Stepping out of my tent, taking a sip of fresh mountain air, I greeted the birds and thought, what will we be doing today?
In the midst of August, slightly before the country went gaga over a total solar eclipse, I joined my dive club for our annual trip to Timothy Lake. We’re mostly a saltwater bunch, communing with the Sea Bass and the Octopus in the mighty Pacific, but our traditions include an opportunity to rinse off the dive gear in a freshwater venue. And if we happen to come upon a few crawdads while we do our scuba laundry, and they somehow land in the dinner pot, who could blame us?
Of course, they don’t walk up and say “eat me”, catching crawdads by hand underwater in a silt storm with 90 pounds of gear strapped to you isn’t the simplest thing.
Don’t let the label “dive club” fool you. Sure, we dive together, but as we’ve been doing so for a good many years we’re also good friends. The hanging out and doing stuff between dives has become as important as the diving – maybe even more so. Camping as a group is one of our favored get-togethers, it’s evolved from something to keep costs down on dive trips into social outings with auxiliary activities.
In the afternoon, after comparing my paw span with the claw span of various crawdads one of those auxiliaries arose in the guise of a Hobie Cat Tandem Island sailboat.
Back in the 90’s I had my own little sailboat and developed a taste for teasing out momentum across the waves from little gusts of wind – and sometimes bigger ones. In time, I found I wasn’t getting out enough and let the boat go, but the hankering to sail remains. Lucky for me, one of my dive buddies owns the aforementioned Hobie Cat.
This model is not a true sailboat. It’s really a kayak with a pedal-driven propulsion system and outriggers. The sail provides a secondary drive force, but works much like a regular sailboat (although it doesn’t sail into the wind quite as well.)
Consider the scene. We’re sailing/pedaling around the lake, and a sheriff’s patrol boat is tailing us. First one side, then the other, then standing well off. It seemed odd, but maybe he was just curious. It’s not a boat you see every day and there wasn’t much traffic on the lake.
Then he pulled us over.
Here’s the thing. Powered boats of a certain length require registration. Kayaks aren’t really considered “powered”, because they’re propelled by people – not sails, not engines. This boat is a hybrid, but most folks consider it a kayak. (Note the lack of registration numbers on the bow of the pictured example.) The deputy had other ideas.
Ever get a ticket for sailing a kayak?
Cities are full of light. For many this is a draw, something that makes them feel safe. But there’s a tradeoff.
Modern city folk, those who never leave the city limits may look into a clear night’s sky and think they see stars. Perhaps they see a few and think the sky majestic, but they’re much like a myopic who doesn’t know he needs glasses. What they need is a visit to the deep countryside, and the lens of a sky not polluted by so much light.
Timothy Lake is in Central Oregon, about 50 miles SE of Portland and about 20 miles south of Mount Hood. This is still close enough for the light to affect horizons, but for this night I was interested in the southern skies – home of the Milky Way. There, following the spine of the Cascade mountains, was dark sky running the length of the state, with stars and galaxies uncountable.
We were lucky that night: clear skies, no moon, the heart of the Milky Way rising at a reasonable hour; darkness enough for even the foggy wisps of our own galaxy to show up for the naked eye. And for the sensors of a modern camera, even more stars pop out.
To the east, the entire lake was visible from a dock. Navigating onto such a structure on that black a night was a tentative stroll that a blind man could appreciate, with the specter of a soggy dunking for mistakes.
The amazing thing is, for all the stars I saw there were billions more I didn’t; and some that seemed like stars were galaxies in their own right, each with their own stars in the billions.
If you’re going off to commune with nature, their’s no point in spending all your time sitting around a campfire or lazing in a tent when there are paths to be walked.
A trail from the campground took us through the forest, and along parts of the lake.
On a second day, we extended our range and hiked up a forest service road to a fire lookout tower, where we took in views of Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and the surrounding valleys.
And among all the activities there were the usual pleasantries: chit-chat amongst old friends, potluck meals and crawdad feeds that belied the notion of “roughing it”, regular campfires (carefully monitored of course), and the occasional stroll by one’s self for a personal experience of nature and the calming effect it can have.