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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Diablo & Ross Lakes

I have another week on sunny Ross Lake to dream about this long, dark and cold winter. Photo credit: Terry Jaret

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Water  0-1' wind waves, little or no wind, sunny, hot, visability excellent. 






 Terry got up around 4:30, me a little later and it wasn’t long before we were on the road. We stopped at the Arlington Safeway for a breakfast sandwich and juice.  Starbucks wasn’t open yet. There was fog here and there from Darrington on but we made the Marblemount Wilderness Station at 7:15.  There was a small crowd already there.  I got #26 and they were on #11.  Evan came walking up when we got out of the car. We waited about an hour before going inside and going to the counter. Things have been rearranged a bit but at least we were allowed inside. Brandon fixed us up with BB on night #1, 10 Mile Island on Thu, Boundary Bay on Fri, Little Beaver on Sat-Sun with Cougar Island on the last night. It complicated a day off but I figured we’d sort it out later.

 Back on the road with Evan following us we pulled over at Gorge Dam to trot across the bridge and confirm there is a LOT of water coming down the falls.  There were construction crews between there and Colonial Creek that held us up at least half an hour.  We stopped to go across the top of Diablo.  No water coming out, no breeze for once and it would have been PERFECT to go to the bottom of the dam.  I don’t think that is ever going to happen.

 On to Colonial Creek. There were a few swimmers, boats and cars but nothing unusual.  Packing became a sweaty ordeal.  I stopped a couple of times to zip up the suit and go float in the numbingly cold water to cool off.  Finally Evan and Terry had the cars moved and were ready to go. They were able to double park and Terry said there was a park officer directing them.

 We took off at noon and skipped going up Thunder Arm as I was concerned as the wind had already begun just before we launched.  The odd thing was when we launched all the boats, cars and people were gone. 

 We paddled through the boom and nobody needed to stop at Thunder Knob so we made a hard left and followed the pretty shoreline to and across the dam.  I went for my boat’s annual smooch on the dam when we were halfway across.  A brown headed merganser had a brood of chicks suddenly appeared and we gave them time to get into the next boomed off area before proceeding on. The slight wind was at our backs as we crossed over towards the Seattle City Light boat barn, through the boom, past the swimming beach.  We continued along the shoreline and I realized why things had looked different: the large boat shed on the north side is gone.  We couldn’t tell if it is being dismantled or another building under construction; I guess I’ll find out next year.  We continued on to Buster Brown.

 Nobody on the dock or campsite but a couple showed up soon after we got there.  I hollered to Terry who then rushed up to claim a campsite.  Unfortunately he chose the one farthest from the dock.  Both he and Evan helped with my bags which I appreciated very much.  I was also grateful for the help they gave me getting out of my boat at the dock. The right knee is still making that a little difficult.

 We ate some lunch and Terry strung up his new hammock, a present from Tina.  Eventually I went to set up mine to discover that one of my straps is missing. The last place I can think of where I might have left it is Big Beaver and I doubt that it would be there after a year.  I’m pretty sure it’s not in the garage; it might be in my sewing room.  Terry kindly offered me one of his when it is free.

I took my chair and went out to the dock to clean up and avoid some of the bugs.  They were all over the campsite.  The other couple had settled at the usual spot at the top of the hill above the dock.  I saw a loon off to my left along with a merganser by the water’s edge.

 Eventually Terry helped me move my hammock to a better spot over one of the empty tent pads.  The trees were a perfect 9 steps apart and for once everything was clear underneath.  It was 8:00 when I got into the hammock and read for a while before turning out the light.



 My alarm went off at 7:00 and I staggered out of the hammock and down to the small and dark loo where a slug was smack in the middle of the floor.  But there was plenty of TP and that’s a lot better than the other way around.

 Terry and Evan kindly carried my food down to the dock for me.  A dock really makes it faster to load up, shove it in and get going.  It’s easier getting in than out though these days.

 It was right on time at 0800 as we headed out in the slightly damp but rapidly warming sunshine up the beautiful Diablo canyon. Nobody opted to go past the dock.  Mercifully the stairs are gone, replaced by a nice metal ramp.  A couple with a barking dog—“Bennie”—had arrived in a canoe at the smaller dock and volunteered to make the phone call.  There is a sandwich sign up on the staging area with a set shuttle schedule.  The first shuttle to Ross is supposed to be at 9:30.

 The slide in docks were replaced by some ridiculous ramp that was way too steep for kayaks or seeming anything else.  I was the last to get out of my boat and had her on the west side of the long dock.  All the others sides are railed off.  The passenger boat appeared up the canyon and began repeatedly blowing the horn.  Of course we were already going as fast as we could and the idiot still kept blowing the horn.  I finally turned and shouted, I KNOW!!!” at it when it blared again. 

