Friday, March 22, 2019

STOP, BREATHE, RELAX, AND LISTEN AGAIN, AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL FOX

Photos courtesy of Daniel Fox
As explorer, photographer, and storyteller, Daniel Fox looks to the power of nature to energize the mind and soul. Over the past decade, he has preached his mantra of STOP. BREATHE. RELAX. LISTEN to help us all reconnect to the natural world around us. As the founder of WILD.ECO, a group offering mentorships and opportunities for young adults from a disadvantaged background to experience nature as a framework for personal transformation and empowerment.

As FUJIFILM X-Photographer, his work has been appeared in Outside Magazine, Canoe Kayak Magazine, Adventure Kayak Magazine, Sea Kayaker Magazine, along with many others. His inspiring talks on FEEL THE WILD have been given at the Commonwealth Club, REI stores, universities and schools across the country.
Outside Adventure to the Max first caught up with Fox back in April of 2015 for a very insightful Q/A. But after Fox announced last month his book FEEL THE WILD has been acquired by RMB | Rocky Mountain Books, a publisher that is unique in the world of Art & Photography and would be released in Fall 2019. We shared our excitement of the news by reposting our archived interview with Fox and congratulating him.
Fox emailed back words of thanks and approached us about updating our interview. We, of course, said that would be really cool.

OAM: You seem somewhere between a modern-day Thoreau and adventurer Daniel Boone always looking over the next horizon. You said "Nature is more than a destination. It is a teacher, a meditation, it is food for the soul and the body, inspiration for the arts, a healer, a mentor, a lover." What drives you in your pursuit of finding nature?
DF: First of all let me thank you for referencing my work to both Thoreau and Boone - what an honor! I did use to watch the TV show when I was young - I still can remember singing the intro song!
About your question. We are a product of nature. Our species is just one of many that has inhabited this planet. And we won’t be the last. It is believed that the Neanderthal was around for 200 000 years before being ousted by the Homo Sapiens. It is fair to expect that one day in the future, the Homo Sapiens will be regarded as a past and extinct species, ousted by a more adaptable and new one.
In the grand scheme of the universe, we are nothing more than just a footnote in the history of evolution. We haven’t even proved our worthiness as a species. We have been around for what, thousands of years? That is nothing compared to others.
Sometimes I contemplate the thought that perhaps intelligence will turn out to be a counterproductive evolutionary tool. It is amazing what it can create and accomplish but it is also incredible to see how unsustainable it can be.
But again, isn’t life’s goal to expand, evolve, reach out to new worlds? We migrated from Africa for some reasons. Our species spread over continents. We risked everything and crossed oceans trying to escape what we had created, to start anew. Perhaps it is part of life to mess things up so that it forces the future generations to seek new places and the old ones to wise up. We learn through the consequences of our actions - and right now we are learning about the fragility of our species and that the act of totally disrespecting the environment is a strategy that will backfire and blow up in our face. Spending time in the wilderness reminds me that there is a world beyond ourselves.
That I am not at the center of everything. It brings me perspective and puts me back in the right place, giving me the gift of humility. It is so easy to think of ourselves as gods when we live in cities, disconnected, in awe of our prowess, but out there in the wild, you realize that there is so much more to life.
How can we look up to the stars and believe even for one second that we are special? It is that feeling of vulnerability that I seek that drives me to explore the wilderness and spend time in nature.

OAM: Tell us about W.I.L.D. Wilderness, Immersion, Leadership & Discovery to help make the wilderness accessible to underprivileged youth. Why did you start this cause?
DF: We consume nature the same way that we consume everything else - with ease, quick and in quantity. We want the benefits delivered instantly and in the shortest time possible. We want that adrenaline rush. We want to conquer that river. We want to finish that hike. And then go back to our houses and computers. It is hard in that way to truly connect with nature and receive the big lessons and insights it has to offer. It is hard to get that deep transformative experience when you are only skimming the surface.
It is like trying to experience the richness of the ocean only by swimming at the surface. Impossible! You need to dive in. Going camping for a weekend is great, but you don’t get to disconnect. Your mind and body are still attached to the conveniences of our modern world. We experience the wilderness through senses that are not in tune with nature. There are many studies that have proven and showed that it takes a minimum of 2 weeks for your senses to tune in with a new environment.
So with that in mind, I believe that immersion in nature is an important part of our development, especially during our early, formative years when it is so critical to discover who we are, develop strong self-esteem, begin to adopt leadership skills, challenge our physical well-being and acquire the capacity to live a balanced life in a world dominated by technology.

