Friday, February 26, 2016

KAYAK BLISS


Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe.  Henry David Thoreau

 It is no secret I love kayaking. If I'm not paddling across a lake or river,  I'm usually thinking about paddling across a lake or stream. To ease the stress of the day, my mind literally drifts away planning the next great outing on the water with the poetic words of naturalist Sigurd Olson, voyaging through my head, heart and soul. 
 If it is calm, the canoes drifting through reflections with nothing to break the vast silence but the hypnotic swish of paddles, there are moments when one seems suspended between heaven and earth. If it is stormy and the lakes alive, with whitecaps and blowing spume, each instant is full of battle and excitement. When, after hours and sometimes days, the misty outlines of the lake take form again, islands slowly emerge and float upon the surface, headlands become real, one passes through a door into the beyond itself and the mystery is no more.
 So it really came as no surprise when I read Kaydi Pyette's article in the current issue of Canoeroots magazine entitled Find Your Bliss stating that people are happier when they spend money on experiences, not things. Pyette states, according to psychology professor at Cornell University researcher Dr. Thomas Gilovich, experiences, rather than material goods, make us happier in the long run. This is contrary to what some people feel is true, since material goods last longer than individual experiences. Yet, the happy memories associated with a concert or ski trip last longer, creating more of a positive impact than the short-term happiness from a single purchase.

"Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods," said Gilovich in an interview with Co. Exist's Jay Cassano, "You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences."

Pyette's article went on to say, that even bad experiences create happy memories. A camping trip of nothing but rain becomes a great opportunity for bonding, and an excellent story to tell. Stressful, uncomfortable and scary experiences can be turned in funny stories and later be seen as valuable learning experiences. 
 
"We consume experiences directly with other people," said Gilovich. "And after they're gone, they're part of the stories that we tell to one another."

 There is something about paddling: the quiet rhythm of the blade sliding in and out of the water, the feel of my body's movement and tempo as I lean into the stroke and pull the paddle toward me. For me there are no bad days on the water,  only great memories.

"There have been countless campfires, each one different, but some so blended into their backgrounds that it is hard for them to emerge." wrote Sigurd Olson, "But I have found that when I catch even a glimmer of their almost forgotten light in the eyes of some friend who has shared them with me, they begin to flame once more. Those old fires have strange and wonderful powers. Even their memories make life the adventure it was meant to be."

Friday, February 19, 2016

SWIMMING LESSONS


Bogart: How'd you like it?
Hepburn: Like it?
Bogart: Whitewater rapids!
Hepburn: I never dreamed. . .
Bogart: I don't blame you for being scared -- not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scare of whitewater.
Hepburn: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating.
-The African Queen 


Erik Allen looked at me sternly. Things needed to happen fast and now. I was soaking wet standing in swirling ankle-deep freezing water after being tossed about in the rapids of the North Fork of the American like a bobbing float toy. I had gathered enough strength to swim to the rocky shore and found some footing. The boat I had used was somewhere downstream, consequentially leaving me marooned on the wrong side of the river.  It was Ground Hog's Day.

"You're going to have to swim across to the other side of the river," Erik said over the sound of the rushing water. "There is no trail here. We're on the wrong side dude!"

Moments before,  I had suffered a  classic boater's beat down nightmare. Upstream, I had rolled and was forced to swim. I could still see the emerald wave moving in slow motion. It was curling, big and looked ten-feet tall. I was hypnotized by its size and power. I lost focus and froze, committing the cardinal sin of white-water kayaking.  I had stopped paddling just hoping to ride it out.

"Fearful or tentative paddling is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, " said Team Pyranha's Pete DeLosa, "When we are afraid of what might happen when focus on that thing and thereby cause it to happen. It's better to paddle aggressively and stay focused on the desired outcome. This is of course easier said than done a lot of the time. But, when you're tense the boat isn't able to rock with the water under you. You and your boat can't move independent of each other and that's when you get knocked over." 

There is a saying on the river that every paddler, even the good ones are in between swims. According to the Whitewater Rescue Institutes's Mike Johnston, "When you fall in whitewater, it's common to be held underwater for a few seconds. Time seems to slow down. It's sort of like the dog years ratio, one actual second of submersion seems like about seven seconds. When you need to breath and can't, three seconds can seem like twenty. This isn't a long time at your desk, but can feel like forever at the bottom of a rapid. Don't panic."

