Friday, November 27, 2015


#OptOutside on Black Friday, is REI's adventurous Thanksgiving marketing campaign motivating  folks to head for the great outdoors instead of the shopping mall. It has been gathering momentum since it was announced. What started as REI's declaration close all of its stores on Black Friday, the so-called busiest shopping day in the year, while still paying its 12,000 employees to take the day off and enjoy the outdoors, has prompted nearly 1 million endorsements.  More than 150 other companies, nonprofit organizations and agencies that support state and national parks have jumped on board encouraging people to spend Black Friday in nature. "The idea has struck a chord – far more than we expected," said Jerry Stritzke, REI president and CEO, in statement released from the company,  "We did this to share our passion for reconnecting with the people we love, in the outdoor places we love. But honestly we are surprised by – and very grateful for – the number of groups joining in. Clearly people are looking to do something a bit different with their time. The folks at REI just want to get out to the trails, slopes and parks with our members."

Minnesota and California's state parks were the first to jump on board the band wagon providing free admissions to the parks. Only 49 state parks, mostly near the coast in northern and central California are participating. The national parks and many other state parks systems have followed suit by offering admission free of charge. Missouri State Parks have a special offer for free camping on Black Friday. No fees will be collected for first, come first served campsites. Admission to Missouri state parks is always free.

"At a time of year when Minnesotans pause to give thanks, I am so grateful for the incredible state parks and trails we have here in Minnesota,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Visiting these parks is a great way to spend time with family and loved ones, relieve stress, and enjoy exercise in the great outdoors.” While Sarah Creachbaum, superintendent at Olympic National Park, suggested it would be a good way to start something new away from your standard holiday routine, "Thanksgiving is a time-honored American tradition, and we invite families to create new traditions."

Nevertheless, many of those same consumers choosing to OptOutside on Black Friday will be shopping online Cyber Monday. According to the Shopify website, between 2006 and 2011, online sales doubled to over 1.2 billion dollars on Cyber Monday. Shopping at home has become the norm, as consumers hope to grab online bargains.

However, Team Pyranha kayaker Pete Delosa says rather than getting your kayaking gear online, instead visit your local kayak shop for all your outfitting. "Kayaking, especially whitewater kayaking, is too small of a business for people to be ordering their stuff from one or two online super stores." said Delosa, "I think people have this perception that things are always cheaper on the Internet too which isn't always the case. Most importantly, the people who work in kayak shops are usually kayakers and if we all buy everything on the Internet that directly puts boaters in our local community out of work which means they can no longer go kayaking and our community gets smaller."
In his October blog post in, he listed five reasons to stop buying your paddling gear off the Internet and how to support your local paddling shop. 
  • The people who work in your local shop are part of your local river community. They paddle the same rivers you do. You might even paddle with them. By getting your gear from them you are keeping your friends employed.
  • When you buy gear from your local shop you have a person to go back to if you have any problems. Let’s say you order a kayak from the Internet and you need help setting up the outfitting. Is the Internet going to help you?
  • Kayaking is not just a sport. It’s a lifestyle. Hanging out in your local shop is a great way to get to know other paddlers in your area. When you’re looking for a new boat, paddle, or whatever else, talking to the other people in the store is a great way to get the scoop on what gear is working well for people and what gear people have not been so stoked on. Sure you can read reviews online but do you know who wrote them? If you talk to the staff and customers in a shop you can actually get to know a person and understand their personal experience which lends some context to the review they might give. Plus, you get the added bonus of talking face to face to a real live person. Remember when people used to do that?
  • Kayak shops usually have info on upcoming events in the area. Just stopping in once in a while is an easy way to keep current on festivals, competitions, community gatherings, clean ups, etc. in your area.
  • Try before you buy. Sure most companies have fit guides on their websites but I prefer to know something is going to fit before I buy it. Suppose you’re looking for a new dry suit. If you follow the size guide and order online you still run the risk of not quite having the right fit when your suit arrives. Then you have to send it back and wait even longer. Wouldn’t it be better to walk into the store, try the suit on and be able to wear it on the river the next day? What if you’re looking for a boat? Everyone wants to demo new kayaks before buying one. You can’t do that if you order your kayak from the Internet. Sure you could demo from your local shop and then order online, but do you really want that on your karma next time you head out to the river?
 "The same idea probably applies to other industries, "said Delosa, "But since I work in the paddling industry and because the paddling industry is so small already it is particularly important for us to support our local shops."

Moreover, when you shop at a small independent businesses owned by people who live locally, your dollars stay local; they're recycled right back into the community, rather than padding the profits of a large corporate chain. So while opting outside for the day, drop by and support your local paddle shop, it's most likely on the way.

