Saturday, December 31, 2022


Has I'm writing this on New Year's Eve, rain is beating down on my rooftop, pelting the window and creating hundreds of small rivers along the hillside of my home. Weather forecasters say that a significant storm system will plow into the West Coast, bringing heavy rain, mountain snow, and strong winds fueled by an atmospheric river of Pacific moisture. An atmospheric river is a long narrow region in the atmosphere that can transport moisture thousands of miles, like a fire hose in the sky. Forecasters say this active jet stream pattern will continue to bring a parade of storms across much of Northern and Central California this weekend.
As 2022 comes to an end. It's time to look back on a parade of paddling memories and leap forward in planning new adventures. And as the rain hits the windowpane, I'll take that as a good sign we might have more water this year than last. At least, that is my hope.

I send a big thanks out to my paddling family for helping me paddle through another year. Thanks to Dan Crandall and the other superstars on Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips, who have been there for guidance and encouragement. We have some big plans for 2023. I'm looking forward to a full schedule of classes, tours, and moonlit paddles.
To the rangers and staff of Sly Park Recreation Area, thank you. I hope for another successful season on shimmering Lake Jenkinson this year, with more water.

I lost count of my paddling events with Bayside Adventure Sports this past year. The highlights of our year included our annual Lower American River run, our camping kayaking trip to Loon Lake, and our popular sunset and moonlit paddles on our area's lakes. Of course, none of it would have been possible without our leader, John Taylor Sure, I had some great ideas, but John made it happen.
We are losing our spiritual leader Greg Weisman the longtime founder of Bayside Adventure Sports. He will be retiring in 2023.

My wife, Debbie, is and will always be my guiding light and inspiration. She has a deep devotion to God and a love for everything, living both great and small, like the starving kitten that found its way to our doorstep and our neighborhood deer herd. I continue to strive to be like her in mind and spirit. We are both excited about landscaping our new home.

Happy New Year everyone.

Paddle Day #148

I paddled close to my record of 152 paddling days in the calendar year. I did get to some new places and enjoyed some of the old ones. I'm eagerly anticipating an exciting new year in 2023.

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Saturday, December 24, 2022


We have all heard The Night Before Christmas about Santa and his sleigh.  But did you know there's other about him the paddling river on Christmas Eve day? Today I will tell the tale that's way past its due. It's about the time I met Santa in a canoe. 

'Twas the day before Christmas and all across the waterway,
The water looked splendid I'd just have to say
Not a breath of wind even stirred the air,
And how the stream glistened so bright and so fair

The ducks and geese floated about without a care,
While the otters and beavers swam both here and there
The deer all were nestled deep among the tall trees,
While I waded my boat out, just below my knees.

I slid into my kayak and snapped on my spray skirt,
Picked up my paddle and pushed away from the dirt
Just downstream, I could hear the rapid's rumble and chatter,
During the summer, it's always a fun place to gather

I paddled down to the top of the flume,
Catching the eddy above with plenty of room
The bubbling whitewater poured over the stone,
Swirling and churning in frenetic foam.

When looking upriver should what did I see?
But another boater who was following me
He had a great stroke it was lively and so quick,
I couldn't believe it, I was paddling with St. Nick

Now he wasn't in a playboat, you see, he needed lots of room,
Not a sea kayak either, too small for him I can only assume
He paddled a big boat as comfortable as an old shoe,
Yes, yes, Santa was in a canoe

It was bright red as the color of his sleigh,
Dancing over the ripples without delay
With a wreath at the bow and streaming with tinsel,
It was quick, I will tell you, like the down of a thistle

In the fast current, he lined up his route,
Past the rocks, he angled toward the chute
He moved his craft forward with a powerful sweep,
Over the first wave, that looked pretty steep
The bow of his canoe arose in mid-air,
As the spray and the splashes flew everywhere

He was heading toward the ledge, it would be a big drop,
Downstream with the current, he went over the top
I was out my boat on the shore at this time you see,
Trying to get a selfie of Santa and me
I raised up my camera, you see I needed some proof,
As Santa and canoe came down with a boof

As I looked over the water it seemed like a dream,
Santa had turned and was now surfing upstream
Dressed in a PFD and bright red dry suit from head to toe,
As he bounced up and down in the waves, both to and fro
His cheeks were rosy, his beard as white as sea foam,
Donning a red cap and sunglasses, he was one cool gnome
His laugh shook the canyon and it echoed below,
Yes, you all know it, it was ho ho ho!