OAM: Sounds like your trying to save the world one kid at a time. What impact do you think it will have on their future?
DF: I am convinced that once you have experienced a month-long wilderness immersion camp, your life is changed forever. And knowing the importance of today’s youth in shaping the future, I want to give them, especially the underprivileged teens, the opportunity to experience first-hand the positive impact nature can have on their lives through wilderness immersion camps.
That immersion is a powerful first step that can help trigger a desire to explore and discover the natural world and to begin to understand how experiencing the beauty and ultimate challenges inherent in nature can lead to enhancing their self-confidence and help them develop valuable leadership skills.

OAM: What is the Wild Image Project? How long have you been working on it and what has it taught you about nature and yourself?
DF: I started the Wild Image Project back in 2008. It is a bit of a long story, but to summarize it, when I was a kid, my dream was to sail the world and study whales. I wanted to explore the planet. See what Cousteau, Fowler, and Attenborough had shown me on the television. I was that kid who would leave in the morning, disappear in the forest and complain when it was time to come back at sunset.
In high school, I got the feeling that I needed to get serious with my life expectations and was told to grow up. So I tried. I went to business school, moved to New York and attempted to make it in the corporate world. It was a huge failure. I was incapable of justifying my future doing something that my heart was not into.
So after an unfortunate very short marriage and divorce, I reassessed everything. If there was time for me to go back to my roots, this was the time. So I sold everything and headed south. I went to Argentina for 6 months and found myself again. I found and connected to that joyful boy I once was. I started to write and do photography and for the first time in my life, I felt like I had a purpose, a reason to move into the future and believe.

OAM: You said, that you want to create a dialog between yourself and your wildlife subjects while photographing them in nature. Why is important to you that they know of your presence?
DF: In some ways, I don’t want to take the photograph, I want to receive it. In the early age of photography, it was believed that a photo stole a piece of the soul. I don’t literally believe the statement but I do feel there is something of an invasion when you capture a moment without the subject knowing. So if I am going to capture these animals on film, I want it to be on their terms, I want their consent.
Also, I don’t want to be a visitor, I want to connect and be present. I want to meet their gaze and share that deep ancestral sense of commonality we have. That is what I seek, that is what I long for.
Importantly though, I don’t want to humanize and beautify them, I want to honor and recognize their spirit. Every single species on earth is exceptional in the sense that it has achieved mastery of its survival by adapting and acutely occupying a specific niche within the planet’s ecosystem.
Everything and everyone, including us, has evolved and survived by becoming the best at one thing. The indigenous cultures understood and honored this way of looking at the world. They didn’t see themselves better or above anyone or anything, but alongside all the others, part of life’s complex cobweb. Animals, plants and insects were respected, honored and recognized for their particular abilities.


OAM: Your first attempt in 2014 to kayak 1,000 miles from Victoria, on the Island of Vancouver in Canada to San Francisco was unfortunately ended in very harrowing ordeal at Cannon Beach in Oregon as featured in Canoe & Kayak magazine article ALIVE & STRONGER What did you learn from that experience?
DF: There are certain things in life that are not meant to be accomplished on the first try. They demand commitment and failure is part of the experience. A 1,000 miles of solo kayaking along the Pacific Coast is not something to be taken lightly. I am actually glad that my first attempt was unsuccessful. I was extremely fortunate and I didn’t hurt myself and that is the most important thing. Had it been too easy, I would have lost the respect that endeavors like these deserve. Looking back, there are obviously lessons that I learned. First one is that I should have not forced my departure. I was pressured by time and left Astoria knowing that bad weather was coming. Also, I should have never attempted to lend in Indian Bay at night. I didn't know the place and it was obvious that the conditions were way too dangerous for me to maneuver my way into these unknown waters. That first capsize changed everything. Had I just paddled into the night, against the wind, it would have been extremely exhausting and dead tired, but at least I would have not ended up in pieces on the beach crushed by the ocean.

