Waterfall hike

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Colville River to Hall Creek (Inchilium)

16 miles cruised today; 248 for the trip

Anchored at Quillisacut Creek

A nearby flock of geese are awake and honking up a storm at 5am, and the racket continues for the better part of an hour before they sort things out and decide where to go. After they take flight, peace returns to our bay, and we sleep in until 8am. I pull the anchor around 9:30 and we head back toward the Colville River mouth for a little trolling. I am dragging a kokanee rig, in hopes of figuring them out. The kokanee have other ideas, however, and I get nary a bite. After one turn in and out, I reel in and motor up. We cruise a few miles down the east side of the lake, toward a place called Quillisacut Creek. Our new friends David and Suzanne, whom we met at Summer Island, told us about this pretty waterfall there, and we just can’t pass up seeing a waterfall. We arrive right at noon. We turn into the cove at the mouth of the creek, anchor, and have lunch before going on our waterfall hike. A dirt road leads up the draw, just above the creek. We can hear the falls from a short distance away, and we follow a worn path to a cool, refreshing viewpoint right at the base of the falls. The stream runs over boulders and drops about 15 feet. There’s just something about falling water that captivates. The walk to the falls is only about ¼ mile in length, so we decide to continue walking up the road. We gradually climb the hillside, through areas that have been selectively logged and thinned. At our turn around point we spot a whitetail doe and with her, interestingly, a mule deer buck in velvet. Both types of deer are known to live in this part of the state, and they do, on occasion, cross breed. It’s a long time till the rut, but who knows.

Waterfall at Quillisacut Creek

Just as we start walking back we get a cell call from our oldest son. We’re high enough up the hill to have good service. He wants to talk over plans for a family camping trip later in the summer. It’s great to hear from him. When we get back to the boat we see a power boat on the beach across the cove. They wave at us as we get into the dinghy and we recognize David and Suzanne and their little dog. They’re relaxing in folding chairs on the shady side of the cove. We row over to greet them. They’re delighted that we took their recommendation to see the falls. Like many people we meet when out cruising, we enjoy great conversation, and quickly get past preliminaries. Maybe we’ll cross paths again.

Mule deer buck in velvet

Time to move downlake. The wind has kicked up and it’s capping out from shore. This is the same stretch that we sailed up a few days ago. Now, that afternoon uplake wind is on our nose, so we bounce our way into it, with occasional waves splashing up to deck height when the bow hits them just right. A couple miles short of our goal for the day, I sight a cabin cruiser which is pulled up on shore, which simply doesn’t look right. In the binoculars I see that it’s at an odd angle, with the right stern corner awash. I alter course and pull in for a close look. It’s quickly apparent that this boat has been there for a considerable length of time. It’s tied to the bank, with a “no trespassing” sign on its stern. The canvass is in tatters, and there appears to be a hole in the hull. No emergency here, so we continue on.

New friends Dave and Suzanne

Halls Creek has a rather wide entrance, and it twists and turns its way for half a mile or so off the main lake. The mouth is flanked by steep chalk bluffs, but the geology changes once inside, and craggy metamorphic rock cliffs take over. The last turn opens up into a quiet pool, with steep timbered sides. I set the anchor in its center, and use my trip line rig for the first time on the cruise. I’m concerned about the bottom here (possible logs or rocks). After I shut the engine down, we can hear the faint tinkle of the inlet stream, a few hundred yards away. We barbque hamburgers for dinner, and then go for a dinghy ride, using the kicker motor. The motion of the dinghy puts a little breeze in our faces. The air is warm, still and humid, so this artificial breeze is most welcome. I bring my little spinning rod along and manage to catch a small 16 inch walleye. Walleye fillet is once again in our frig.

Derelict boat near Inchilium
Anchorage at the head of Hall Creek

Bathtub Falls and a herd of cows

Friday, July 17, 2020

Hall Creek to Nez Perce Creek

18 miles cruised today; 266 miles for the trip

Lake Roosevelt totem? (hint: turn head sideways)

It’s special breakfast morning, with the last of our two omelets, prepped and frozen at home, along our final five sausages, supported by toast and juice. What a fine way to start the day. I pull out of our secluded anchorage at 9:30am and we slowly motor

Bald eagle perched on one leg

down the twisting channel and into the main lake. I let out my kokanee trolling rig and try the edge of the shallow flat between Hall Creek and Stranger Creek, but the kokanee are still “no shows”. After a 45 minute effort I haul in and motor up. The lake is nearly dead calm, and the day warm. What little air movement we have is with us, so I can’t even make artificial wind with the outboard. The run down to Nez Perce Creek is uneventful. I head into the main Nez Perce inlet for our lunch stop. We’ve read about another nice

Hiking up to Bathtub Falls

waterfall here, so after lunch I row the dinghy up to where the creek comes in, and see a steep trail heading up the side slope. We can see a falls through the vegetation, and after a few tries, we manage to get close enough for a good view. I go a little further, and am able to stand at the top of the falls. It’s called Bathtub Falls, and the large pool at the top apparently gives it its name. The falls is a series of little cascades, and it’s well worth the effort of getting there. After getting our waterfall fix I row back toward where the boat is anchored. We’ve seen a dirt road on shore, which leads to

Bathtub Falls

a tribal members only campsite. We secure the dinghy and scramble up the bank, so we can go for a walk along the road. The road contours around the side hill, several hundred feet above the lake. It’s not one of our finer walks, with lots of scratchy knapweed growing in the road. However, the exercise is good and we do see some nice wildflowers along the way.

