Friday, January 27, 2017


We are snowbound. The latest leaves are shaken from the oaks and alders; the snow-laden pines, with drooping boughs, look like barbed arrows aimed at the sky, and the fern-tangles and meadows are spread with a smooth cloth of snow. --John Muir

The plan was simple. Drive to a regional park and snowshoe around the lake to view the waterfall above the lake. We had done the same hike many times before, but this time the snow levels in the foothills had dropped as low as Camino, California along Highway 50, making Sly Park and Lake Jenkinson a winter wonderland.

Scottish poet, William Sharp wrote, 'There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature...every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance." Those words described our trip down the highway through the snow covered fores. Each turn of the road our eyes were greeted with dazzling displays of nature reserved only for snow globes and holiday movies.

"A what a difference it makes by covering it with a layer of white." my wife Debbie said as we approached the gates to the park.

But sometimes even the best of plans are melted away. At the park's gate we were met with a reception of park closed and no parking signs. The narrowly plowed road around the edge of the lake didn't even leave an inch of parking space to pull in our pickup. I likened it to finding a river access for my kayak. Great view of the water, but no place to stop to put in. Our trip around the lake would have to wait for springtime and our snowshoe adventure would take place higher up.
But Nature is not in a hurry. With God 'a thousand years is as a day.' Suppose you could have been a spirit in one of the past periods of the creation of the world, and that the Archangel Gabriel had taken you to a place' where you could see the earth as it was then covered miles deep with snow and ice, the air still full of swirling snowflakes that seemed to be burying the world forever. --John Muir

Further up Highway 50, we turned left off the highway and over the South Fork of the American River and up Ice House Road, leading to the Crystal Basin Recreation Area. It's the home to many of mountain reservoirs in the western Sierra including one of my favorite's Loon Lake. But, we wouldn't get that far. Our afternoon was getting away from us and we stopped at the first place we could find. It was a cleared away spot to an un-plowed work trail leading to the river. It offered a spectacular view of the snow cover glistening mountains and the canyon below.

“When you go to the mountains, you see them and you admire them," said mountain climber Edmund Hillary. "In a sense, they give you a challenge, and you try to express that challenge by climbing them.”

It was a quick lesson on how to walk again, once we strapped on our snowshoes. Step a little wider and pick up those knees. No dragging my feet, Debbie reminds me,  like I customarily do while out for a stroll.

"Snowshoeing you kind of have to be more centered," said British journalist Laura Clark,  You have to be able to rock from side to side more. Instead of just going forward, it's a little bit of a sideways step to it. You've got these big things on your feet."

Along the ridge, there is the soft silence of nature without the clamor of our urban world filling the winter air. The wind dances across the canopy of trees as we catch sight of a bounding deer leaping through the snow. Looking almost effortless, it flies across the snow kicking up a frosty froth. The only sounds we hear come from the squeaky crunch of our snowshoes and the warm heave of our breaths as we trudge through the deep snow.
"That's the trouble of snowshoeing. You have to keep looking down at snowshoes or you'll fall over." Debbie said to me as we stop and looked over the canyon. All around us the mountains and the pines were textured in white. They never looked so magnificent. Looking out she paused like the view had taken her breath away and then said, "And then you miss all the beauty around you."

The glorious crystal sediment was everywhere. From wall to wall of our beautiful temple, from meadow to sky was one finished unit of beauty, one star of equal ray, one glowing sun, weighed in the celestial balances and found perfect.--John Muir

Friday, January 20, 2017


I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me.
- Wallace Stegner

"Swimming is part of the sport." said whitewater paddling instructor Dennis Eagan, "Every paddler, even the good ones are in between swims."

That was a shot of reassurance for the class, that everyone starts out the same, paddling skills are learned and developed over time and being able to swim in fast water is always an essential part of whitewater kayaking no matter what your levels of abilities. It's the basis for Whitewater River Kayaking 1 (RK1) with Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips. A class to develop a foundation and skills necessary to paddle fast water. In talking with the class participants, I learned most had some experience with fast water and one had even rafted down the Grand Canyon. However, the reason they were there was to learn the fundamentals by getting back to the basics of paddling.

"I want to do the Grand Canyon next year, " said student Scott Billups, "I've done quite a bit of sea kayaking in Alaska and have a SOT on my sailboat which I use quite a bit for diving and coastal touring. I've always thought that it (whitewater kayaking) would be fun but never lived close enough to whitewater to make it worthwhile. Sea kayaks want to run straight and cover a lot of ground as effortlessly as possible. Whitewater kayaks just want to turn and play."