OAM: Are you going to attempt it again?
DF: Absolutely! Depending on my current and future commitments and schedule, either this summer or the next.

OAM: You travel light and by yourself for long periods of time do you find comfort in the solitude?
DF: I do. I see myself as an artist and the wilderness is my studio. When I go out, my goal is to create something, to capture the spirit of a place and share it with the world.
A painter can’t paint when there are other people around. They need that empty space where their mind can get lost and create. It is the same for me. Out there, by myself, I have to face the silence, my mind goes to places that are not always fun, but from these depths, magic happens.
I will be honest though, it can be extremely challenging and tiring. There is no one to motivate you. You are responsible for everything. There is no peer pressure, no one to cook while you set up camp, no second opinion, no help if something happens. Interestingly, my last story is about solitude and here is my closing paragraph:
  
The cacophony of life is necessary. The buzzing and frenzy of our culture has a creative purpose and we shouldn’t underestimate its value but more importantly, clarity and perspective happen only when silence and solitude are present. In our culture of multi-tasking, every hour filled with endless distractions and finding ourselves relentlessly connected to our technology devices, these alone times are becoming rarer and rarer leaving us with an incapacity to delve and think deeper, stuck in the shallowness found within 140 characters. More than ever, we must find the time to STOP. BREATHE. RELAX & LISTEN.”

OAM: What is the most essential item you always bring along while on these odysseys?
DF: My brain! My sanity and optimism! The answer might surprise you but nothing is more important than keeping your calm when you are on solo expeditions.
No gear can replace good judgment. No gear can save you unless you know what to do with it. You can survive with very little and through insane and crazy situations if you succeed in not letting the events take over you.
Aside from the philosophical answer, my Fujifilm camera is always with me. And if I had to choose the most essential item it would be my SOG multitool.

OAM: Ansel Adams said, "A good photograph is knowing where to stand." You have traveled throughout the world. What was your favorite place so far and what made it so appealing?
DF: There is so much of the world I haven’t seen!!! So many places to visit. So much to discover and explore.
Adams’ quote reminds me of Proust’: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
The truth though is that we are social species. We are wired to connect with others. And in all my traveling, it is the people that I meet along the way that I remember the most.
Connecting with the wild places I visit is impossible to do unless I connect first with the people that live there. I am passing through. I am a visitor and they are the ones who hold the key to so many secrets. Their stories and their experiences are priceless and full of treasures.

OAM: Any place on your list you haven't been yet?
DF: At the beginning when I started, I was attracted to exotic destinations. But to be honest, now I only focus on North America. There is so much right here, in our backyard to discover. From Alaska, the Arctic Circle, the Northwest Territories to Baja California.
From Newfoundland to British Columbia and California, the mountains, the deserts, the rivers, the Pacific and Atlantic Coast, our American and Canadian National Parks are truly some of the most beautiful places on earth.

OAM: One last one... Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." What will be your legacy?
DF: We are not a bad species. We are learning. There is so much guilt and negativity in our culture that is is really hard to be hopeful. There is this constant deadline over our head telling us that if we don’t fix everything in 5 years, life on earth will literally end. There is this arrogant and righteous sense of duty that we must save the planet. People are overwhelmed and feel powerless and consequently stop caring or listening.
There is, of course, a pressing need to change but we have to believe in ourselves. We have to inspire each other and see the beauty within us. We are a species that rises in the face of challenges.
We are experts at adapting. Yes, we have done mistakes. And we won’t stop making new ones. That is life. But by accepting responsibility, by finding humility and believing that the strength of our spirit is intertwined with the natural world.
I believe that together we can lay the foundations to a world we can be proud of.
I want to make people STOP just for a second. I want them to take a deep BREATH, RELAX, LISTEN and look at the world and nature in a new way.
I want them to hope. I want them to believe. I want them to be proud of. I want them to believe in the power of nature to restore our human spirit.
I want them to understand that we are from nature, that nature is not something disconnected from us. If I can do that, if that can be my legacy, then I will be happy.

