Friday, May 26, 2017

AQUARELLA


These landscapes of water and reflection have become an obsession. -- Claude Monet

While touring Claude Monet’s home and garden in the Normanady village of Giverny, about an hour train ride from Paris, I found myself and the world famous artist linked by the same elan, because we share that same enthusiasm and inspiration of nature and a kindship of water.

Chartres River Walk
“I am following Nature without being able to grasp her," said Monet,  "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

This is where he created one of his most famous works depicting water lilies in the pond surrounding his gardens. In his footsteps, among other tourists I got  glimpse of his inspiration as I followed the meandering path under weeping willows and over a Japanese bridge and saw the pond's spellbinding reflection of light and water. He painted them here, in every time of the day, moving along with the with the sunlight. He created eight mammoth curved panels that to this day, still immersed people into his garden.
Seine River, Paris

“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way." Monet said, "So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”
They are like the same mirrored images that inspire me everyday, while out on the lake or river. The movement of the water and its changing colors shimmering around me.

Kate Hives an adventurous sea kayaking guide and rough water coach with SKILS based out of Vancouver Island described in best in her blog At home on the water, when she wrote, "I feel so lucky to know the magic of travel by way of water, to intimately feel the ebb and flood of the ocean as it caresses the rocky shores and sandy beaches of this coastal playground. Sometimes I feel like I have been told a great secret of the mystery of the natural world and my – our – connection to it. It is this time of year that I revel in setting out in my kayak to search of the feasts of the natural world."

Lake Natoma
So now as spring fades and I head into the summer paddling season, I look back some of my favorite images and reflections while on the water. And just like Monet, I find myself appreciating the light, the blue sky and the water.

Lake Natoma with Current Adventures

Bayside Adventure Sports on Folsom Lake
Lake Natoma
Lake Natoma
Current Adventures at Lake Natoma
Lake Natoma

Friday, May 12, 2017

"WHAT FALLS THERE ARE"... A GUIDE TO RIVER SCOUTING


We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, that flow in our rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields, and we ask that they teach us and show us the way. -- Chinook Blessing

In 1869, ten men and four boats embarked on a journey through almost 1,000 miles of uncharted canyons trying to map one of the west's last great wildernesses and forever changing our view of it.

"We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore," said one-armed Civil War hero leader John Wesley Powell, "What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may conjecture many things."

The party experienced calamity after calamity. One of the boats sank in a rapid, taking with it all their scientific instruments and a quarter of the party’s provisions. Another near-sinking of a second boat took the remaining food through spoilage. Morale disappeared as  party members gave up and abandoned the expedition. After three months, only five of the original company would emerge from the depths of the Grand Canyon. Although hailed a hero, Powell's first trip into the unknown was a disaster.

"The relief from danger, and the joy of success, are great." wrote Powell in Down the Colorado: Diary of the First Trip Through the Grand Canyon, describing the perils of the trip, "The first hour of convalescent freedom seems rich recompense for all—pain, gloom, terror.”

Photo by Roger Peka
There is an old whitewater kayaking adage that says, "When in doubt, scout." If Powell's trip down the Colorado River teaches us anything, it's that the party didn't know anything about what they were likely to face. Today's whitewater paddling experts give us several reasons why you might want to scout a rapid first before running it.

"The first is just to make sure it has an exit. If I’m paddling on an unfamiliar stretch of river and no one in the crew knows it then it’s crucial that there is a way out of a rapid before you commit to dropping in." said Current Adventures Kayak School & Trips instructor Pete Delosa, "In California it’s not uncommon for the river to run into and under a pile of boulders. In the Northwest, it might end in a pile of trees. If you can’t see the exit from the top, you don’t really know."

The California-based kayaker Delosa sponsored by Immersion Research and member of Team Pyranha, recommends that if you know it’s going to be a hard  rapid to paddle, to study the flow and get an understanding of what the water is doing. Look for hazards you want to avoid and the line you want to make. See how much of the water is going into the hazards versus where you want to go.

"Are there certain features that are going to flip me?" said Delosa, "Maybe there is a feature like a small eddy that I can use to get to where I want to go, or maybe there’s a really big hole that I need to avoid because it feeds into a sieve."

Rafa Ortiz via Facebook
Red Bull athlete Rafa Ortiz never runs anything too stout or dangerous without a proper scout. Ortiz is one of whitewater kayaking's super stars and the focus of Chasing Niagara," a film produced by Red Bull chronicling his pursuit of being the first person ever to go over Niagara Falls in a kayak. However, he says, when he is guiding someone down a river they've never paddled, he finds it tricky choosing when to get them and scout it.

