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Trip Report: Kayaking the Skagit River between Marblemount and Rockport


  • Date: Sunday, January 14, 2018
  • Class rating: I to low-II (high water level probably made our trip easier than usual)
  • Run length: 10.5 miles
  • Run duration: 1:55 (averaged 6.5 knots, mostly drifting)
  • Water level: appx. 9700 cfs (recommended range is 1,500 to 12,000 cfs)
  • Shuttle length: 9.1 miles
  • Launch point: Marblemount Boat Launch at the southeast side of the Marblemount bridge over the Skagit
  • Takeout point: Howard Miller Steelhead Park at Rockport
  • Boats: sea kayaks (1 thermoformed plastic Eddyline and 1 rotomolded plastic). Most others were in rafts, but at least one person there doing the segment solo in a canoe.
  • Cell signal: Verizon LTE coverage at Rockport but signal lost between there and Marblemount. Poor to no AT&T cell signal at either.


This past weekend a friend and I kayaked the segment of the Skagit River between Marblemount and Rockport, WA. The weather was beautiful: mostly sunny, and pretty warm for January. My friend dropped me and the kayaks off at the launch point, then took the car off to the takeout and biked back while I relaxed at the launch point.

We didn’t launch until after 1pm, primarily due to bike problems during the shuttle. This late launch, in conjunction with mostly-sunny skies, meant that we frequently had the sun in our eyes; even with sunglasses it was a challenge at times.

The rapids weren’t much of a problem, I only noticed one big rock poking out of the water by itself, and the logs were all easily spotted and avoided, but the high river speed means you do need to keep an eye out ahead and give yourself some time to move away from any hazards. Routes were generally easy to decide on; there was one spot where there was some ambiguity, but visibility was much better to one side, so we went that way. The route was fine for taking sea kayaks. I personally wouldn’t take a complete novice kayaking down this, but I would expect anyone with a moderate bit of experience to manage fine, at least when the water level is high like this, as long as you pay attention.

This is a relatively popular run, especially around this time of the year as many are here for eagle season. You might be able to hitch a ride from someone else from the takeout to the launch, but I wouldn’t be comfortable relying on it. (Admittedly I’m not comfortable hitch-hiking anyway.) There are commercial outfitters who take rafts down this segment, and I’ve wondered if any of them would be amenable to carrying a few extra people from the takeout to the launch for a reasonable fee, if you managed to time your trip well.


  • During eagle season, it is requested that you voluntarily not launch before 11am. (I had read that you’re supposed to launch between 10am and noon, but subsequently read the 11am constraint.)
  • The takeout is pretty close on river right after you go under the bridge at Rockport. With the rapid water speed, you will want to be near the right side of the river so you don’t miss the takeout and end up trying to paddle against the strong current to get back to it. There are strong eddies passing under the bridge, so that’s an area to be careful if you don’t have much experience.
  • Parking fees at Rockport are $5. Launch/takeout fees are also $5. Lots of parking, but can be busy, at least on event days during the eagle season. Good restroom facilities.
  • No fees at Marblemount Boat Launch. Lots of parking. Porta-potty available. (No toilet paper or hand sanitizer when we arrived; I don’t know how well stocked it usually is. Fortunately we had a roll of toilet paper which we donated to the cause.) There’s also a fairly short trail from the parking area with some views of both the Skagit and Cascade Rivers.
  • We dressed pretty warm and wore dry suits. Saw some rafters in dry suits as well, but the guided floats I’ve done in in years past did not bother with dry suits for the clients; just advised us to dress warm and not wear cotton since it doesn’t keep you warm if it gets wet.


  • Book: paddle #7 (Skagit River III — Copper Creek to Rockport) in Paddling Washington, by Rich Landers, Dan Hansen, Verne H?user, and Douglass North. This paddle description includes an additional upper portion which we did not do, partly because of the additional shuttle distance, and partly because the upper section sounds like it’s got a bit of rougher water and I was concerned that it might not be appropriate for sea kayaks.
  • Professor Paddle: Skagit — 3. Marblemount to Rockport
  • Everyone’s Travel Club trip report in inflatable kayaks

Mini-review: Memorex Mi4703PBLK iPod/iPhone dual alarm clock radio

Summary: Not bad in general, but inability to set alarm volume is a fatal flaw for me.

This clock radio has generally decent UI (which puts it way ahead of the pack), looks reasonably ok (at least compared to most), will play from, control (play/pause/skip), and charge an iPhone or iPod (but can’t control iPods before 4th gen, according to the manual), and even has an aux line in to support other audio players (though it can’t control other devices, so you – understandably – can’t wake to audio from the aux input).

However, the alarm volume can not be changed. This is a fatal shortcoming for me, as I generally wake to the radio and lie in bed a bit listening to the news. This is effectively impossible when the radio comes on full blast. (Technically, it comes on at low volume and then is supposed to ramp up to high volume – in my experience it started at low volume and then jumped directly to high volume, but either way it means no control over the volume.) I typically use a second alarm on buzzer mode to wake me on the offhand chance that I sleep through the first alarm or fall back asleep while listening to the radio, which is why I want a dual alarm unit. Because of this issue, I returned the unit I purchased this weekend.

