Friday, June 24, 2016

FULL MOON & SUMMER SOLSTICE

                     
                 I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance, Among my skimming swallows;
                 I make the netted sunbeam dance Against my sandy shallows.
                 I murmur under moon and stars In brambly wildernesses;
                 I linger by my shingly bars; I loiter round my cresses;
                 And out again I curve and flow To join the brimming river,
                 For men may come and men may go, But I go on forever.
                 Lord Alfred Tennyson

It's an old saying we have all heard before. The two best reasons to own a kayak or canoe are sunsets and sunrises. Who can argue? The sunlight flashing in each droplet from our paddles as the water glows in a golden glitter. No one can resist the sight of tranquil lake basking in either new or dimming light. Nevertheless, in their confines we find the moon giving us another reason to stay a float.

"One summer night, out on a flat headland, all
but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space." wrote Rachel Carson environmental activist,  "Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon."

Carson who alerted the world to the impact of fertilizers and pesticides in the environment, best know for her book the Silent Spring, went on to describe how an ordinary night on the water was  extraordinary, and often looked past by many.
"It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will."


This past week however, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and June's full moon called the Strawberry Moon by early Native Americans marking the beginning of the strawberry season, coincided together in a once-in-a-lifetime occurence. This event happens only once every 70 years.
With about 17 hours of light, the day didn't want to yield to the night still the lunar globe burned bright in the twilight.

And as the sun slipped behind the horizon and the moon climbed into the evening sky, a hush came over the handful of transfixed boaters I was leading Lake Natoma during a  Current Adventures Kayak School & Trips full moon paddle.  Our voices had seemed to be bewitched and taken away in total fascination. The moon has that kind of power. If it can control the tides of the sea, rending one speechless under its luster is effortless to it.

"There is something haunting in the light of the moon," said writer Joseph Conrad, "It has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery."

The mystery of the moon and stillness of the lake rekindled our senses while gliding silently along, soaking in night's peaceful enchantment. All around me, I heard the gentle sound of lapping of the water against the bow. The air was fresh, damp and motionless. In each stroke we paddled its coolness fill our lungs. The water and night soon engulfed me into the darkness. Looking out across the silver lining of the lake other kayakers were now fleeting shadows afloat on the shimmering haze.


Check your calendar for next full moon and bring that special someone along for a romantic voyage or the whole family for moonlit kayak adventure. Many outfitter or local state park across the country  offer sunset and full moon paddling sessions and provide all the gear for reasonable price.

If you want to go contact:
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
info@currentadventures.com
owner Dan Crandall dan@kayaking.com

Friday, June 17, 2016

THE WATER GENE


We are never far from the lilt and swirl of living water. Whether to fish or swim or paddle, of only to stand and gaze, to glance as we cross a bridge, all of us are drawn to rivers, all of us happily submit to their spell. We need their familiar mystery. We need their fluent lives interflowing with our own. ---John Daniel  

"Will I really need this?" Cole asked me.
I looked down at the fast flowing  South Fork of the American River,  our kayaks and then to one of my two crumpled up wet suits I was handing him. The full neoprene suit would be warm on that a day, however the water was even colder.
"It's pretty cold, " I said, "That water was snow a few weeks ago."

That is how I offer fatherly like advice. Usually by stating the obvious.  El Nino had provided moisture for a great spring runoff quenching the thirst of Northern California's dry rivers. However, my youngest son Cole didn't know that. This was his first trip down the South Fork. I promised Cole since moving here I would take him whitewater kayaking to coax him to come for a visit. He had experienced some whitewater back in Minnesota and Wisconsin but he had never paddled anything like the South Fork before. It would take a learning curve. 
Most off,  he also hadn't paddled in over three years. That's not to say he hasn't been on water most of the time. He was on leave from the U.S. NAVY and just back from deployment. I joked with that he needs a bumper sticker saying "My Other Boat is the USS Arlington."

As I watched him roll into his west suit,  all my memories of paddling and trips with him flooded into the back of mind. It wasn't so long ago I was taking him on his first canoe ride on Lake Trowbridge and camping trip to Lake Bemdji State Park. In those days, I was sure he would always be eight-years-old and hoped he would inherent my same love of paddling.

"This is why I am teaching you to kayak rivers," wrote Canoe & Kayak Magazine contributing editor Christian Knight in a 2014  Father's Day letter to his daughter, " The river will be the objective disciplinarian I can never force myself to be. It’ll reward you with euphoria when you do well and punish you when you don’t."
"I realize, of course, you are only 8-years-old now." he continued in his letter,  "I haven’t even taught you how to duffek or how to roll. I’m still sheltering you from eddy lines that stretch and yawn into miniature whirlpools. I still clutch your cockpit through rapids that are whiter than they are green. If, somehow, you do flip, I’ll pray you’ll have the composure to remember the steps I have instructed you to repeat back to me before sliding into every river we’ve paddled together."