You can find Fox on FacebookLinkedinTwitter, InstagramPinterest. He publishes his videos on Vimeo and his photography portfolio is available on Behance. His book FEEL THE WILD will be released next fall.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

DYING OUT HERE IS NOT AN OPTION, AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN CONNELLY

Photo courtesy of Brian Threlkeld

“Yea, and if some god shall wreck me in the wine-dark deep, even so, I will endure…For already have I suffered full much, and much have I toiled in perils of waves and war. Let this be added to the tale of those.” ---Homer, The Odyssey 


Anybody else might have been having second thoughts. Nine days out after launching from Old Forge, New York in the spring of 2016, John Connelly had already patch dried his canoe after hitting a rock, was enduring freezing rain and suffering from a bit of a nasty stomach bug.

Photo courtesy of Rafael Gallo
It was an undeniably tough start for Connelly's Paddle Quest 1500 expedition, the first ever 1,500-mile solo canoe and kayak trek across the four major waterways in northeastern North America: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, St. John River, Bay of Fundy and Maine Island Trail.
But for Connelly, there was no turning back. That simply wasn't an option.

"Despite falling ill and having to push myself through 20 mile days and frozen nights, I find genuine joy and spiritual uplifting when descending rapids I had never seen before,"  Connelly wrote in an update on the Paddle Quest 1500 website, "It is a journey of a lifetime with something new and may things unexpected around every bend. The people and places add to who I am and I will be much richer for this time well spent. New York is behind me, Vermont and the rest are in front. Bring it!"

Over the next 66 days, Connelly would paddle pristine whitewater and placid still lakes and survived violent sea storms all while being tracked in real-time by satellite and followed by thousands online. His personal trip was a call to inspire others to increase their time outside, citing research that suggests both physical and mental health benefits while in nature.

He completed his trip with triumph on June 24, 2016, when he arrived at Kittery, Maine joined by a flotilla of supporters and media to in with paddle him.
"My mind was blown right in half. It was amazing!" wrote Connelly on the Paddle Quest 1500 website, "I was overwhelmed by the reception I received and am eternally grateful for all the support I have experienced from friends, family, sponsors, media partners, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and Maine Island Trail Association."

In his new book Dying Out Here Is Not An Option, he chronicles that epic 1500 mile solo canoe and kayak adventure across the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada.
We caught up with Connelly a couple of weeks ago to asked him about his new book, his epic paddling trip and his mission to get people to experience the outdoors.

OMA: The title of your book, "Dying Out Here Is Not An Option" is a pretty gritty statement. Why did you come up with that title?
JC: There were two conditions for my taking on this first-ever expedition. They both came from my incredible wife, Nicole. #1. She needed to know that I was safe at the end of every day. #2. I wasn’t allowed to die. Fair enough, right?! It got very real out there and there were a few times where I needed to remind myself of my promise not to die.

The route of Paddle Quest 1500
OAM: In your book, you chronicle your Paddle Quest 1500, a 1500 mile, 75-day, solo expedition linking 4 major waterways in the Northeastern US and eastern Canada. 2 Countries, 4 states, 2 provinces, 22 streams, 54 lakes/ponds, and the North Atlantic Ocean. Why did you pick this route and what would you do differently if you could do it over again?
JC: I had always wanted to canoe the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and I’d always wanted to kayak the Maine Island Trail, but never managed to be able to carve out the time. My 60th birthday was coming up and everyone, including my incredible wife, Nicole, urged me to do something special. Given the green light, I decided that “special” wasn’t good enough; I wanted to go for “epic.” Nobody had canoed the Northern Forest Canoe Trail AND kayaked the Maine Island Trail, so that would have been a first, and pretty special. But how about connecting the two with the Saint John River and the Bay of Fundy? Now, nobody has done that and it truly would be epic! That’s how I picked the route!