Crawdad parts on the bank, near the falls

Back on the boat, we motor the short distance to our little lagoon, where we spent the night and visited with tribal members on the way up. No one is around as we enter, however, Sandy is delighted to see that the local cow herd has come down for their daily drink. They’re bunched together near the water’s edge, munching grass. A pair of bulls halfheartedly butt heads, and a little calf troubles his mother for some milk. They eye us curiously. While the cattle entertain Sandy, I put my swim trunks on for a cooling afternoon dip. The water temperature is 68 degrees, and it’ really refreshing. When I climb back into the boat, Sandy has a rum and coke waiting for me. I read while she works on genealogy at the computer. Before long it’s dinner time, with barbqued pork chops on the menu. I spend the final hour of the day in the dinghy, trolling. I get several bites, and finally land a decent sized smallmouth bass. Added to the walleye I caught yesterday, we’ll have enough fish for a nice dinner when we get home.

Fritillary butterfly on thistle
Scarlet gillia, goldenrod, and yarrow
Sandy on the bow, Nez Perce Creek
Cows at Nez Perce Creek anchorage

Weekend boat traffic

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Nez Perce Creek to Threemile Creek

22 miles cruised today; 288 miles for the trip

Houseboat in Nez Perce Creek

It’s already warming up by the time I climb out into the cockpit. A small group of geese are grazing at the edge of our pond. Out near the entrance, the scene is dominated by a large houseboat which landed last night, after we’d gone below. They have all sorts of inflatables on their top deck, including at least 2 inflated palm trees. Nice look.

Doing laundry while under sail

We take our time with breakfast, enjoying the serenity of the place: mourning doves calling, Lewis’s woodpeckers busily catching bugs on the fly, a curious but misguided hummingbird who thinks our red striped American flag somehow must dispense nectar. Around 9:45 I raise the anchor and we slowly motor out. We wave at the houseboat crew, which looks to be 3 middle aged couples. No kids are to be seen, which makes their inflatable menagerie seem odd. They actually have 3 palm trees, an inflated swan, several large floatie things hanging over the side (no more room for them on deck), an inflated rattlesnake on the sunshade, but the piece de resistance is the large inflated unicorn which they’ve installed out in front, like a fantasy land figurehead. At $5000 for a week’s houseboat rental, I guess they can be as silly as they want.

Only houseboat afloat with unicorn, rattlesnake and palm trees

Once out on the big water I detect ripples on the water, and I see that my wind indicator is pointing out of the east, thus putting this 5 mph air on our beam. It’s not much, but I declare it a sailing breeze. We valiantly turn into the wind, I raise the main, pay out the jib, and off we go, down lake at between 2 and 3 mph. During this leisurely run, Sandy does a much-needed handwash of tee shirts and solar shirts, since we’re both completely out of such items which could pass the smell test. I hand our laundry out on the lifelines to dry. Since we plan a short run today, we can afford to take our time and play sailors for a change. We stick it out for better than 2 hours, getting a free ride for about 6 miles down lake before the wind completely dies. Time once again to fire up the engine and make miles.

Falls at Canteen Creek

You wouldn’t need a calendar to know that this is Saturday. Boating traffic is the heaviest yet encountered, with boats and jet skis zipping around, enjoying the perfect mid summer weather. As we near Canteen Creek, our planned destination, I soon realize that we’ll need to rethink things. A large group of Colville tribal members have set up group camp on a little flat at the cove entrance. A short way in, half a dozen boats of all types are bobbing around. Kids are climbing a rock on shore and leaping into the water. The party is on, and everyone seems to be having a great time. However, it’s not the type of scene we’ve grown accustomed to on this lake, so after a swing in to admire the little waterfall, we head right back out. I study the map and cross back and forth a couple of times, inspecting coves for a suitable place to spend the night. None measure up. Last on the list is Threemile Creek, and I can’t believe our good fortune. It’s perfect. Long enough to get us well off the main lake, wide enough to allow us to anchor and swing, and best yet, the only other boat here is a small power boat with a couple who are fishing. I drop anchor in 35 feet of water, relieved to have a good place to spend the remainder of the day. There’s enough time for a cooling swim, a bit of book reading while drying off, a dinghy ride ashore for an hour’s walk on the nearby dirt road, a quickly prepared pulled pork sandwich dinner, and a bit of dinghy trolling just before dark. Once again, we’ve packed the maximum into a day on Lake Roosevelt.

