Friday, May 18, 2018

SEEKING THE STRAITS OF ANIAN

Darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. -- J.R.R. Tolkien


It's a gray day along the coast. In the distance I can see a pair of sea kayakers, just specks silhouetted against the silvery sky and water, dipping in an out of sight with each heave of the ocean.
“A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it," wrote American writer Stephen Crane in his classic tale The Open Boat.
Kayaking in La Jolla Cove
Closer to shore, waves one after another pound the rugged rocky coastline in a rhythmic display of rolling crashing curls, foam and spray. It's pure reverie to watch from my panoramic view from a seaside cliff overlooking La Jolla Cove north of San Diego, California.

At low tide, this rocky beach reveals fascinating pools of water with full of strange and mysterious sea life. Nearby is the Children’s Pool, a seawall built to protect kids from incoming waves, but now it has been taken over by the local harbor seal population during annual seal pupping season. They rest on the beach with little interest to the tourists taking cell phone pictures. I'll walk out along the well-worn path of the seawall for a close-up view of this marine world.


The Children's Pool in La Jolla
It's a crossroads in a way. A place of safety and trust inside the protected cove, while just to other side of the seawall there is an inspirational and yet formidable view of uncertainty where the future rises and falls with each wave. It's almost summer and big adventures are what lay ahead, but only after leaving the security of the cove. The journey awaits. You can look, but there are no shortcuts.

In June 1542, Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo departed from the West Coast of Mexico and sailed northward along the coastline of the Pacific in search of the Strait of Anian, the mythical all-water route across North America, a cousin in sorts to the legendary Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Since Columbus' voyages, Europeans had hopes of finding a shorter route to the Orient. Once, realizing that North America was not India but an entirely different continent, the explorers still thought that an elusive all-water navigable route through the New World might be found.

Hugging the coastline and repeatedly sailing east into any promising bay or cove that would hopefully lead to the Strait of Anian, Cabrillo became one of the first Europeans to explore what would become California's coastline. He is credited with the discovering San Diego Bay, Santa Catalina Island, San Clemente, San Pedro Bay and Monterey Bay, yet totally missed the fog encased San Francisco Bay. He got as far as the Russian River before turning back.
Portaging on the American River

Cabrillo died after a wound became infected by gangrene on the return voyage and
his discoveries went unnoticed because all of the expedition records were lost after his death.
Of course, he failed to discover the Strait of Anian. That southern shortcut linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would never be found.  It would take another 363 years before an Arctic explorer would make the first all-water crossing over North America. Cold and far too treacherous it was hardly a shortcut to the Orient.

I look out over the horizon of the ocean at the end of the seawall. From this point, I can feel the ebb and flow of the sea run through me. The salty air kisses my lips and the ocean spray licks my feet. I imagine Cabrillo expedition sailing past me and exploring the bay. I know the magic of travel by way of water. It’s that time of year again. The water is calling, beckoning us to come on out and explore and search for the quickest route. But beware, as J.R.R. Tolkien, warned, “Shortcuts make long delays.” Until then, be smart, have fun, and be safe!

The American River

Here is a look at some of my favorite images from this year so far. 

We are always looking for guest bloggers to share their adventures stories and pictures. Keep up with Outside Adventure to the Max on our Facebook page and Instagram.

Lake Natoma

North Fork of the American River
The River Store
Stumpy Meadows
Paddling with Current Adventures
A sunset paddle on Lake Natoma

Friday, May 4, 2018

BORN TO PADDLE, KAYAKING WITH KIDS


The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are. --- Lynn Culbreath Noel

"Can I fall in?"

That question is usually unheard of in my adult classes. Just the thought of rolling upside in their kayak would strike terror into them. But, this query came from smiling freckled-face ten-year-old girl with boundless energy and little fear.

"Sure if you want to," I replied.

