Friday, March 6, 2015

Rattlesnake Bar's Visionary Enchantment

“As we passed on, it seemed as if those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have an end.” --Meriwether Lewis

I have always found that visionary enchantment Lewis writes about on my trips at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area's Rattlesnake Bar and up the North Fork of the American River. Gliding in clear water along a passageway between massive granite ramparts cradling the lake and river. The canyon walls also flow in patterns of the stream. The once molten rock now crystallized over millions of years has been lifted and exposed. Thin bedded sedimentary layers have been shattered and busted along the fault lines while large boulders have become their own islands raising from the depths.

When I started kayaking I dreamed of being in a place like this. These were the places pictured in the favorite kayak magazines. Quiet inviting pools of water with amazing scenery, while just around the bend the ripples have turned into churning cascades. The sound of the thundering water echoing of the chasm walls has always called to me.

It is warm day in March and the lake running high. It’s a far cry from more than a year ago when I was driving and walking on the lake’s floor. Now the lake is nearly double with the water it at about 100 percent of normal, meaning the lake levels are where they should be, despite the ongoing drought. It's a good sign. I'm able paddle farther into the North Fork's canyon than I have before, passing the long gone miner's gold camps. During the Gold Rush thousands of miners picked, dug and blasted along the banks of the river looking for fortune, but today it is only me finding the riches of the lake and stream.

Before long the placid lake turns into moving water. I feel the tug of current pushing me back. At a couple rapids, I leap-frog the fast water by portaging my kayak. I hopscotch between the uneven rock. The footing isn't great. I find sandy beaches below each rapid along with clear blue pools. In summer this would be an inviting spot for a swim. However it is March and the water remains liquid snow from the Sierra. Swimming will have to wait till next time. I press on until being stop by a long line of rapids.

I have lunch on the beach and then go with flow. I catch the current enjoying a bouncy ride to quieter waters.