Tenkayaking in the Oregon cascades

It was hot in Portland, and it was even hotter in my apartment. Night and day merged into one big sweaty slog. While loitering in a particularly well air conditioned department store it occurred me that I needed to find another way to cool off. That night I scoured my hiking maps for some place high, a place that’s deep in the mountains, and won’t be drowning in tourists. I found a little lake at the end of an old logging road. 4000 ft up, big enough to hold trout, and a spot to pitch a tent: it was perfect.

That weekend I drove up the winding road, dodging potholes and washout all the way. Arriving at sunset I stepped out of my car into the cool mountain air. I breathed the sweet air of the forest and felt the chilly draft off the lake. I wasted no time in setting up camp on the lake shore, and as I stooped down to pound in a tent stake I heard a familiar “sploop” from behind me. This lake had trout. As the stars came out I shivered for the first time in too long.

I awoke to a powdery blue sky and a lake busy with fish. I grabbed my rod and marched into the lake, but as I waded I discovered the the lake bed was deep with mud, and I was getting no closer to the feeding fish. I then tried to walk out along a fallen tree, but I still couldn’t get close enough. In my frustration, I began to circle the lake looking for the perfect opening. I dragged my rod line and fly™ through thorns and thicket. My hands and shins were getting bloodied as I marched through everything the forest threw at me. I would make my way to logs that stabbed into the lake, and I would excitedly stumble out along them, but this would get me no closer to my goal, no closer to the middle of the lake where fish feed freely. As I completed my circumnavigation and saw my campsite again, I stared off into the lake. I had a strange calm, a feeling of peace that Tenkara helps me cultivate. I knew I would come back with a plan.

Weeks later I made the long drive a second time and arrived just before dark. This time I had a kayak, and I was certain that with my little boat I would catch all those fish that mocked me before. But this would not be. As I set up camp on the lake shore that night, the wind began. That night breeze turned to gust, and gust turned to gale. I awoke to the sound of my tent flapping and whistling in a mighty gust. As I scrambled out of my sleeping bag I found the interior of my tent coated in dirt blown in by the wind. After fighting my way out of my shuttering shelter, I was confronted by a conundrum. Is it safe to take my kayak out in this weather? On the one hand I worked so hard to prove to those trout that I’m no fool. On the other hand, capsizing in this chilly alpine lake might not be safe. As I mulled over my options I was interrupted by my tent rapidly collapsing under the weight of a massive gust. This was my sign. I made breakfast and left. From my time sailing I have some experience estimating wind speed, and I would guess it was gusting up to 50 mph over that lake.

Deterred but not defeated, my resolve to come back was only strengthened. I watched the weather, and yesterday I finally saw my opening. I made the drive, I plopped my boat down in the water, I had a magical day. I caught trout after trout on any fly I tossed them. The sky was blue, the water was fresh, and a mischievous breeze played with my kayak, spinning me around in gentle circles, whispering about our time together.


nice story and pictures. thanks for sharing.

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I enjoyed the read, plus it is motivational ‘to get out of Dodge’ and explore the Sierra’s.

Happy to help! I hope to hear about your adventures in the Sierra too.