"I often find that too much information doesn't necessarily result in them having a good line, " Ortiz wrote on Facebook Messenger, "When you scout a rapid, for example, with a bad hole on the left, as you get in your boat and paddle into it, all that is in your mind is the dimension and apparent stickiness of the monster on river left. Your mind is often blurred by fear."

On the other hand, he warns, not to make someone drop into a rapid their first time without enough information. He says, it would be neglectful on his part if they ended up in the gnarly hole on the left, swim and get body recirculated just because he didn't emphasize its dimension.

"What I do nowadays is an in between," wrote Ortiz, "I suggest people scout a rapid that in my opinion does have a life-threat in it and even something that could result in a negative enough experience for them to want to quit kayaking. Otherwise, let them enjoy the pleasure of the one chance they have to run it blind."

Photo by Ethan Howard
After you've made the decision to run the rapid, start at the bottom and work your way back up to your boat, suggested DeLosa. He says to find landmarks that you will be able to spot from the water.

"Landmarks are really helpful for knowing where you are in a rapid when you can’t see the entire thing from the entrance." said Delosa,  "A good example is Skyscraper (rapid) on South Silver Creek in California. There are two really tiny standing waves right at the lip of the drop. From the pool above you can’t see anything past the horizon line, but if you go off between those two little waves with a slight left angle you’re in good shape to start."


Sacramento paddler Gavin Rieser agrees  and thinks the biggest reason, is being able to see a pool at the bottom of the drop. 
"If I can't see what looks like a pool below," said Rieser,  "I have no idea if what I'm about to run is a huge monster drop or not."
Rieser also does his homework by reading up on the rivers he will be running and checking in with area boaters on what to expect.  
"Another big factor is how much I've heard about the run or not." said Rieser, "If I know it's supposed to be a Class III to IV run, then I'm not likely to scout it much. If it's a Class V run, I will be scouting a lot more"

If you’re on a longer mission day to save time, a good habit to develop is to always take your rope with you whenever you get out to scout. Delosa says by doing this you won't have to go back to your boat and then back down stream if someone in your crew asks you to set as the safety.
"Also, while you’re scouting," said Delosa, "Another crew might come along and paddle into the rapid without scouting and you’ll be well positioned to help them should someone get in trouble."

In 1871–1872, Powell again retraced part of his ill-fated expedition down the Colorado River. This time, he would be fortified by knowledge instead of folklore. His scientific expedition filled in the blanks left behind on the  previous trip and produced the first reliable maps of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Wanting to be more comfortable, Powell acquired a sturdy armchair, and tied it to the middle bulkhead of the pilot-boat. From there, he could view the river ahead him, but this time, he had seen it before.

If you want to learn more and practice some advanced skills contact us at Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips and ask about private advanced classes.
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
info@currentadventures.com
owner Dan Crandall dan@kayaking.com

Friday, May 5, 2017

THE "OTHER SIDE" OF TOMALES BAY


BY OUTSIDE ADVENTURE TO THE MAX GUEST BLOGGER LYNN HALSTED

I’ve dipped my paddle into Tomales Bay on a handful of occasions. Mostly on  moonless nights, to explore the bioluminescence, a light produced by a chemical reaction in living things in the water. Winds are typical, for Tomales Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco, Ca, but, for the second day in a row, the wind was almost non-existent.

This sunrise was a welcome site as I sipped my morning coffee and thought about the paddle ahead of us that day. We launched from Miller Park, which is located on the Eastern side of Tomales Bay. This is my first time launching on this side of Tomales. You pay at the kiosk to park, and the cement launch makes getting into the water a breeze.

Our Plan “A” was to head across the water, circle around Hog Island (protected), explore the Western shoreline before having lunch at White Gulch Beach.

If you’re an experienced paddler, you are never afraid to go with Plan B.
So, once everyone was in the water and after a quick safety talk, we paddled towards Hog Island. The wind, still non-existent, as you can see from these pictures. It was so pretty and calm! One of our paddlers was using a ‘peddle’ kayak for only the second time, and he indicated he was already getting tired after only 10-15 minutes of paddling.


So, we partnered someone up with him and continued to Hog Island. The eastern shore of the Island was closed due to sensitive Seal habitat and Seabird Colony. So we paddled around the island, my first time up this close, and talked about our plan. Our tired paddler was now a concern, as the wind had come and there were rather large swells that seemed to some out of no where. I’m serious, the conditions changed in a matter of minutes!