Boat traffic near Canteen Creek
Anchorage at Threemile Creek

Light air sailing

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Threemile Creek to Hells Gate

22 miles cruised today; 311 for the trip

Wing on wing in light air

A light breeze from the east and brilliant sunshine greets me when I emerge from the cabin at 7:30am. Following breakfast I go out in the dinghy seeking a smallmouth bass. I’m trying a crawdad plug, trailed from a bottom-dragger sinker. I’ve learned that crawdads are plentiful here, and I know that bass love them. It’s a great plan, however, the bass don’t buy it. After a couple tours around our bay I return to the boat and prepare to set sails. The breeze is light, but from a useful quarter, so I put the main and jib to work, sailing down the lake on a reach. Typical speed is 3 mph, top speed 4. As we near the confluence of Spokane Arm the wind lightens and comes more astern, so I set up for wing on wing. We’re going slowly, but we’re going. We pass another sailboat, anchored in a nearby cove. I see him get under way and raise his sails. He’s the first cruising boat (anchored out and trailing a dinghy) we’ve seen in our 2 week tour of Lake Roosevelt. I try hailing him on the VHF but apparently, his radio is turned off. A little further along, we draw near to a MacGregor 26M, who’s out beating uplake in the light air. He doesn’t come close enough to us when we pass for us to say hello.

26M and cruising sailboat enjoying the light breeze

Around noon the wind fails, so I drop the sails and motor up. Our destination is an interesting looking cove a few miles east of Hell Gate. When we draw near, however, we discover that a log boom completely blocks entrance to it. Once again I start scanning the map for Plan B, and I soon conclude that our best bet is to head for the cozy bay behind the little island, just west of Hell Gate, where we spent our first night. Most coves and beaches along the way have been jammed with speed boats, pontoon boats, and houseboats, but we find this place vacant. I anchor in the same spot we used before, set up the sun tarp, and drink a cold beer. This is probably the hottest day of the trip, in the mid 90’s, and the water temperature here is an inviting 72 degrees. It doesn’t take me long to get in the water for a refreshing swim. I come back to the boat and suggest to Sandy, who has a strong aversion to cold water, that she’d enjoy dinghying ashore and wading along the sandy shore. Last time we were here the lake was about 2 feet lower, and we had a narrow sand beach to walk on. That’s now underwater, but it makes for great barefoot wading. Definitely better than walking along a dusty dirt road.

Approaching Whitestone Rock on the way home

Our final dinner is a cashew chicken curry which Sandy had prepared in advance and stored frozen in a seal-a-meal bag. We heat the bag up in boiling water, and enjoy a very tasty dinner. Our 2 week provisioning plan has worked out extremely well, with excellent meals throughout, thanks to our ability to keep things frozen in the Engel refrigerator. The sun is now low in the west, lighting up the nearby cliffs with a vivid glow. The powerboats and jet skis have all gone home for the day, and we can relax afloat, in our little cove.

Our little sheltered bay near Hells Gate

Last leg of the trip

Monday, July 20, 2020

Hells Gate to Keller Ferry

5 miles cruised today; grand total of 316 miles for the trip

Uncharacteristically for this trip, we’re both up shortly after 6am. I guess we’re eager to return to the ramp and get the boat ready for her drive home, before it gets too hot. However, we do take the time to fix a hearty and tasty french toast breakfast with the last of our sliced french bread and fresh eggs. While preparing to get underway, we notice a doe on the shore and, nearby, a little spotted fawn.

Mule deer fawn

Shortly after 7am I raise the anchor for the final time and steer out into the main lake. Sandy is below, organizing gear for transfer into the truck. I climb up onto the foredeck and begin preparing to take the mast down, leaving it to the auto pilot to steer us down lake at a speed of 6 mph. I glance forward regularly, making sure we’re not on collision course with a large piece of driftwood. Small chunks are unavoidable and, in contrast with yesterday afternoon, we’re the only boat underway at this time of the morning. I uncleat the jib sheets and roller furler line, coil them up, and secure them to the furled jib. Next, I use the mainsail halyard to raise the protective cover over the jib. I reinstall the mast raising pole and, by the time we’re nearing Keller Ferry, I’m reconnecting the baby stays which provide stability to the mast when it gets lowered.

The ramp is free of boats as we idle our way in to the dock and tie up. Sandy starts deflating the dinghy while I walk up to the parking lot, where the truck and trailer are waiting. The familiar process of pulling the boat out, lowering the mast, and derigging the boat goes smoothly. We take time to chat with a couple who are also taking the mast down on their 26X. It’s just their 4th time out on the boat, and everything is new to them. It’s nice to see people getting acquainted with their boat, enthused over their outing and what lies ahead for them.

Shortly after 10am we’re ready to begin the drive home. It’s going to be a hot day, and we’re thankful for air conditioning. We stop at a well shaded park in Waterville for lunch. We stop in at a fruit stand near Lincoln Rock State Park to pick up some fresh cherries, cots, and peaches, and drive the final 25 miles to our home. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our explore of Lake Roosevelt, but are also glad to be home.

Lake Roosevelt sunset, final night of the trip