Everyone knows blood is thicker than water. But, when it's mixed together with an enthusiasm and determination to kayak or canoe,  it becomes an over powering, energy consuming of ones genetic makeup. It's the natural and instinctive needs to be on the water, or as  fellow paddler Kim Sprague calls it "The Water Gene." And when passed down to one's children, they will have an ingrained deep-rooted essential need to seek out rivers, lakes, and oceans. Hence: They were born to paddle.

When Cole and I slid into the South Fork we were paddling together for the first in three years. The river carried us away swiftly through a line of standing waves.  He lights up smiling and says to me "This is fun!"
His "Water Gene" ancestry had kicked in with each dip of his paddle. I have no idea where I got mine. My dad wasn't a boater, but he took our family swimming every summer in Nebraska lakes and made sure I took part in school and church canoe trips. My dad would marvel then on how I could single handily turn  the 17-foot Grumman aluminum canoe past the bridge abutment and back through the eddie line and right up to the landing. He might not of paddled, but at least he helped get me to the water's edge.

"My Dad showed me the importance of finding my own serenity." wrote Wet Planet Whitewater's   Courtney Zink, in a tribute to her father,  "His love for water stems from that, and from spending that time with him in canoes on calm lakes, rowing through rapids, and fishing from river banks, he introduced me to that connection as well. That has brought me back to the Northwest as an adult, to stand on the banks of the Washington white water and find a sense of peace and balance in the chaos of the river."

In running the popular surfing wave area paddlers know as Barking Dog,  I told him to wait up stream while I cruised down along side of it so I could get some video and pictures. Now I'm sure many have gone through "The Dog" backwards before both planned and unplanned. But, probably not on their first time though it. Cole paddled down after my signal and positioned himself looking upstream on the edge of the wave paddling with all of his might to stay there, before rolling back into the rapid. I held my breath and thought he hasn't paddle for a long time as he disappeared underwater. A moment, to my relief he rolls upright.  He has the water gene alright.
"I kind of hurt my shoulder when I rolled back." he later told me, "That's why I couldn't get right away. Second or third time I got back up."

I was proud like all dads would be. It was just like he'd scored the winning run or came in first in the race by handling that wave so well. A little family honor was upheld. The current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows about that family “rite of passage”.  When you grow up in Canada you need to  know how to canoe early, especially if your father Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The elder Trudeau was Canada 15th prime minister and had a passion for paddling in the Canadian wilderness.

"Maybe my most indelible canoe memory from that cottage was one of the rites of passage for the Trudeau boys," the younger Trudeau recalled in an essay in Cottage Life magazine,  When we hit five or six years old, our dad would put us into the canoe and we’d shoot the rapids on the stream that went down into Meech Lake. There’s a little dam there, and in the spring they’d open the dam, and there would be a huge V and a standing wave. With much trepidation, we’d sit in the front and go down the drop. I look back on it now and laugh, because my father was sterning, and there was nothing I could do from the bow to aim it right—but it was very, very important for us to do it. To get into the bow of a canoe with my father for the first time, to be the bowman for the first time, and to go down this big, scary rapid."

High flows mean high times on the South Fork of the American River. We followed each other along trading off the lead  back and forth the rest of the way through the bouncy waves and churning rapids.  It was a treat to paddle with him after such longtime. Everyday in Father's Day when I get to paddle with him and see him challenging the currents and lines of the river. He is my paddling legacy flowing from my water gene pool.

We had just finished the run to add to our memories, when Cole said, "I'm sure glad you brought those wet-suits. That water was cold." Once again I stated the obvious. "Well, it's my job to take care of you"

Friday, June 10, 2016

ST. CROIX DAYS


July 25, 2011...Nothing is better than sitting alongside the banks of the St. Croix River in Interstate State park just south of Taylor Falls. The area is as beautiful as ever with a wall of rock shooting as high as fifty-feet. I share the river with touring paddle boats and daring cliff divers. The water is the color of root beer.---River Journals

When I lived in Fargo, N.D, I always looked forward to this time year. Summer for me, and still is now, a time escape into the wilderness. Back then I would take extended paddling and camping trips into Minnesota. Like a modern-day voyager, I'd set off to find the most scenic waterway I could find,   unload my kayak and paddle its pristine waters.  Some of my most memorable days were spent traveling both up and down the St. Croix River.