OAM: That was a long time on the water to be alone. What kept you going? Did you ever want to give up?
JC: I love living out of my boat for days and weeks on end. It’s where I find myself truly at home. That’s one reason why I row rafts on 16-day, 280-mile whitewater trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. But the alone thing made this trip very different. Thankfully, I had quite a following, a community, watching my progress in realtime on my website where my tracking feed was displayed. I also posted on social media and blogged, so I felt like I was sharing the experience with others. I felt “alone,” but I never felt “lonely.”

Photo courtesy of Brian Threlkeld
OAM: You began Paddle Quest 1500 to inspire an outdoor desire in others after studies confirm both physical and mental health benefits that come by communing with nature. It shouldn't be a tough sell, but it seems like more and more people seek the safety of the great "indoors." What's it take to motivate more folks to get outside?
JC: Yes, you only save what you love, so my lifelong mission has been to get people outdoors to experience the life-enriching experiences and benefits that can only be found outside. When people have these experiences, they care about resource conservation and stewardship for future generations. I have found that if I can inspire people to take those first steps and try something new in the outdoors, they’re likely to get hooked. With this expedition, at age 60, I heard from a surprising number of people of all ages that they were motivated to get outside, even if it was a mild adventure activity near to home. I continue to hear that my story is inspiring and makes people think that they shouldn’t wait; they should get out there too!

Welcome home. Courtesy of John Connelly
OAM: You have paddled around the country, but where can you paddle in your neighborhood?
JC: I live on Maine’s Casco Bay, so I don’t have to go far; just outside the door and launch from the dock. But I also have two whitewater rivers that dump into the tidal waters of Casco Bay; the Royal and Presumpscot Rivers. Both have great playboating features and can be pretty challenging runs with decent flows.

OAM: If you take anyone living or dead on an adventure with you, who would you take and where would you go?
JC: President Teddy Roosevelt, for sure. I would take him back to the Brazilian Amazon, to the River of Doubt, that he pioneered on a dramatic, well-documented expedition. He would be pretty stoked to trade wooden dugout canoes, fairly primitive gear and food challenges for inflatable rafts, state of the art NRS gear and Good To-Go dehydrated gourmet foods. And we would run rapids that he took days to portage around!

OAM: Once again back to the title of your book, "Dying Out Here Is Not An Option." We have to know did you ever come close to dying out there?
JC: There were three times in particular that tested my mettle as a canoeist and kayaker. I found myself using all my years of experience in difficult whitewater and surf to work my way through some treacherous conditions that, all too often, materialized in an instant. I definitely did say out loud to myself on those occasions, “Dying out here is not an option.”

A former member of the US Canoe and Kayak team and leader of LL Bean's Outdoor Discovery School, Connelly now works as an outdoors consultant.
You can get his book Dying Out Here Is Not An Option at his website Paddle Quest 1500 or on Amazon or Kindle.



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Friday, March 1, 2019

SAFETY AND PREPARATION FOR WINTER TO SPRING KAYAKING

Courtesy of The River Store
While watching it rain and snow this winter we can all perceive it's going to be a fantastic spring season for paddling your area rivers and lakes.  Surely the excitement is there. For most of us who have had our boats locked away this past winter, there would be nothing better than grabbing our gear and heading back out on to the water as if nothing had changed since last season.

But with safety being the top concern Dan Crandall owner of Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips wrote on the CA website, "Don't just “Fling” into spring paddling! Think about the important stuff before going? Remember, days are still short, water is cold and the weather is unpredictable! There are also way fewer paddlers and rafters out in the winter to be of help if needed and many new potential hazards to be found."

It's great advice for us all. As Crandal states, "A lot of paddling safely is based in common sense."
Here is a list of Crandall's reminders that you need to take care of before venturing safely out to the water this season.

