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John Day River: Thirty Mile Creek to Cottonwood Bridge

"Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;"-Romans 1:20

"I'm not so sure about that, but whether or not we all make it through these rapids alive, I'm confident the grading criteria will be fair." - Scott

"Get ready to explore your world without boundaries." - Wilderness Systems Owners Manual


Sunrise found us on the outskirts of Wasco, high on the Columbia Plateau, our 3 vehicle convoy speeding through golden fields of wheat on toward Condon and then West to a 7:30 AM meeting with a rancher who would provide us a private launch site to the John Day river and also execute our car shuttle.



Startling verdant fields, free of the vestiges of irrigation, belied narratives of drought that punctuated the news. The fresh born morning, still cool to the senses, felt like the fledgling hours of a new creation.



The rancher…

Test Paddling the Tarpon 160 (finally)

The problem with 'objectivity' is that it's usually 'subjectivity' cleverly disguised as objectivity.
I've wanted the Tarpon 160 ever since I saw it sitting in the rack at the kayak shop. However, I'm trying to take the universal advice of the broad community of kayakers who suggest that choosing a kayak is a personal choice based on how a particular boat fits one's body and objectives, and so, going through the motions of due diligence, I've finally come to the day when I actually get to paddle my dream boat.
It doesn't escape my attention that I seem to have a Wilderness Systems' bias. The first kayak I ever sat in was their 12 foot plastic Pungo which delivered me down the SandyRiver without making me a candidate for the Darwin Awards. The first kayak I ever bought (so far the only kayak I ever bought) was their Tsunami 125 which has, over the last eight years, patiently taught me everything I know about kayaking except for that bit of advi…

Test Paddling the Thresher 140

Wilderness Systems has broadened their sit-on-top offerings this year with the introduction of the Thresher (this includes a 14 and 15.5 foot version). The Thresher seems designed to bridge a gap between overly stable, relatively slow fishing platforms and sleeker more touring-orientated craft, all for the sake of fisher-people who need to cover significant distances to reach their intended fishing locales, whether that's in the middle of a huge bay or out beyond the breakers in the open sea

The characteristics that make this boat a good fishing option, should also make it a killer expedition photography platform/beer barge. I knew my test trials wouldn't be complete until I auditioned this state of the art bid for kayak fishing supremacy.


I've probably been remiss for not highlighting this before, but the reason I've been able to rent and evaluate various sit-on-top kayaks is because of the reasonable and renter friendly policies of the Next Adventure team at the paddle…

Miller Island Expedition: Columbia River Ghost Cult

My brother Fred sent me a checklist of things he didn’t want to forget for our second attempt at a Miller Island Expedition.

Foil pans
Steak
Beer or whiskey/tequila
Bacon
Shovel
TP
Bug spray
Homebrew
Ghost repellents



Scouting Miller Island from the Lewis and Clark Highway (Washington side of river)

“Ghost repellents?” I asked.

Well, it turns out that Fred had been doing some research and found an old article from American Anthropologist by Wm. Duncan Strong called The Occurrence and Wider Implications of a “Ghost Cult” on the Columbia River Suggested by Carvings in Wood, Bone and Stone. The article, written in 1945, revealed that bone carvings depicting figures with prominent rib cages, a symbol of death, were found in old cremation pits on Miller’s Island.

Excerpts from the article:

“It can be shown that among these peoples there was an old belief in the impending destruction and renewal of the world, when the dead would return…”

“One of the most striking features of Northwest Coast m…

TILIKUM CROSSING, Bridge of the People, Portland OR

THE CASE OF THE LYING WATERFALL

I saw the comment in a social media forum - a private group for hikers. I was yet unaware that the group was a loose confederation of fairly opinionated if not quite warring factions. The comment seemed innocent enough. It was a veiled plea to start a civil debate about editing waterfalls. The gist of it was this, “...the smooth water effect looks very unnatural. Almost looks like it’s trying to trick folks who don’t have the opportunity to go and see waterfalls themselves.” As the post began to generate more and more comments, the ambiguity of “Almost looks like…” slowly became more explicit as in “...it is intentionally deceiving people who have not seen the waterfall... Just curious to hear if anyone feels the same way.”
The “smooth water effect” refers to the silky, blurred look that happens to moving water in long-exposure photographs.

