Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 in Review: The Years Top Photos.

On Folsom Lake with Bayside Adventure Sports.
As the 2014 draws to a close I look back at some of my favorite places and pictures of the past year. This has been my first full calendar year living in California. The proximity to the lakes and rivers along with California's pleasant weather helped me to personal record of the most days on the water in the year. All in all I kayaked some 134 days in 2014.  Mostly on my friendly neighborhood Lake Natoma just down the hill. Its an easy trip to the water from my home. Other local trips included the Lower American River and Folsom Lake while further ones trips took me into the foothills and the Sierra.
While a good chunk of the paddling was done with my wife or solo, I also had the good fortune of kayaking with Erik Allen and members of Bayside Adventure Sports, The Sacramento Paddle Pushers and the gang at Current Adventures. Those groups introduced me to some new friends, fellow paddlers and new places to paddle, making it an exciting year. We all share the same passion of being outside on the water.
In 2015, I look for even more adventures on the water, trail and snow. Wishing all of you the same. Happy Holidays Everyone!

Breaking a record with Paddle Pushers.
San Juan Rapids
Portage to the River.
On the Lower American River.
Surfing on the South Fork.
Snowshoeing the Sierra
Heading up to the cable.
Lunch on Loon Lake
Over the Folsom rainbow
Record Breaking Day
Splashing at Squaw

End of the night on the American

Yoga and Kayaking

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Loon Lake & Wrights Lake

 The Crystal Basin Recreation Area of the Eldorado National Forest, spans 85,000
acres of pine and fir forests along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Capped by the
majestic, granite peaks of the Crystal Range and traversed by lakes, reservoirs and streams, the Crystal Basin’s four seasons and varied terrain offer a diverse range of rugged outdoor adventure. 
Over this past summer I had an opportunity to visit three of the recreation area's lakes. At nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, Wrights Lake is a 40-acre body of water looking up at the majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Popular on a summer's day, the lake is perfect for swimming and picnicking along its shore. Motorboats are prohibited keeping the area quiet and serene.  
Not far down the road from Wrights Lake is Dark Lake. While most would skip kayaking this small lake, it's horror movie name might make you want to paddle around it once or twice. Nestled in the pines it offers a peaceful paddle.

 Loon Lake Reservoir is ideal for a kayak camping trip and attracts scores of visitors to it campsites and stunning waterfront. The lake's sparkling clear waters covers some 76,000 acres perfect for a camping & kayaking adventure. A rocky and pine covered shoreline adds to the delight. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On the Darkside


 I have come to regard November as the older, harder man's October. I appreciate the early darkness and cooler temperatures. It puts my mind in a different place than October. It is a month for a quieter, slightly more subdued celebration of summer's death as winter tightens its grip.---Henry Rollins

I don't know why, but the falling back of one hour in daylight savings times always surprises me. I'm not ready for the dark. Before my eyes, the sun is being slammed into the horizon. Exploding into little bits before disappearing into the night. It happens all too fast.

I was paddling up to Rattlesnake Bar from Donton's Point on Folsom Lake. It is not usual kayak outing for me. I had never it done before and always wanted to do. The north arm of the lake turns from big open water to a narrow canyon. With low water, the rock formations climb out of the lake in dramatic fashion. For paddlers, this is most interesting part of the lake. Round trip its about 10 miles.

It was a late afternoon start at about three when I dropped my kayak in on the south side of Doton's Point. Each day the lake is being drawn down further and further. Driving down to the water's edge, the dry lake bed looks more like a dry desert or the moon. Parking on a high spot on the beach, the truck should be easy to see coming back.

The hanging sun dipped behind the clouds and hovered over the horizon behind me. I looked over my shoulder the whole time wishing I had more time. I had beaten the darkness before. Late summer nights while camping in Minnesota, I would paddle out for sunset trips across the lake. Listening to the loons, watching the orange ball sink into Lake Itasca and still have enough light to paddle back,  beach my kayak and light the campfire before nightfall.

Even this past summer, while helping out with evening paddles with Current Adventures we had beaten the dark. The paddlers we were training for Eppie's Great Race on the American River would finish just short of sunset. We would carry the kayaks up the hill at River Bend Park in the twilight and load up under the stars.

Yes, I had won the race against the darkness many times before. But, this time I was surprised. I had gone to far and still had to come back. This time I wouldn't beat the night. I would be paddling back in shadow. I hurried back as fast I could. My fingers and feet tingled as I pressed into the foot pegs and paddle. Faster, faster I thought to try to will my kayak back to the put in. But, no matter how fast I paddled the sun light was gone and night had prevailed.