He ferried his canoe out of the current and into the eddy,
Then waved to me to follow as soon as I was ready
I jumped back in my boat to join the fun
I couldn't believe it; I was joining Santa on a river run

He peeled out quickly heading downriver,
He was in a hurry you see; he had toys to deliver
His mechanics were precise, his stroke was the truest,
I've seen lots of paddlers, but there was no better canoeist

I stay up close, for a while side by side,
But he quickly outran me, I have to confide
He needed to get back to the North Pole and the reindeer
The elves had loaded up his sleigh to spread Christmas cheer

But he waved his paddle, to me as a sign,
Before he would disappear below the horizon line.
And I heard him say as he canoed away
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all, have a great paddling day!"

Merry Christmas from Outside Adventure to the Max

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Sunday, December 18, 2022


Gaily bedlight, A gallant knight, in sunshine and in shadows had journeyed long, singing a song, in search of Eldorado --- Edgar Allan Poe

The picturesque Coloma river valley is stunning with beauty and steep in history. It was there, not far from where I slid my kayak in the churning flow of the South Fork of the American River, it all happened.
The quirky and rather odd John Marshall had a scheme about getting a sawmill going on the banks of the river for the much-needed lumber for the influx of new settlers coming to California. Financially funded by John Sutter, Marshall was constructing the mill in the Coloma Valley. By January 1848, workers had erected a building, installed the machinery and a water wheel, and dug a ditch to divert water from the river. Inspecting the work, Marshall peered down into the trail trace through a foot of water. If there would have been a camera there to record it, this is what we would have done seen.

"My eye caught a glimpse of something shining in the bottom of the ditch," Marshall gave a historical account, "I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold."
Lake Jenkinson
And as the story goes, after he found those flakes precious metal of metal, it ushered in a wave of steely-eyed prospectors. Along with them came adventurous storytelling photographers ready to capture the historic frenzy around them. The Gold Rush was the first event in the country to be documented extensively through the then-new medium of photography.

Using daguerreotypes, an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor. Photographers would polish a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treat it with fumes that made its surface light-sensitive, and expose it in a camera for as long as it was judged to be necessary. It could be as little as a few seconds for brightly sunlit subjects or much longer for regarding the light; removed its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment; rinsed and dried, and then sealed the easily marred result behind glass in a protective enclosure.

The photographers would travel about in wagons/studios, taking portraits of the miners young and old, holding the tools of their trade, a shovel, a pick, a pan. Some would even show off their precious nuggets or flakes of gold. They would show the men working as they dug away at the earth, searching for Mother Lode.

Lake Jenkinson & Sly Park Paddle Rentals

Their images were also the first to detail the environmental damage inflicted on the landscape.
Pictures show men digging away with shovels and building scaffolds in large mining operations that upheave the earth and ripped away hillsides.
The first prospectors worked their claims manually with pans and picks. But, as more arrived, the miners took to diverting entire rivers and using high-pressure jets of water to dislodge rock material or move sediment to speed up their excavations. This caused a devastating effect on the riparian natural countryside. Long after the hype for gold subsided, much of the environmental damage of this form of mining still lasts to this day.  
Lake Clementine & Robber's Roost
Their haunting images captured historic people and places I now call home. As I document my paddling adventures, it's a bit easier with our cell phone technology. I only hope that can create the same excitement of the Gold Rush. So as 2022 draws to a close, let's look back at some of my favorite images from this past year. 

