So, I bought a drift boat

I was trying to price pressure cookers on Craigslist so I could find how much I should sell the ones I had for. While looking, there was a post for a moving sale that listed pressure cookers and fishing gear. But one of the images was of an aluminum drift boat. I clicked on it, inspected the picture of the boat, and decided that I should write the owner. What shape it was in, price, etc. He wrote back with a price and few other details. After several back and forth messages (in which he answered roughly a third of my questions), I asked to come take a look that evening. He said sure.

Michelle and I drove up to Camas to check out the boat because the girls were at the pool watching a movie (hedonism!). It was old, but in relatively good shape, and the owner was a nice enough guy. We agreed to buy it, but had to settle on payment arrangements first.

the front of an old aluminum drift boat

Well, two weeks later, payment was made, and we picked up the boat on a Friday evening. There was a hornet’s nest in the tongue of the trailer, but he didn’t seem too concerned. He was wearing pants though. We towed it home, chatted with the neighbors who all thought it was cool, then started to prioritize the weekend.

Saturday I picked up a second seat for the front and a not-so universal swivel mount. It took a while to install it, but we got the boat ready and took it out to Henry Hagg Lake for a pleasure cruise (and to confirm that it would float.) The lake was way down, and the trailer was squirrelly to back down the ramp. Immediately as we launched, MG got stung on the ear by a bee or something. The wind and wake made for chaos, along with an amped up dog and MG wailing in pain.

We rowed across the lake and beached on a mud slope so we could run the dog and swim. The girls immediately dove in, and I discovered that there was a second hornet’s nest under the anchor mount. I smashed it out and covered it in mud and we kept playing. We then rowed up the lake arm to the shallower part where there were fewer people (and less wind) and anchored and played for a bit. We ran the dog, swam in the lake, and took turns in the float tube until it was time to head back to town.

family eating snacks on the boat

MG swimming in the lake next to the boat with Andy and Kona in the boat
We rowed back to the launch, slowly, because of the wind and wake, and hooked up to the dock while I ran up to get the car and trailer. When I got there, I found a third wasp nest in the spare tire. No time, I left it and rolled down pass the tournament bass boats to pick up our new (old) boat. We got the boat on the trailer despite some chaos and pulled up to pick up the mess so we could drive. I think we all agree that we need to work on launch and landing protocol so that we’re not all yelling at each other, but no one (except MG with the sting) got hurt.

The day after, Chris, Michelle and I took it down the Kalama River in Washington to try out my rowing skills. The water was low, the fishing bad, and we had to portage a few times. But we made it, and there was only one harrowing part. Well, except for the launch.

We launched at Slab Hole and there was a large sand bar at the bottom of the ramp that prevented us from backing the boat in to the water. Instead, we tied a rope to the bow (and trailer) and had to push it off the trailer, where it dropped down in to the water. My ring got caught on the bow, and as the boat fell, I was pulled with it. Fortunately, my ring popped off before I went over, though it hurt quite a bit. A week later and my entire hand is still sore.
Shiny boat sitting on the bank of the Kalama river near Beginner hole
The one harrowing part was the approach to the tree hole and bend below Mahaffrey’s. The river is so low that the current puts you in a chute right up against the steep rock bank. The chute was a little wider than the boat, and it was difficult to row since the oars were on the bank. I was able to turn sideways to pull away, but right as a mid-current rock arrived. I asked the passengers to leave left to help slide over the rock, and they both leaned right, making sure we got a solid chine-to-rock collision. Nice work team.

We survived though, and subsequently survived the experience of having to do a 23 point turn because some jackass parked in the boat turn around.

All in all, it was a great first weekend with the boat. We have a better understanding of the needs, the boat (which rides quite high, I’m happy to report). We did a few portages, but it was great and I’m excited to row again.

Wyoming Adventure, Day 8

4:45am is early in Yellowstone, and cold. But most importantly, it is an amazing time of the day free from the noise and motion of other people. When the weather cooperates, there is nothing better than being the only person around to savor the splendor of the start of a day.

I grabbed some Via instant coffee, a granola bar, and headed towards Pumice Point to launch the canoe. I’d found what looked like some good drop-off features in the West Thumb the night before, and I was determined to catch and kill some Lake Trout. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do in the park. Regardless if you keep them, you must kill them. The Park has set up gill nets deep underwater on their spawning routes to try and eradicate them in an attempt to salvage the Cutthroat population.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The steam on the lake, the light, and the complete absence of other people, save for a research vessel leaving Fishing Bridge, made of a dreamlike experience. I had goosebumps, and only party because it was cold.


Once I reached Pumice Point, I slowly moved the Canoe, trolling motor, and fishing gear down to the shallow and rocky shore. Still no sign of other people.

