Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where the River Ends...Rattlesnake Bar.

Where the river ends...The North Fork of the American River flowing into Folsom Lake
 All my paddling books were written about 15 years ago. Each offers maps and tips on where to go and how to get there.  They have suggestions on the obstacles one might encounter and what sights to look for a long the way. It is very helpful knowledge for both the beginner and the veteran paddler.
 However, Folsom Lake is now at an all-time low. Where my GPS says there should be water,  looks more like the surface of Mars. The waterway which has definitely shrunk offers now new opportunities to explore areas that were once underwater. Look for massive and remarkable rock formations resembling fortresses and castles along the shoreline and giant boulders rising up out the water from nowhere.
 Rattlesnake Bar is the furthest north boat access point on the north arm of the lake at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. The landscape there is very rugged. The guidebooks say watch for rattlesnakes, hence the name, but lookout for other wildlife as well.
 At the time, the lake level had dropped far below the cement of the boat ramp. Along with that, the gate leading to the ramp was locked. Portaging the kayak down the hill was in order to get on the water.  Once on it, I found the water very quiet while paddling up past Morman Ravine.  Here is where the water clarity improved as the icy North Forks of the American River water meets the warmer lake water.  At this place,  it was easy for me to see into the depths of the lake below. In places, I could see clearly twenty to thirty feet into the bluish green water.
 A giant gravel bar soon appears. It is the reminder of the power water. A flood destroyed a cofferdam some years ago sending a wall of water and dam material all downstream. The water at this point became shallow and the current started to tug at my kayak.  I had to stop and turn around just before hitting some Class I rapids. This is where the river ends.
 I will have to wait till lake is higher to conclude this journey.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kayak Journals, My History of Paddling

Lake Journals
May 27, 2010...Cole and I put our kayaks into the water.  The day had finally came. It is a beautiful day in Minnesota.

That's it. That is how it all started.  My son Cole and I put our brand new Perception and Old Town kayaks into Red River Lake just east of Elizabeth, Minn.  The day was bright and warm. The water was clear and smooth. We had just found out how to adjust our seats and our foot pegs. I guess we were a little shaky at the start.  But, soon we were watching the turtles jump off the logs in the quiet spots of the lake

 The only reason I can remember this so well is that I began to write a kayaking journal that very day to keep track of my paddling adventures. I have chronicled every day since I have put a kayak in the water. With three completed journals and one just begun, I currently have documented 300 days of kayaking. The books are small little travel journals with about 200 pages, offering spaces on each page for several paragraphs. The top of every other page of the journal contains a "highlight of the day" section. I usually reserve this space for a map, newspaper headline, but most often a photograph.
May 2010 on the Otter Tail River

 The pictures have documented my complete kayaking experience. Some of my favorite images include Cole and I holding our paddles over our head in triumph, the many over-the-bow shots of sunrises and sunsets in places called Itasca, Bemidji and Clementine, rustic campsites by lakes and rivers where I  hear the cry of the loon and those postcard memories of both whitewater and calm water from Superior to California.

  The pictures also include friends and acquaintances that I have taken out on the water with me.  For many, it is their very first time in a kayak.  Most of them start out the with the same question.
 "Is this going to tip over with me in it?"
  And at the end of the day when we are loading up the boats, it is always the same question.
 "When can we go again?"

Photos of my kids, my wife and even my dog blanket the pages. Like the shots of Cole white-watering on the Kettle River,  my son Taylor and daughter Alia sitting around a fire on a campout, or  Noel on leave from the Navy in a much smaller boat than her USS Nimitz, while paddling on the Otter Tail.
The pictures record the courtship with my wife.  There are images of Lake Natoma backwater on our first kayak outing. A great shot of our bright the smiles after placing in the Race on Red Canoe & Kayak race. Plus travel snapshots of a northern Minnesota camp out complete with mosquitoes, a thunderstorm in Colorado and coming back home again at Lake Natoma.

 July 4, 2013...This river has a way of slowing down time. The sun hangs like a big orange ball sinking just slowly, slowly, slowly. The trees reflect in a mirror image of the water.  It is very still, till the echoes of fireworks shatter the silence. After all, it is the fourth of July.