The girl and kayak in one motion capsize with a plop, gurgle and splash. An instant later, in textbook maneuver, she lowers her head to the bow, pushes her legs and feet clear of the kayak and then drops them to the bottom and brings her still smiling face up alongside her kayak.

It's an annual rite of summer on Lake Natoma near Sacramento Ca., as nearly dozen kids were taking part in Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips youth kayaking classes. There students learned paddling skills and water safety while developing a deep appreciation nature.

"Kids love kayaking and most take to it almost instantly," said Current Adventures' Dan Crandall, "We get them smiling at the beginning of class and have them laughing by the end."

Anyone who works with kids regularly knows they come with have short attention spans and aren't to focused on learning the technical aspects of the forward, back or sweep strokes. The key for instructor John Weed is to keeping paddling exercises fun, short and interesting. He used a game of keep-a-way to get the students to paddle and steer their boats. From the shore, it looked like a mayhem of bumper boats crashing about the lake, but before long the students are discovering how to propel and turn their boats while chasing a green ball.


Another game Weed used to help kids practice boat control all while having fun was called Sharks and Minnows. He is instructed one kid to be a shark while all the other kids were all minnows.

"I'm hungry!" called out the shark.

"And I'm a little minnow," cried the scattering minnows trying not to get tagged by the shark, because once tagged they become a shark. It kept going until every paddler became a shark. By using these active games the young kayakers were soon making new friends and having fun all while building paddling skills that they can be used on the lake or river.
2018 Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips Summer Schedule

Kids Kayaking Lessons
Ages: 8-11 yrs.
Prerequisites: none
Location: Lake Natoma
Cost: $169 (Includes 10% State Park fee.  Parking is extra.)
Time: (3 days) 9:30am – 12:30pm
2018 Dates: June18-20 ( M-W), July 9-11 ( M-W)
July 31-Aug 2 (Tue-Thu)


Junior Beginning Kayaking 
Ages: 10-14 yrs.
Prerequisites:  No prerequisites for beginning classes other than age appropriate.
Location:
Lake Natoma & Lower American River (on day 3).
Cost: $169 (Includes 10% State Park fee.)

2018 Dates:
June 18-20 ( M-W), July 09-11 ( M-W)
July 31-Aug 02 (Tue-Thu)

Time: (3 days) 1:30pm – 5:30pm
Progression:  Teen Camp, Touring Classes, Private Classes and for ages 12 and up consider Eppie’s Junior Training program.

Next, it was off to explore. Across the flat-water, the lake offers some special hideaways like “Swampland” and “Berry Pond". As the kids toured the hidden backwaters occupied by turtles, tadpoles, deer and other critters, the wonders of nature came alive to them. Quietly paddling along they became naturalists as they explored and made their own discoveries in the lush wetland.

On day three the Junior class ages 10-14, moved on to the easy moving waters of the Lower American River. On the river, the young paddlers after two days of paddling lessons tested their new skills on moving water. While a little apprehension came over the group at the sound of rushing water, but it was all smiling at the other end after they punched through a series of fast water. Before the day was over the youths are immersed in river reading, river signals, and moving water paddling maneuvers.

"This class leaves them begging for more, said Crandall, "The kids always leave these classes super excited and many come back year after year."
Meanwhile back on the lake, I had pushed the kayak up on to shore and dump all the water out of it with help from the still smiling and dripping wet ten-year-old girl. I was going to get plenty of practice doing over next couple days when she asked, "Can I do that again?"


 If you want to go
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
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

This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max July 7, 2017. 


Lost and Found
Ever catch yourself saying, "Hey, I'm having such a great time, let's stay out a little longer."
I'm sure that is what James Matthew Soltis of Illinois thought when he extended his already 10-day kayaking trip in Everglades National Park in Florida this past March.
However, his daughter did not. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, she reported him missing when he didn’t return as planned from the Everglades Wilderness Waterway.
The search was quickly launched and Soltis was found camping by a helicopter crew circling from above the next morning.