Great American Triathlon training with Current Adventures 
Bayside Adventure Sports at Loon Lake

John Taylor at Sly Park 

The annual Glow Paddle on Lake Natoma
Salmon on the Lower American River
Kayaking with Current Adventures on Lake Natoma

The Sacramento River with Bayside Adventure Sports

Debbie Carlson at Yosemite 

Sly Park Paddle Rentals 
Our new home in Placerville, California

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Friday, December 9, 2022


The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different. --- J.B. Priestley

In the northernmost tier, most stow away their kayaks, hide their canoe behind the garage and stash their paddles and camping gear back in the corner where they put the cross-country skis and snowshoes the spring before old man winter arrives. It's inevitable. Those lakes and rivers will either be frozen over or soon to be.

"There is one thing I should warn you about before you decide to get serious about canoeing," said Canadian canoeing naturalist, author, artist, and filmmaker Bill Mason, " You must consider the possibility of becoming totally and incurably hooked on it. You must also face the fact that every fall about freeze-up time, you go through a withdrawal period as you watch the lakes and rivers icing over one by one. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can help a little to ease the pain, but they won’t guarantee a complete cure.”

It was a magical experience for me, kayaking after the first snow in Fargo ten years ago. My skiing friends woke up excited about seeing a new blanket of snow, but for me, I still knew there were still a few more paddling days before the Red River iced up, and I would hide the kayaks away for the season.
The water was flat, the wind calm, and my hands were cold but warmed up nicely while on the river. The first snow was a sure sign the time was running out for paddling on the Red River.

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
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Friday, November 18, 2022


“Let the wild rumpus start!” --- Maurice Sendak

After living in mostly an urban setting for most of my life, my wife Debbie and I moved to a country setting on the outskirts of Placerville, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At the end of the lane, our new home sits on a ridge overlooking the valley below. Our view is amazing! Looking eastward, we enjoy the sunrise every day through our windows and can watch the full moon as it rises over the trees.
In our front yard, Debbie has spent the summer season cutting, clipping, and trimming back the overgrowth of bushes and trees. She constructed a cactus garden and is looking forward to planting a new garden next year.
Behind our home is a tree line filled with California buckeyes, an assortment of oaks, and pines. It is also where the wild things are.
The herd of black-tailed deer foraging along the hillside has been a common sight since moving here. Our local population, with their distinctive black tails, wanders about the property in the early mornings and evenings. Shy at first, they seemed to have gotten used to us.
In hopes of them not eating her plants, Debbie has planted deer-resistant plants and offers them squirrel food, of course, which makes the neighborhood grey squirrel population happy also.
The does and their fawns have been roaming through the yard on their spindly legs most of the summer. They have tried with limited success to eat from the bird feeder.
While as of late, even the bucks with their velvet-covered antlers have joined in.

A bushy gray fox and a long black-tailed jackrabbit have routinely welcomed me home as I have driven up the lane. Debbie admired both the tail of the fox and the ears of the rabbit. Commenting that both seem much bigger than any other parts of their bodies. Shyer than the deer, they are gone in a flash.

The pleasant surprise is the covey of California quail that are seen around our home.
The stately male with his distinguishing head plume acts as the lookout while the hens and their tiny babies scurry about pecking the ground.
And there are a lot of them. A single quail’s nest sometimes has as many as 28 eggs meaning all the adult birds care for and protect all the chicks.
Even smaller are the hummingbirds buzzing about our front porch feeder. The little birds are definitely entertaining with their aerial acrobatics.

The excitement came early in the summer when Debbie spotted a rather large black bear rattling through the trees and brush near the house. While it was concerning to have a 380 lbs. bear in the yard. It was humorous to hear my wife talk to it like it was the neighbor's lost pet.
"Go away minster bear," she said from the safety of the bedroom window, "There is nothing for you here. So, you better move along."
Which it did. But it still reminded us to secure our trash cans during the night.