It was a typical summer weekend on the South Fork of the American River atHenningsen-Lotus Park in Northern California.
Flows and the river traffic were high. It seemed like endless parade of river rafts, kayaks and tubers floating down the stream while we unloaded and fitted the class up with their kayaks. "The fit it really important," Eagan told the students, "You want to be snug and your boat. That is really important. It gives you more control. You want to be snug like the boat is a part of you. Snug but comfortable.

After sliding into their kayaks and into the river, one by one, the students are literally submerged into the world of kayaking with wet exits and bow rescues.

In the bow rescue, Eagan capsizes each student as they hold the bow of another student's boat forming a T and progressively tips the kayak further and further over until they can complete a roll from upside down. Two different skills are practiced by the students, Staying in your kayak while using the support of another kayak to bring you upright and learning stability for the rescuer. Also the students, get a boost of confidence in overcoming the any fears of being upside down underwater. "No issues really." said Billups, "I do a lot of diving and am very comfortable in the water."

The South Fork is known for it's dependable flows of whitewater. Popular rapids like Barking Dog, Troublemaker and Meatgrinder are just some of the rough waters that make the river attractive to the area kayakers. However, on the first day of the class, Eagan started with an easy moving section of the river to introduce some basic paddling strokes and techniques. "Most people do not spend enough time on flat water when they are learning to kayak." Eagan told the class, "I see lots of kayakers paddling down the gorge in Class III whitewater, but they still haven't developed a really good stroke technique. And even though they are paddling Class III they still haven't got that good foundation, because everyone is in the rush to get into the excitement of the white water instead of working on the drills."

For the rest of the session the paddling students practiced integrating and completing their strokes and edging ability while working on an assortment of river maneuvers. "Once you get edging down you won't tip over very much." Eagan told the boaters. Edge control is a skill used for balance and control of the kayak. It involves holding the kayak tilted on one side (edge) or moving it from side to side (edge to edge) in the oncoming current, while at the same time as performing bracing strokes. "In any paddling there are only three problems that you have." said Eagan, "One is momentum. You don't have enough speed. Two, You don't enough edging, and other is boat angle. The last your going to working for rest of your (paddling) career."


With increased confidence later on that afternoon, the paddling students were weaving and gliding through rocks and ripples along the South Fork while practicing ferrying, a maneuver to get across the river, along with eddy turns and peel outs. It was a day getting back to basics and learning some new skills over again. "It's not thinking about any text-book stroke, " said Eagan, "But, blending them all together."

Whitewater kayaking is an on going journey. As the poet Herman Hesse, said "The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it." It's consequential that kayakers keep listening, learning and holding true to their paddling basics.

If you want to go
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
owner Dan Crandall

This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max October 10, 2015.

Friday, January 13, 2017


This week the usually calm waters of Lake Natoma under the Rainbow Bridge are a boil.
In Northern California we have been riding the "atmospheric river" since last weekend. For boaters,  it's a Class 5 like waterfall that has swelled the state's rivers, flooded neighborhoods and vineyards, all while dumping snow and rain on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and causing mudslides on hills scorched by summer's wildfires.

An atmospheric river is long and narrow bands of water vapor that form over an ocean and flow through the sky. Massive quantities of Pacific Ocean water
from as far away as Hawaii have pummeled California with series of storms like a long blast from a fire hose. 
Courtesy of Heavenly Mountain via Facebook

Blizzard conditions forced road closures to many of Lake Tahoe's ski resorts that had to shut down and dig-out after being buried in snow. Nine feet fell in over three days at Kirkwood Mountain Resort in California making it the snowiest January in 45 years. Most of the ski resorts it looks like will try to open at least some terrain this weekend.

The Yuba River rose again to a little over 85 feet in Marysville California, while the South Fork of the American River are creating “once-in-a-decade”conditions on the American River for expert kayakers like Dylan Nichols. “We don’t have the option to run it this high maybe but once in a decade," Nichols told ABC10, "So it’s special for us local paddlers to be able to come out and take advantage of it,” Nichols and other expert kayakers paddled on the river from Chili Bar Park in Placerville California to where the water pours into Folsom Reservoir. He estimated the flow at 20,000 cubic feet per second, compared to a normal pace of anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 cubic feet per second.

South Yuba River at Highway 49. Photo by Rich Shipley via Facebook
“It’s extremely unusual conditions,” professional kayaker Isidro Soberanes told ABC10, “It gives me the opportunity to experience a river I know really well at extremely high, high levels. Basically, I’m expecting to paddle some of the biggest rapids I’ve paddled in California.”

To see their trip down the South Fork, check out this link.