 Nobody else showed up and we got everything loaded. The driver claimed not to know how to put the ladder in place so we all had to struggle up the wheel and sides of the truck.  I couldn’t do it until I took my PFD off and threw it up to Terry’s surprised face.  The ride was pleasant as we talked to the other couple.  They are staying on Ponderosa through Sunday. 

 The driver told us the charge is now $45 a boat with a $10 discount for multiple so is still $35 a boat.  I’m not surprised with the increased price of gas. I was able to get some cash at Safeway but for some reasons Terry’s card didn’t work so we will have to give him the difference. 

 After the truck left I discovered my water bag was missing.  After some searching Evan found it in his boat. The sun was getting hotter and there was no breeze yet as we finally started out around 10:00.  I haven’t been that early in a long time. 

 We stopped at Cougar for a bio break for Terry and a chance for me to rearrange some things.  As we approached the island I was puzzled by what looked like a series of tarps behind a large tent with a half dozen adults sitting at the picnic table.  Lots of stuff scattered around the campsite.  As we got closer I realized it was the biggest tent I have ever seen…it looked like it had two storeys! 

 We continued on in the rippling water sometimes next to the east side and sometimes closer to mid channel.  We made a detour to May Creek where Terry got out and stood on a tiny underwater ledge to filter some water.  Then we carried on to Rainbow.  We stopped at the soggy shoreline on the west side for lunch on a floating log.  When I came out of the potty I was startled to see a deer close by.  It didn’t seem too concerned to see me or Terry who was coming down the path.  She turned casually and walked away. 

 We continued on to Devil’s Canyon.  About a half dozen boys were up on the bridge as we approached with their boats down below.  One jumped off to our cheers.  We left them to it and continued on down the cool and quiet canyon.  Terry stopped to get a video of the reflecting light on the rock walls.  I was terribly disappointed when I saw a huge log jam well before the sharp last turn.  We could hear the chattering creek but there was no way of getting past or over that pile even if on foot.

 We turned around and headed out.  As we approached the bridge again five boys simultaneously jumped off the bridge.  They and I began hollering to another one left behind, doing a countdown before he finally jumped to our cheers.

 We now had following seas and I set an angle to ride it as much as I could on the wind waves through the last mile to the island. The best campsite was taken so we went to the point on the west side with a full view of the thundering falls on the west side of the lake.  We used good teamwork to pile up some logs to use as a ramp to get mine and Terry’s boats out after unloading from the water.  Evan had found another place to pull out.  It was a short carry to the campsite where there were lots of trees for our hammocks.  We all jumped in at intervals to swim and float in our drysuits. Terry later went for a swim.  The afternoon was spent doing that, sleeping, reading, whatever. I turned in about 8:30 with no alarm set.



 No alarm clocks today.  I could hear the falls roaring all night in spite of my earplugs.  It was clearly visible in the morning light with the boys and kayaks clustered around the base of it.  We got off about 1015 or so, packing our boats and sliding them in down our little ramp.  I had determined my packing problems were due to the Thermorest that wouldn’t stay small.  It blows up when I don’t want it and won’t stay blown up when I do.  I was so aggravated I left it in the food locker for somebody else to mess with it.  It would make a good pad in a canoe I guess.

 A swim felt good just before we took off.  Jack Mt is now clearly visible with more snow that I think I have ever seen in it.

 We passed up Ponderosa and barking Bennie—Terry said he heard him several times—and as we followed the eastern side we soon heard lots of cascading water too.  Terry and I pulled over several times to peer through the foliage to see what was causing it though often couldn’t see much of anything.  Evan paddled on ahead.

 We soon reached little Cat Island with nobody needing to stop.  The island’s dock was empty as were the campsites that I could see. It wasn’t long before we reached the empty dock for the Desolation Peak Trail. Eventually we came to Devil’s Canyon and this time was able to get to the back of it.  I filled my 6 ltr bag but no surfing this time with my knee...next year.

 I recognized the rock on the south end of Boundary Bay campsite but we continued along the shore rather than making a beeline for it.  We arrived at noon.  The place was empty.  There are some stone steps and a small wall but no dock.  Once again we piled up some wood to create a ramp and pulled our boats up.  We chose the site closest to the water.  We were nicely in the shade and could see the bottom of Little Beaver Falls across the lake.  We were also able to watch the sun slip down behind the western hills later on.  I cooked up my tomato, sausage and mushroom sauce over Terry’s angel hair pasta with a side salad of apple, zucchini and radishes that was surprisingly good.  The carrots look awful.  We ate copious amounts but I surprisingly didn’t feel stuffed.  Cookies and chocolate for dessert and I had tea.

