Sunday, September 27, 2009

2009.37.168 - The Gorge Redux

Another sunny Sunday, another paddle in The Gorge. With no solution to the dead van problem, we are still limited to the home waters of The Gorge. Paula joined Louise and I for another paddle under clear warm skies.
2009-09-27 The Gorge Pano

We headed down to the narrows at Tillicum Bridge and paddled through. Today there was just a small current flooding current, and not the often seen roaring rapids.
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We weren't the only paddlers out. This outrigger canoe passed us a few times, and we saw other kayakers enjoying this gorgeous Autumn weekend. There won't be many more weekends like this so we better enjoy them when they happen.
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There were lots of geese out today. I'm guessing that a lot were passing through on their way south, although there is a sizable number who live here all year.
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And later, we caught up with the local swan family. We were a little concerned as we saw the parents and only two of the (now very large) baby swans. We'd seen all five swans last weekend, so we eared that something might have happened to the other baby swan.
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But a few minutes later we found the final baby feeding on his own. It looks like he's all grown up now and has moved out of his parents' basement.
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2009-09-27 The Gorge
Trip Length: 8.91 km
YTD: 320.14
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009.36.167 - The Gorge

The last weekend of summer. And a glorious weekend it was. Warm temperatures, clear skies, calm winds. All weekends should be like this.
The only downside is that with the death of the van last week, we temporarily have no wheels to take our kayaks anywhere. But perhaps I should amend that. We have no motorized wheels to take our kayaks anywhere; we do have our kayak wheel carts to push our kayaks down the hill to launch on the Gorge. Paula and her inflatable joined Louise and I in our Deltas for a paddle under bright sunny skies.
2009-09-20 The Gorge 007 copy

We saw this cormorant high up in this tree, usually at the height where the eagles sit. Speaking of eagles, we've hardly seen any around the last few weeks. We think they're probably congregating near salmon streams for some easy pickings as the salmon are now running upriver to spawn.
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These ducks found a nice spot to sit and laze away the day.
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As we moved into Portage Inlet, we saw the swans floating towards us....
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...but they weren't coming to us, but to a family that had called them over to give them a little breakfast. These just might be the best-fed swans on the planet.
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The cat looked on jealously.
Then the cat soon became interested in me: a huge half-person, half-fish. I bet he thought that he could feed on me for a year.
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We wandered up Colquitz Creek to Admirals Road where this new bridge is being built. It was supposed to have opened two weeks ago, but it's still closed. It looks finished. Skateboarders are enjoying the new pavement on it.
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On the way back, this heron posed for a few quick snaps.
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As we neared the end of our paddle we spotted Brian and Marie on their recumbent tandem, and Brian hopes to join us for a paddle next week.
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2009-09-20 The Gorge
Trip Length: 8.14 km
YTD: 311.23
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009.35.166 - The Last Roundup

I've been feeling like an old man for the last few days. I've been troubled by some low level back spasms, something that's never bothered me before, which naturally leaves me wondering if this is just a minor injury or strain that will heal in a few days, or is this the start of chronic middle-age stiffness and the slow start of declining abilities and health. I also seem to have banged my right foot on something and bruised the underneath of it which is causing me a bit of a limp which is obviously not helping my back at all. Even worse, I can't remember when or how I banged my foot, so clearly my memory is rapidly failing me as well. Alzheimer's can't be far behind.
Through a bit of a communication gaffe, we ended up paddling on Saturday instead of our usual Sunday paddle, but it was probably all for the best as Saturday was terrific for paddling, a gorgeous late summer day that was warm and full of sunshine.
We decided to head up-Island to Ladysmith. And although we have been there many times before for the annual Vancouver Island Paddlefest, we've never gone there and explored the area.
The start of our journey involves driving north from Victoria along Highway 1 over the Malahat Summit (what we locals call "over the 'Hat"). You can see from this picture taken at the summit that you make quite a climb considering that the drive from Victoria starts at sea level. Keep that thought in mind -- we'll get back to it.
You can also see in the photo some of our other paddling places in Saanich Inlet. The island across the inlet is what we call among ourselves 15 Minute Island (because it always seems about 15 minutes away) but is really called Senanus Island. The cove to its right is Brentwood Bay and further down to the right behind the trees is Finlayson Arm.
Sannich Inlet Pano

We arrived at Ladysmith and our put in at Transfer Beach. Sealegs Kayaking operates right on the beach and it looked like they were doing a rip-roaring business renting kayaks.
Transfer Beach