This is why you get up early

I trolled out towards where I knew the drop-off was using the same setup I use on Oregon lakes. These are hand-made lures – pink hoochies with a few beads and a smile blade (with double barbless hooks) behind a pink sling blade and a dropper weight. In small craft, you’re not supposed to venture beyond a 1/4 mile from the shore because the lake is so cold (43F).
Trolling for Mackinaw

Since I had a trolling motor and, well, the lake was glass, I might have gone a little further. In fact, I was in the middle of the thumb, surrounded by geyser steam, clouds, mountains and sun when I made my first turn and got my first strike. Woohoo!

First bite at first light

It was a little odd puncturing the swim bladder and tossing it back, but given the bear activity, I didn’t want to take fish back to the camp site. I poked, then dropped the fish back in, hoping a pelican would be nearby to enjoy the fresh catch. Oh, here’s the boat setup. Rod holder, paddle, spare paddle, trout-slayer rod (that my dad found on a lake while canoeing and has been unstoppable since), tackle, spare rod, and net. There was no way I was going to lug this stuff all the way from Oregon and not use it.

Trolling canoe setup

I did another loop and in almost the same spot, hit another fish. Puncture, drop, and loop again. On the third loop I caught my biggest trout, probably around 16″.
Gut the fish

It was now 7am, the sun was up, and the breeze was starting to pick up, so I decided I’d had enough fun that I should get back to shore while the water was relatively calm. I saw another boat just as I reeled in my tackle, but I wasn’t quite done. You see, pumice point is relatively shallow water with lots of rocks, so there were a number of lost lures that I could see from the canoe. I hauled in the trolling motor and pulled a few lures up from the bottom. Salvaging lures is yet another favorite activity, so this was a very fun and successful trip. Spending solitary time in the splendor of And it was only 7:30am.

The day hadn’t even begun. Our next outing was to see the Falls. Our first stop was the upper falls and Uncle Tom’s Trail. We opted to hike all the way down, something that was quite a feat for Michelle especially since she doesn’t like, well, cliffs and precarious-feeling ladders. But good god is the view splendid.

Panorama from Uncle Tom's Trail

Stairway is not for the faint of heart

Uncle Tom's Trail

Lower Falls from Uncle Tom's Trail

As we were getting back to the trailhead, we overheard some folks say they’d just seen a black bear. I rushed up to try and see it but instead noticed a young male grizzly above the parking lot. I wasn’t the only one though. People started swarming towards it. Some people getting within 30 meters of it. Fools! I almost sent the kids back to the car so they didn’t see a mauling and have that ruin the trip. Fortunately the bear was doing his best to high-tail it out of there. We were able to snap a few quick shots from the van as he made off.

Young Grizzly near Upper Falls

We also checked out the far side of the canyon, including Inspiration Point, and despite the dreary day, the intense colors of the canyon still impress. Getting a clear shot here was challenging though because tourists kept walking in to the frame while I was shooting.
Yellowstone River Canyon

By now, everyone was tired of waterfalls and rain, so we headed to Canyon Village and got some lunch at the dining room. It was mediocre, but warm.

Lunch at Canyon Lodge

After fighting traffic to get back to camp, we chilled at our site for a bit. The solar charger ensured that we had a full battery every day. And it was time to start preparing for the next leg of the journey.

Goofing at Bridge Bay

Camping: Lost Creek Lake, Crater Lake, and the Redwoods Part I

This July, the family loaded up in the camper for an epic journey to visit new parts of Oregon and to visit the legendary Redwoods. We’d been planning for 5 months, so we had a pretty good idea of our itinerary. We decided to shorten the initial drive by stopping off at Lost Creek Lake, where we stayed at the state park over the 4th of July weekend.

The reservoir was down considerably, and the campground wasn’t very close to the water. However, we did rent a pontoon one of the afternoons and ventured up-river to avoid the high-wake from water skiers and lake jerks. East of the bridge is a “no wake” zone, so we tried to quickly make our way to safety when a combination of large cross-wakes and a rather sudden deceleration plunged the bow, Michelle, and the girls briefly under water. It was a scary moment as the front of the boat briefly submerged. We recovered and sped to the safety of the no wake zone.

Once we reached the no wake zone, the girls jumped in and swam to a nearby sandy-looking shore. We tied the pontoon to a log and swam and played on the shore. The shore was an interesting mix of ash, pumice, and charcoal. It took a bit to realize that we were playing in an old volcanic eruption. How cool! After a while, we trolled up the lake, catching and releasing some trout, and pulled out again to light some sparklers (it was the 4th, after all), swam, had dinner, then headed back in as the sun was setting. It was a wonderful voyage.