When I rolled and broke away from my kayak,  I was on my back with my feet downstream.  I had one hand locked to my paddle and the other latched to the floundering boat as I bobbed along in the Class III torrent. The turbulent and aerated waves frothed and bounded dishing out its fury on my body and boat. Keeping my feet pointed downstream, I  used my body to angle through the current maneuvering right or left, with the boat in front of me.  I kept my body long and streamlined to maneuver smoothly and efficiently. The goal now was not to get hurt.

"The world goes dark, " writer and adventurer Joe Kane said in his book Running the Amazon, a firsthand account of the only expedition ever to travel the entire 4,200-mile Amazon River from its source in Peru to the Atlantic Ocean, as he his describes his swim through the abyss of churning rapids. "The river— the word hardly does justice to the churning mess enveloping you— the river tumbles you like so much laundry. It punches the air from your lungs. You're helpless. Swimming is a joke. You know for a fact that you are drowning. For the first time you understand the strength of the insouciant monster that has swallowed you. Maybe you travel a hundred feet before you surface (the current is moving that fast). And another hundred feet—just short of a truly fearsome plunge, one that will surely kill you— before you see the rescue lines. You're hauled to shore wearing a sheepish grin and a look in your eye that is equal parts confusion, respect, and raw fear."

Erik was quick to my rescue after I had bounced like a floating beach ball through the big waves. "Let go of the boat and grab on," he yelled out. In a moment of hesitation I clung to my boat even tighter rolling into the fury of the rapid. People forget to emphasize that on single boat trips, the backup plan is always self rescue. It's good risk management to apply the buddy system to every river trip.

Erik Allen has what they call the water gene. A former Navy medic,  he has taken up adventure guiding as his true passion. He is at home on the water as he is on land. He often leads groups  snowshoeing, camping and hiking as well as kayaking. He is used to taking care of others while out in the wild.
"Let go of the boat and grab on," he yelled again. I released my boat and watched it from the corners of eyes drift away from me. "Give me your paddle!" I reached my paddle out from the waves. Erik snatched it from my hand. Then I swam with all my might to reach the back of his play boat. Stroke one, stroke two, and one more. The freezing water was leaving me breathless as his boat rushed ahead just out of reach. Another lunge forward and finally  I caught his stern handle as the waves punched at me again and again. As I caught  breaths of air between the trough of waves,  I hung on tight to his boat as we were poured into a huge rapid. 

Everyone should know about the potential for entrapment in moving water. I tried minimizing the risk of foot entrapment in moving water by keeping my feet up while hang on the back of Eric's boat. My feet could act like hooks possibly to get caught between cracks in rocks or any type of nook or cranny on the bottom of the river. However in this improvised swimming position with my hands forward clutching Eric's kayak, I banged my knee and shins against the rocks. You would think after after soaking for thousands of years they would be a little softer, but as we all know, rocks are very hard.

"Now swim, swim!' Erik shouted. I had turned from being a defensive swimmer to an aggressive one. Aggressive  swimming is used to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. I let his boat go and with the American crawl kicked it into high gear,  setting a ferry angle to cross fast moving current. Ferrying  swimmers use the same techniques used when boating. Keep your head up so you can see where you are going, set a ferry angle and swim hard. Faster water uses a smaller angle and very slow water I could simply swim directly across at a 90 ° angle. As former high school swimmer, I knew how to push my arms arms forward. Before long the I found the found a some shallow rushing water.
After that long swim,  I was very tempted to stand up when I got close to the rocky and rough shore. The water was still moving very quickly and was deeper than my knees. Standing up to early I knew I could possibly get knocked down.  I took my time to stand when I found some decent footing. The only problem was it was on the wrong side of the river.

"You do not know how long you are in a river when the current moves swiftly. It seems a long time and it may be very short." Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Farewell to Arms. Joe Kane seems to follow it when he wrote, "That is River Lesson Number One. Everyone suffers it. And every time you get the least bit cocky, every time you think you have finally figured out what the river is all about, you suffer it all over again.”
I pretty much lost everything but my paddle. For boaters on the South Fork of the American River, Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips' Dan Crandall, offers these tips, "Any gear lost to the river will more likely end up in the reservoirs below, but in much worse condition that when it left you. All gear such as throw ropes and dry bags should be tied in and your name and phone number on each piece of your gear are always sound pieces of advice and will help tremendously in your gear's return." Mine gear however was lost for good.