At about a hundred comments into the thread, the original poster had distilled his viewpoint to this: “It’s negative in my mind because it’s an inac…

Eagle Creek Fire Jumps Over the Columbia: Childless Adults Even More Thankful to be Childless.

The Columbia River Gorge 09/05/2017 at 3:00am (As viewed from the Cape Horn Viewpoint on SR 14. Phoca Rock visible in middle of river.)


The Columbia River Gorge 05/31/2010 (from Cape Horn Viewpoint)


I've aligned these images based on the positions of Phoca Rock and the navigational structure in the middle of the river to estimate what areas are burning.

When I arrived at the viewpoint, it seemed I had missed the explosive advance of the fire's front. Still, as the wind gusted, and photographers scrambled to secure their tripods, one or another tree or other combustible item would explode like a solar flare.


The smoke stung my eyes. The buffeting breeze reminded me of speeding through central Oregon on a 104 degree day with the windows down.


Whenever the breeze lagged, voluminous, billowing smoke would hang briefly, as if in collusion with the ravenous flames, attempting to cover their sins of gluttony.


Starting around 4:00am, I started receiving emails indicating that the fire had j…

IF I DON'T GET PAID, DOES THAT MAKE ME — PROMISCUOUS? : I Perform an Unsolicited Review of the Danuu WingMan Kayak Fishing Seat Accessory Pack

I carefully chose my kayak to be my ultimate photography platform, beer-barge, expedition capable, multi-tasking water-craft, and it has exceeded my expectations.


One thing I hadn’t foreseen, however, was my evolution as a fisherperson.  At first, pressured into fishing by my growing awareness of what I’ll term a sort of ‘karmic imbalance’…

…I soon began to experience brief bouts of not just ‘fishing’, but also ‘catching’, and the catching part turns out to be — really, really fun.

But much like photography, the activity of fishing soon suggests a plethora of accessories and additional tools that need to be juggled in the confines of the kayak cockpit. Obviously, there’s fishing poles and lures and baits and anchors that need to have their places — places where they can be easily and quickly acquired.
The manufacturer of my kayak (Wilderness Systems) is way ahead of me here. They’ve thoughtfully included something they call the SlideTrax Accessory System and of course, a molded cup-holde…

RED SUN RISES, WILLAMETTE FALLS

They say Native Americans carved petroglyphs at the base of Willamette Falls, an ancient fishing site. I’ve paddled up to the falls a couple of times to find the old markings, but always seem to miss them. The massive horseshoe-shaped falls are over a quarter mile wide and are blended in with concrete and steel industrial structures that make its natural configuration something of a puzzle.

I figured a fresh set of eyes would improve my chances of finding the petroglyphs, so I invited Karen, who had previously expressed an interest in learning to kayak. Karen and I are part of the same extended church family, but more like cousins who almost never visit each other. In the past, she has tried to kill me with a heavy piñata stick and also a spring roll (the spring roll wasn't really her fault). Having Karen along makes even the most pedestrian outing more like a life and death adventure — at least for me.



Smoke, presumably from California’s wildfires, interfered with the dawn and colo…

2017: A SOLAR ECLIPSE ODYSSEY

(Formerly, Used Home-made Solar Filter for Sale: Only Used Once!)

In the Pacific Northwest, I’ve become accustomed to spending many a meteor shower shivering in the dark beneath opaque cloud covers.
So there are clouds.
Then, as the media began hyping a once in a lifetime opportunity, the prospect of a million or so extra commuters on the road to Salem made a 99% solar eclipse sound pretty good.
So there’s traffic.
But Mr. and Mrs. P began helping me chip away at these objections until all that was left was the question of equipment.
I had access to two possible camera choices. A Panasonic point-and-shoot with a lens boasting a 600mm focal length (35mm equivalent) or a Canon digital DSLR /Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens combo. Because the Canon’s APS-C sensor has a crop factor of 1.6 the 35mm equivalent is approximately 480mm.  Neither of these  choices has enough ‘reach’ to create images in which the sun fills the frame, so I started giving extra credence to articles that encouraged NOT taking ph…