Friday, April 27, 2018

OVER THE BOW: ALDER CREEK


It's the song of the mountains. The annual spring anthem of harmonious hisses, splashes and gurgles that builds and swells into a roaring crescendo in each alpine stream and river. Writer Wallace Stegner called it "a steady renewal of force; transient and eternal, " that every sense applauds.

"Listen again to its sounds," he wrote in The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West  "Get far enough away so that the noise of falling tons of water does not stun the ears, and hear how much is going on underneath... The small talk of side channels, the whisper of blown and scattered spray gathering itself and beginning to flow again, secret and irresistible, among the wet rocks."

That rumbling symphony of raging water turned out to be a trumpet's call for elite paddlers after a series of late-winter storms pumped moisture into the veins of the Northern California water supply. Like a blast from a fire hose, these "atmospheric rivers," as these storms are known as, produced massive quantities of snow and rain, causing an explosion of high-water conditions in the region's creeks and streams. For extreme paddlers like Gavin Rieser, there couldn't ever be a more perfect storm.

"It is probably the gnarliest bit of whitewater I have paddled," wrote Rieser on his Facebook page, "It starts off with super fun and super nonstop Class 4 to 4+5, with an optional hike out for those not willing to brave the depths of the canyon below."

Sacramento's Rieser and his paddling partner Harry Lopez took advantage of flooded Alder Creek, a tributary to the South Fork American River, west of Kyburz, California. While the South Fork section is a local paddling favorite, the creek is more of a mystery.

"I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering what might lay upstream," posted Rieser, "The creek has seen some descents both at the bottom and much higher up, and I myself paddled a short section above the meadows a few years ago. What amazes me is how much of it actually goes. While there are a few mandatory portages, most of the stuff we did walk was runnable. We either weren't feeling it or walked due to safety and time concerns."

Rieser estimated the steepest part of the nearly 2-mile section of the canyon has several drops between 5 to 15-feet, with its biggest fall at nearly 60-feet.

"It is relentless," he wrote on his Facebook post, "I dub it, the "Gorge of Gnarnia." Really,  it's more like 2 gorges separated by super steep boulder gardens reminiscent of Middle Kings, but hey, who's counting? If you want your Class 5+ fix, I highly recommend the "Gorge of Gnarnia."

According to Rieser it took them nearly 8-hours to explore, scout and paddle the rugged and steepest nearly 2-mile section of Light Canyon's Alder Creek before hiking out very tired and sore.

"There were many more amazing and epic rapids," stated Rieser on Facebook, "Most of them we ran, many of the ones we walked were runnable but portaged due to safety and time concerns."

We are all called to that serenade of rushing water echoing through the canyons. In its encore performance, we look forward to hearing it every year in winter's finale and spring's overturn. Its repeated refrain of nature's chorus that seems to perpetually speaks to us. As mountain climber and environmentalist David Brower said, "Let the mountains talk, let the river run. Once more, and forever. "

Rieser is the Where is Waldo of kayaking in California. He, his pickup truck and kayak travel everywhere in Northern California looking for steepest roads and biggest drops. You can see all Rieser's' photos on Facebook and follow him on Instagram at @kayakerdude1435.  Check out his videos on YouTube.

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, we would love to see it. Submit it to us at nickayak@gmail.com

Friday, April 20, 2018

EARTH DAY 2018: CLEAN WATER AND A HEALTHY ENVIROMENT, IT BEGINS WITH YOU

Walden Pond 1908
Genesis 9:13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

I've never been there, but have been there hundreds of times. Naturalist and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau's made his beloved Walden Pond, "a perennial spring in the midst of pine and oak woods," near Concord, Massachusetts, come alive to millions of who have never seen it either in his best-known work, “Walden; or, Life in the Woods.” The pond has become a symbol of to most environmentalists as living simply in the harmony of nature.
Henry David Thoreau

An early recreational hiker and canoeist Thoreau was an advocate for conserving natural resources on private land, and of preserving wilderness in public land. He would influence generations of naturalists and environmentalists such as the likes of John Burroughs and John Muir.
Recounting the two years, two months, and two days he spent at Walden Pond in 1854, Thoreau recorded a virtual Eden with phrases describing the pond's divine purity, beauty and solitude.