"Catch your breath,"  Erik said, I sensed the the stress in his voice, "We will go when you're ready." He said while peering down stream searching the shoreline for the missing boat. With every moment it was getting further and further down stream.

No man with any sense is going to willingly jump back into a freezing a river again.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
Dripping, shaking and aching in pain, All I could say was "Let's go."
 I dove into the river clinging tightly to the play boats back handle. I didn't have time for fear and shook off the cold of the water. My goal was to push through or in my case be dragged over to the other side. Into another wave. It seemed to crash around us. I took gulps of air between plunges under water. Losing track of time and feeling as the water and rocks beat down on my body.  Erik delivered me half-way and I had to swim the rest.

A lonely woman hiker watched the whole thing from the trail. As I climbed out of the river and limp up  the side of the shore. She greeted me looking stunned.
"Should I call 911?" she asked.
 Still out breath and I shook my head no.
"Are you alright?"
I nodded and said breathlessly, "It's just another day on the North Fork of the American River."
"I almost died whitewater kayaking six years ago," she said with sympathy. 
I laughed and said to her "It almost killed me today."
Then took off down the trail in search of Erik.

Friday, February 12, 2016

LOVE AND THE TANDEM KAYAK

 
 I thought when I said you wanted to go for a canoe ride that you'd actually help and paddle --William L. Bergenstein

In his book, author Gil Stieglitz in Marital Intelligence stresses five foolproof guides to strengthening your marriage. The book is being used as part of our couples enrichment class course work at our church. As I read through the book's five problems facing married couples, it struck me like being whacked over the head with a paddle, they also apply to canoeing and tandem kayaking.


Meeting Each Others' Needs  First of all, remember how you promised to take her on a luxury Viking River Cruise that you see in the commercial before Downtown Abbey.  Well, this isn't it. But, finding a little common ground is a good way to start. You are there to paddle, so your needs are met already. After you unload the boat, pack the lunch and the camping gear inside. Comfort is key, make sure her seat is dry and her gear is safe.  After that,  help her rub on her sun screen and push off. On a peaceful night with the setting sun, a cruise of beauty and inspiration will give you some great one on one time.

Immature Behaviors  Remember on the junior high church canoe trip how there was always that guy who splashed and swamped the girl's canoes and then laughed when they came out of the water soaking wet?  Those days are over. If you ever want to kayak with her again, the whole idea is to keep the water out of the boat and off your mate. Keep the craft stable and emphasize safety and fun. Remain calm and patient. Nothing sinks a boat trip faster than yelling at your inexperienced paddling partner. Providing a relaxed fun environment will ensure she will be eager to go again.

Clashing Temperaments  We often hear tandem kayaks or canoes being called "divorce boats" You put a couple in a boat to make them work together and often a squabble will ensue before getting to the other end of the lake. One will attempt to steer from the bow (front), while the mate will trying to navigate from the bow (back).  Before long they are going in circles or worse, crashing into rocks.
You should remember to work as a team and make compromises. Paddling is like dancing. Keep rhythm with your paddling partner by communicating direction, synchronizing to their strokes and where to stop for lunch or a good place to swim or hike.

 Competing relationships   Honey,...you're  just not listening to me, is a tandem kayaking conundrum. With the front rider is facing bow with their mouth and ears are pointing forward, it is difficult for the person in the stern to hear things like, Awe, look the cute little deer or  LOOK OUT FOR THE ROCK!
The bow (front) paddler is the eyes of the kayak and directs the stern (back) paddler around obstacles that can't be seen because their view is blocked. The person in front needs to look back when talking to their paddling partner.
The kayakers must also share the same tempo in paddling the boat. I like to paddle like a machine with powerful deep movements while Debbie's stroke resembles a dipping and chipping motion. I splash, while she leaves the water in the lake. I adjust my stroke to hers to avoid hitting our paddles. Slow it down and take it easy. And really, what is the hurry anyway?

