Outdoors

Down the River

A winter’s day on the Skagit

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It was to be a day of rest, a respite from the busy-ness and hoopla. We had it on our calendars: Nothing today.

And then Gary called to invite us on a rafting excursion down the Skagit River with his friend Frank, a boatman who lives way the hell out there, up the Cascade River Road out of Marblemount. The weather was promising. The eagles were profuse. Who could say no? So much for our day of nothing.

We met Frank at the Eatery in Marblemount (Frank calls it Tootsie’s) and launched beneath the bridge at the Marblemount boat launch. The morning drizzle had stopped and by the time we had Frank’s pontoon raft loaded, broken clouds revealed patches of sacré bleu overhead. Auspicious.

We shoved off into the current, immediately joining the river’s pulsing rhythm. The murmuring of the water harmonized with the music of wrens, singing their lilting, melancholy theme song. Marvelous harlequin ducks dallied in the eddies. Frank tried a few casts, but nothing doing.

We moved downriver, passing eagles perched along the shores, watching us with their iron-willed raptor stares. They, of course, are the main attraction on the river at this time of year. Rafts packed with “eagle peepers” floated by now and again, glittering with binoculars.

We beached the raft on a sandy little island. The beach was covered with animal tracks and fish bones. A few bare willows, faintly red, lent a splash of color to the monochromatic scene. On the shores, ghostly shrouds of lichen adorned the dark trees.

Frank casted a few times from the island and, in less than five minutes, landed a burly steelhead. Catch and release. We ate some hummus and then rejoined the current.

Frank loves the river. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he talks about it. He works in Bellingham and commutes three hours a day so that he can live beside the sparkling water in the last house with power on the lonely Cascade River Road. Frank is committed to the river. We felt fortunate to be aboard his raft on this fine winter’s day.

This portion of the 150-mile long Skagit is designated a Wild and Scenic River and is managed by the National Forest Service, along with the Sauk, Suiattle, and Cascade tributaries. These banks were home to the Skagit tribe for thousands of years before Henry Custer “discovered” them in 1859.

The scene, today, is still certainly wild and scenic.

The river in this stretch flowed smoothly, with nary a protruding rock and only a few scattered and easily-avoidable log jams. We slid downstream, flying over the rock-mosaic bottom clearly visible six feet down through the crystalline water. Behind us, to the east, the clouds blew away, revealing the snow-white crown of El Dorado against a deep blue sky.

We beached the raft just past the Rockport bridge and adjourned to the nearby tavern, where (of course) everybody knows Frank, for a round of celebratory beers and some wild talk about river trips yet to come.

ICU Roof #2
More Outdoors...
Ruffled Feathers
Coping with a cooper’s hawk

The mystery started when one of our free-range hens turned up dead behind our garden shed with a small puncture wound on her breast and half her feathers plucked out.

During our previous seven years of urban chicken ranching, the Lady of the House and I have scraped a few savagely mangled…

more »
Unearthing History
Take a historic cemetery tour

While it’s true that the outings taking place Sun., Oct. 15 at the Mount Vernon Cemetery are occurring during the spookiest time of the year, Skagit County Historical Museum Director Jo Wolfe wants to assure potential visitors that there’s absolutely no need to be afraid of what lies inside…

more »
Beer, Metal, Yoga
A different kind of serenity

Yoga can be intimidating, but a couple of venues in downtown Bellingham want to provide an out-of-the-ordinary experience for beginners and seasoned practitioners.

First up: Beer + Yoga at 9am Sat., Oct 7 at Aslan Brewing (1330 N. Forest St). Jess Fleming and Dawn Hood started Just Add…

more »
Events
Today
Dog Day Afternoon

4:00pm|Ferndale Library

Dig Into Fall

6:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Restoring Gut Health

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Quail Class

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Hawk Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Coping with a cooper's hawk

7:00pm

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Spectrum Dance Theater Lecture and Demo

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Wednesday
Kombucha Class

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Healing Through Art

5:00pm|PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Beer Tasting Class

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Eat Your Words Cookbook Club

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Buried Treasure

7:00pm|Village Books

The Rhythm Runners

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Scottish Dancing

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

see our complete calendar »

CWWarrenMiller Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books