 Sitting on the stone steps to clean up before bed felt like I was visiting a Greek temple or Roman bath or something.  


 I had told Terry and Evan that I was skipping going to the back of the lake this year and Terry agreed to lead the paddle.  Meantime I paddled across the lake the mile or so to Little Beaver to nail down a campsite.

 TERRY: Launched in calm conditions at 0700.  Paddled up the east shore, arriving at Hozemeen at 0830.  They spent about an hour with NO BUGS!!! or people around so it was very quiet.  Hozemeen and Ross Lake campgrounds are closed due to a Canadian road washout somewhere.  Terry and Evan then went up the slough via Silver Skagit Creek for approximately ½ mile.  They had some heavy underbrush along the way while staying in the mid current.  Eventually the current grew too strong and after gathering some water they turned around and headed for the west side of the lake, eventually steered for Silver Creek campground.  They got out for a snack break, walking through the campground to avoid the logs.  There were six people camped there who had hiked in with paddle boards.  After about 20 minutes Terry and Evan continued on reaching Little Beaver around 1330.

 I had arrived around 1100 to find Gail, Sergei and their dog Anya in the primo spot.  I got out at the dock but there was no makeshift bridge over the slough in the back so the detour and then uphill climb was not appealing. Gail and Sergei kindly agreed to let us pull up our boats in our usual spot and even enthusiastically offered to help me pull up my boat and gear.  But I wanted to see if I could do it myself again and patted myself gleefully on the back when I did.  Then I had to heave my bags uphill to the campsite just above the loos. 

 I was talking to Gail when the guys came in.  They unloaded their boats at a small steep spot by the loos, handing me the bags which I stashed above.  You can’t do this without help from somebody on shore.  Then they paddled their empty boats to the usual spot and hauled out.

 It was very hot.  The forecast had been for the 70s and we were more likely around 90.  We set up our camp with Evan on a nice top spot and Terry in the tent pad right next to the food locker.  It was soon covered with ants but I guess that is better than mice as long as the zipper is shut.  I also set up my tarp using the poles stuck into the table which we maneuvered a bit to maximize the coverage.  I had put it up mostly for shade but at one point we heard an odd rumbling.  Evan mentioned that it sounded ominous and soon after to our amazement rain began to fall.  It and the thunder continued intermittently for the next hour or so.  It was kind of a nice change after all the heat. Terry came down hollering to me at one point and when I went up to the viewing spot there was a beautiful view of Jack Mt in the shadow with rainbows in front of it.  Some other campers came to see too.  They were a family of four who had power boated in from May Creek where they reported that they were the only ones there. 

 Gail had told me that they had been the only ones on Cat Island for 3 nights.  We had been the only ones at Boundary Bay last night with only one other campsite used on 10 Mile.  There is something wrong with this system that the Park Service is using unless they are purposefully not letting the campsites get filled even though they are telling us that they are. Nobody is checking our permits.

 SUN 07/24/22 – NO PADDLE DAY

 Terry got in his boat to go get water up the creek but didn’t get very far.  You can see the log jam from the dock.  There is an awful lot of wood in the lake this year.  Terry and I sat on the observation spot later in the afternoon reading and imagining the wood in different forms like I used to do with clouds as a kid.  We also were puzzled for a while watching a park service boat moving incredibly slowly on the east side of the lake until I realized it was dragging a boom of logs behind it.  I guess they have to gather it up as it would be very damaging to their boat propellers.

 The bugs aren’t as bad this year as they have been in the past and I wonder if the long cold spring had anything to do with that.  They were bad enough but at least I didn’t have to use DEET or light a fire.

 I went down around noon to talk to Gail and Sergei.  Terry joined us later.  Gail showed me her sketches which I enjoyed and they had lots of questions of placed I’ve been.  They have been a number of places themselves but take their time. Anya became quite affectionate and later nuzzled up to Terry!


 We were loaded up as quietly as we could, mindful of our neighbors still in their tent. Evan and I loaded onshore and dropped our boats in while Terry loaded in the water.  The paddle was smooth, quiet, and hot when we got away from the cool grottos with the waterfalls.  We stopped at the usual spot just south of the fall opposite 10 Mile Island.  I sat on my boat while the others explored the outside bit.  Eventually we got going, mostly following the shoreline.  There were lots of cascades but the big surprise came when we reached Pumpkin Mtn.  About halfway around it I saw a very tall waterfall cascading down a series of rock faces.  The entire front of it looked like a land or waterslide took out all the trees and foliage…it was nothing but rock, mud and dirt.  Terry got out of his boat first and began up towards the falls and finally I couldn’t stand it and followed, using my sticks as poles as I carefully made my way among the rocks and chattering creek up to the small pool at the base.  Evan stayed with the boats.  Terry and I sat there a bit before heading back down.  I’m sure we have seen the creek dropping below at the waterline but the trees had always been in the way to actually see the falls, let alone approach them.  This will be a stopping point in the future for sure!