Walden: The transcendentalist treatise that filled a pond with pee.The scenery of Walden is on a humble scale, and, though very beautiful, does not approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern one who has not long frequented it or lived by its shore; yet this pond is so remarkable for its depth and purity as to merit a particular description.

 This water is of such crystalline purity that the body of the bather appears of an alabaster whiteness...

The water is so transparent that the bottom can easily be discerned at the depth of twenty-five to thirty feet.  Paddling over it, you may see, many feet beneath the surface, the schools of perch and shiners, perhaps only an inch long, yet the former easily distinguished by their transverse bars...

So it's surprising to hear that Walden Pond, the famed pristine jewel of that inspired Thoreau's environmentalism is being polluted.

At first glance, I wish it were some evil corporation dumping tainted sludge into the water or the weak efforts of EPA letting off the perpetrators, but it not. According to a new study, Walden Pond heavily used recreational venue has been befouled by years of swimmers, anglers, and visitors urinating in the water.

“These findings suggest that, although mitigation efforts have curtailed anthropogenic nutrient inputs to Walden Pond, the lake has not returned to the pre-impact condition described by Henry David Thoreau and may become increasingly vulnerable to further changes in water quality in a warmer and possibly wetter future,” Dr. Jay Curt Stager, a researcher at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks, and his co-authors warned.

The study concluded the pond’s levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are found in human waste, has yielded an endless food supply for algae, creating a wrecking-ball to the ecosystem since the 1920s. The growing algae has spread out across the water blocking the rays of the sun, which of course the fish need to survive and threatening to turn one of America's most iconic lakes into a slimy, scummy mess.

"During the early 20th century, water clarity [in Walden Pond] declined significantly due to a combination of factors, including shoreline development and inputs of human wastes," the report stated, "More than half of the summer phosphorus budget of the lake may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers."

Lake Natoma
In the meantime, environmental advocates are warning the public about tests showing high levels of E. coli in the Sacramento area's Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma, two of the region’s most popular areas for swimming and boating. E. coli is an indicator of fecal contamination that can sicken people who come in contact or drink contaminated water. Officials believe it's the result of animal and human waste.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board also reported elevated E. coli levels in the lower American River in 2015 and 2016, with the highest concentrations near downtown Sacramento.

“It should give people some discomfort about using the water – it’s not good,” said Ron Stork of Friends of the River told the Sacramento Bee.

The bottom line is, despite some of our best efforts to clean our nation's waterways,  they are nowhere near as pure as were when Thoreau dipped his toes into Walden Pond. It's easy to blame others, but it's all of us. Our country's most popular destinations that see a heavy volume of visitors, can have a devastating effect on our rivers and lakes' ecosystems. While garbage and trash are an easy to spot eyesore, the hidden pollution, AKA peeing in the pool, can over time, as we can see, be just as detrimental to the environment

American River
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics a national organization that provides guidance on ways to enjoy nature without leaving a human impact offers these tips as part of their seven Leave No Trace principles.

Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater. 
So this Earth Day 2018 weekend let's take action to protect our waterways like Walden Pond. As Thoreau states in“Walden; or, Life in the Woods,” our lakes, ponds and rivers are our treasure for the future generations to enjoy

White Pond and Walden are great crystals on the surface of the earth, Lakes of Light. If they were permanently congealed, and small enough to be clutched, they would, perchance, be carried off by slaves, like precious stones, to adorn the heads of emperors, but being liquid, and ample, and secured to us and our successors forever...