Friday, November 20, 2015


The hard work is not only part of the fun of it, but it beats the doctors. San Francisco Bay is no mill pond. It is a large and draughty and variegated piece of water. I remember, one winter evening, trying to enter the mouth of the Sacramento. There was a freshet on the river, the flood tide from the bay had been beaten back into a strong ebb, and the lusty west wind died down with the sun. It was just sunset, and with a fair to middling breeze, dead aft, we stood still in the rapid current. --Jack London

It is undeniably one the greatest views ever. The Golden Gate Bridge a vision that has inspired story, song and poem. On its opening ceremony in 1937, its chief engineer Joseph Strauss said, "This bridge needs neither praise, eulogy nor encomium. It speaks for itself. We who have labored long are grateful. What Nature rent asunder long ago, man has joined today." When asked how long the bridge would will last? His answer was concise. "Forever." he replied.
Forever, I will have that memory of kayaking out of Horseshoe Bay. The bridge, the mystical structure shines to my south."Its efficiency cannot conceal the artistry. There is heart there, and soul. It is an object to be contemplated for hours." That is what longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote when he described his reverence of the triumphant structure. I feel the same sentiment. When I think back on all the places I have ever wanted to kayak. I had dreamed of clear forest lakes, whitewater in a rocky mountain canyon and a sea view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just to be near the bridge was an overpowering feeling. It was hard to take my eyes off it. Even when I turned to the east, towards Angel Island, I found myself looking over my shoulder enraptured by its sight.

I'm was going solo for first part of the trip. It was early spring morning, the winds were light and the tide was in my favor. I had picked a good time to paddle. San Francisco Bay is legendary to sea kayakers. It has some of the wildest sea conditions on the entire West Coast. The bay is known for steep waves, fast and swirling currents and howling winds blowing through that Golden Gate that require advanced paddling skills. "It really blows on San Francisco Bay," cited American author Jack London, "During the winter, which is the best cruising season, we have southeasters, southwesters, and occasional howling northers. Throughout the summer we have what we call the "sea-breeze," an unfailing wind off the Pacific that on most afternoons in the week."

I'm was crossing the bay to meet up a camping party for an overnight on Angel Island.  They had come the day before and I was joining them.  My kayak, loaded up with camping gear, a change of clothes and assortment of freeze-dried foods and power bars. To my left was Richardson Bay and Sausalito, to my right was Alcatraz Island and San Francisco and behind me the Golden Gate Bridge. Straight ahead is was Angel Island silhouetted against the sun. Its dark mass rises out of a hazy glow before me. My day had just begun.

Canadian author Gilbert Parker wrote, "It must be remembered that the sea is a great breeder of friendship. Two men who have known each other for twenty years find that twenty days at sea bring them nearer than ever they were before." Close to water, vulnerable to its brunt and force, my kayak companions from Bayside Adventure Sports have bonded together well this past year with a shared camaraderie and ministry of paddling in God's creation. BAS is an active outdoor church group based in Granite Bay, California and sponsors many of my paddling activities.

After unloading my gear and quick breakfast, I was back on the water again with the group. We made a quick trip across Raccoon Straights to Tiburon followed by a run back through the straights and around the island. We faced wind and waves on the island's west and tranquil waters on its east while circumventing the bay island. Each stroke of the paddle was a triumph. Each bounding swell an adventure. "Why do we love the sea?" stated American artist Robert Henri, "It is because in has some potent power to make us think things we like to think." The next day, we returned towards Horseshoe Bay and the bridge hidden somewhere in the clouds.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Courtesy of Heavenly Mountain via Facebook
There is a buzz in the ski shops this week in Northern California. The smell of wax, the clatter of skis and exhilaration of people looking to find the right ski, boot or snowboard. A series of autumn rains and snows this past week have brought high hopes for an exceptional ski season and a much-needed replenishment of the snowpack to the Sierra Nevada mountains. Instead of last year's dry mountainsides, skiers and snow boarders are finding the slopes in a shimmering white. So much snow,  that ski resorts shut down most of last winter during California's drought are kicking off the season with an early pre-Thanksgiving start.
“This is the third storm that’s rolled through and we’re in early November, so this is fantastic,”  Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association, told the Guardian  “Everyone in California is excited to see rain, but the fact that it is also falling in the form of snow in the mountains is fantastic.”
The area has been blanket with as much as two feet of power with another foot expected this weekend prompting Tahoe’s ski giants Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Heavenly and Northstar to open this weekend. This is the earliest the resorts have opened since 2012, and the first time opening six days ahead of schedule since at least 2009.

