Extreme Smoke – The Getaway

by Nancy Soares on September 4, 2017

Normally you can see the Cascades from here but all we've got now is a Wall of Smoke

Normally you can see the Cascades from here but all we’ve got now is a Wall of Smoke

As many of you know, Southern Oregon is on fire. For nearly the entire month of August, the Rogue Valley has been filled with smoke from multiple forest fires in the surrounding areas. Even the coast has been smoky because of the fire in Brookings. And like many of my fellow Oregonians, I don’t have air conditioning which requires me to open windows at night to cool the house down. That means I’m breathing that crud all night long. Gah! We’ve also been having triple digit temps. Hella hot, and we can hardly breathe. Many people out and about are wearing various masks and filters to protect their lungs. It pretty much sucks. 

Fires to the left of us; fires to the right of us...

Fires to the right of us; fires to the left of us…

I wanted to go to Crescent City but thinking it was probably smoky I decided to go up to the Mountain Lakes to see if I could get out of the heat and smoke and get a little lake time in the X-O. It turned into another one of my sagas. Here’s the story.

Mt. McLoughlin

Mt. McLoughlin

The Mountain Lakes are Lake of the Woods, Fish Lake, and Fourmile Lake. To the east is the Mountain Lakes Wilderness and to the north is the Sky Lakes Wilderness. The Sky Lakes are a lot of lovely little lakes accessible to backpackers and horse packers. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through it from north to south. Each of the Mountain Lakes has its own flavor. Lake of the Woods is developed, with some really nice campgrounds right on the lake, vacation homes, and the Lake of the Woods resort, where there is a boat ramp, lodge, cabins, and a small store. A nice family place. There’s a $5 day use fee which covers all the campgrounds.  

Peaceful and relatively smoke-free

Peaceful and relatively smoke-free

I put in at Sunset campground boat ramp because it’s small and comparatively unused. As soon as I was on the water I was treated to great views of Brown Mountain and Mt. McLoughlin, two of our local volcanos. Brown Mountain is a small cinder cone on top of a shield volcano. It is 7,311 feet (2,228 m) above sea level, but is overshadowed by nearby 9,495-foot (2,894 m) Mt. McLoughlin. There are trails up both mountains. Even though Mt. McLoughlin is the more impressive volcano, I’ve heard that Brown Mountain is the one we need to worry about as far as eruptions (it’s the newer one), but both are inactive as far as I know. 

Brown Mountain

Brown Mountain

It was really nice to be out of the smoke. It was still kind of hazy, as you can see in the photos, but nothing like down in the valley. And the water was delightful, cool and refreshing, the perfect temperature! Very clear as well. I paddled along the shore and took some pictures and then practiced falling out of my boat and getting back in again. Since I still haven’t learned to roll, that’s what I do, and I can do it pretty fast in all conditions.

Interesting scenery

Interesting scenery

After messing around a bit I put the boat back on the rack and drove to Fourmile Lake. I’d never been there before. It was up a 6 mile gravel washboard road and when I got there I wasn’t very impressed. It’s actually a reservoir, and it looks like it. I decided not to put in, but parked near a trail head to read the information sign. When I got back in the truck, it wouldn’t start. When I turned the key in the ignition, all I got was a bunch of flashing idiot lights and a clicking sound. 

Great Meadow, a 500 acre prairie on the edge of Lake of the Woods

Great Meadow, a 500 acre prairie on the edge of Lake of the Woods

I looked at the manual to see if there was anything I could do in the way of troubleshooting. It was obviously something electrical, but the symptoms didn’t correspond to any of the dead battery scenarios listed, so I called my insurance company for a tow. Then I called Toyota to see if they could tell me what might be the problem. The service guy confirmed that it was probably a dead battery, so I went looking for someone to give me a jump.  

Small natural lake on the way to Fourmile

Small natural lake on the way to Fourmile

Luckily I found some campers who helped me out. First we tried jumping the battery but it didn’t work. The battery was 9 years old and apparently had come to the end of its life. But one of the campers had a trick up his sleeve. He took the battery out of their car, put it into my truck, had me start the truck, and then swapped out the batteries after telling me not to turn the engine off or it probably wouldn’t start again. After thanking my helpers and cancelling the tow I hightailed it down to Medford to the Toyota dealership where I got a new battery installed just before closing time. Whew!

Rustic campsite

Rustic campsite

Several good things came out of this trip. One, even though I broke down out in the middle of nowhere and had to get a new battery, it was better than having it happen on the retreat which is coming up next week or at Burning Man, where I would have been had I not bagged out this year. Either of those scenarios would have been worse. Two, I got to experience once again the kindness and competence of the local gentry. This is not the first time little elves have come out of the woods so to speak to help me out of a jam. Remind me to tell you the saga of how I ran into my Volvo with my truck on an icy mountain road some time. It’s quite a story. And finally, I got to get out of the smoke, check out some of the Mountain Lakes, and learn more about the beauty and the splendor and the wonder of my Southern Oregon back yard. All’s well that ends well. Now if it would just rain and clear away all this smoke!

Have you ever depended on the kindness of strangers? Share your story below!

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The Tsunami X-3 Trident. Not a small boat.

The Tsunami X-3 Trident. Not a small boat.

Naturally I was devastated when my late husband died, but one of the things that really had me exercised was how the heck I was going to get kayaks on and off the truck by myself. It might sound silly to some, but I’m short, the rack is high, and the Kevlar boats are long and heavy.

Thanks to my friend Rebekah Kakuk, I learned how to get the X-15 up and down solo, so that was great. But what about the X-3 Trident? A boat that’s 25’ long and weighs 100 pounds? This summer I got a chance to see if I could manage it by myself and by golly I pulled it off. So for all of you out there who may find yourself in a similar predicament, here’s how to get a Tsunami X-3 Trident off a Rack-It rack on a Toyota Tacoma all by yourself, even if you’re 5’ 3”.