Folsom Lake continues to rise with the week's rains, as water managers releasing even more water downstream.  Early this week the lake's water level stood at 422 feet elevation rising 13.5 feet higher than what it was 5 hours earlier. As the lake becoming fuller, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation opened five floodgates at Folsom Dam and 18 gates at Nimbus Dam releasing the water downstream.

Due to releases and rain, the usual peaceful waters of Lake Natoma under Folsom's Rainbow Bridge became a violent torrent at the entrance to the lake. While downstream large sections of the American River Parkway and several popular Sacramento County parks were closed earlier this week after days of rainfall and heavy releases from reservoirs flooded recreation areas around the region.

The Jim Jones footbridge, one parkway’s biggest popular attractions for boaters, fishermen and summer time rafters at the Sunrise Recreation Area, remains underwater this week as the American River gushes over it. Meanwhile, much of the western half of the parkway, Discovery Park to about Watt Avenue, also will remain inaccessible for the time being due to flood waters.

While most atmospheric river events are weak. But the powerful ones like the one that just targeted California this week, can transport an amount of water vapor equal to 15 times the average flow of water that flows out of the Mississippi River's mouth, according to NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory. This drenching is good news that might help bring a dramatic turnaround for the state's water supply after more than five years of drought.

Friday, January 6, 2017


          The best way to predict your future is to create it -- Abraham Lincoln

It has been raining in the lower elevations of Northern California and snowing higher up in the mountains this week. Good news for the state's water supply.  The Sierra Nevada snow pack is a frozen reservoir that provides roughly one-third of the state’s water has been given a much-needed boost after several major storms have dumped between up to four feet and ten feet of new snow over the mountains.

“Things are looking very positive,” Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the state, told the San Jose Mercury News, after officials Department of Water Resources earlier this week took their first manual snow survey of the year near South Lake Tahoe.
“We’re showing a wet, cold pattern for the rest of this week into next. That’s a real good sign. In years past we have come up to do the survey and the forecast is for dry. But now we have a nice wet pattern setting in right now.”
So as California enters what could be its sixth year of drought, the statewide total was at 70 percent of normal and according to Gehrke, certain to increase in the coming days.

So forget the ball drop in Times Square, watching the snow fall and listening to the sound of rain is the only way to ring in the new year.  It's time make that New Year's resolution to kayak more because the rivers and lakes will be hopefully brimming with water. Plan an expedition or at least an over-night canoe trip. It's a new year and time to think big!

On New Year's Day Freya Hoffmeister announced her next challenge, the never-before-attempted kayak circumnavigation of North America. The German adventurer will attempt the 30,000-mile journey over the next eight to ten years, paddling alone in stages of three to five months. The route travels of the famous Northwest Passage, a crossing of Hudson Bay and a trip through the Panama Canal. It will outline the coastline of 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico.

“Freya will paddle in two half loops, starting twice in Seattle and finishing twice in New York City,” explained in a press release posted on her Facebook page. “She’ll paddle northwards half of the year’s trip time and southwards the other half." Hoffmeister is one of the world's most prolific expedition paddlers. She circumnavigation Australia in 2009 and her circuited of South America, in six stages from 2011 to 2015. She also circled Iceland and New Zealand’s South Island, both in record time. Last year she paddled around Ireland, a 43-days, in yet another groundbreaking expedition.

 Okay maybe not that big. But for some even small trips can be big.

Last year Florida paddler Mary Meyers, 83 and a half-dozen girlfriends, the average ages of 80, got together and kayaked four of her state's central rivers in four days. Based in a cabin they paddled some of Florida's prettiest waters.
"We inspire each other," Meyers told the Tampa Bay Times, "There's so much talent among this group. We find solace in the river."
She has some advice for the new year to anyone who hesitant about not getting outdoors for an adventure, "Get rid of your pills, get rid of your pillows, and get yourself a paddle!"

While you won't see one drop of water in the movie La La Land, it's hard after watching the film not to come away without some motivation and inspiration about following your dreams.  It's about aspiring actress Mia, and a jazz pianist Sebastian trying to make it big in show business. In one discouraged by a lack of not getting jobs, Mia unloads on Sebastian about her failing career. Sebastian pulls her back to reality by saying, "This is the dream. It's conflict and it's compromise and it's very, very exciting."

So it's 2017, dream big, plan big. Take along trip, or be in kayak or canoe race and just get out there.  Former member of the Canadian Freestyle Whitewater Kayak Team and Bronze medalist, Anna Levesque said, "You don't have to be a daredevil to enjoy the river."

And we agree. You just have to dare yourself to get out there and enjoy it.