Friday, January 17, 2020

A STORY FROM THE PARKWAY


Since it's creation in 1983, the American River Parkway Foundation has been striving to protect and sustain one of Sacramento County's most valuable natural resources, the American River Parkway. Following along the Lower American River, the Parkway offers equestrian and hiking trails, a first-class bike trail, and most of all a great paddling venue.
In conjunction with Sacramento County Parks, the ARPF coordinates programs and works with volunteers to foster environmental stewardship, facilitate volunteer opportunities, as well as fund and implement many Parkway projects.
This past month, the folks from the ARPF asked me to share my experiences of paddling along the Lower American River in their Stories from the Parkway series in hopes of increasing awareness, use, and support of this amazing river trail.

Sliding my kayak gently into the water, it’s not hard to grasp why in a few short years how this river has become so significant to me. I’ve come to know this river’s fickle moods. Its high water winters and early spring rush, its summertime playfulness, and its autumn bounty when the native Chinook salmon swim back upstream to spawn. I’ve paddled its slumberous wide curves and through its fast water rapids. I’ve watched its water roaring like thunder pouring its last dam and followed its a clear and bright emerald ribbon of water all the way to its end to dip my bow in at its milky confluence.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” I heartily agree. For me and many others, Northern California’s Lower American River is a rare jewel to behold. Fed by the melting snowpack of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the river is an essential source for the area’s drinking water, a productive provider of irrigation and hydroelectric power, and recreational highway for paddlers and fishermen. In its final twenty-some miles before pouring into the Sacramento River, it dispenses a peaceful serenity and magic to every creature along its wild banks despite being so near urban complexities of the city. And yes, to a certain extent it seems to be a living being in itself.

I often tell people paddling with me that after we push off onto the river they will be experiencing a totally different world even though we are in the heart of a densely populated urban area. Paddling down the river never ceases to amaze me of how I can escape into a backyard of nature just a few minutes from the buzz of city traffic. Where the only sound you will hear is that of birds, the wind and that primeval summons to our primordial values, the call of distant rapids coming from downriver.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “He who hears the rippling of rivers in these degenerate days will not utterly despair.”

“A river seems a magic thing,” declared photographer Laura Gilpin, “A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”
Sitting alongside the Lower American River earlier this week, the river does seem alive as it moved steadily to the sea. Flashes of Chinook salmon among the river’s ripples, scores of gulls, ducks and turkey vultures soar and flutter above, while I catch sight of black-tailed deer bounding through the stream. A large beavertail splash serves as a warning that I’ve come a just bit to close to his domain while chattering otters bark at my passing. The trees, vegetation, and even the rocky pilings that extend all the way along the stream add to the inspirit to this living essence.
It’s nature’s age-old symbiotic relationships between the river and all of its creatures. As long as the water keeps flowing, the river and the life it nurtures will continue to exist.

As humans in the era of climate change, we need to recognize this natural world around us and make our duty to care for it, protect it, and pass it on to generations to come.

This article was originally published as part of the American Rivers Foundation's Stories from the Parkway Series. The series is about people and their experiences while on the American River Parkway in hopes of strengthening the understanding of the American River Parkway and the value it brings to the community. We encourage all of you to support the American River Parkway Foundation and its mission. And if you have a story you would like to tell about your experience using the parking, you can share it with the ARPF Newsletter.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

OVER THE BOW: SAILOR BAR & THE LOWER AMERICAN RIVER


American River Parkway's Sailor Bar has always been a local favorite spot for me to paddle. Conveniently located near my home it not much trouble me to get on the water in a timely fashion. With good flow, I can paddle back and forth to the Sunrise River Access about two miles downriver in a little more than an hour including three portages that aren't too long. Making a very enjoyable afternoon or evening on the water and still home at a reasonable time.

Named after gold-seeking sailors who had reportedly jumped ship to stake their claim along the banks of the river. The park's area and the river were later dredged for gold. The bucket line dredges churned up the riverbed. The gold was filtered out and the leftover rock tailing was cast aside, texturing the park with piles and piles of rock.

Over the years, those rock pilings have been put to good use. Since the Nimbus Dam upstream from Sailor Bar prevents the salmon and steelhead from reaching their spawning grounds, construction crews funded by federal and state agencies have to periodically restore habitat for re-establishing a crucial spawning area for hundreds of native fish. The latest project was completed last fall after heavy machinery moved and placed thousand tons of rock and gravel into the river before the salmon run.