Friday, April 13, 2018

INFINITE PADDLING OPPORTUNITIES: Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta


By Outside Adventure to the Max Guest Blogger Kathy Bunton

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, AKA the California Delta offers some exceptional paddling opportunities that are unique every time you get on the water. With a thousand miles of waterways, where do you begin? Today I'll share ideas that are within a 3-mile radius of the Antioch Marina.

Antioch Marina

Let's begin with safety. Before you head out for some time on the water there are items you need to consider before you leave the house. This is NOT a comprehensive list but a good basic starting point.
  1. Weather conditions: When paddling the San Joaquin River from Antioch, it's imperative to check wind conditions. It may be dead calm when you arrive but winds can pick up at any time and change the paddling environment drastically. Check forecasts frequently as they can change often. Use apps like Windfinder and compare with NOAA forecast. Weatherbug app has live windspeed readings from the Antioch Marina.
  2. Tides: The water flows of the Delta are tidally influenced. The river actually flows backward with an incoming tide. Plan your trip so that you will have tides in your favor for your paddle home. Do the hard work first. Wind speed and direction of water flow are very important to consider. When winds blow in a direction opposing the tide it creates a more dynamic sea state. The river can turn into ocean-like conditions with winds above 10 mph blowing against the tide.
  3. Gear: The Delta can be paddled year-round so consider dressing for immersion, in other words, dress as if you are going to swim. Fall and winter offer some of the best paddling but if you don't own a drysuit or wetsuit be sure to pack dry clothes in a dry bag to bring with you in case you do get wet. Other safety gear includes cell phone or VHF radio, whistle, snacks and water. If paddling a sea kayak make sure to bring bilge pump and paddle-float. If you are paddling a sit inside kayak with no bulkheads make sure to bring float bags to place in bow and stern of the boat. MOST IMPORTANTLY WEAR YOUR PFD - PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE
  4. Float Plan: Have a plan and stick to it as best as possible. The US Coast Guard has blank plans you can download as does Boat-ed. Let friends or family know where you're going and when you plan to return. File a float plan with harbormaster or leave on the dash of the vehicle.
Kimball Island
Now let's go paddling! The following are some possible trips within 3 miles of the Antioch Marina. If you like to explore or paddle at a leisurely pace I'd allow 2-3 hours for a 2-4 mile round-trip adventure; 4-8 hours for a 4-6 mile round trip paddle. I suggest using a nautical chart or topographical map to plan. There are some apps such as USTopo that allow you to track your route and websites like Routebuilder that measure distance. Bay Area Sea Kayakers have an incredible resource known as the trip planner that includes tide information. It's also a great club to join!
Paddling West:
  1. Dow Wetlands - half a mile from the marina; has lots of sloughs to explore; offers protection from wind
  2. Winter Island - approximate 1.5-mile paddle to the southern tip of Winter Island; use caution when crossing shipping channel; multiple sloughs to explore
  3. Browns Island - approximate 2.5-mile paddle to the eastern edge of the island; Middle slough can offer protection from a westerly wind; multiple sloughs to explore
  4. Broad Slough - Point San Joaquin - approximate 3.5-mile paddle; exposed to northwest winds
  5. Broad Slough - Point Sacramento - approximate 3.5-mile paddle; convergence of San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers; tricky currents at the point
  6. Sherman Island - approximate 2-mile paddle to the entrance of Sherman Island Waterfowl Management area; hundreds of sloughs to explore; watch depth for low tides; bring GPS to keep from getting lost if exploring inside the island
  7. Kimball Island - just under a half mile across the San Joaquin River; use caution crossing shipping channel; lots of shorelines to explore
Cabin Slough
Paddling East
  1. Kimball Island - just under a half mile across the San Joaquin River; use caution crossing shipping channel; lots of shoreline to explore
  2. Cabin Slough - approximate 1-mile paddle to the entrance of Cabin Slough; currents can be strong
  3. Mayberry Cut - approximate 2-mile paddle; southern entrance to Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area
  4. Donlon Island - approximate 2.5-mile paddle to entrance; offers protection from wind; lots of sloughs to explore
  5. West Island North -  approximate 1.5-mile paddle to north westernmost shore; some sloughs and sandy beaches exposed at low tide
  6. West Island South - approximate 1.5-mile paddle to south-westernmost shore
  7. Antioch Dunes - approximate 1.5-mile paddle; sandy cliffs; EXTREMELY SENSITIVE HABITAT DO NOT  land unless emergency
  8. Fulton Shipyard; approximate 1-mile paddle to historic shipbuilder; use caution with boat traffic from the public launch
  9. Rogers Point - just under a mile paddle; historic shipwreck Solano can be viewed here; caution with boat traffic and underwater hazards such as rebar
Sherman Island view from west shore
All the paddle trips listed above are one-way measurements, make sure to double length to get round trip distance. These are just a sampling of what is available from the Antioch Marina. There are multitudes of sloughs and channels that beg to be explored and offer a true wilderness experience next door to the city.
If you prefer someone else do the planning contact Delta Kayak Adventures to book a guided tour to the destination of your choosing. We also have kayaks and paddleboards available to rent.