South Fork of the American River 2017

Two weeks or more before your first outing

  • Check all gaskets and put the dry tops/suits on to make sure they aren’t cracked and ready to rip out. Gaskets tend to last two or three seasons at best and fail when you can least afford it. A failed gasket at the put in or on the run has ruined many a paddling trip! If they are questionable, get em replaced. FYI, The River Store (info@theriverstore.com) offers quick turn around service whenever possible on gasket repairs.
  • Check out your boat for cracks, frogs, or spiders before they surprise you. Tighten all of the bolts, replace missing or worn pieces of your outfitting and make sure your float bags hold air!
  • Stretch your skirt onto the boat and repair any rips or badly frayed areas (check it thoroughly on the inside of the skirt as well!)
  • Get your cold water gear together, with , booties, neo socks, pogies or insulating gloves, skull cap, Capilene and fleece underlayers and spare fleece in your boat
  • Good 1st Aid kit along with firestarter, hand warmers, energy bars, duct tape, space blanket, flashlight and a few thin plastic grocery bags as emergency “socks”, “mittens” or skull caps.
  • Use a “new” Drysuit in a pool or easy water and try swimming in it BEFORE you take an unwanted test on a river. Air and the restrictiveness of a drysuit can really affect your swimming ability if you are not familiar with how to “bleed” the air and with what it feels like to swim in a drysuit.  

Courtesy of Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips

First Tracks

  • Paddle familiar runs first, and a step below what you were paddling at the end of last season.
  • DON’T fall into the common trap of getting a late start- especially on unknown or higher than normal runs. ALWAYS plan in a margin for error. It only takes one unexpected portage or a swim or two by members of the group (or other groups you run into) to throw your timing way off and create a series of new issues and potential risks or epics.
  • Paddle a familiar and comfortable boat the first time or two out. Not the time to jump right into a new boat or a new demo boat! A river running boat with more volume and hull speed will help offset any sluggish timing or lack of practice and conditioning on your part, especially on new, high or faster water runs.
  • Paddle runoff (vs. Dam release) rivers on their way DOWN! Rivers on their way up can be VERY unpredictable in terms of how high the water is or will get, and for the debris and in some cases chemicals or bacteria and sewage they pick up on their way UP! Running rivers on their way up have likely been a prominent factor in more unwanted ramifications or dangerous scenarios for kayakers than any other single element.
  • A breakdown paddle should always be in everyone’s boat, for your use or more likely to save someone else (and their group) a much longer day or a walk out.
  • Check LOCAL weather for the area you‘ll be paddling before you go, since Spring weather can be much different due to microclimates or be spotty and cause things like flooding or snow in one area and nothing an hour away. Bad access roads can sometimes get you on the way OUT even if you were able to get in, so a shovel, chains, plenty of gas are all worth having. Low snow melting into the rivers on a sunny day or dams reaching their spilling point and adding a large surge to the existing flow can be very misleading and really catch you off guard in terms of the unexpected rise of rivers. (Slab Creek Reservoir on The South Fork American is a classic for this and can add thousands of CFS to the flow almost instantly once it spills) .Do your homework and know the dams and diurnal flow timing for the run you’ll be on!
  • Realize that the gauges you are reading on flow sites are not always at the put in where you plan to go, and can over or under-represent the flow you’ll find when you get there (Chamberlains on the North Fork American has a gauge that is miles downstream of the put in for instance). Look at trends on gauges ( rising or falling, etc.).
  • Paddle with people you know and whose skills you are comfortable with on a given run or under expected conditions. Qualify new paddlers to you or your group THOROUGHLY before getting on the river with them. Don’t be afraid to decide not to run if you are not comfortable with the group, or tell someone else you do not think they should be there. Any one person can put all others in a group at risk if they are not prepared. Ask the same questions of others you would ask of yourself: Are they dressed well enough, paddling a familiar boat, been paddling at that level already this year, SOLID roll, etc.?? Have their own throw rope and SWR training so they can rescue YOU if necessary?
  • Consider some Winter or early Spring cross training by getting out surf kayaking or even out on the lake just to work the muscles and conditioning a little. Better yet, get an early lesson with a qualified instructor to help start your year off right and take away a bit of the anxiety associated with first runs out on the year or after a lay-off.
  • Got questions?? Anxiety?? Call up the local shop or instructor who knows you or the local runs and get some more input/advice before you make your decisions. 
"Think of Spring paddling as a new performance," Crandall wrote in conclusion, "You are in with a cast of characters, and that you all need to get your costumes and props ready, and then do a dress rehearsal before you really get to the main show. One person can destroy the whole show if they did not get things ready on their end."


