Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Oh my Darling, Clementine...

When I started out kayaking, I dreamed of far off places to dip my paddle.  I wanted a quiet wild places with tranquil clear emerald, a half lake, half river water. I wanted a place to unplug from the day to day tension of reality to reach out for the universe. I wanted to hear the haunting words of Meriwether Lewis echoing  off the canyon walls.

"As we passed on it seemed as if those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have end." 

 Our truck, with kayaks overhead, rounds the narrow road down the gorge and behold Lake Clementine.  A shining finger of water nestles down between trees and rock. It calls for an adventure in stillness.
  Lake Clementine is a four-mile long and narrow waterway in the popular Auburn State Recreation Area near Auburn, Ca.  The dam, creating the lake was built in 1939 by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is a debris dam designed to keep the silt and other debris, dating back to the gold rush (hydraulic mining), out of the lower American River. The water cascading over the dam offers a man-made waterfall and rainbow for the lucky hikers on the trail.
 Summer brings out the water skiers and other boaters.  But, it is winter now. We have the lake to ourselves. The water is so smooth it has a mirror-like reflection, only to be shattered by the bow of our kayaks. This is traditional flat-water kayaking at it's best.

The North Fork Dam.



  Just past the ramp way of the boat launch and marina is Robber's Roost, 1,457 piece of limestone towering over the lake. It's many little caves and pox marks on the spire make it a perfect nesting spots for the the turkey vultures soaring over the reservoir.
 On one recent trip,  I came across two kayaking birders with high power binoculars. They seemed mesmerized by their flight. They had paddled to just below pinnacle to watch.
 Water fowl, ducks and geese, find their way closer to the water. They dance across the water just a little ways away as we paddle by. Their honking will cry out their warning of our coming near.
Paddling under Robber's Roost.
  Paddling up even farther up the lake are boat-in campsites and picnic spots which are popular in the summer months with boating and water skiing crowds. They are inviting sandy beaches and shade trees. But, it is winter now in the foothills and these spots are deserted except for the geese. Those days, will have to wait for now.
Camp sites along the lake.

  The lake turns to river after the campsites. The North Fork of the American River presses against my kayak going up stream.  It is not that difficult yet. The water here flows at gentle pace.  The current is much faster up river. The whitewater rafters have even named a pair of rapids. One is called Bogus Thunder, the other is, Staircase.
  I'm just heading toward the second access at the upper part of the lake called Long Point.  I'll have a quick lunch here before turning back toward the dam.
At Long Point.
  In the late afternoon on Lake Clementine the sunlight dips around the foothills, taking us from the  blue light to the sun light at every bend. There is coolness in the shadows and warmth in the sun. But it is not equal. It is late in the afternoon and the shadows are claiming the valley. We will have to  race back to the dam to beat the setting sun.
Heading back in the shadows of the foothills.
 So far I have been to Lake Clementine three times.  All short little outings, providing a classic flat-water kayak fix to my energize my spirit, my soul... and build a bond with this new lake with every dip of my paddle.