Soon we were in the water and underway. Paula and Bernie had rented a vehicle from the Victoria Car Share Co-op and Louise and I used my van, so we were able to get all four big boats on the water today, and it was well worth the effort. We crossed the inlet to the far side and meandered around the islands.
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The islands seem to be made mostly of sandstone. It's so odd to see solid rock with holes like a sponge and as bubbly as an Aero bar. And yet, here we were surrounded by these beautiful formations.
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We found long shelves of sandstone that paralleled the shoreline, and at the water line these shelves seemed to have been compressed to the thickness of paper or cardboard.
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Then Bernie had what he called "a serious WTF moment."
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Looking down he discovered a trailer sitting in the water just off a small uninhabited island. Go figure.
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Bernie's back was bothering him, so he returned early. Louise, Paula and I pressed on to Coffin Island...
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...then made our way back to Transfer Beach.
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As we put in, Bernie, feeling better now that he was moving about a bit, cheerfully told us how he'd holed his kayak while loading it on their rented van. A small hole, about a couple of centimeters square, but a hole just the same. He was so cheerful about it, however, that we were wondering if he was overmedicating on his pain meds. But no, he was fine and looking forward to repairing it. I mentioned out loud that it might be a good article for the blog (hint hint).
After a quick bite from the concession stand, it was time to return to Victoria. Louise and I bid good-bye to Paula and Bernie as they were going to hang out in Ladysmith a little while longer.
As Louise and I headed south, we got closer to the Malahat and the climb we and the van would have to make. Leaving Victoria heading north, as we had done in the morning, the climb is long and mostly gradual, but heading south, as we were doing now, the climb is a quick and steep ascent. It has claimed many a car. It was about to claim another.
As we started up the hill the van responded fine, but about half-way up, an unusual knock started in the engine. As we crested the summit, the van began losing power, and the knock grew louder. Louise and I exchanged worried looks. Getting stuck here, halfway between nowhere and nothing was going to make a long day even longer. We made the summit and we began the long downhill. The van seemed to have enough power to handle flat stretches, and I was hoping we could nurse it home, but another small hill loomed and that was the end of that.
The knocking increased and suddenly something snapped. It sounded like something broke free in the engine and fell off, but we never found anything.
A loud bang, total loss of power, puffs of smoke. None of these things were good.
I pulled the van over and we jumped clear. Something had gone seriously wrong under the hood. Smoke was coming off the engine, and we quickly began preparing to off load as much gear as we could and our kayaks onto the shoulder of the highway. But soon the smoke cleared, and any immediate danger passed. We were just stuck on a dangerous and busy highway with a dead van carrying two kayaks on its roof.
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We phoned for a tow truck -- it was going the cost the equivalent of the national debt to tow the van back to Victoria. But what else could we do? Paula and Bernie drove up a few moments later and they offered to take Louise and some gear back to town while I waited for the tow truck. They scrounged up all their half-drained water bottles and left them with me as they took Louise back to town.
Soon the tow truck arrived and I told to the driver to take it my house. The van looked to be in a sorry state as she was loaded up for the trip home.
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My father bought the van new in 1981, and when he passed away eight years ago, it became mine, and since I discovered kayaking four years ago it has served yeoman's duty in transporting my gear and myself, as well as my fellow paddlers. But like me these past few days, it has been feeling its age the last few years. It has served my family well, but it has served its time. After some expensive transmission repairs last year, it is just not worth sinking more money into it. And from the loud bangs, I'm sure that whatever's wrong will cost major moola.
The tow truck operator hooked up to the van, and I climbed into the cab of his truck. My faithful steed made its last trip home empty and alone.

2009-09-12 Ladysmith

Trip length: 11.74 km
YTD: 303.09
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2009.34.165 - A Rare Tuesday Paddle

This past past weekend may have been the last long weekend of summer, but it sure felt like the first weekend of fall. Cool breezes and showers developed over the course of Saturday, Sunday and the holiday Monday, which put the kibosh on our copious paddling plans. But we can't complain; we've had five months of splendid kayaking weather, kayaking every weekend since the beginning of April though until the end of August, and this was our first weather cancellation since, what, January? Five months is a pretty good run.
Even though the weather wasn't the best on the weekend, I had a sneaking suspicion that today's weather would be pretty good. After all, today was the first day of school, and the first day of school was always warm and sunny. At least, that's the way I remember it, as I stared out from my school desk through the window to beckoning blue skies all those years ago.
And so on this bright and clear Tuesday, as thousands of school children across the city moaned and sighed at the prospect of the new ten-month forced incarceration that lies ahead, Louise, Paula and I headed towards Telegraph Bay to get at least one paddle in over our extended long weekend.
Telegraph Bay

Before we hit the water we saw a deer and two fawns make their way through a small copse of trees. This turned out to be a little foreshadowing for our paddle, as the four-legged animals ended up being far more interesting than the winged or finned animals that we usually see.
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It was a perfect day to be out....
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...but when you get right down to it, we saw a lot of odd things. Paula rescued a volleyball from a kelp bed. How in the world does a volleyball get in a kelp bed?
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We passed by this seagull enjoying a breakfast of fresh fish heads...
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...then past this house with its own helipad.
How do you get a helipad in a residential area? Isn't there some kind of zoning thing or something? I mean, the hoops you have to jump through to get a new driveway put in, and this guy has a helipad? His neighbours must love him every time he comes home, dive-bombing out of the sky and rattling windows for blocks around.
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I was using my Stohlquist drysuit for the first time today. This was my first experience in a drysuit, having generally used a neoprene Farmer John and a paddling jacket up to now, but I've gotten tired of the neoprene itch and the wonderful aroma that permeates my van on the way home after a kayak paddle, that unmistakable stench of wet neoprene.
And so far, so good. It kept me nice and dry, and not too warm. It seems to breathe really well. I wore some Icebreaker Merino wool underneath and that did the job keeping me comfortable today, although I suspect that I will need to add some fleece to that as the weather gets cooler. The only complaint is that the neck gasket is very tight, uncomfortably so. I felt like I was getting strangled the whole trip. I see that this year's model has replaced the rubber neck gasket with a neoprene gasket. I can't say that I'm surprised.
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Finally, we passed by a house that we've watched being built for the last three years. As we looked at it, a dog loped into view. A big dog, with odd flopping ears, and it was followed quickly by another. Then another. We quickly realized these weren't dogs, but it took a moment until our brains finally matched up the unexpected visual images our retinas were sending with the patterns of farm animals taken from too many childhood renditions of Old McDonald's Farm.
Goats! A flock of goats! (Yes, "flock," though uncommon, is acceptable.)
We weren't sure if the goats belonged on this property or not, as they looked like they were enjoying the free run of the neighbourhood. They trundled up a small hill and headed down the street. So if you live on Ten Mile Point and your goats are missing out of their enclosure, try the big house at the end of the point. Your neighbours' gardens will thank you!
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2009-09-08 Telegraph Bay GPS
Trip length: 12.32 km
YTD: 291.35 km
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.