The Atmospheric River Flows Again

Nimbus Dam
Heavy rains from a weather system known as an "atmospheric river" the latest in a series of storms to pound Northern California earlier this week. It caused flooding that inundated a town north of San Francisco, along the Russian River and forced thousands to flee.
As the heavy rains moved in dam operators also have opened their gates to make room for the expected run-off in the days and weeks ahead. Releases at Folsom Dam accompanied by releases at Nimbus Dam downstream have impacted low-lying areas along the American River Parkway with flooding.
Our best advice we can give when it comes to paddling in flood waters is: DON'T! Remember flood waters are just very unpredictable and littered with debris.


Forest Service To Relaunch BWCA Permit System March 4

Just like an overloaded canoe, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area reservation system was swamped with technical glitches causing it to crash when it first went live back on in January. Only a few people were able to reserve permits before the system failed.
Area outfitters warned U.S. Forest Service officials that the crush on the new first-come, first-served reservation system that replaced the lottery system for BWCA permits could overwhelm to its capacity. Permits for an area where motors are allowed are especially coveted.
Officials say the technical issues with the software have been addressed and additional testing has been completed. Permit registration will begin March 4th and may be reserved through September 30th. To make a reservation the new website is recreation.gov.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

LIGHTS, CAMERA, AND RIVER ACTION: Six Hollywood Movies Featuring Action-Packed Whitewater Scenes

Flim makers have had a fascination with using rivers as a location throughout cinematic history. They have woven timeless stories around these waterways that have both enthralled us and haunted us. How can we ever forget such movie classics as The Bridge of the River Kwai, Cape Fear, Apocalypse Now, and A River Runs Through It?
These flowing streams not only serve as daunting obstacles in the struggle between man and nature, but also as stunning backdrops. They showcase our leading star's perilous journey through rough and churning waters on a voyage that will lead them to either triumph or transformation.
Humphrey Bogart, who won his only Oscar for his role in The African Queen, uttered one my favorite river movies lines: "I don't blame you for being scared - not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scared of white water".
But we're glad to be onboard this trip. We have enthusiastically embraced the river, just as Katharine Hepburn's character did when she replied: "I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!"
So as the 91st Academy Awards are quickly approaching, here is a list of my favorites, involving some action-packed whitewater scenes and of course plenty of river time.

The African Queen (1951)
Arguably one of the greatest river movies of all time, as Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, take on the jungle, the rapids, and the German Navy in this classic movie adventure.

Filmed on the Ruiki River, in the heart of the Belgian Congo at Murchison Falls near Lake Victoria in Uganda, just making this movie was a monumental test of endurance for the cast and crew. They endured sickness, spartan living conditions, and even had brushes with wild animals and poisonous snakes while on location.
The African Queen deck was tight and too small to shoot on, given the size of the bulky Technicolor cameras. While on the river, most of the filming had to be done on a sprawling raft mock-up in order to shoot the close-ups. The cumbersome raft (built over three large canoes) would get stuck on submerged logs, while cameras and lights would get caught in the overhanging foliage of the jungle.

"The hysteria of each shot was a nightmare”, wrote Hepburn in her 1987 memoir The Making of The African Queen. “The engine on the Queen would stop. Or one of the propellers would be fouled up by the dragging rope. Or we would be attacked by hornets.”
The scenes considered too dangerous to shoot on the river were shot in studio water tanks in Isleworth Studios, Middlesex.
And in the days before CGI, the dramatic sequence of the African Queen going over a waterfall and through rapids was actually an eight-foot model boat shot through a telephoto lens. Flim makers layered their footage, incorporating the location sequences with the miniature boat careening over a waterfall.