Other criticisms include the fact that the dimmer does not dim enough for my taste – the lowest brightness (short of turning the display off completely) is still brighter than I would like. Also, audio quality is less than I had hoped – lower frequencies are acceptable (to me) for this usage, but the upper frequencies sound disappointingly muffled. And there’s no way to have an iPod/iPhone play a particular song when the alarm is in iPod mode, short of queueing up the song/playlist on the iPod as you go to bed. This isn’t terribly surprising given what it would entail, and is rather moot since the volume problem renders this unusable anyway. I didn’t get around to testing the power draw of the unit since I had already determined that I would be returning it.

Photo and reviews on (I didn’t find these reviews when I was looking at the unit in the store, or I would have known about the volume problem.)

Griffin Elan Folio Slim case for iPad 2: Not For Me

I’m searching for a good case for my iPad 2. I’m looking for something that firmly encloses the full device (unlike Apple’s cover, which just covers the top), that is slim, that will prop up the iPad (for typing and for watching video), and with a front flap that will fold all the way around to the back, allowing the iPad to sit flat when the case is open. I want it to be easy to grip, and frankly I want to downplay the tablet appearance – I want something that is less obtrusive when it’s not actually in use. Honestly, my basis for comparison is Apple’s case for the original iPad, which I quite liked aside from the rather pointy edges. (I know that many people were less happy with it.)

A little while back, I found the Griffin Elan Folio Slim case for iPad 2, which isn’t very expensive, and on the face of it, seemed to fulfil my wishes, so I purchased it. It’s slim, has a feel that I like, opens all the way and sits flat. It’s made from textured polyurethane, but otherwise is much like Apple’s original case (right down to the somewhat-pointy edges).

Sadly, I’ve been quite disappointed in it. For a start, the material is of lower quality than I had hoped: strands of the material started appearing around the edges very quickly, and that has continued.

Another issue is that the front cover, when folded around to the back, tends to flop down due to the crease that is there to allow bending the flap to form a stand for the iPad.

The case has a nice, soft interior, although I found this actually has a bit of a downside: it’s a bit more likely to pick up tiny debris while sitting open on a surface, and then deposit that debris on the iPad when the flap is closed. It hasn’t been a huge issue, but it happened a couple of times, and has me questioning the benefit of the soft/microfiber interiors that are more common now.

But by far the biggest issue is the fit. This case never held the iPad as tightly as Apple’s original case did, partly due to simply not being as closely fitted, and partly because the interior textures simply don’t grip the iPad very well – the flap that holds the iPad in place works loose far too easily. In the matter of a few weeks the case seems to be stretching, as the iPad is no longer held firmly at all. The right edge of the iPad frequently slips out of the case. The cutouts for the device controls are insufficient, exacerbated by the sloping edges of the iPad 2 and by the iPad not being held firmly in place, making it difficult to adjust volume or put the iPad to sleep, for instance. This is made even worse when the front flap of the case is folded over to the back, as there are no appropriate cutouts on that side, so the flap gets in the way of trying to use the physical controls.

I felt quite hopeful about this case when I first played with it in the store. If it were higher quality material and held the iPad firmly, I would probably have been satisfied – with a few other improvements I would have been downright happy with it. As it is, I can’t recommend it.

Election 2010 Aftermath

Well, election day is over, and most of the vote-counting is wrapping up. Some things went my way, some things didn’t.

To those who gained in this election: congratulations. You’re going to focus on your priorities – that’s understood, and appropriate. But please try to govern for all – there’s a huge part of America with different opinions and priorities and they cared enough to vote against you. They lost, but they’re still Americans, and they deserve some respect and some attention to their priorities as well. Please try to work with them.

To those who lost in this election: please try to accept that you lost. That doesn’t mean that you give up on your priorities, but it’s not very reasonable to complain about the other side simply being obstructionist when they are out of power, then turn around and do the same thing yourself when your party is out of power. There were more people on the other side who are actually willing to participate, and they deserve some respect and to be able to make some progress on their priorities. Please try to find out and understand why so many people have different priorities and opinions, to accept that there are valid opinions other than your own, and to be constructive in your opposition.

To those who didn’t vote: unless you had a really, really good excuse for not voting, please keep your complaints about government and politics to an absolute minimum. You may not have been happy with the choices available to you, but you do what you can with what’s available to you. Not making a choice is itself a choice, so you deserve some of the blame for anything that might have been bettered had you just voted. If you don’t care enough to prepare and run yourself, then you’re left with choices from those who do care enough. You get periodic opportunities to influence the direction of both your immediate area and the entire country. If you’re not taking advantage of those opportunities by spending a bit of time to do a bit of research to become reasonably informed on the issues and candidates and then actually voting to provide that bit of influence, it’s unclear to me why you should complain about the outcomes. Instead, please prepare yourself to participate next time.