I paddled back toward the lights of Folsom Dam. To the east a full moon arose over the foothills. It provided some friendly comfort. I was not totally in the dark or alone anymore. I had been on a few full moon paddles before and found them quite tranquil when I was prepared. Hugging the shore,  I was looking for my truck. The land and water amalgamated into murkiness. I can't say I was lost. I knew the lake pretty well by now and I knew how to get back. It was more like fumbling around in dark bedroom trying to find the light switch. I know it was there somewhere. I just have to keep looking.
The moonlight glistened on the water as I approached Donton's Point. In the shadows I could make out the silhouette of the truck's body. I was back to my starting point tired and relieved. I loaded up and drove away thinking, I better get an earlier start next time. It was only a little past six.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cronan Ranch

A waxing moon shines over the eastern horizon. Golden foothills glow in fading sunlight. Far off,  the Sierra Nevada mountain tops are covered with snow. It is autumn at Cronan Ranch.
Not looking for a walk around the block, we picked Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park for an afternoon hike. Debbie likes its peacefulness, while I like getting to see a river view. The park is located in Pilot Hill, California. It has 12 miles of trails for biking, horseback riding and hiking near and along the South Fork of the American River. There is a variety of terrain to traverse from gently sloped hills to oak woodlands and rocky riverfront trails.

 We got a late start. The sun was already beginning to dip behind hills when we started on the Down and Up Trail. It lives up to its name, as it takes us up through the bright gold colored grasses of the Sierra Foothills. We follow a ribbon of red dirt as afternoon shadows creep over the hills chasing us along the way.
The trail reaches the top if the hill and then winds us down into a ravine of oak and pine woodlands. We can hear the rush of the river hidden in the trees. Like always, I can hear the river calling before I can see it.

We follow the trail all the way to the river. A canopy of trees oaks, pines and willows cushion the water edge. In high spots we can see the river not blocked by the trees. At last, our trail intersects with the River Trail. Near the river, area commercial rafting companies have set up camps here. During the summer, boaters make a pit stop here before heading into The Gorge. On our trip we found the site quiet and the river at a peaceful low.
We walk along the river's banks for short time before heading back up Long Valley Trail. The sun has set by now, leaving us to walk back in darkness, listening to the hoots of the owls.

The Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park was purchased by the American River Conservancy,  Bureau of Land Management and other partners and placed into public trust to be used for recreation and wildlife conservation.

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Walden

"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." - Henry David Thoreau

It's a right turn. Another right after a block. Down the hill and across the bridge. To my right, the river, to my left the lake. A left turn toward the park entrance and through the gate. Wave to the park attendant and turn left into the parking lot. The kayak comes off the roof and slides into the water.
On the lake now. Paddling hard to cross it. Around the bend into quiet waters and through the culvert under the bike trail. I'm there now. My own personal Walden.

Walden or Life in the Woods written by Henry David Thoreau, philosopher and naturalist in 1854, is a reflection upon living simply in natures surroundings. Thoreau detailed his daily experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond in the woods owned by his friend and mentor,  Ralph Waldo Emerson near Concord, Massachusetts.

"In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; — a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun's hazy brush — this the light dust-cloth — which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still." -Henry David Thoreau

A 160 years later, I find this same peace and solitude paddling in the sloughs of Lake Natoma. There is only one way in and one way out. No rush after that. Only a watery path meandering through little islands that geese, ducks and frogs call home. Along the way, I hear the plop of turtles falling off the dead logs into the water. I can see them for only moments before they slip under the dark water. I'm just a little too close, I suppose.

There is a touch of color along the banks. Bright reds and dull yellows in the trees give notice that it is autumn in northern California. Blackberry bushes line the water's edge. Weeks ago they were full of  ripe berries, but they are mostly gone now. Up away, towards the end of the slough, cattails take over the view. Ducks and deer are common here. The deer stand motionless hoping not to be seen before escaping into the woods, while the ducks swim about used to visitors.

The kayak makes little sound gliding through the water. My paddle slides in and out methodically.  There is no hurry at my Walden.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kayaking Fargo. Autumn on the Red River

On the Red River between Fargo and Moorhead.

There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life. Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures---Shakespeare

The colors of the trees are burning bright. The air is crisp and clear. A morning mist slowly rises over the river's muddy looking waters. It is favorite time year for many to paddle the Red River.
When fall comes to the Red River Valley only the hardiest have yet to put away their canoes or kayaks for the season. The morning chill in the air is just reminder of the what lays ahead. But, those coldest days are still months away and now it time to enjoy the relaxing and peaceful flows of this meandering river.
Gone is the mud at the inputs. Gone is the high water from the spring melt and the summer rains. Gone are the mosquitoes after the first frost. The Red River is once again comfortable in its banks,  before going into its winter hibernation.
In between Fargo and Moorhead the river will glisten in the fading sunshine. I can remember, gliding along in my kayak breaking the mirrored image of the water's surface. The water had an uncommon clarity. Along the shore the leaves are full of color. It doesn't last long before they are swept away by the wind, rain and snow.
The season is short in the north. A long winter looms when it brings the first snow to the river in October. The sound the bow crashing into layers of ice shatters the silence, echoing off the stillness of the water. A reminder of the coming to end to the paddling season.

