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  • Radford Bean

An Adventurous Weekend at Dorena Lake

Updated: Aug 8

June 9, 2023—I got a late start to my camping trip to Dorena Lake in Cottage Grove because of a light rain falling where I live. I was bringing my new Trek Émonda road bike with me and didn’t want to subject it to rain and dirty road spray. The problem with leaving late is that I arrived too late in the afternoon to explore the historic downtown of Cottage Grove.

I arrived at the Baker Bay County Park campground just a little after four and immediately set up camp. It was somewhat breezy, so I decided to hold off on paddling until the wind died down. Sadly, the wind didn’t subside until it was close to dusk, so I decided to postpone my paddling until tomorrow. It just meant that I’d be paddling after I got back from my cycling trip.

The campground at Baker Bay County Park is pretty decent with lots of amenities, including showers, a swim beach, boat launch, grassy picnic area, and clean campsites. The drawback to the park and lake is that powerboats are allowed at the launch and on the lake.

Dinner tonight was a favorite: Knorr Asian Noodles, shrimp, and fresh broccoli. I like one-pot meals because it makes clean-ups quick, which means more time to play, relax, and take in the sunsets. In this case, relaxing meant taking a walk to the west end of the park to explore the large picnic area.

I did encounter some less than respectful neighbors who let their kids run their RC car through my campsite and leave trash lying about. I watched as the dad stood next to his bass boat while cutting excess fishing line with his teeth and then spitting it onto the ground. What is it with some fishermen? I enjoy fishing, but I always disposed of any excess fishing line in the trash or in my tackle box to be disposed of later when I was near a trashcan. It seems some just don’t have a healthy respect for nature or other campers. When they leave, some other family is going to move into that campsite and have to deal with the litter they left behind.

June 10, 2023—The day started out with a breakfast of sausages and scrambled eggs. Nothing like a breakfast at a campsite—there’s something primitive and rustic even if the food is being cooked on a propane camp stove instead of on an open flame in a cast iron skillet. Wildfires in the West make cooking on open fires less acceptable to me.

Following the cleanup of the morning’s dishes and taking care of a few personal hygiene matters, I drove to Bohemia Park in downtown Cottage Grove to begin my ride of the Row River Trail. I was interested to see how my new road bike would do climbing to the top of the dam.

Cottage Grove has taken the step of moving homeless encampments away from the multi-use trail. Along the way, the trail takes riders past the Mosby Creek covered bridge, over a former train trestle spanning the Row River, past farm fields and horse pastures, and through heavily forested stretches. Much of the first five miles of the trail is flat before you start climbing to the top of the dam, which is two miles farther. The bike made climbing to the top of Dorena Dam a piece of cake. I would have been worn out by the time I reached the top of the dam if I had ridden my hybrid. Past the dam, a sharp-shinned hawk flew right in from of me before landing momentarily on a nearby tree. A rather large bird was startled by my passing judging from the sounds of bending limbs above me as it flew off. I made the 16.5-mile trip out to the Culp Creek terminus without breaking a sweat and with energy to spare. My new bike did not disappoint.

My original intention was to return the same way I came. However, I decided since I wasn't feeling tired to take Shoreview Drive, which runs along the south shore of Dorena Lake. It also took me past the Dorena covered bridge. The shoulder along the road is wide in most locations, so I wasn’t overly concerned about passing vehicles. However, the road isn't smooth, so the ride was a little jarring. It also climbs and descends frequently until you pass the dam and descend into the flatland. This section of the ride was considerably more tiring than along the Row River Trail because of all the climbing. Making matters worse was that I was pedaling into a headwind.

I eventually reconnected with the Row River Trail north of the Mosby Creek trailhead. The trailhead is a good starting point for cyclists who prefer to not ride from downtown Cottage Grove. It was clear some cyclists chose to do just that because there were several vehicles parked in the lot when I arrived back at the trailhead.

I stopped briefly at the Mosby Creek trestle to snap some pictures of cyclists riding the Row River Trail before heading back to the campground for lunch and a little rest before going paddling. The rest was short. The wind had started to pick up, so I decided to go paddling before the wind got stronger. Waves were already about a foot and a half high, with whitecaps forming on many of them.

I was just getting ready to launch my kayak when I discovered a long crack in my rear

hatch cover. I have a kayak repair kit that I put together, but I failed to bring it. It contains duct tape, which I could have used to cover the crack. It's by no means a permanent fix, but it would keep the water out long enough until I can get a replacement hatch cover. The crack in the hatch cover didn't stop me from paddling, but it did curtail my plans of paddling across the lake. As rough as the water was, I didn't think it smart to paddle out into the middle of the lake if there was any chance of water leaking in through the cover. Instead, I chose to stay fairly close to shore.

It took me no time to paddle from the campground to the outlet of the Row River. I had the wind to my back. Paddling back, now that was a different story. I was paddling into the wind. Waves crashed over the bow of my kayak as it plowed into the troughs of waves. It took twice as long to get back. Once I finally arrived back at the campground, it was time to rest.

I'll have to reach out to Old Town to see if they have replacement hatch covers for my kayak. If they don't, I might need to get in touch with Valley Kayaks since they made the hatch covers used on Necky kayaks. It could be a while before I can procure a replacement, which means no kayaking. BUMMER! Thank goodness I also have a canoe, though canoeing is a little harder west of the Cascades because of the wind and weathercocking when soloing a 16-foot canoe.

The day’s physical pleasures done, it was time to sit, look out over the lake from the comfort of my camp chair, and listen to the sounds of nature: the wind blowing through the trees, rustling the branches, and the sounds of chirping birds. Even the sounds of far-off powerboats skipping along the tops of waves was somewhat soothing. It was just a peaceful afternoon.

I contemplated buying some firewood for a fire this evening, but the winds made me somewhat leery. Thankfully, it’s still early in the season and the vegetation isn't dry. A campfire would be the perfect cap to an enjoyable camping trip, albeit a short one. In the end, I broke down and bought a bundle of wood for a fire. It was nice to sit by the fire and watch as the sun set and the sky turned the same shade of orange as the flames of the fire before me.

June 11, 2023—I was up at 5 a.m. and ready to pack up and head home. Packing went quick since I had loaded my kayak onto the J cradles and disassembled the camp kitchen yesterday. No need for a kitchen or stove when I was planning solely on a bowl of cereal and V8 juice. Mostly what I had left to do in the morning was roll up my sleeping bag and pad and take down the tent.

It was a sunny morning when I woke up. A warm amber glow reflected off the lightly rippled water. Two hours later when I left, a marine layer had moved in, masking the sun, and the amber glow vanished, replaced by gray. Guess I was leaving at the right time. At least I’d get home early enough to get all my gear and boat cleaned up and put away, leaving me much of the day to relax.

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