Each morning, I would get up between 5am and 6am and drive down below the dam and fish hatchery to try my luck on the Rogue. It’s the 4th major Oregon river I’ve tried, and for once, there were lots of other people around angling for some early Summer run Chinook or late Spring steelhead. I didn’t have any luck besides an impressive strike where the fish leaped over a foot in to the air before ditching the spoon. But I didn’t see anyone else having luck either. And right below the hatcher, there were people standing shoulder-to-shoulder doing this odd jerking technique which I learned from a fly fisherman is called “flossing.” He shuns the practice, which is akin to just snagging fish. Odd.

On the 4th of July, there was also a kid-focused parade. The girls didn’t have bikes, but they loaded up their scooters with flags, garland, and tried to keep up with the bike parade for a while. How often do you get to follow a giant beaver around a campground?

On the 5th, we continued up the Rogue towards Crater Lake. We stopped at the Rogue River Gorge, a cool cut in the basalt near Farewell Bend CG. We learned more about the Mt. Mazama eruption that deposited all the pumice, ash, and charcoal that we’d been playing in the day before. Then we continued up to Crater Lake to take in the impressiveness of its blue. I insisted that we hike down to the lake, which was busy and dusty (who knew everyone else would be out on the holiday too?). We soaked our feet at the bottom for a bit, avoiding the inevitable climb back up until MG needed to pee. Michelle took her to the outhouses by the dock, but they were so incredibly dirty and gross that they just decided to hike up. Ella and I caught up with them less than two minutes later because Michelle had decided to hold MG over the edge of the trail so that she could pee down the cliff. It would have worked fine if she hadn’t lost her shoe, which fell about 15 feet down the steep slope. I was able to rescue the shoe, and then we hiked on, listening to MG complain about how much pain she was in for about half the climb. Finally, we picked her up and carried her. Ella was a champ though, and both girls spirits were reignited when we had early appetizers at the Crater Lake Lodge.

After the lodge, we hit up Lost Creek Lake for one last swim before journeying on to the Redwoods. Since the Redwoods are a primitive site, we filled up the tanks with water and took a last shower. On the way south, we stopped by the Oregon Vortex. It was … interesting. Wrapping up a few more details, we stopped at a Walmart in Grants Pass to get more mouth-numbing medicine for Ella (who was being a total trooper with her brand new braces), some groceries, and a half-rack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (which we left on the camper battery and drove for a couple miles around Grants Pass). The road to the Redwoods was very dry, and we saw a dead black bear off the highway outside Cave Junction. The road gets very interesting as you cross the boarder in to California, but the last few miles were exciting as we wound our way down the Smith River.

Camping at Jesse Honeyman State Park

We joined my parents and sister for a trip to Jesse Honeyman State Park, just outside Florence, OR over the last weekend. The campsite is well established and has some great amenities, including a monster of a playground with a dune-sand base. The girls were especially fond of the playground, but only MG ventured out to the dunes, first with Grandpa, then again with Grandpa and me.

My parents and the girls actually left Thursday to spend an extra day at the campground. They discovered the playground and the dunes, and it sounds like they had a lovely time exploring the giant dunes before the weekend arrived and OHVs descended on the place. OHV is short for Off-Highway Vehicles, btw. We couldn’t figure out why they used that instead of ORV like we were accustomed to.

Hilary, Michelle and I left Friday morning and drove down through Eugene, stopping at Cabela’s for a few small items. Michelle broke the tip of Ella’s fishing rod on the last trip, so I picked up a repair tip and glue. We ran in to one of the other students from my grad-school cohort who was also stopping through. Small-Freakin’-world when you stick to I-5. When we arrived, we quickly set up camp and put together dinner. We often split dinner nights and tonight was ours as we were celebrating my mom’s birthday, a few weeks late. Michelle decided to make things interesting and did a hot-smoked salmon filet over the campfire, scallops, and marinated prawns (also cooked over the campfire). Additionally, there was broccoli, asparagus (campfire grilled), and green beans. The whole meal came together nicely and was just excellent. I’m still full.

Saturday was somewhat gloomy. The clouds set in early, but that didn’t stop us. Michelle, Susi, Hilary and Ella went in to Florence while Greg, Madeline and I explored the dunes (Dooms, as MG called them) on foot. The weekend OHV crowd was busy, but we still got to explore the giant dunes in the misty, low-hanging clouds. The fog did lift enough that we briefly saw the coast on the horizon, but the gray skies and mist gave the dunes an eerie feel. We did our share of giant dune steps, then walked cross country through some woods back to the campground. MG and I found some gigantic banana slugs which I assume were somewhat isolated in their little forest island surrounded by sand. The walk was pretty long and I’m impressed that MG made it all on her own.