The first snow of the season.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Whitewater, October 1805

Photo from the National Geographic Production 2002 of Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West.

In the fall of 1805 the Corps of Discovery put their newly fashion dugout canoes into the fast-moving Clearwater river and for the first time in nearly two years had the current to their back. Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had faced many nautical challenges since leaving St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1804, but nothing in their experience had prepared them for the falls and rapids that lay ahead on what is now Idaho and eastern Washington.

 "October 7, 1805, All the canoes in the water. We load and set out, after fixing all our poles &c...Proceed on, passing many bad rapids. One canoe, that in which I went in front, sprung a leak in passing the third rapid." ---William Clark  

 Whitewater rapids are rated according to difficulty from Class I (easy flow and small waves) to Class VI (virtually unrunnable). Even with today’s high-tech kayaks and rafts, Class V rapids are not included on most commercial river trips. Navigating the rocks, waves, dangerous currents, and steep drops of Class V rapids require scouting and expert paddling skills. The men of the Corps of Discovery would have to develop these skills along the way if they expected to survive.

"October 14, 1805, In passing through a short rapid opposite the head of an island, ran on a smooth rock and turned broadside. The men got out on the rock, all except one of our Indian chiefs, who swam on shore. The canoe filled and sank. A number of articles floated out." ---William Clark

They were nearing the junction of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. It was late in the season and urgency was on their minds. They needed to make miles no matter what unknown rapids roar ahead, around the bend. They took many chances paddling the rough water losing tomahawks, shot pouches, bedding and clothing, but never a canoe, rifle or man.

"October 16, 1805, Determined to run the rapid. Put our Indian guide in front, our small canoe next, and the other four following each other. The canoes all passed over safe except the rear canoe, which ran fast on a rock at the lower part of the rapids. With the early assistance of the canoes and the Indians, who were extremely alert, everything was taken out, and the canoe got off without any injury...At 14 miles passed a bad rapid, at which place we unloaded and made a portage of 3/4 of a mile, having passed 4 smaller rapids." ---William Clark

About a week later the Corps of Discovery encountered Celilo Falls. The beginning of a 55-mile stretch of the Columbia River proved to be the most difficult and dangerous part of their journey through the Pacific Northwest.

Celilo Falls 1899
October 23 1805, I, with the greater part of the men, crossed in the canoes to the opposite side of the falls and hauled them across the portage of 457 yards, which is on the larboard side and certainly the best side to pass the canoes. I then descended through a narrow channel, about 150 yards wide, forming, a kind of half-circle in its course of a mile.---William Clark

The portage of the falls gave them little trouble. The explosive Short Narrows and The Long Narrows were another matter. The Short Narrows was a 45-yard wide single channel of raging whitewater. The local Indians considered the rapids impassable. Clark and the corps' best boatman, Peter Cruzatte went ahead to scout it out for themselves. They heard the roar of the water and saw what Clark would later write, "Whorls and swells arising from the compression of the water."  They agreed, that the portage of their heavy canoes over the high rocks would be nearly impossible and by good steering and avoiding the rocks they could make it through safely.

 October 24 1805, I determined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut, swelling, boiling, and whorling in every direction which, from the top of the rock, did not appear as bad as when I was in it. However, we passed safe, to the astonishment of all the Indians, who view us from the top of the rock.---William Clark

The Short Narrows of the Columbia 1950

The next morning the men repeated the scene again at the Long Narrows. The non-swimmers and the valuable baggage portaged around the rapids while the rest of the party shot through them in the dugout canoes.
"October 25, 1805, The three first canoes passed through very well; the fourth nearly filled with water; the last passed through by taking in a little water. Thus, safely below what I conceived to be the worst part of this channel, felt myself extremely gratified and pleased. 
We loaded the canoes and set out, and had not proceeded more than 2 miles before the unfortunate canoe which filled crossing the bad place above, ran against a rock and was in great danger of being lost. This channel is through a hard rough black rock, from 50 to 100 yards wide, swelling and boiling in a most tremendous manner." ---William Clark

The Long Narrows 1951

With no question, today's whitewater kayakers and rafters would enjoy a special thrill of retracing the that Corps of Discovery's trek through these incredible sections of whitewater if they only could. But, most of the challenging rapids are just memories now after being submerged behind a series of hydroelectric dams in the 1950s.

