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.