Naturalist John Muir wrote, “Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to take a moment to ponder how thankful I am for the wildlife. It is hard to for me put into words how grateful I am for wildlife and wild places.
As a human being living in cohabitation with animals and plants, I realize how important it is for all of us to protect nature and show compassion towards all wild things.

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Friday, November 11, 2022


“The river this November afternoon
Rests in an equipoise of sun and cloud:
A glooming light, a gleaming darkness shroud
Its passage. All seems tranquil, all-in tune.” --- Cecil Day-Lewis

Sitting back, enjoying a cup of hot coffee while watching the birds fly over my stack of kayaks to the bird feeder. The skies have cleared after much of a week of stormy weather. Rain fell throughout the early part of the week while the foothills got blanketed with snow at higher elevations, with the bulk hitting the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

So far, so good. The recent storms certainly dampened the threat of wildfires, but for ending the long-enduring drought here in California. It's still much too early to tell. Weather forecasters say that these November storms are starting when we usually expect them, but it's still really early in the year to see what may happen.

I'm thinking I should be loading up one of those kayaks and taking it to a nearby lake. That is the best part about living here in California. Unlike when I was living in the mid-west, my kayaking season doesn't end when the rain strips the trees of their leaves and the snow falls. Sure, there are days when the weather is a bit uncomfortable, but there are still days ahead of paddling in just shirtsleeves that can't be squandered. However, losing an hour at the end of the day always surprises me when we flip back to an hour to standard time. Great if you are an earlier riser in this light switch from evening to morning. But I'm not ready for the darkness, as the sun seems to slam into the horizon before my eyes. Exploding into little bits before disappearing into the night.

Still paddling in November is an anomaly for many. The cool temperatures seem to outweigh the beautiful fall colors and golden light from the autumn sun. In my recent trips to Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake, they have been virtually abandoned by the summertime crowds, leaving an empty view of the glistening water. The refreshing clear and crisp autumnal air and uncrowded shores make me wonder why November paddling doesn't get its homage and due.

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Friday, October 28, 2022


“The eeriness of this lonely island, set among a million willows, swept by a hurricane, and surrounded by hurrying deep waters, touched us both, I fancy. Untrodden by man, almost unknown to man, it lay there beneath the moon, remote from human influence, on the frontier of another world, an alien world, a world tenanted by willows only and the souls of willows. And we, in our rashness, had dared to invade it, even to make use of it!” --- Algernon Blackwood

It's only in the daylight we see rivers with wonder and magic. Our favorites can often offer us serenity or endless thrills. Who of us doesn't look to see around each bend in a wild river, leading us to either the rumble of rapids or floating lazily in the sun.
We take ease near the stream in the light of day, where our imaginations and our innermost fears are not exploited by the sun.
Yet, it's in the night, when those comforting rivers can turn foreboding. With each whisper of sound or shadow in the moonlight, our perceptions of uncertainty, dread, and fear can bewitch us.
In Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, a novella about an adventurous canoe trip down the River Danube, it's only the night that the voyage turns frightful when mysterious forces emerge from within the forest creating spine-chilling sounds and bizarre shadows.
"I felt of dread was no ordinary ghostly fear," the narrator tells us, "It was infinitely greater, stranger, and seemed to arise from some dim ancestral sense of terror more profoundly disturbing than anything I had known or dreamed of. We had “strayed,” as the Swede put it, into some region or some set of conditions where the risks were great, yet unintelligible to us; where the frontiers of some unknown world lay close about us."
So. what's out there enshrouded in or along the watery brink? Is it a ghostly presence from the past? A spirit wandering lost, or a phantom bent on destruction.
Or is it just a concoction of some old scary tales meant to make us cringe and look over our shoulders in apprehension on a cool October night? What do you believe?
So, whether you're daring or doubtful here are a few of our nation's haunted rivers you might want to visit (if got the nerve), this Halloween or anytime, for your opportunity to see a ghost.