William Clark's comments came from The Journals of Lewis And Clark, edited by John Bakeless,  copyright 1964.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kayak Summer 2014

August 3 Paddling day #91 at Wright's Lake
                                 Life is either a daring adventure or nothing---Helen Keller

My first summer in California had all the ingredients for some great paddling adventures. Stunning destinations, tranquil and fast water to navigate and great new friends who share my same passion. Here is a look back at some of my favorite pictures and places that made this summer special.

July 19 Race Day for Eppies on the American River Parkway

July 27 Paddling Day #87 on Lake Natoma.
July 2 Paddling Day #77 roll session with Bayside Adventure Sports.

August 10 Paddling Day #94 at Loon Lake with Current Adventures.

July 27 Paddling Day #87 at Lake Natoma.

July 26 Paddling Day #86 at Swift Water Rescue Clinic on the South Fork of the American River

August 30th Paddling Day #104 on Lake Jenkinson at Sly Park.

July 31 Paddling Day #89 on Lake Natoma.

September 5 Paddling Day #108 Hiking to the South Fork at Crowan Ranch
August 24 Paddling Day #101 at Lake Natoma Fest on Lake Natoma with the Sacramento Paddle Pushers.

August 23 Paddling Day #100 at Folsom Lake

August 20 Paddling Day #98 on Folsom Lake with Bayside Adventure Sports.

September 16 Paddling Day #114 on Lake Natoma.

Sept 23 Paddling Day #119 on Folsom Lake with Bayside Adventure Sports.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kayak Day #118 & Beyond

God give me joy in the tasks that press, in the memories that burn and bless; In the thought that life has love to spend, in the faith that God's journey's end. ---Thomas Curtis Clark

The air was heavy, but not difficult, to breathe. A forest fire east of the lake had a created an eerie haze over the lake and cast a purple hue over the distant hills. Across the lake, the shore was a blurry collage of rocks, brush, trees and water painted in gray. The lake and its dull shine showed no movement. I would feel guilty for interrupting its stillness with the bow of my kayak.

I had brought my pickup and kayak all the way down to the water at Doton's Point. As the lake continues being drawn down, the distance from the road to the water gets longer daily. It is a kayaking safari as soon as my tires leave the pavement and circle through the trees to the winding trail that leads to the beach. 

The day is a highlight for me. It was paddling day 118 for me this year. It is a personal record of the most days I have ever paddled in one year. As I slid my boat into the water and followed the curve of the lake, I felt a certain exuberance of achieving a personal goal and the satisfaction that my journey in continuing on. It's good to dream... And even better when I'm wide awake in them. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stand Out Paddling

 I've lost count of how many times I have passed under Folsom's prominent Rainbow Bridge. The bridge is a historic landmark of the area. Built in 1917, the bridge crosses over the upper end of Lake Natoma and the American River. A 208-foot long concrete arch spans the rocky ledges of the canyon to help give the bridge it's fabled name. Photographed and painted time and time again the bridge is truly a magnificent sight. 
I can remember last year when it loomed before me as I paddled up the lake. Before I had moved to California, I had only seen it in pictures. As I paddled under it, I felt a thrill in pushing against the current and past the silent monument. It was my welcome to Californian kayaking.

It is routine now.  Lake Natoma is my home lake. I have kayaked it so much and so often that I could probably name the geese. Like all home lakes,  I still find it beautiful and fun to paddle around. I enjoy the quietness of its sloughs and the loftiness of its high banks. I love that the water is just minutes from my home. But that's where I have taken the lake for granted. I'm used to visiting it day after day.

Great days fade into the next, when I'm out kayaking alone. Sure, I have soloing days that are special. But, the lasting and great memories come from paddling with my wife. I love to watch her glide across the water. As an artist, she delights in changing colors of sky and water while making paintings in her mind. She will frown and voice disgust when a loud radio vanquishes the peaceful solitude of the lake. This is her moment to enjoy what God has painted before her eyes.

I paddle behind trying to keep up, while she reveals to me the wonders of the water. This is the first place we kayaked together when I came to visit her before we were married. We had rented a bulky tandem sit on top and paddled together across the lake through the sloughs. It was a cool day and we had the lake to ourselves. We toured through the marsh enjoying the trees, birds and each others company. Now, every time I pass through those sloughs I remember that day. Every time. It will always be one of my best memories of the lake. 

 Debbie and I shared a sunset paddle the other day. Nothing exemplary, we are heading into fall and the sun is setting faster each night. We had to race back now before the sun slammed into the horizon. A fleeting golden reflection illuminated the water and silhouetted Debbie and her kayak. The rainbow bridge is close and beaming in the setting sun.

We will leave no lasting imprint. Water has no memory. However, sharing it with each other will always make each visit to the lake stand out.