Kathy Bunton is the owner and operator of Delta Kayak Adventures based in Antioch, California.  You Keep up with Bunton in her blog Kayaking in the California Delta.  

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



Dow Wetlands
San Joaquin River

Winter Island Turkey vultures
Wind and tides can create dynamic conditions

Friday, April 6, 2018

THE WATER KING: EPA'S Pruitt places himself in charge of all decisions reguarding the nation's waterways.


The Trump administration's attack on the Clean Water Act intensified earlier this week after Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt placed himself in charge of all decisions regarding the nation’s waterways.

Scott Pruitt
According to a memo provided to CNN by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility dated March 30, states that Pruitt will be making all final decisions when it comes to on the protection streams, ponds and wetlands tossing aside the input of the agency’s regional administrators and scientists.
"With this revised delegation, authority previously delegated to regional administrators to make final determinations of geographic jurisdiction shall be retained by the administrator," the memo states.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman downplayed it, saying the memo is meant to deal with "significant issues or technical difficulties" that could arise while determining wetlands and waterways as the agency begins revamping the Obama-era water regulations.

"Regions will absolutely be involved in the process and work closely with the administrator's office when doing the work to assess jurisdiction for very select, and often rare, cases," Bowman said an article from the Washington Examiner.

The move is being seen by environmental groups as a way to change the approval process and lessen the role of EPA employees and scientists when it comes to evaluating whether projects have a significant negative environmental impact on waterways or wetlands. In the past, EPA scientists reviewed the requests for permits and determined whether a project was detrimental to the local environment waterway or wetland. In the memo, Pruitt notified EPA staff that he would now be in charge of those decisions.

Environmentalists are sensitive to these changes because they say waterways, streams and wetlands are critical to the drinking water supplies, fisheries, wildlife habitat or recreation areas.
"We're concerned about Administrator Pruitt's industry ties, and his moves to toss critical safeguards for our clean water supplies and rivers," American Rivers Amy Kober wrote in an email to Outside Adventure to Max.

In response Sierra Club's, Dalal Aboulhosn, Deputy Legislative Director for Land and Water, released the following statement, "The last person who should have decision making power over our drinking water is Scott Pruitt, who has a corrupt record of getting favors and marching orders from the same corporate polluters who want to dump their toxic pollution in our water. Pruitt’s dangerous power-grab would strip local scientists and experts of their ability to fairly judge whether or not America’s streams and waterways fall under the Clean Water Act’s protection will be disastrous."

Pruitt, who has also drawn scrutiny and calls for his resignation in recent weeks over alleged ethics violations, suspended the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS) in January after the Obama-era rule was stayed by the courts with a clear plan of significantly reducing the scope of the Clean Water Act.

So far 11 states, in conjunction with Natural Resources Defense Council and National Wildlife Federation have filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York to prevent the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from delaying implementation of these regulations.