Another part of the project was to create a new side-channel that runs a parallel to the river for a little less than 200-yards. Shallow with sections of both fast and slow-moving water, it was created as a protected area for juvenile fish. But, the extra benefit is a creek like an environment with ripples, eddies, and waves perfect for an afternoon of paddling

Full disclaimer, by no means, am I an expert whitewater paddler. I'm not even average. I know paddlers who can make their kayaks dance over waves doing somersaults and spins in a stylish river ballet repertoire. They are amazing athletes who go over huge drops and surf big waves.

As for me, I just like the feel of the movement of water beneath my boat. The opportunity of learning and reading the river's flow and eddy lines. But mostly, I just like spending time on the water.

"There's always something new waiting for you on the river some new kind of challenge," slalom champion Jana Dukatova, told Red Bull, "White water is never the same, and there are so many features you can play with: surfing a wave, playing in a roll, dropping into a waterfall. As you improve, there's always more new fun stuff you can learn. You'll never get bored."

The smell of death and decay still lingers as skeletons of salmons dot the river banks with turkey vultures and gulls fighting over the leftover bones. Underneath the white ghostly corpses of giant fish slowly decompose at the bottom of the rivers icy waters.

I slid my boat in just above where the narrow channel turns and feeds back into the river. The current there is moving fast with water pouring over rocks providing a nice little standing wave and place to practice my surfing.
Once in place by pointing my bow upstream, I'm was able to skim on top of the water on the front of the wave.

"It's a lovely sensation," wrote kayaking adventure author Peter Heller, "Like flying, with all the river hurtling beneath you as you skip and veer down the front of the wave, held in place by its steepness."

In my little playboat, I was able to surf the wave back and forth with no real threat of rolling back and forth back and forth. Using forwards stokes, I attempted to keep the boat pointing upstream and carve and edging around the wave, that is until my strength wore out and I was flushed out downstream only to ferry back and try it again.

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, we would love to see it. Submit it to us at nickayak@gmail.com

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Friday, January 3, 2020

2020 VISION


New Year - a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours. -- Alex Morritt

Three days into the year and ugh, bam, A##!, and geesh! I had hit the wrong button on the computer and my brilliant yet un-substantiated pros were capsized into my computer and swept away like leaves in high water. What a way to start 2020 for Outside to Max. So our a bit behind with this post.
So what’s on your adventure horizon for 2020? As we stride into the new year, here is a list of 5 things of what we think will be influencing what we see on the water this year and beyond.

Kayaks on Demand
There is no doubt about it paddling sports participation will make a big splash in the new decade. Outdoor minded retiring boomers will be seeking both the health benefits of low impact fitness and peaceful and meditative of nature while kayaking. Kayak manufacturers, gear & clothing suppliers, and outfitters will have to take note that women are now representing about 45% of the paddling population and soon will outnumber the men. In turn, kayaks will be lighter, shorter and more versatile stressing stability but mostly comfort.


Places to Paddle
Canoeing and kayaking launch sites, take outs, and destinations are just a few clicks away as paddling apps help you plan the perfect place to kayak, canoe, or paddle near you.
Local municipalities will do their part by constructing long sought access areas to rivers and lakes in conjunction with paddling groups. Using the model build it and they come, forward-thinking water managers will propose whitewater parks like the one in Fort Collins, Colorado on the Poudre River to promote tourism and restores the river's banks to a more natural state.
Of course, that means to pay to play for many like in Oregon where paddlers using non-motorized boats will now need to purchase a new Waterway Access Permit, which will cost $5 for one week, $17 for a year or $30 for two years.
The switch went into effective Jan. 1, though officials won’t be enforcing the new permit until August 1.
The fees will help fund an aquatic invasive species prevention program, as well as new waterway access for non-motorized boating projects.

Safety Zone
We can only hope water safety awareness increases going into the new decade, but as inexpensive recreational kayaks float out of the big box stores like Costco and Sams Club, paddling instructors can't stress enough that kayaking and paddleboarding can seem leisurely at first, but a few small mistakes can turn them deadly quickly. First-time paddlers should take a training course and always wear your PFD.
And to answer the question, can you see me now? All commercial canoes and kayaks will have safety flags for the 2020 boating season on New York's Lake George in response to an increasing number of kayak and motorboat collisions on the lake.

Kayaktivism

In 2015 thousands of boaters in Seattle and Portland, as well as smaller gatherings throughout the country, came together to protest Arctic drilling giving us the new term of Kayaktivism.

