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Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm the Decider, and I Decide What's Best.

Out from under the compressed expectations of a short work week, I launch my kayak from Heritage Landing. The fast flowing Deschutes ejects me into the Columbia River Gorge.  I paddle into a stiff wind, the captain of my own fate...for a change.

Moments before, a man with a new jet-ski tied to the shore told me the water was too 'crispy'.

"You mean 'choppy?'", I asked.

"Crispy." he nodded.

But eventually I settle for the adjective 'spooky'.

What looks to me like serpentine standing waves, the massive undulations of a barely submerged plesiosaur, are camouflaged by the spray of wind whipped whitecaps. 

I ride the bucking cryptid as it sweeps me off course.

"Captain of my own fate my ass." I mutter.

Swept, eventually, into the wind shadow of Miller Island, I regain my bearings and make landfall at the first smooth sandy beach I find, which, because the water is higher than usual, means a protracted search.

The wind curves through basalt lined valleys, pushing the heads of the tall grass downward. They bob up and down like blinking fireflies, in dramatic contrast to the tortured skeletons of burnt shrubs.

The island valleys parallel the flow of the river, and hint perhaps their current appearance owes much to ice age flood waters...

...with only the strongest basalt outcroppings surviving the deluge.

Now windswept dunes migrate the length of the island's interior...

...mostly appearing to labor eastward.

Paper cracks rock.
Fire burns paper.

Rock ignores Fire

Click on image to view larger version

08-24-2013    -   07-04-2014

The sun sinks behind hills on the Washington shore. The wind is strong enough to knock me off balance as I step from stone to stone, which isn't ideal from this high perspective.

Using my dumb phone, I call friends with smarter communication devices and inquire about wind forecasts. The lowest wind speeds are expected to occur at sunrise.

You'd think those things would look like frenzied pinwheels.

At about two in the morning, without proper camping gear, it occurs to me that I should also have inquired about the expected night-time temperature.

I also begin to reflect upon the psychological importance of blankets. When I was little, and in fear of monsters, there was no greater comfort than being able to pull my blankets up over my head for safety.

For adults in the wilderness, it works exactly the same... if by monsters you mean the noisy black beetles I discovered with my flashlight...or any number of imagined ticks, spiders, ants, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and foul tempered beavers.

Click on image to view larger version.

The valley floor at five in the morning.
Because it gets light at four.

Note to self: Remember where you parked.

(Especially if by 'park', you mean  'hide your kayak in tall grass to protect it from pirates'.)

On this particular morning, the clouds take a crack at tessellating, after catching a glimpse of an M.C. Escher book abandoned at a picnic, its pages slowly flipping in the breeze - waving at the sky.

(Editiors Note: See comment number two)


  1. Thanks for the new word in my vocabulary - cryptid. And for your Pollyanna moment - the high winds and spooky water gave you the opportunity for the sunset and sunrise shots.

  2. I find it odd you mentioned my "crispy" comment but left out your slow paddle past the old crone cackling in a rocking chair, the pirate skeletons hanging from bridge, fred durst, lil kim, lance bass and then garry shandling giving you the 2 thumbs up and the "miller island / certain death 1/2 mile" sign at the mouth of the Deschutes.

  3. Really liked image #3. Some great cloud shots.




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