Friday, March 23, 2018

OVER THE BOW: UPPER LAKE CLEMENTINE



The life of the wood, meadow, and lake go on without us. Flowers bloom, set seed and die back; squirrels hide nuts in the fall and scold all year long; bobcats track the snowy lake in winter; deer browse the willow shoots in spring. Humans are but intruders who have presumed the right to be observers, and who, out of observation, find understanding.  -- Ann Zwinger

There are two factors that are relied on when getting images of wildlife. The first is patience. Getting up close to wild animals with an elusive nature proves to be challenging. You can’t ask them to look this way or stand where the light is better. Be prepared to wait and watch for that perfect moment. As a consequence, the longer you spend watching them the more you to know about them.

“You have to be really patient,” National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore told PBS, “ Most shoots I’m covered with bugs. Most of the time it's physically miserable, and if you weren’t wound tight like me to get good pictures, why in the world would you ever do something like this? I don’t think you could stand it!”
Over last decade Sartore focus has been a project he calls the Photo Ark, the world’s largest collection of animal studio portraits. His goal is simple: to get the public to care and save species from extinction.

"That’s what the Photo Ark really is about,” Sartore said about the series. “It's hoped that people will fall in love with these things, want to learn about what happened to the species, what they can do to save it and then realize that it ties directly back into their own lives. I think we should show good stewardship to all species, great and small. Clearly, the best course of action is to protect entire ecosystems so that individual species don’t get into trouble in the first place."

I don't claim to be a wildlife photographer. Sometimes it's just luck. Getting up close to skittish wild animals in nature can be both challenging and immensely frustrating, especially when relying on waterproof point and shoot camera. However being able to glide silently through the water in a kayak I'm able to observe and shoot images from without disrupting them in their natural habitat. Sometimes I find the animal is just as curious about me as I am them.

That was the case while on a recent paddling trip on Lake Clementine. The lake is a four-mile-long and narrow waterway in Northern California's Auburn State Recreation Area, fed by the North Fork American River. It was formed in 1939 when the Army Corps of Engineers built the dam to prevent gold mining debris from flowing downstream.

Paddling around the bend near the upper portion of the lake, I happened upon a bobcat on the high back eyeing a pair of geese in the water below. As I came closer, its attention drifted towards me and my boat.

Seldom seen, these elusive and nocturnal wildcats roam throughout much of North America and adapt well to such diverse habitats. Stealthy solitary hunters, they survive on diet of rabbits and ground squirrels by using their long legs, large paws to pounce on their prey. Named for its tail, which appears to be cut or “bobbed.”

An important character in Native Amercian folklore claims the bobcat doesn't show itself without reason. Traditional stories say the sighting of a bobcat is very powerful medicine. The bobcat plays a very negative role in the legends of some tribes. It is considered bad luck to see a one. He is greedy, selfish, and disregards social rules, while in others believe dreaming about strong and agile animal would grant them special powers and superior hunting skills. Often parabled opposite of the coyote, the bobcat is associated with the fog because of its hidden and secretive nature while the coyote represents natural forces the wind.

Interpretations of bobcats sightings vary. For many that are not tuned in spiritually, seeing the animal is a thing of chance. Of course, I don't think that.  When I'm out on the water the mysterious properties nature and theology always immerses me. So maybe it wasn't luck, the bobcat was not a coincidence but a lesson received in silence.

It's a sign to reflect and regain our energy. As a solitary creature, the bobcat inherently knows this and is trying to tell us to break away and take time for ourselves. To seek quiet moments to ask ourselves some meaningful questions and think about what matters most. In our noisy lives filled with people, things and media, we all need an escape and chance to seek our own solitude.

After a while, the bobcat's patience with our face to face encounter fades. It decides to move to higher ground and into the shelter of the Ponderosa pine looking back over its shoulder from time to time, watching me before disappearing like the fog into the cover of the hills

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, we would love to see it. Submit it to us at nickayak@gmail.com