At the time, the Sierra Club’s Alli Harvey said, “The kayak is now a symbol for demanding a sea change in our approach to energy use and development.”
In this era of climate change, conservation advocacy groups and paddlers are forming alliances to work together to promote and protect waterways, restore damaged rivers and reduce carbon emissions.
Already, English paddler, Rob Thompson is doing his part. He collects discarded plastic from the ocean, along with used fishing nets. The plastic and nets are used to make kayaks, and the kayaks are used to help harvest even more ocean plastic. His company, Odyssey Innovation, sells kayaks made from recycled marine plastic for a small profit.

Future is Now
Innovations in technology will be thrown over the bow as kayaks and kaykers will be equipped with GPS touch screens powered by solar panels infused into the gel-coat of the boat. Boats designed for angling will be faster more maneuverable and hands-free. Folding kayaks and pack rafts will help us explore waterways thought to be inaccessible.
At the take out, your self-driving vehicle is already parked and your kayak load assists roof rack takes away all the heavy lifting.
For longer incursions, solar-powered lights and hands-free navigation to compact tents and tough cameras make that roughing it camping trip not so rough after all. Even your reliable Swiss Army Knife now comes with 41 functions including a built-in digital alarm clock, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and LED light.

So let us all start the year and new decade off with the challenge to persevere, even if our computers drive us crazy and our phones run out battery power. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Paddle #151

Taylor Carlson on Lake Clementine
I had a great time over the Christmas break paddling with my son Taylor Carlson. I paddled to a new personal record of 151 paddling days in the calendar year.  I started on California's Lake Natoma and finished the year on Lake Clementine. 
Onward to 2020.

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Friday, December 27, 2019

FOLLOWING THE LEADER


Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others." Robert Louis Stevenson

On January 1st, 1806 on the Pacific Coast at Fort Clatsop Captian Meriwether Lewis was awoken to a volley of rifle fire to usher in the New Year. Since leaving St. Louis in May 1804 the Corps of Discovery had done the almost impossible by forging a trail across the continent. The new year now promised a return trip on the second part of their expedition.

"Our repast of this day, though better than that of Christmas," wrote Lewis, consisted principally in the anticipation of the 1st day of January 1807, when, in the bosom of our friends, we hope to participate in the mirth and hilarity of the day."

Through his leadership along with fellow captain William Clark, the Corps of Discovery's accomplishments were mostly successful as they had explored and mapped, gathered information and developed relations as emissaries of the United States to the native tribes while on their way to the Pacific. Their skills as leaders were without question was the main reason their journey so far was a triumph. But it was far from over. They were only half done.

Like the Corps of Discovery, as the calendar year turns and launches into 2020, I feel I'm a midway point. It's been now ten years since I started kayaking seriously. It started with a small fire and still burns with energetic enthusiasm, but I still feel I have a long way to go.

But, with the assurance that this trip is worth the effort, I'm being led by a solid foundation of leaders, teachers, and confidants who continue to guide and encourage me along the way.

This past year it was once again amazing to paddle with likes of Dan Crandall, Kim Sprague, John Weed, Paul Camozzi and the rest of the gang at Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips and The River Store. We added the Great American Triathlon as we continued the legacy of Eppie's Great Race and enjoyed a fantastic season at Sly Park Paddle Rentals on Jenkinson Lake. In 2020, we're hoping to expand these services even more just get more folks like you on the water.

Are we there yet? It's a question Bayside Adventure Sports, Greg Weisman often hears. He is going to hear even more this coming year as he takes new challenges and exciting new trips including one to Israel.

As for the group's kayaking division, John Taylor has been a true inspiration and awesome paddling partner. He makes every day on the water with his easy-going style and enthusiasm a special day. We look forward to several more overnight paddling trips after the success of our Loon Lake adventure.

A big thank you goes out to our 2020's guest bloggers, Kathy Bunton, Dan Crandall, Julie Mitravich, and for a great Q/As with John Connelly and Daniel Fox. They certainly have made OAM better by providing thoughtful and compelling views into the world of paddling. We certainly look forward to future posts from them in 2020.

I would also like to thank, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, AquaBound, American Rivers and NRS Web, for sharing my posts on their social media pages. It's always a fun Friday for me when post Outside Adventure to the Max. Thanks for helping us spread the word about our weekly post.

My biggest thanks, of course, goes to my wife Debbie. I couldn't do any of my kayaking or adventuring without her love, support and encouragement. One could never have a more true friend and companion. I look forward to more days paddling side by side.

It would be some seven months later after a frightening encounter with the Blackfeet Indians, that Lewis and his small squad were making a hasty retreat by traveling more than 90 miles on horseback in less than 24 hours to rejoin the main party.

"I encouraged them (his men) by telling them that our own lives," wrote Lewis,  "As well as those of our friends and fellow travelers, depended on our exertions at this moment; they were alert soon prepared the horses and we again resumed our march."