 There are essays about being lost on watery trails. Bodies of water have a way of revealing beauty and tranquility in the world  It is awesome to kayak in wonderful places. However, my pictures don't even come close to capturing the splendor of seasons surrounding my kayaking.  My words, has hard I try, don't come much closer. I try to embrace the fleeting spirit of the lake or stream of the day in my passages. Rivers leave no footprints. Each time it is a different memory. The old cliche, "It's the journey that matters" still rings true.  I look back through the pages of stored experiences reliving those hot summer nights on Minnesota lakes, the touch of autumn in Maplewood State Park, my freezing fingers of a first snowfall and the high water voyages during spring runoffs.

 Sometimes the entry is a combination weather report and a laundry list of where I went, who came with, did it rain or shine? and what did I have for snacks? Those entries are pretty simple. I usually describe what I saw along the way. If the lake was full of kayaks or if I had it pretty much to myself.  Did I see any wildlife? Was the weather pleasant or breezy? A record that I got for a 90-minute paddle across the water on a mid-week late afternoon.

It is second nature to me now.  I have made it a habit that either at home or by the campfire, I put down a few lines about the day's paddling. I have even expanded to other journals to keep track of my cross-country skiing, biking and hiking outings. I like to look back, to see where I went and how I traveled down the trail that day.

 August 16, 2012...The night is cool, but still very beautiful and even peaceful. I could have paddled even more, except for the setting sun.

 It is not for everyone, I agree, but for those who enjoy remembering their days on the water, I would recommend it. It will make each trip, whether a long days journey down a river or a quick outing on the lake, an odyssey.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On the Parkway with the Paddle Pushers

On the American River Parkway with the Sacramento Paddle Pushers.

 Most of the 23 miles of the American River Parkway meanders through the urban part of Sacramento in slow motion.  The recreation river has few ripples in places, but mostly it's a slow easy ride all the way down to the Sacramento River. Paddlers will have little trouble going against the current from confluence of the rivers up to the I-80 bridge. There are two access points for boat launching.  Tiscornia Park is just to the south of Discovery Park. It offers a small craft access underneath the Jibboom Street bridge that link the parks. Discovery Park offers one for the larger pleasure boats.  From there up stream the slow moving river offers a view several bridges to mark the progress of your trip.

 It is definitely an urban paddle. In some spots downtown skyscrapers can be seen.  Homeless camp on the banks and boats zoom by on way to a fishing spot. However, the river corridor still offers great views of birds and other wildlife. Turtles can be seen sunning themselves on logs along the river, while a number of herons nest in the trees. River otters and beaver can also be spotted along the way. This makes the parkway a great place for a weekend paddle.

 The Sacramento Paddle Pushers an online meet up group, embarked on the river this past weekend.  Over 20 some paddlers were enchanted by the river's natural surroundings and history during their outing. The group's organizer Lynn Halstead, wanted get more people out kayaking together. She began the group in October of 2010.  It now boast about 500 online members. Since, Halstead has hosted numerous paddling, biking and hiking activities. She also plans the outings months ahead in some cases.
"I just wanted to start my own group and it keep getting better." said Halstead, "It is only amazing because of all people I have come out. Just meeting all the wonderful paddlers."

 The Paddle Pushers paddle up stream from the Jibboom Street launch.  They traveled about 4 miles before stopping for a lunch break. After lunch the group returned in a relaxed fashion going down stream.

The trip on the American River Parkway.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lake Natoma Sunshine

A late afternoon paddle of Lake Natoma

 The best thing about Lake Natoma is the proximity to my home. Located just minutes away from where I live in Fair Oaks, California, the lake provides a quick and easy access for a late afternoon kayak trip.
 This narrow and popular lake is not only a great place to kayak, but also features sailing, stand up paddle boarding and crew races. The lake is lined with biking and hiking trails encompassing it's shores. Bird watchers are able to see geese, herons, egrets and cormorants flying and nesting along it's banks. Established rookeries are the home to many nesting colonies. Migrating birds arrive in the spring and stay through out the summer.
 The Willow Creek access is on the south side of the lake. It is a quiet little bay and picnic spot. Paddling from here is a great way to explore the surroundings lakeside, the left over tailings from the gold dredging days and watching the sun go down.