After a conversation with a fellow paddler who has been on this section of Tomales countless times, we decided it would be best to paddle back to the launch and let our tired paddler take out and rest. The rest of our group would paddle on the Eastern shoreline, heading inland. This must have been meant to be, as this turned out to be a beautiful paddle.


So, after our tired paddler was safe to shore and out of their kayak, we paddled by the little sitting area off of Nick’s Cove restaurant, where later we would enjoy an adult beverage. I was hopeful I could take this old gas pump for my backyard Most of us ladies had fun joking about our ideal ‘man’, stationed up on the hill, overlooking the bay as if to flag us in with his stoic stare and well positioned lantern. A resident Bald Eagle was perched up in a tree, so I paddled under him and too this shot.

My favorite part of the day; Lunch! After about 2 hours of paddling, we found a great place to exit, stretch, and enjoy the sunshine as we ate our lunch. I even found a ‘planted’ piece of driftwood for my garden at home. Once our tummies were full, we decided to explore a little channel that only went inland a few hundred yards before dead ending into Highway-1. There was an Egret eating his lunch, but my pictures didn’t turn out well.

However, this picture of the Egrets turned out quite nicely. I’m sometimes amazed at the great shots I get. This was one of them. These Cormorants were drying out their wings and the silhouette was breathtaking.

After a long day of paddling, we headed back to the take-out. This will go down in my memory banks as a top 10 paddle experience.

 Lynn Halsted  is the founder of Sacramento Paddle Pushers,
Halsted started SPP, an online paddling meet up group in October 2010. As  popularity of kayaking grew so did her group. It now has close to 500 members with a solid core of 60 paddlers actively taking part in trips through out California and even sometimes venturing into the Pacific Northwest. Catch up with more of Halsted kayaking adventures at her blog Dipping My Paddle. You can find Sacramento Paddle Pushers on Meetup.com.

Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at Nickayak@gmail.com if you are interested.

Friday, April 28, 2017

EAGLE OF THE LAKE

A bald eagle soaks its talons in Lake Natoma near the Folsom Avenue Bridge and the Rainbow Bridge.
I had heard about eagle sightings on my neighborhood lake since last spring. According to news reports and the local talk along Lake Natoma, two bald eagles had been wowing bird watchers and and nature-loving photographers since last May. I had often combed the skies, searching for these white-headed raptors while out kayaking without much luck. I was more likely to see geese and turkey vulture on my outings on the water than anything else.

Eagles have been making comeback for past several decades across the country, since the banning of the agricultural spray DDT. The pesticide, linked to  damaging environmental impacts and harmful health effects caused eggshell thinning and population declines in multiple North American bird of prey species. Today, nineteen nests have been tallied in eight San Francisco Bay Area counties, including at Stanford University, a mall and a water park, The Mercury News in San Jose reported this week, while experts say bald eagles have been spotted around Folsom Lake at least back to the mid-1990s.

“Lake Natoma could be a relatively new thing,” Capt. Mark Jeter, a warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Sacramento Bee in in May 2016  interview,  “The species is doing very well throughout the continent. They are expanding into areas where they have not been in a long time.”


I was paddling back to the boat ramp through the slough across from Negro Bar when I saw the bird perched on a rock in shallow water. Up until then, the highlights of the trip had been paddling through a the little stretch of whitewater under the Rainbow Bridge and seeing four river otters pop up their heads up out of the water. Seeing the eagle was an uncommon and amazing sight. With my back to the sun I inched my kayak closer and closer to the bathing eagle.

An eagle conveys a message across all cultures. The Native Americans saw the eagle as a symbol for great strength, leadership and vision, while early Christians saw it as a symbol of hope and salvation. The eagle has been used as a 'banner' through out history by the great empires of Egypt, Rome and even the United States. It is said, the eagle is man's connection to the divine because it flies higher than any other bird.

“An eagle soaring above a sheer cliff, where I suppose its nest is," said naturalist John Muir, "Makes another striking show of life, and helps to bring to mind the other people of the so-called solitude."

It was enjoying the life as a waterfowl I supposed as it balanced there on the lake rock with its feathers dripping from its bath. I have often mused how I would rather be a loon than an eagle. Yes, eagles soar, but aquatic birds fly and swim, it's the best of both worlds.

The raptor's white head and eyes glistened in the late afternoon sunshine as I anchored my kayak in the shallow rocking bottom of the lake. I held my breath almost every time I raised my waterproof pocket camera to take a photo of the bird. We sat there frozen for several minutes. Seemingly at one with the water and the nature around us. Then in moment it stretched in giant wings skyward, lifting its talons out of the water, hovering over it by inches till gliding upward towards the safety of the trees.