Like them, we proceed on into the year 2020.

So as we travel into the new decade, I offer you what this foundation of friends continues to give me. Be positive, stay optimistic and overcome your weariness with courage and motivation to continue.

Happy New Year! Now proceed on.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

A PADDLE WITH ST. NICHOLAS


'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 sprayskirt,

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 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,

I trying to get a selfie of Santa and me

I raised up my camera, you see I need 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 bright red drysuit 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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Friday, December 13, 2019

2019 IN REVIEW: PICTURES OF THE YEAR

Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more. ---Vincent Van Gogh 

 

I'm a sucker for that golden light. You know, that time of the evening when the low hanging sun burns in a smokey orange and reddish amber over the water. When the sky's palette turns into dimming purplish luster offset by the soft warm glow of the clouds. When kayaks and their paddlers are silhouetted in shadows or backlit with fuzzy bright halos. When the water's reflection is in that a radiant splendor of a hallucinogenic melting ember of tranquility.

Lake Jenkinson
For those reasons alone it makes that time on the lake or river a bit more magical and mysterious than any other part of the day.
Most others have already left the water, So away from the crowd, my images are clean and crisp, but mostly serene and tranquil.

Trust me, when I see golden light like that, it's easy to see the pictures. Like Ansel Adams said, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

In my paddling days and outside endeavors in 2019, I got to those natural places often and sometimes just in time and sometimes with all the time in the world to see all its glory about me. Every destination whether new or even after I have visited many times before came with a new adventure that I'll carry with me for a lifetime. And because I saw it from the perspective of my canoe or kayak, well that was just an added bonus.

The Lower American River
As the old saying goes, "You cannot step into the same river twice." After this past year, I can only agree after I often ending up in many of the same places I had visited before. But as noted, those adventures were never the same, for it was the journey that mattered most.

"It's the thing about river running that I've always loved the most," wrote adventure author and paddler Peter Heller, "You go into the country on a natural magic carpet, moving at a speed that is normal to all its denizens, and if you quiet, you can be absolutely silent in a way you can never be walking, and if you are on wilderness river, you slip past scenes you would never, ever witness any other way."

In every outing this year I encountered a new and dynamic experience, whether being a quiet Sunday morning on Sly Park's Lake Jenkinson or a brilliant sunset on Lake Natoma. I have paddled along the pristine shoreline of Loon Lake and hiked a scenic waterfall trail high in the Sierra.

Bayside Adventure Sports on Lake Natoma

While alone in my solitude, I enjoyed the quick water and the slog of the portage back upriver on reinvigorating in perspective trek on the Lower American River. I mostly came to appreciate all the companionships with others as they shared my same passion for the water. From the fun-time glow and sunset paddles with Bayside Adventure Sports to all my interaction with the folks and clients from Current Adventures and Sly Park Rentals Paddle to every paddler, I have met along the way. They have inspired and motivated me and I only hoped that I have inspirited them to get outside and explore and cherish their neighborhood waterway.

As American photojournalist, Steve McCurry said, My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” So as 2019 draws to a close, I look back at some of my favorite images from this past year.

Loon Lake with Bayside Adventure Sports

Hot Springs Creek Falls
The Lower American River
Lake Jenkinson
Lake Jenkinson at Sly Park
The American River
The Mokelumne River
Glow Paddle on Lake Natoma
Lake Jenkinson
Lake Jenkinson

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Friday, December 6, 2019

OVER THE BOW: RED RIVER


And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to and end; but that was not to be. --- C. S. Lewis


I was hoping to get one more day in. Just one more day on the water. An early winter weather gloom hung over the river valley. The first snow had come early in October, followed by another dusting a week later typical and Fargo-like. The temperatures were plunging each night to that mystical point where water becomes ice. My season of days paddling was quickly running out on the Red River.

“There is one thing I should warn you about before you decide to get serious about canoeing, " said paddling guru Bill Mason in one of my favorite all-time quotes "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.”

When fall comes to the Red River Valley only the hardiest have yet to put away their canoes or kayaks for the season. The Red River was once again comfortable in its banks as its dark waters of flowed past the snow-white covered shoreline creating a Christmas card like setting, insulated from the whir of the traffic of the river's two cities.

A thin layer of ice from freezing rain coated my bow and water bottle as it froze on contact. While an even thinner film of ice had formed over the water along the edges of the meandering waterway. The sound of reverberation of radio static and breaking glass echoed over the peaceful river as the kayak's bow broke through the ice, a reminder of my coming to end to that year's paddling season as the riverway slumbered into its winter hibernation.

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

This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max on November 24 , 2017. 

 

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