The specs for the Trident

The specs for the Trident

July 4th, Jim and I loaded the Trident onto the rack no problem. Jim wanted to try the boat out with his partner Patti because they were considering taking it to Baja. But at Russian Gulch they decided it was too tippy so I ended up taking it back home. Since Jim and Patti had returned to Guerneville, I was stuck unloading it myself. Actually, there are people I could have called to help, but I was walking with a friend the morning of my return and when I asked her if she could help she said, “Can’t you do it yourself?” She seemed to think I was totally capable. Of course, she hadn’t seen the Trident.

Jim and Patti at Abalone Pt. with the Trident and the X-15

Jim and Patti at Abalone Pt. with the Trident and the X-15

But her words stuck with me. Could I do it myself? I’ve done practically every other thing I’ve found myself having to do alone since Eric died. Maybe I should give it a shot. So the next morning when it was still nice and early and cool I walked up to the truck where it was parked by the boat rack and took stock of the situation.  

Yikes!!!

Yikes!!!

I thought about whether I’d be able to lower the bow onto the tail gate once I got the stern down. It seemed doable. I decided to do it. I untied the ropes and then took a break to Really Think about what was going to happen. I visualized the process of sliding the boat off the rack and analyzed where the stern would end up. Then I opened the back of the truck and stood on the tail gate. The first thing was to flip the boat over, because it was resting on its rails and it slides a lot easier on the hull. First check. I couldn’t flip the damn thing to save my life because I was positioned toward the stern of the boat and it was too heavy. So I climbed up onto the rack, made my way to the center of the boat’s frame, and it was an easy flip from there.

Got 'er flipped. What's next?

Got ‘er flipped. Now what?

I climbed down and thought about it some more. Then I got back up on the tail gate and holding onto a rail with both hands started to slide the Trident toward the back of the truck. Little by little I carefully worked the boat back. It started to tip but I controlled it so the stern slowly but surely lowered softly to the ground. Once the stern was established on the ground, I took a break and assessed the situation again. The Trident looked pretty impressive tilted up against the rack, its bow high in the air. Now came the tricky part.

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

Approaching the stern, I grabbed the back rails and again Very Slowly started sliding the Trident off the rack. Finally there was only a little bit of the bow still resting on the rack. I set the stern down and thought about the next step. I climbed up onto the tail gate and tried to lift the nose off the rack, but I couldn’t do it. The stern was stuck on the ground making it so I couldn’t lift the bow and I couldn’t slide the boat back without damaging the rudder. I wasn’t sure it would move anyway. So I got down, picked up the stern again, and slid the Trident back some more until just the littlest bit of the bow was still perched on the rack.

Cautiously so as not to rock the truck and drop the boat I climbed up on the tail gate and found that I could now lift the bow off the rack. There I was standing on the tail gate holding the bow of the Trident in my arms unable to move. I couldn’t get it down onto the tail gate because the stern wouldn’t move and the boat was a little too long to lower down without cracking the glass in the back window of the camper shell. If I tried to muscle it I was afraid to damage the rudder or lose control of the boat. Then I realized that I could probably lift the bow over the back of the rack to the side and then lower it down that way. I slid the boat as far over to one side as I could and took the hull in my arms. I gently lifted the boat up and over the rack. There I stood on the edge of the side of the tail gate, cradling the bow in my arms. I realized I couldn’t just drop it on the ground. Now what?

Yay! I did it!

Yay! I did it!

The boat actually felt light since I was only holding the very end. With my arms glued to my sides, elbows bent at 90 degrees like a forklift to protect my shoulders, I slowly bent my knees and squatted down with the boat in my arms. I got as low as I could and eased my butt down on to the edge of the tail gate till I could slide my legs over and sit. Now I could hop down and lower the bow to the ground. Mission accomplished! 

I washed the boat off and two friends who live down the street came over and helped me get the Trident into its berth. Easy peasy. While moving the boat at no point did I feel out of control or in danger of blowing out a shoulder, losing a limb, or breaking the boat. The entire process, including all those pauses to stop and think, only took about 15 minutes. So even though the Trident is almost five times taller than me and weighs nearly as much as I do, I wrangled that bad boy no problem. Whoever said, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” never said a truer word. I probably could have racked the boat by myself too but why push it?

I hope this information is useful, and I’d love to hear your stories about maneuvering boats in difficult situations. If any of our readers have a good tale to share let’s hear it! Vive la independence!    

    

 

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ShareI recently paddled around Princeton Harbor for the first time. I know it sounds crazy, but even after living and kayaking there for 12 years I never did that. I was always en route to the outside, to the swells along the jetty, to the surf in and around the lagoon, to Mushroom Rock, to […]

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In Memorium Eric Soares August 1, 1953 – February 1, 2012

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ShareEditor’s note: This is our annual tribute to one of the founders of the Tsunami Rangers. This year we reflect on how we do nothing of ourselves alone; without the earth, air, and water to support our physical bodies and the people we encounter in our lives who support our souls we could not be.  […]

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ShareEditor’s note: This year’s retreat was brief but packed with action, so we decided to cover it in two posts, the first which came out in October, and this second debrief in order to give Cate her due.   Deb: We agreed on the rendezvous location, “Thunder Cove”, one of the Tsunami Rangers’ favorite secret destinations on […]

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Shareby Maya King Editor’s note: Maya King is the daughter of Tsunami Ranger Steve “El Rey” King. We decided to make her essay our December post because we believe that seeing the world through the eyes of children is a valuable experience. Young minds are less conditioned and in many ways see more clearly than […]

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