Later in the day we took the canoe and tried to fish on Cleawox Lake. The shore fishing was rather limited, partly by the shore access, and partly by the millfoil. We tried a few different locations but without much luck. My dad caught a rainbow, but that was the only action. Didn’t matter though, the boating and fishing was rather enjoyable on it’s own. Also, the excellent playground? MG decided that she was going to start doing monkey bars and in only three tries, managed to cross the whole span. She’s now officially a monkey.

Sunday was also mostly cloudy, and we tried going to swim in Cleawox Lake during a “sun break.” However, the wind was steady and the clouds came back. Still, the girls and I did get in the water and made a sand-bathtub like we made in Maui. It wasn’t as comfortable though. And sadly, Michelle, Hilary and I had to return home to get to work, so we left the girls and Grandma and Grandpa for the last night and headed out.

Camping at Lake Harriet

Lake Harriet signFeather tickleA dock, a lake, Mt. Hood, and cloudsBusy day at Timothy LakeThe crew checking out a "special" rockMG basks in Timothy Lake
Andy looks for crawdadsMt. Hood is almost visibleAndy finds an alder-borer beetleJumping jacksDancingSwimming in Timothy Lake
Gang hangs out on the golf-course grass on the shoreSnacks and crayonsJerry-rigged shelfIMG_5622
IMG_5618IMG_5615IMG_5614Ella climbing on the water pumpThis campground had a playground, too.

Camping at Lake Harriet, a set on Flickr.

Thursday night after work, we hooked up the camper and headed for Lake Harriet, about 45 minutes east of Estacada, OR. The lake is a small reservoir on the Clackamas River, and the campsite is only 11 spots. We arrived after a longish dinner at Fearless Brewing, just in time to meet Beth, MiraBess and Cedar.

It was our first dry-camping trip with the popup, and it went very well. We borrowed my parent’s canoe, and the Eiva’s brought theirs as well, so we had several boat trips around the lake, which was smaller and thus easier to paddle around. We also did some fishing on the lake, though there wasn’t much action. I managed to catch a 16″ rainbow that we cooked up once Travis arrived on Friday.

Saturday we spent the morning playing in the canoes, coloring, and eating. Then we drove up the road to Timothy Lake, which was much warmer and spent a couple hours swimming and relaxing, waiting for a glimpse of Mt. Hood, which never quite got out of the clouds.

Despite the extra day, Sunday arrived before we knew it, and we had to pack up and head home. Ella, like always, expressed her shared displeasure in having to go home.

A few other notables. The fishing wasn’t that great, but I managed to pull 10 great lures, 20+ lead weights, a cotton fish net and leash, and many feet of fishing line off the stumps on the lake bottom. I think this excited me as much as the fish, but the kids weren’t as amused.

Dry camping wasn’t too bad. We scrimped on the water and battery use, and only had to supplement some water on the last afternoon. There was no gray water disposal though, and had to pour it out in the vault toilet. (sorry to the mouse I kept seeing down amongst the filth)

Kids love camping, and they were always up for new adventures, coloring, canoeing, and s’mores. They stayed up rather late each night.

Also, note to self, relax a little, and remember to check out Hoodview campground on Timothy Lake.

Camping at Lake Simtustus

The family met up with Mimi & Papa (Grandpa Doug and Grandma Debbie) at Lake Simtustus this past weekend for a longer getaway. Mimi and Papa drove down with their camper and us over from Portland with ours on Thursday. Lake Simtustus RV Park was relatively quiet the whole weekend, but especially on Thursday night, where one of the most poignant sounds during the night was the sucking made by the sucker fish cleaning muck off the dock.
MG is a happy boater

We’re just getting our camp setup routine down and were able to help Doug & Debbie with theirs as well. Two very different experiences – and while their camper was far more comfortable – I’m glad I’m not the one who had to drive it down the narrow roads to the camp site. Once we got all set up however, the camp site was very cozy and offered a wonderful view of the lake and basal-column layered hills.

We rented a pontoon boat on both Friday and Saturday and combined some fishing, sailing, and splashing. Barley even got to swim a few laps around the boat before getting too tired. Doug and Michelle both caught some pike minnows on Friday, but only Ella came away with some delicious trout. Luck changed Saturday and I was the one who pulled in two fish. No one seemed too disappointed by not limiting out, partly because half the group got their fix by swimming in the somewhat chilly reservoir.

As usual, the food was excellent. Every meal provided for fun family time and no one finished the evening hungry. Especially after s’mores.

It’s hard to explain the beauty of central Oregon to folks who don’t get the desert. The plethora of birds, fish, deer, and the mingling of sage & pines nestled between the buttes of basalt might just be appealing to people who know the desert. Regardless, it was a wonderful weekend with family followed by a lethargic start to another work week. No one could agree on who wanted to stay camping the most.