To everyone: all too often “politician” and “activist” are seen as negative labels. They can be, sure, but fundamentally, how are we supposed to have a country if no-one makes it their priority to learn what has to be learned and spend time actually working to improve things? Please try not to think ill of someone just because they chose to be civically or politically active – the vast majority of the time, they are sacrificing in order to contribute to something that they feel is important. Even if they aren’t sacrificing, what’s wrong with them loving a job that allows them to spend their time standing up for the values they believe in? If they are doing a good job, then what’s wrong with being a “career politician”? Oppose someone because they are a bad politician, not simply because they are a politician.

For the record: I (still) think Obama is a good President

I’ve seen plenty of complaints about Obama, so I want to take this one-year point to stand up and show a bit of support for him. I agree with most of this administration’s priorities (environment, “green” energy, health care reform, financial reform, government transparency, Afghanistan, more). I _hugely_ appreciate our President actually largely showing respect to opponents domestically as well as to foreign countries, rather than only to his supporters and rather than acting as if other counties exist only to do what we tell them to do. I’m really grateful that he seems to focus on fact-based decision-making with a high priority on the best available science. I even like that he (generally) tries to be fairly hands-off with Congress; while he certainly (and appropriately) has influence, it’s not his job to make the laws – that’s Congress’ job and they are there to ensure that all constituencies at least get heard from.

That’s not to say that I think he’s perfect or that I’m happy with everything he’s done. For a couple of quick examples, I’m unhappy about the privacy around the ACTA negotiations, and his reaction to the Henry Gates incident was “stupid” – to borrow a word from Obama himself. Still, I think he has indeed made some real improvements, such as in government transparency (see the “high-value” government data now being released for an example), in improving our relations around the world, and in actually letting decisions be driven by science and fact (see NASA, environment, more). And while he is legitimately due some blame for current economic conditions and I don’t pretend to know all the right answers (or to be completely happy with everything we’ve done), I think he’s honestly making reasonable decisions, I think we’re better off for the decisions he’s made, and I personally attribute most blame for our current woes to pre-existing conditions (Clinton-era financial regulation relaxations, for a start, as well as breath-taking spending and poor financial management that went on under the previous administration – see the extreme costs of the Medicare drug benefits for an example), an opposition that is hostile and unconstructive in order to damage him, pretty much regardless of the collateral damage), and far-left Democrats who prefer inaction over compromise or who drag things out so much to show their bona fides at a substantial cost of progress. That’s my perspective.

I have no illusions that this post is going to change anyone’s mind, and indeed that’s not my intent. My point with this is mostly to stand up and be counted – to lend a bit of support to others who feel much the same, and maybe to provide a bit of balance to some who might otherwise be supportive of Obama but who don’t hear much beyond the chorus of detractors.

Wikihistory short story

Wikihistory is a most amusing time-travel short story by Desmond Warzel, posted to the Abyss & Apex Magazine of Speculative Fiction, which I had not previously heard of, but I think I should explore it some. (The story is unrelated to, which looks like it could be a really good reference.)

(Updated January 2015 to correct the stale links.)

Campaign for Real Beauty

I saw another one of the Campaign for Real Beauty videos today, which reminded me of the first one I saw. The videos are from Dove, and I don’t want to endorse them in general, but I think they are pretty powerful and I’m quite sympathetic to the basic ideas being expressed, that our ideas of human physical beauty are distorted, and that affects us both as observers of beauty and in how we feel about ourselves. Especially women in our culture, and that’s who these commercial-style films portray.Here is the first film: Evolution.And here is the one I just saw today: Talk to Your Daughter Before They Do

Cool, short video on Moebius transformations

Came across a neat video tonight about Moebius transformations. It’s pretty short, and the real cool bit (to me) is the introduction of the sphere. Found here via videosift.


Ants that walk on each other to get over holes

Came across an AFP article today (ok, a month or so ago, but apparently I didn’t hit the Publish button after writing this post) about army ants using their bodies to cover holes, so other ants can walk across on the backs of the first ants. This isn’t a bunch of ants being sacrificed to physically fill holes; instead, the ants stretch across the holes to let others cross on them, then they carry on their way. According to a study to be published in June, this behavior makes for significantly more efficient foraging parties.

Traveler’s Phrase Book T-shirt

Check out this Traveler’s Phrase Book T-shirt. Basically, it’s a cotton t-shirt (comes in black, red or grey) with common symbols surrounding a question mark, so if you don’t know the language where you are traveling, you can point at items on your t-shirt to get your question across.

Symbols include things like a telephone, eating utensils, an airplane and a bed (presumably intended to be interpreted as a request for a hotel; beware of misinterpretations). It even includes a number pad, should you need to convey a number. The big plus sign confused me at first, then I realized that was for medical help.

It’s $30, and I don’t have any travel planned at the moment, but I gotta say, I like the shirt and I’m thinking of getting one. (Found indirectly via a link from Blue’s News. )