Fresh water

Posted by Ken Campbell February 12, 2009 0 Comment 858 views

I finally got out of town at about 1:30pm. Not exactly an early start. I hadn’t planned on the snow either, but judging from the number of cars in the ditch along my route, neither did most of the other drivers out there. By the time I got to Belfair, it was already 3:00pm. Belfair State Park was closed and the entrances to Twanoh and Potlatch had not been plowed, so there was no sense in trying those either. I ended up at Dosewallips State Park, getting in just before dark. That was Day 1.

Well, not exactly. I did have dinner, the classic car-camping bachelor feast that I don’t get very often. Steak, grilled over cedar coals, and baked beans heated in the can over the fire. All washed down with an icy cold beer. Or two. After eating, I built up the fire and stood there, staring into the flames, staying warm. There is something about a fire on a winter’s night, the way the flames lick up at the cold and dark, like they are hungry. The oscillating circle of warmth that keeps the night air at bay. The crackling snaps and pops of the wood as it burns, a random syncopation that seems almost musical.

In the morning, I rose before the sun. As the sky got light, it became clear that this would be a very different day from the one that preceded it, at least weather-wise. There was not a cloud to be seen anywhere as the sun broke past the eastern horizon and although it was still bitter cold, there was the promise that it would warm up a little.

My plans had changed substantially over the past week. I had thought of going to Lake Constance to try some ultralight SUP camping, then I’d thought about starting a journey up Hood Canal; in the cold light of the morning, neither option sounded right to me. The clear skies had arrived with the wind, and the water on the Canal was already choppy and unwelcoming, even at 8:30 in the morning. That’s when I thought of Lake Kokanee.

There are two large dams on the Skokomish. The larger dam holds back the waters of Lake Cushman; just downriver from there is another dam, and the little lake that it has created is Lake Kokanee. I had never been there before and my hunch is that it is not a lake that sees many visitors, even in the summer. It has a park that seems like a community facility, meant for the use of area residents, and it has a Fish and Wildlife boat launch and parking area. Other than that, there is no waterfront develpment at all. The parking lots are all deep in snow, so I park on the road, taking advantage of the fact that there is no traffic and feeling fairly confident that any local tow trucks were probably still busy cleaning up the abandoned vehicles from the previous day.

Once I got on the water, it all started feeling right. (It’s always like that.) The sides of the lake are very steep, rising almost vertically for hundreds of feet, and there are houses along the crest, but not too many. A few McMansions here and there, built to impress. Doesn’t everyone need 7500 square feet, sixteen rooms and a water view? It didn’t take long, however, before these were mostly behind me.

It seemed strange to me to be on fresh water. Most of my time on the water is spent among the passageways of Puget Sound or the rocks and waves of the open coast. I love the dynamic of the sea, with its changes and moods and the sights and smells that you can’t find anywhere else. I see lakes, especially dammed lakes, as dead ends. They don’t really take you anywhere… the shore on one side is just the same as the shore on the other. When you’re on the ocean, the land on the other side is Japan. On this day though, this place was fine with me.

Kokanee is a small lake, and its shape it that of the canyon that formed it. It winds through steep sides through heavy forest that comes right down to the water’s edge. There are no real beaches to speak of, although there were a few spots where I could have come ashore if I’d wanted to. I stayed on the board, stopping to take a photo here and there, mostly just soaking up the mountain air and letting the sun warm me to the bone. At the northwest end of the lake, a sign warns boaters to stay away from the powerhouse – the Lake Cushman dam is not far upstream. I turned around here as well, even though I could have kept going for a little ways. There is a limit to how many laws I will break in a day and I didn’t want to push it.

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