Friday, June 27, 2014

Record Pace...My First 6 Months of Kayaking

Paddling day #1 Jan 1, Folsom Lake

My California paddling portfolio after 73 days of paddling so far in 2014. Each day has brought an escape and adventure.  These are just some of the beautiful places I have kayaked this year.

Paddling Day #10, Jan 31, Lake Clementine

 Paddling Day #19, Feb 25, Folsom Lake

Paddling Day #27, March 19, Lake Natoma

The two best reasons to buy a kayak rather than just renting are sunsets and sunrises. -- Thomas P. Jones

 Paddling Day #31, March 25, Folsom lake
Paddle Day #36 April 6, The American River Parkway

         Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
        A. A. Milne, Pooh's Little Instruction Book   

Paddling Day #37, April 8, Folsom Lake

Paddling Day #60 North Arm of Folsom Lake

Rivers must have been the guides which conducted the footsteps of the first travelers. They are the constant lure, when they flow by our doors, to distant enterprise and adventure, and, by a natural impulse, the dwellers on their banks will at length accompany their currents to the lowlands of the globe, or explore at their invitation the interior of continents.

- Henry David Thoreau

Paddling Day #69 June 18, Lake Natoma

    The Sun shines not on us but in us. The Rivers flow not past, But through us.   John Muir

Paddling Day 71  June 21, Lake Natoma

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 Noel, Voyages: Canada's Heritage Rivers

Paddling Day #73 June 26, Lake Valley Reservoir

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rolling, Rolling Rolling... Part I

 I'm a fraud! That is right, a kayaking fraud. Sure, I have kayaked countless rivers and lakes, taking  on some big water and bigger waves. I've paddled both whitewater and flat water while blogging about the joys of boating. Indeed, in the past couple of years,  I have totally become IMMERSED in the sport of kayaking.

  However, being submerged in river while upside down underneath my kayak is whole another thing. On South Fork of the American River,  I hit a ripple wrong, missed my bracing and flipped my kayak. After seconds, I pulled off the spray skirt, kicked free from the kayak and quickly popped to the surface. No panic, I been here before, just another swim for me, again. Another wet exit into another river.  I quickly gathered my kayak and paddle,  kindly refuse help from lady floating nearby on a rubber raft and swam towards the shore. Embarrassing. Here I am a kayaker who has yet to master a roll.
  Underwater everyday for most of my childhood, doing flip and turns with grace and precision, I swam for years in competition. .  It would seem,  I would be a natural at this rolling thing. Still, I flail and fail when overturned in the water. For some reason,  panic and thoughts of,  "so this is what drowning is like," enter my brain. Clearly, the problem has more to do with my head than just getting wet.

Roll & Tune Up Session at the River Store's pool.

 "Each individual's personal mental focus points are by far the most important elements in developing a kayak roll that will work for them whenever and wherever." said Current Adventures veteran instructor Dan Crandall, "Rolling is 90 percent mental. Your instinct tells you get your head out first, when it needs to be last."
    I took part in Crandall's Roll & Tune Up assessment session at The River Store in Lotus, Ca.  He was offering some instruction for folks who have already had some rolling experience and looking to improve their technique. Sitting poolside, I watched boater after boater tweak their rolls into something with style and grace. Waist deep in water, Crandall pointed out tips on making their roll physically and mentally effortless.

"Show me your roll," Crandall said to me in a matter of fact way as I paddled into the middle of pool.
 "I don't really have one," I said wincing at the idea of trying.
  I then attempted a shaky roll anyway. Underwater, I began to fight to get my head above the surface.  Crandall rolled me over and smiled.
 "You're right. You don't have a roll."

 For the rest of my session he built me up while instructing me in this counter intuitive maneuver. In each roll I attempted, no matter how unsuccessful, I gained more and more confidence in being underwater. It was all about taking my time and not working against the boat. On my last attempt I rolled up and back over.  At last some limited success.
 Still, Crandall rewarded me with a slap on my PFD and and an echoing, "Nice!"

 Current Adventures offers regular kayak roll lessons most Saturdays at 5 p.m. Custom kayak roll lessons are available with reservations.  Call (530) 333-9115 or (888) 452-9254 for more information.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Itasca, the Beginning

The morning mist of Lake Itasca.

 Now that the first day of summer looms ahead of me, I drift back to where the trees are tallest, days are longest and water pours out over the rocks and starts an amazing journey to the gulf of Mexico. 
 Itasca State Park is Minnesota's oldest and most popular state park. The park was founded in 1891 to protect and commemorate the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.  The park with it's geographical and historic appeal, it's campgrounds,  50 miles of nature trails and peaceful lakes make it ideal for any type of north woods adventure.