Pocantico River, New York
 Pocantico River

The Pocantico River in western New York was made famous by Washington Irving's Halloween classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Ever since people have been keeping a keen out for the Headless Horseman. Who, as the story said, would ride alongside the river looking for hapless victims.
The Pocantico is a nine-mile-long tributary of the Hudson River following an urban setting, But even today, it has a dark and unnerving nature. "The Pocantico winds its wizard stream among the mazes of its old Indian haunts, sometimes running darkly in pieces of woodland," wrote Irving.
He had obviously heard the tales surrounding the Old Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and Spook Rock to inspire his story of the Headless Horseman.
Spook Rock sits on the east­ern side of Rock­e­feller State Park, next to the Saw Mill River Park­way. Just its name conjures up ghosts. The his­tory of Tar­ry­town tells the leg­end of the Lady in White who haunts the rock after dying in a snow­storm. It's said you can still hear her cries of the howl­ing of the wind and see her ges­tures to warn of impending winter storms.
It also tells of the ghost of a colo­nial girl, who jumped to her death there to escape a Tory raider dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. As well as the heartbreaking tale of Star Girl the spirit of an In­dian girl who roams the area lament­ing the death of her lover and son.
It is said that even to­day, on a quiet spring night, one can stand on the banks of the Pocan­tico River and still hear Star Girl cry­ing out for her lover and child.

Blackwater River, Florida
Blackwater River 
The Blackwater River is considered a favorite spot for canoeing, kayaking, and camping in Florida's panhandle. Streaming through undeveloped lands by paddling the river is, said to be like going through beautiful tropical rainforest. But beware, for the Blackwater has two mysterious and sinister residents in its mist.
Locals will warn you to be careful when taking a dip. They say that there's a deathly pale-looking woman with long jet-black hair smelling of rotting flesh who will drag you under the water, attempting to drown you in the river. So far, only a lucky few have escaped her vile clutches.
While in Blackwater River State Park, a woman wearing a long white gown covered with blood is said to appear near the oldest white Atlantic cedar tree in the park. Legend says she was sacrificed there in a bloody ritual.
Rumors now say that people who visit the spot experience chills and have the feeling of being suffocated as a result of all the sacrificial rituals that took place there.
And one final warning. If you do see this ghostly woman is white, don't look in her eyes and runway. Otherwise, you could be next.

Tombigbee River, Alabama

Tombigbee River
Tales of ghost ships and phantom vessels are common folklore along both coast and the Great Lakes. Fleeting images of ships disappearing into the fog have been reported by sailors and beachcombers alike.
Over the years, witnesses have reported seeing “The Phantom Steamboat of the Tombigbee” fully engulfed in flames along the shore of Alabama's Tombigbee River near Pennington, Alabama.
Side-wheeled paddle steamer Eliza Battle was the most luxurious riverboat on the river until disaster claimed her on a cold winter night.
On March 1, 1858, she was fully loaded with more than 1,200 bales of cotton and carrying 101 passengers and crew when a fire broke out on the main deck. Panic ensued as the blaze spread over the boat. Passengers, mostly in their nightclothes, could only escape the flames by leaping into the icy river waters.
In the end, the ship sank, leaving somewhere between 26 to 33 people dead due to mostly exposure to the freezing water.
Soon after the disaster, ghost stories began to circulate. Witnesses claimed to see the ill-fated “Eliza Battle" ablaze again near where she sank, accompanied by screams of people begging to be rescued. The sightings of the burning steamers are to happen mostly on cold and windy nights. 