Friday, April 21, 2017

MAKE A RIVER CLEANUP PLEDGE FOR EARTH DAY 2017


Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. --David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action


Back along the Red River separating downtown Fargo, N.D., with Moorhead. Minn there is a section of river near the First Avenue Bridge where bottles, crockery and other remnants from bygone days can be found when the river's  fluctuating water levels uncovers them from the bottom or riverbank.

It was the era before before landfills and the river was a convenient disposal site. During the community's settlements, after the arrival of the railroad in the early 1870s, saloons began to proliferate on the Moorhead side of the river because Dakota Territory was "dry" and alcohol was prohibited. Thirsty North Dakotans filled the Red River bridges as they flocked to the Minnesota side for a legal drink. A thriving saloon district quickly sprang up on the banks of the Red. To be as close  as possible to North Dakota side, several saloons were built on piers and actually hung out over the river.

Many of the empty bottles found their way into the river as local legend suggest, many would drink up before crossing the bridge into Fargo, and tossing their bottles into the inky depths of the Red River midway. It was the case of out of sight, out of mind for many as the saloon business boomed until 1915 before Minnesota's Clay County finally went dry.

Of course I like to say it all ended there for the Red River being used as a dumping site for garbage. I would like to believe all people today are more environmentally conscious, but as we all know, our rivers are just vulnerable today as they were back then. Trash can be still found today in and along the banks of our rivers. 

So on this Earth Day 2017, Outside Adventure to the Max and American Rivers are asking for your to take action and clean up and protect the rivers in our own backyards. We need your pledge.The premise is simple. Every year, National River Cleanup® volunteers pull tons of trash out of our rivers, but by picking up trash you see around you every day, you can prevent it from getting into the rivers in the first place.

Will you pledge to pick up 25 pieces of trash in 25 days? Let’s prevent litter from making it into our local streams and rivers. Add your name here:

Make the River Cleanup Pledge, and share your work on social media with #rivercleanup to help grow our movement.

You are the key to protecting our rivers by setting an example for your community. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do for our rivers together.

National River Cleanup® is a key initiative for American Rivers. Since its inception in 1991, they have engaged more than 1.3 million volunteers who have participated in thousands of cleanups across the country, covering more than 252,694 miles of waterways and removing more than 25 million pounds of litter and debris.

Friday, April 14, 2017

HOW FAR HAS THE RIVER TAKEN YOU?


BY OUTSIDE ADVENTURE TO THE MAX GUEST BLOGGER PETE DELOSA

There’s an old saying, or maybe it’s a Chinese proverb, I don’t know, but it says, “No man ever steps in the same river twice for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” If you’ve been in the kayaking community for more than a week you’ve probably heard this. It’s almost a cliche,  but it does serve as a good reminder that with time and running water, things will change. It’s nice then to be reminded that some things do last. Some things do stand the test of time. I took a walk today along the banks of Spring Creek in Bellefonte, PA. It was here in the fall of 1997,  that I took my first ever kayak lesson. I learned to paddle in a slalom boat in this short stretch of Class 2 whitewater. As I looked around the river it was obvious to me that a lot had changed, but a lot was still the same. Almost 20 years since I first learned to kayak the gates that are still hanging over the rapids. The man who taught me, Dave Kurtz now in his eighties, is still out there paddling and still making kayaking accessible to kids who otherwise would never have had the chance.

gates

After a short chat with my old coach, my former C2 partner and life long best friend arrived and we put on for an after work float down the creek where we learned to paddle. What was once a pretty challenging trip was now a relaxing float. We got to reminisce about old times while watching red tail hawks and blue herons flying above us. There were obvious spots where various access improvements or erosion control projects and dam removals had changed the landscape, but there were also parts that were very much the same. For instance, just down stream of the slalom course there is still a flat pool that’s about 100 yards long. We spent hours after school doing flat water sprints in this pool.


The world keeps turning and the water keeps running down hill. The river has taken me a long way. It was there for me in my adolescent years. It was there for me in my post war years. It has brought me many friends. It’s been there for me through love and through heart break. Today it brings me right back to the spot where it all began. In the most trying times of my life I always find peace, even if only for a little while, in the water that runs downhill. No matter what challenges, I’ve found that I just keep putting one paddle blade in front of the other and when in doubt, lean forward and paddle hard.

California based kayaker Pete Delosa is a member of Team Pyranha and sponsored by Immersion Research. You can catch up with Pete on his blog River-Bum.com and watch his videos on You-Tube
Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at Nickayak@gmail.com if you are interested.