Past Baggage  The reason you are out there in the first place is to have fun and get away for awhile. Leave the bills, laundry, and chores at home and enjoy the serenity of the lake. This is a chance for you both to energize your body, spirit and soul and find harmony in being together.

Paddling together is a successful marriage of working in partnership to get across the lake or down river. Sharing these experiences with a partner will hopefully bring your bond even closer.  Follow these rules and even in rough waters it will be a smooth ride.

 This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max July 11, 2014.

Friday, February 5, 2016

OVER THE BOW: THE CONFLUENCE OF THE NORTH & MIDDLE FORK OF THE AMERICAN RIVER


We are deep at the bottom of this river of time, caught up in the current of the moment where all the rivers rendezvous.--- Lynn Noel

Over last summer and into fall, the water pouring into confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River part of Auburn SRA near Auburn, California, was almost nothing but a trickle. Downstream Folsom Lake stood at its lowest depth in history. As the water dried up, ruins of old towns were uncovered, boating speed limits were set and federal officials were engineering a special pumping system to make sure drinking water would keep flowing to Sacramento suburbs. However, after that long hot summer, the water flows have returned to the upper forks of the American River.

Following a month of persistent rain and snow in Northern California, lake levels are triple what they were in early December of last year. Due to runoff from recent rains in the foothills and Sierra, Folsom Lake rose to 104 percent of historical average earlier this week, with about 529,000 acre feet of water. Lake levels have rebounded so fast, in fact, that after four years of drought, officials at the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the water in the reservoir are talking about releasing water downstream in the near future to mitigate flood risks caused by a wet winter and an increasingly full lake. "There are legal requirements for maintaining safe space in the reservoir," Louis Moore, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation told Fox 40 News. The Bureau of Reclamation is pleased with the amount of space available in Folsom Lake and say because the ground was so dry, much of the water from recent rains has soaked into the ground, giving the reservoir plenty of storage space despite recent heavy rains upstream.

Upstream at the confluence, plenty water means plenty of waves. Underneath the Highway 49 Bridge, after the two streams join, the river bends to the right, jaunts down the bank before smashing into the right edge of the river followed by a sharp bank in a sharp curve to the left. With enough cfs  a recirculating eddy develops offering area boaters an enjoyable surfing wave to either begin or end their journey at this popular put in or take out site.

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 nickayak@gmail.com

OVER THE BOW: THE CONFLUENCE OF THE NORTH & MIDDLE FORK OF THE AMERICAN RIVER


We are deep at the bottom of this river of time, caught up in the current of the moment where all the rivers rendezvous.--- Lynn Noel

Over last summer and into fall, the water pouring into the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River part of Auburn SRA near Auburn, California, was almost nothing but a trickle. Downstream Folsom Lake stood at its lowest depth in history. As the water dried up, ruins of old towns were uncovered, boating speed limits were set and federal officials were engineering a special pumping system to make sure drinking water would keep flowing to Sacramento suburbs. However, after that long hot summer, the water flows have returned to the upper forks of the American River.

Following a month of persistent rain and snow in Northern California, lake levels are triple what they were in early December of last year. Due to runoff from recent rains in the foothills and Sierra, Folsom Lake rose to 104 percent of historical average earlier this week, with about 529,000-acre feet of water. Lake levels have rebounded so fast, in fact, that after four years of drought, officials at the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the water in the reservoir are talking about releasing water downstream in the near future to mitigate flood risks caused by a wet winter and an increasingly full lake. "There are legal requirements for maintaining safe space in the reservoir," Louis Moore, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation told Fox 40 News. The Bureau of Reclamation is pleased with the amount of space available in Folsom Lake and say because the ground was so dry, much of the water from recent rains have soaked into the ground, giving the reservoir plenty of storage space despite recent heavy rains upstream.

Upstream at the confluence, plenty water means plenty of waves. Underneath the Highway 49 Bridge, after the two streams join, the river bends to the right, jaunts down the bank before smashing into the right edge of the river followed by a sharp bank in a sharp curve to the left. With enough cfs  a recirculating eddy develops offering area boaters an enjoyable surfing wave to either begin or end their journey at this popular put in or take out site.

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 nickayak@gmail.com