Mississippi River, Missouri & Illinois
Tower Rock
From its source up in Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River is brimming with bigger-than-life stories and legends and of course, ghostly yarns.
And nowhere is the river more haunted than Grand Tower, Illinois, to Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
According to the local folklore, the paranormal activity likely stems from the two massive boat accidents and one spooky reunion at Tower Rock.
On an October night in 1869, the steamship Stonewall was traveling on the river when it caught fire in what would become one of the worst disasters on the river.
It's estimated that the death toll was somewhere between 200 to 300. But nobody knows for sure because the passenger list was burned up with the steamboat.
Witnesses reported watching The Stonewall burn for nearly two hours before sinking into the river on that eerily dark and quiet.
Seventeen years later on another October night, the steamboat Mascotte's boiler exploded, engulfing that ship in a fire. Eyewitnesses said as the fire raged, the ship's smokestack fell over the gangplank, trapping passengers attempting to escape. All in all, the river disaster claimed 35 lives.
Psychics say the spirits of the dead in these disasters remain to this day. They have told of seeing the ghosts of these tragic ship fires making lonely pilgrimages back to the water from the local cemetery and of seeing unearthly hands and fingers reaching out of the dark river water.
It's also not uncommon for barge captains and crews to observe unexplainable lights bouncing across the water and hear ghostly screams and cries for help while passing through the spooky stretch of river.
The nearby Tower Rock offers even more supernatural lore for the Big Muddy. The 60-foot rock formation has been a silent sentinel along the river throughout its history. Boatmen would celebrate passing by it with a drink of good cheer. River pirates used it as an ambush spot, and Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis & Clark would write about its peril: “strong currents thus meeting each other form an immense and dangerous whirlpool which no boat dare approach in that state of the water…”
But the spookiest story of the rock happened in 1839 when an entire wedding party's boat got caught in a giant whirlpool and sucked under the muddy waters. Only one slave survived.
On that very day, a baby niece to the groom was born and given the same name as the bride. And twenty years later, to celebrate her birthday, she holds a party upon Tower Rock.
And as the story goes, the gathering was suddenly astonished when members of the wedding party arose out of the Mississippi River and presented her with a mysterious parchment scroll forewarning her of the Civil War. After delivering the prophetic message, the entire ghostly group, once again disappeared into the murky waters of the river.

Missouri River, Nebraska
              Blackbird Hill by Karl Bodmer
Blackbird Hill is a distinctive 300-foot-high landmark on the west side of the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska. It was well-known to river travelers throughout the 19th century. In 1804, Lewis and Clark climbed the rise to visit the grave of an Omaha chief, while famed frontier artists George Catlin and Karl Bodmer painted it in the 1830s. Traditional Native American accounts say that Chief Big Elk is buried at the site. It is also said to be haunted by the spirit of a young woman who was murdered on the hill more than a century and a half ago.
According to local folklore, a young couple fell in love and agreed to marry. But first, the boy had to make his fortune, promising her he would return for her. But after years of waiting, the young girl finally gave up, thinking her husband-to-be was dead. She married another man and settled atop Blackbird Hill.
As the story goes, it was years later when the former lovers were once again reunited, when the young man came looking for her on the banks of the Missouri River. Overjoyed to see him, she confessed that she had never stopped loving him and only married another because she thought he was dead. Surely, it was fate that brought the long-lost lovers back together. She told him that she would go home to tell her husband that she wanted out of their marriage, so they could leave together in the morning.
When the girl returned to the cabin, she explained the situation to her husband, saying she did not love him and intended to leave him to marry her first love. At first, the husband begged her to stay. But when she refused, he went into a bitter rage and attacked her with his hunting knife. Mortally wounding her and with nothing to live for, he carried her to the cliff of the hill overlooking the river and leaped with her into the river far below. The woman’s death scream pierced the air until it was silenced by the muddy waters of the Missouri River. The young lover witnessed the couple tumble and drowned in the river, and he also became a victim as he later died of a broken heart.
A century and a half later, the river no longer touches the base of the hill Blackbird Hill, but the young woman’s restless soul remains. According to the legend, on October 17th, the anniversary of the murder-suicide, the woman’s chilling screams can be heard at the top of the hill. Over the years, dozens of people reportedly have heard her cries of terror.

So, what do you believe? Are these just good old-fashion ghost stories passed down over the years?
Or are there really haunting spirits out there at the edge of the water?
Whatever you believe, these tales have intertwined with the history and folklore of these waterways. They have captured our imaginations and can provide us, that is if you’re feeling especially brave, a spooky adventure where you can go see for yourself. But only if you dare.

Happy Halloween

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