The St. Croix River is a paddling jewel of the northwoods as it runs south dividing both Minnesota and Wisconsin as its border. In 1968, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which includes its major tributary the Namekagon, was established as one of the original eight rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
 "An unspoiled river is a very rare thing in this Nation today." said President Lyndon Johnson upon signing the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act,  "Their flow and vitality have been harnessed by dams and too often they have been turned into open sewers by communities and by industries. It makes us all very fearful that all rivers will go this way unless somebody acts now to try to balance our river development."
Ever since the riverway has offered outdoor enthusiasts a chance to enjoy a wilderness experience and a variety of other outdoor recreation opportunities within an easy reach from a major metropolitan area. The upper part of the rivers have challenging Class I-II rapids for canoeists and kayakers, while the lower section of the river is popular for all recreational enthusiasts, who enjoy canoeing, boating, fishing, rock climbing and hiking along its scenic shores. State parks and forests line the border river providing an endless array of camping sites.


July 26, 2011...We were accompanied by the river tour boat for the first couple of miles, explored a rocky island and saw a large rattlesnake there. The river is wide and the weather was clear. 

In on of our first trip on the St. Croix, my son Cole and I kayaked the 14-miles from Interstate Park to the landing at William O'Brien State park. We shared the scenic beauty of the famous Dalles of the St. Croix with historic looking paddle boats the Taylors Falls Queen and the Taylors Falls Princess.
The towering cliffs are made of basalt from the ancient lava flows. Looking closely at these formations, one can see layers of tiny, empty, bubble-like spaces running through the cliffs. Each of these layers marks what was once the top of a lava flow. From river level to the highest rocks, seven major layers visible forming the bedrock we see today.

Escaping the gorge, we spent a memorable on the river as it widens while intertwining with islands, sandbars, channels and backwaters. Only two bridges marked our progress along the way. One a highway bridge and another a swinging railroad bridge. After 14 miles of paddling our campsite at William O'Brien State Park was a welcome sight.


August 21, 2012...The park is battered from last year's wind storm. It doesn't look like a tree was untouched, fallen trees lay everywhere. But, the St. Croix doesn't care as it heads toward the Mississippi.  I love this river, clear challenging and filled with beauty, along with cool camping sites.

My next voyage on the St. Croix River was a solo odyssey of paddling downstream and up-stream to camping sites along the river. Being alone and without a shuttle,  I based my van at St. Croix State Park Main Landing and paddled to camping sites.   They were for most part quiet waters in remote and beautiful, heavily wooded country on both side of the river. I floated along in  Thoreau-like-fashion reflecting on the solitude of the journey. I found Eagle Bend campsite about 6 miles downstream just before some fast water to set up my camp. To go any further, I would have to battle back through challenging rapids on the way back.  I eat, swim and sleep with the sound of rushing water breaking the silence. Over the next couple of days, I paddle and camp along the St. Croix enjoying solitude of my adventure.

August 24, 2012...A beautiful morning for paddling the St. Croix. A smoky layer of mist covers the river before the sun breaks over it. It's almost a shame I have to leave. It is so peaceful, so relaxing.

Friday, June 3, 2016

RIVERS, ISLANDS, AND MOUNTAINS

 
                             
                                         I cannot rest from travel: I will drink 
                                      Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
                                   Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
                                  That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
                                        Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
                                       Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
                                       For always roaming with a hungry heart 
                                                 Alfred Lord Tennyson

On a clear day at access at Sailor bar, I can see the Sierra Nevada Mountains They're snow-capped,  looming and like John Muir said calling for us come. In between are the forks of the American River brimming with spring run off, roaring down to the basin. Turning to the west, it's a water trail to the Pacific. Down the American River, pouring into the Sacramento River and the Delta before reaching  San Francisco Bay. In some places the water is slow and gentle, almost meandering lost without direction, while in other places it's quick and furious moving with such force that it has carved out the canyon that cradles it.  However, water isn't concerned about the past, it lives in the now. Leonardo Da Vinci said, "In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time."

 "One of the reasons I love whitewater kayaking to much is that it forces you to focus on the moment," wrote former member of the Canadian Freestyle Whitewater Kayak Team and Bronze medalist Anna Levesque in her recent Girls at Play newsletter. " If you don't pay attention in a rapid you could end up somewhere you don't want to be. People are addicted to whitewater kayaking because thy fell that intense joy that come with being really present, in the moment. You don't have to be a whitewater kayaker to experience this. Sea kayakers experience this and lake paddlers who are able to get really quiet and pay attention to the beauty around them are also able to experience the present moment"

Some good advice as we head into the summer paddling season. Its great to look back on our experiences on the water, but we should be reminded that our best days are just any days we are paddling. So seize each day and enjoy each moment at the mountains, lakes, rivers.

Here are a few of my favorite images from this year so far.

Lake Natoma

Lake Jenkinson

South Fork of the American River

Lake Tahoe

Lake Natoma

South Fork of the American River

Angel Island

Lake Tahoe