It is easy to find Itasca State Park, located just north of Park Rapids, Minnesota.  But, in the days before it was mapped,  a steady stream of early explorers led many expeditions up the Mississippi to find the 'true source' of the mighty river. In 1832, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft cut his way through a thicket into a small weedy opening and saw what he would later write, "The cheering sight of a transparent body of water burst upon our view. It was Itasca Lake, the source of the Mississippi."

 Lake Itasca is a small by Minnesota standards with three arms reaching into the majestic  northern pines. The West Arm borders the park's wilderness sanctuary.  Bear Paw campground and the Bower Trail line the eastern part of the lake. The Headwaters and most of the parks facilities, swimming beach and boat ramp are located on the northern main part of the lake. On weekends and during the summer, the crowds flock here to see the origin of the Mississippi and to take a dip or rent a canoe.

The Headwaters sign.

 Everyone who's ever been there has a memory of crossing over the rocks at the Mississippi's birthplace. A line of hand-laid boulders form a crude dam at the outlet of the lake. Every kid from Minnesota has had their picture taken here either by the sign or wading in the creek. It is short hike from the Visitor Center and gift shop to the stream. On hot summer days, folks of all ages will kick off their shoes to wade the cool waters.

Dixon and Noel at the Headwaters.
 Having camped and kayaked at Itasca State Park with my family many times, I usually picked a spot near the lake so I could enjoy early morning and sunset paddles across the water.
Before the sun touches the water, I would carry my kayak from my campsite to the lake. The sound of loons echoing over the lake, a glowing mist hanging like a ghost over the lake, greeted me as I paddled through the reeds to open water.  Lost in the fog, I slid along the lake shore enjoying the solitude.
 Sunsets are just as tranquil on the lake. The water glistens. The sun burns orange and red before falling into the darkness over the forest. Before returning to my campfire for night, I have often enjoyed a sunset paddle on the lake with the company of only a few fisherman.
A quiet morning along the East Arm of the lake.

Trumpeter swans of the lake.
 One of the highlights of paddling the lake is seeing various wildlife. The trumpeter swans seem always aware and just out of distance, while the loons pop up from under the water looking surprised that someone is there. It's welcoming to see many bald eagles, ducks and geese around the lake, as well as deer, beaver, otters and turtles. The long and narrow eastern arm of the lake provides great opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Last day of summer, first day of fall.
  Itasca Lake was my source for serenity.  I have great memories of both kayaking and camping along it's shore.  In 2012, it was the place I went for my 100th paddling day of the season. Such an accomplishment needed a special place to share that milestone. Now living in California, I think of those days fondly hoping someday to journey back to the beginning.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Jumping Rock

Working up the courage to jump.

Launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment...there is no other life but this. Henry David Thoreau
 The hardest thing is just finding the courage to jump. After all, I climbed all the way up through rough rocks and poison oak. Jumping off is the easiest way down.

 That's what crossed my mind as I stood on top of the "jumping rock" on Lake Clementine. I joined Bayside Adventure Sports to take part in the Tuesday Evening Activities. The group gets together, weekly for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and tonight, cliff jumping.
 From the top of the rock, I looked out over an emerald vision. The lake water, freshly melted snow from the Sierra, is now warm enough for a swim. Our paddle boards and kayaks hover motionlessly like toy pieces on glass. At the cliff's edge. it seems like I'm looking down into forever. It's deep enough. At least Erik, our leader has assured us of that. He has been jumping off this rock since he was a kid. It is a long way down. I'm sure the longer I stand there, the more I will talk myself out of jumping. One thought races across my brain. How much is this going to hurt?

 The first to leap is Evan. He has taken a flying start from much higher up. He hangs in the air waving his arms and legs like a puppet on a string until he collides with water in a huge splash. His head pops to the surface quickly with exultation. Up next is Erik, a quick nod to the camera, and then he is over the edge. Falling...Falling... Falling,  I see the splash, but can't hear it. I'm the only one left on top.
 I inch down to find my position on the rock. Gosh, it's a long way down. I look for some firm footing for my leap. The rock isn't smooth or even. There will be no running start.
  Am I sure, I really want to do this? It is now or never. I take moment to study the water.  To late to back out.  One...Two...Take a giant breath....Three...
 The fall is fast and short. It's exhilarating feeling flying through the air. The lake gets closer and closer. I point my toes and hold to the camera as gravity pulls me into the pool. I'm engulfed in the cool green water. I swim to the surface and pop my head up in relief. It wasn't so bad. If we had some more time I think I would jump again, as crazy as that sounds.