Friday, March 31, 2017

SPRING BOATER SAFETY

On a rainy spring day on Beers Lake in Minnesota's Maplewood State Park
I'm one of the lucky ones now. I can pretty much paddle my kayak on everyday of the year. One of the advantages to living in Northern California near the American River. However, while living back in the upper Midwest I would count-down the days till the ice would clear away from the area lakes and  rivers. I would watch for days when the temperatures would inch above 40 or 50 degrees to take my kayaks to the water.
Wading in just a few feet into water, even with neoprene boots, gave me a quick reminder it was April and not July. The water was still dangerously cold. 
“Many newer paddlers don’t realize that even though the air temperature is warm, the water can still be ice cold,” said Todd Robertson, certified paddling instructor at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told the Des Moines Register.
“As spring arrives, it takes a while for that water to warm up, making it necessary to have a wet or dry suit on and a change of dry clothes in a dry bag in case you dump your boat,” Robertson said. “Remember, wet clothing and cold water make for hypothermic conditions.”
Outlining this safety factor,  Austin Kayak www.ack.com/blog has put together five points for anyone looking to get a jump start on their paddling season this spring.

1. Start With The the Basics

Keeping warm on the water as temperatures start to drop isn’t as hard as you think. Make sure you have all the basics like your PFD, spray skirt (for sit insides), bilge pump (also for sit insides), whistle, paddle leash and first aid kit. Add to this list a complete change of clothes in a dry bag just in case you fall in the water and want to change later. It may go without saying, but be sure that none of the clothes you wear or pack are cotton. Cotton dries slow, meaning you’re going to be cold if there’s even a slight breeze out, plus it weighs you down. Just don’t do it. What should you wear? Well, I was getting to that…

Guide for Paddling in Cold Weather
Cold Weather Paddling Apparel Layering Guide

2. Layering Is A Paddlers Best Friend Against the Cold

You’ll want to take on the cold with the appropriate paddling apparel, and that means layering with synthetic materials proven to keep you both warm and dry. I’d recommend starting with a good base layer in early fall and then adding piece by piece as the weather gets colder. Refer to ourCold Weather Paddling Apparel Layering Guide to see how you can best do this.
Keep in mind that when it gets colder it will be more important to keep as much covered as you can and this means investing in things like neoprene socks, paddling gloves (or pogies) and headwear. One really great headwear option that’s just arrived at ACK is theBuff Thermal Pro,which uses a Polartec fabric to cover your neck and head as well as merino wool for your chin and mouth.

3. Don’t Paddle On An Empty Stomach

It’s important that you hydrate whenever you’re paddling but it’s easy to forget when the sun isn’t beating down on you. In fact, keeping well fed and hydrated will help minimize the risk of hypothermia if you happen to fall in the water. Carbohydrates and foods high in fat will give you both energy and warmth. On especially cold nights, I recommend bringing along a vacuum sealed flask of your favorite warm beverage (non-alcoholic) like hot chocolate or cider.

4. Familiarize Yourself With Rescue Techniques

Even for a paddler who is dressed for cold water immersion, a swim can still bring on hypothermia if you aren’t prepared. Knowledge of rescue techniques and regular practice with your paddling companions (and cold water paddlers SHOULD have partners) are essential. Rolling is particularly important to know for sea kayakers or anyone else in a sit-inside because the inability to perform this will mean an extended exposure to cold water. All paddlers should also be able to re-enter their kayak should an accidental capsize occur. If you aren’t comfortable with these skills, make sure someone in your group knows this and is prepared to help.

5. Wear Your PFD!

At risk of sounding like a broken record, my last tip is a reminder to wear your PFD. Not only is it an added layer of insulation but they will keep your head above water, increasing your ability to fight against hypothermia dramatically. Just take a 10 minute lesson from the Cold Water Boot Camp if you don’t believe me.
Also remember, cold water is not the only danger this time of year. Springtime floods are common on many rivers. At flood stage rivers can be deadly and filled with hazards. Trees branches and other debris have been trapped in the ice and when the river thaws, it moves downstream and is deposited at the base of bridge pilings and the outside of tight bends in the river. A good knowledge of the river is vital when paddling in high water, along with good boat control skills and understanding how to navigate around these hazards is crucial to remaining safe while on the river.
 Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards were involved in 20% of all boating casualties in 2013 according to the U.S. Coast Guard 2013 Recreational Boating Statistics. That year 109 people died as result of kayak or canoe mishap. Sobering statics on how safety practices should always be exercised no matter what the season.

This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max March 27, 2015.