 We didn’t detour to Big Beaver and instead grinded on to Cougar Island.  There was a group of people and piles of bags at the picnic table closest to the dock and we went around the east side to find some people in the final stages of loading up a canoe.  I got out and walked up to the other campsite.  The people waiting there looked apprehensive as I approached…I must have looked pretty grim.  They told me that they had been waiting for an hour for the campers to leave and I couldn’t argue with that. I went back to the others, got in my boat and we passed the canoeists going the other way as we traded places at the dock.

 There were lots of logs blocking the right side of the dock and once again Terry hauled in some wood and we used it to pull or boats up and unloaded from the water.  We then hauled the boats out, putting them under some trees off to the side above the dock.

 The rest of the day was spent sleeping, walking around the island,  reading and trying to stay as cool as possible.  People came by to visit, some of them swimming but I knew the water was too cold on this end to enjoy it.  I kept moving my chair around to get into some shade and also tried Terry’s hammock out but the bugs drove me out of it. Eventually I used his strap to hang my own.   I also went to the dock and sat with my feet in the water later in the day. 

 The island was what I feared: there is too much boat traffic around it.  We could see where there was a cascade across from us to the east and that made it pleasant to hear but it was constantly be drowned out by the boats roaring by on both sides. At least the roar at Big Beaver is the rapids, not boat engines, at least not to that extent so it is worth the extra mile and a half the next day to stay there instead.  


 We loaded and launched off the dock on time about 0800.  It took about half an hour or so to get to the take out.  I turned around a few times to say good bye to lovely Ross Lake in the sunshine before plodding on.  Evan reached the dock first and so I asked him to make the call and he reported that a truck was on its way already.  It came backing down after we were all unloaded and driver Edward said he could squeeze us in if we were quick.  We were the only ones and he commented that was probably one of the fastest load up that he has ever had.  At least HE could figure out the step ladder—it attaches to the back of the truck, not the side—and within a few minutes we were on our way. 

 It was with the usual sadness that I watched Ross Lake slip away sparkling in the sunshine.  I asked Edward if the resort was under new management and he said it was bought about six years ago by Bill Walker’s brother!!  So I’m sure he is still coming up there; funny that I haven’t seen him.  It would be wonderful to do so again, especially up there!

 After the usual 20 minutes we were being backed down to the Diablo dock where we quickly unloaded.  One of the passenger boats showed up but I think they were carrying workers that Edward immediately hooked up with.  Once we were back in our boats Evan asked if we could go up to see the dam so we went up to the old take out but nobody opted to get out and go to the bridge.  I would have done so this year as I have never done it but the heat didn’t make it very appealing.

 I stuck to the cool shadows as much as I could as we made our leisurely way down the quiet canyon.  A few other paddlers crossed our path and I saw some SUPpers at the rocks where I left some gel coat years ago when Terry and I stopped there for lunch.

 The boat launch was fairly quiet and the water level was slightly higher than when we had launched.  It was already hot though and I was glad to ditch the drysuit and get into some shorts once Terry brought the car down. It took about an hour before we hit the road.  Happily this time we didn’t have any construction crews holding us up.  That was a mercy: the dashboard reported that the outside temp was 95 degrees.  Terry’s A/C isn’t the best—about the same as my car—but it certainly helped as we made our way back the way that we had come with no stops as the General Store in Newhalem was closed again.  I almost sobbed as we passed up Cascadian Farms with its sad CLOSED sign too.  No ice cream this year again and that would have been REALLY appreciated in all this heat.  

 We couldn’t find any place to stop to eat until we got to Arlington and just as we got to the light at the top of the exit ramp to turn left we found an accident in progress.  A tow truck showed up and I was amazed at how fast it hooked up the first car and hauled it out.  Then another one did the same with the second car and we were finally able to slide around it all and get to the Taco Time across the road just up from Safeway. But we lost Evan somewhere along the way; I had forgotten my phone list so couldn’t call him.  It was nice to sit in the air conditioned restaurant where Terry kindly paid for my meal. Then it was back into the car and the rest of the way to Terry’s house which didn’t take very long. Tina came out as we were unloading and told us that the heat has been miserable….they don’t have AC either but spend a lot of the time downstairs where it is cooler.

 I think I might have left some articles in Terry’s car but haven’t called him about them yet. I got home to my hot house in the early evening.  And I have another week of sunny Ross Lake to dream about this long dark cold winter…

 All paddlers performed well with excellent group dynamics.