Bighorns and birds

Hells Gate to Hawk Creek Harbor

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

19 miles cruised today; 24 miles cruised for trip

Whitestone Rock

In the middle of the night I find myself thinking about that bogus voltmeter reading issue. It occurs to me that a setting button might have gotten accidentally bumped. First thing this morning I try pushing some buttons, and to my amazement, the house battery shows up on the amp meter display. It takes a while for me to recall that, after installing a second device, it’s actually working the way I originally installed it. I just forgot what I’d done last year.

We take our time with breakfast, and get underway around 8:30am. The centerboard is once again reluctant to drop, but once we’re going, it slowly falls into position. I’ll just have to be careful to not raise it up too hard.

Colville Reservation bighorns

Scenery is impressive on both sides of the lake for several miles to the east of Hells Gate Creek. Rugged, steep rocky slopes descend dramatically into the water. On the south shore we admire Whitestone Rock, a massive whitish monolith, which stands in stark contrast with the dark basalt rocks behind it. We put in at Sterling Point, which offers a small dock and 2 camping sites. It’s a nice spot, and we eat our lunch there. After lunch we walk up a dirt road to the top of a hill. Isolated homes are scattered throughout this area on the south side of the lake. When we return to the dock we find a pontoon boat tied up across from us. A guy from the pontoon says he thinks he can see a bunch of big horn sheep across the lake, on the Colville Tribal Reservation side. I put the binocs on them and, sure enough, about 30 bighorns are out in the open, grazing in a large, open meadow. We hop in the boat and motor across the lake for a closer look, with the pontoon doing the same. We both ease in, keeping a respectful distance from the shore. The sheep don’t seem to mind us being there, and we get great looks at them. They’re mostly lambs and ewes, but we do see one young ram, about ¾ curl, in the bunch.

Peaceful cove on Hawk Creek arm

The sky is clouding up as we continue uplake, with a blustery wind kicking up small white caps. I try sailing with the jib but it’s difficult, since the wind keeps shifting. I’m looking for a place to stay the night. I’ve spotted a likely candidate, called Welsh Creek Cove, and we poke in there. However, it’s fairly small, with steep shorelines and deep water until right near the bank. Half a dozen houses surround the bay. Bottom looks sketchy too. We pass on Welsh Creek and continue on our way. The next possibility is near the mouth of Hawk Creek, a little cove at Moonshine Canyon. No development there, but it’s also steep, with deep water until right on shore. Not a good option. We continue up Hawk Creek. I see an interesting little inlet on the map. The water appears quite shallow, but I love poking into shallow places. When we reach the cove we find a power boat pulled up on the beach at its mouth. A couple of young families are enjoying the small beach. However, I see no camping gear and figure they’ll soon be leaving. We ease our way over a shallow bar at the mouth of the cove, reading 1.9 feet of water under the transducer at one point. Once inside, though, it deepens to about 15 feet, a perfect little hole for our anchor. I drop as close to the center as I can, and let out 50 feet of rode. We have just enough room to swing in all directions. As soon as we get settled, we realize that this place is simply alive with birds. We see goldfinches, orioles, buntings, waxwings, sparrows, swallows, robins, kingbirds, phoebes, and quail, all clustered around this little cove. I can’t think of another place I’ve visited which has such an amazing variety of birds.

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