddling we did during the workday. :) Such a wimp.

Date: Friday, June 13th, 2014
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 2 miles (roundtrip)