"Welcome El Niño!" said Lake Tahoe area ski rep, Adrienne Schneider, "You can stay as long as you like! Stoked!" El Nino is being echoed by skiers from Mammoth near Yosemite to Mount Rose near Reno. El Niño is the strong warm-water mass in the Pacific that can sometimes yield strong winter snow totals, especially in the southern half of the western United States. The snow enthusiasts have had a long wait hoping it materializes. “I’m telling people to be a cautiously optimist,” told Bryan Allegretto to the San Francisco Chronicle “Don’t run around in the streets jumping up and down yet." Allegretto is an OpenSnow forecaster in the Sierra. OpenSnow, a partnership of forecasters living in U.S. ski towns.  He estimates that resorts in the Tahoe area stand a 98% to 134% percent chance of seeing above-average snowfall this winter.

Other forecasters, though, are cautioning against putting too much faith in El Niño especially this early on. Reno-based National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Tolby told the Tahoe Daily Tribune ""I think it's important to understand that every El Niño is different. The correlation with receiving above average precipitation is highest in January through March." So even though there is a chance for a strong El Niño, it just hasn't gotten here yet.  Allegretto credits an active early snow pattern that has just been missing in the Sierra in the last few years. He wrote in his Daily Snow Forecast last week, "We are in a great pattern right now with the ridge staying North of Hawaii keeping the storm door open."

Strong El Niños of the past have yielded winters that are only slightly snowier than average,  so while the outlook remains anything but certain, one thing is abundantly clear, the ski industry could use the snow along with the rest of California. Snowpack is a key factor in California's water supply. Scientists say, in a normal year, melting Sierra Nevada snow provides the state with one-third of its water. Another third is pumped from aquifers, and the rest comes from rivers and reservoirs.

"I think it's been nice having these small storms the past couple weeks. I hope they are indicative of what is to come." said Pete DeLosa, a Northern California based kayaker with Team Pryanha,  "If we continue this pattern of a foot of snow each week I think we will be in good shape by spring time. The rains we have been getting down low haven't really amounted to anything yet as far as boat-able flows. We are supposed to get another two day rain and snow next week and I'm hoping that it will lead to some rain fed paddling."
Like the ski season, much of California's kayaking and rafting season suffered during last year's long hot summer. Low flows on some of its rivers and dried up reservoirs, are common place in the fourth year of extreme drought. Delosa knows more snow means more to water in next year's rivers. "I have no real idea what we will get for water this winter but I am a believer in the power of positive thinking and I am determined to believe that these small storms we've had are the beginning of great things to come."

Friday, November 6, 2015


The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee, The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead, When the skies of November turn gloomy--Gordon Lightfoot

It was late fall in Minnesota. Winter comes quickly there. It pushes the season of autumn out rapidly like an out-of-control locomotive. The beautiful colorful leaves one day are swept away by the rain, ice and snow on the next. Veteran paddlers of Lake Superior will tell you that when the weather turns to winter, the lake can become extremely hazardous for vessels no matter the size. A single storm on Nov. 28, 1905, damaged 29 ships calling for American novelist James Oliver Curwood to write, "It is the most dangerous piece of water in the world. Here winter falls in autumn, and until late spring, it is a region of blizzards and blinding snowstorms. The coast are harborless wildernesses with...reef and rocky headlands that jut out like knives to cuts ships into two." The alarm went out and in 1907 the US Congress appropriated $75,000 to build a lighthouse and fog signal southwest of Silver Bay, Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior.   

Split Rock Lighthouse is considered one of the most picturesque lighthouses on Lake Superior. The lighthouse long since retired by U. S. Coast Guard is now part of the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. It has been restored to the way it appear in the late 1920s when it guarded the treacherous and rocky coastline against its 130-foot cliff perch overlooking the lake. Only once a year is the lighthouse lens re-lit in tribute to the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a storm on November 10, 1975.  All 29 crew members perished in one of the Great Lakes' worst shipping disasters forty years ago this month. On the anniversary of the ship's sinking, the names of the crew are read and the beacon is lit at dusk.

Against lake, the imposing and beautiful lighthouse seems to shrink. The forests and rocks on its edges have been diminished. I have never felt so small in a kayak than on Lake Superior. The lake, powerful even when calm bounced me up and down like a float toy as I paddled around the island and bay below the lighthouse. My son Cole and I were on a late-season camping trip on the North Shore. We had brought our Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 to experience paddling in Little Two Harbors Bay and under the lighthouse. This place has special meaning us. We had visited it several times as a family and had good memories there. Now we would have one more.

While Cole paddled out into the bay, I climbed to the top of nearby Ellingson Island across from the lighthouse's rock face wall. Cole braver than I went out further under the lighthouse. Unprotected from the windswept waters, I watch waves break over his bow. Alone in the vastness, from my viewpoint, he was only speck on the giant sea. Like, novelist, Joseph Conrad said, "The sea has never been friendly to man. At most, it has been the accomplice of human restlessness." It is like that with Lake Superior, sudden storms, very cold water and an unforgiving coastline. It's an uninviting place that seems to call for us home, even in the days before winter.
Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, submit it to us at