The River of No Return (1954)
Riding the wave of the success of The African Queen, moviegoers returned to theaters to journey downriver again, but this time with blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe rocking the boat.
While trying to start a new life together with his son after being released from prison, Robert Mitchum works his farm along the river, only to have Monroe and her low-life gambler fiance wash up along its shores.

On the run, the gambler knocks out Mitchum, steals his horse and rifle, and leaves the three stranded and surrounded by hostile Indians, with only one escape.
"The Indians call it the River of No Return,"  Mitchum's character says as they head into a series of treacherous rapids.  "From here on, you'll find out why."
Including the raft trip down the river, the film is an action-packed western with mountain lions, gunfights, and Indian attacks, but Monroe is still given time to serenade us with four songs, including the movie's willowy title tune.
Flimed in British Columbia on the Bow River, the production was plagued with problems, with the insistence from the director that the cast would perform many of their own stunts. In one incident, Monroe's hip waders filled with water, dragging her under and nearly drowning her after slipping on a rock in the river. Mitchum and others jumped to her rescue, but her ankle was injured as a result.
Another mishap occurred when Monroe and Mitchum's raft became broached on the rocks in the middle of the river, nearly capsizing before some quick thinking stuntmen saved the day and pulled them off the rocks.
It was much safer but not much drier for them while filming the remaining scenes indoors in Los Angeles. Onboard a hydraulic platform in front of a giant screen, Monroe and Mitchum clung to rafting props, while men stood to the sides and splashed them with buckets of water.

Deliverance (1972)
Even people who have never seen the film have encountered Deliverance's legacy, especially those who are connected to the canoe and kayak community. From bumper stickers and T-shirt reading, ‘Paddle faster, I hear banjos,’ to the hearing the iconic movie line "squeal like a pig,” the will film will forever as cause us to "squirm with angst."


It's a Heart of Darkness-like voyage into the rural backwoods of the south, as four suburban Atlanta men take a weekend canoe trip down the fictional Cahulawassee River in the Georgia Mountain's wilderness. Burt Reynolds' character calls it the “the last wild, untamed, unpolluted, unf*cked-up river in the South." But time is ticking. In a short time the river, the rapids, and even the town will be flooded over with the imminent construction of a dam.
After a bumpy ride through rapids, the light-hearted adventure turns to horror when they encounter a pair of dangerous mountain men. Separated from the others, John Voight's character was tied to a tree and could only watch helplessly as his canoe partner Ned Beatty is violently raped by one of the men. That attack sets off a chilling sequence of events, including a disastrous turn through whitewater that challenges the canoeist's moral codes as they fight to survive.
Flimed on Northern Georgia's Chattooga River, the actors who performed their own stunts spent two weeks learning to canoe the rapids.
"We rehearsed for quite a long period," director John Boorman, told The Guardian in a 2017 interview, "Because we had to get the actors up to scratch in archery and canoeing. I had already been down the Chattooga, a ferocious river, to make sure it was safe."
In the scene where the canoe broke in two (five were actually destroyed during filming), Boorman coordinated a release of water from the upstream Tallulah Falls dam.

"I got them to close all the sluice gates upstream, so only a trickle came down," Boorman recalled in the interview, "That let us build rails on the riverbed, so we could mount the canoe on them, and trigger the breakup later. When we came to shoot, I was down at the bottom of the cataract on the phone to the dam. But I got impatient and got them to open all the gates. We just about survived the avalanche of water."
While Boorman was down below, tough-guy Reynolds (who nixed using a dummy in the shot because the stunt coordinator thought it looked too phony), requested to have the scene re-shot with himself going over the falls instead.
"I dream sometimes of the water coming," years later Reynolds told the Hollywood Reporter, "I looked around and there was a tidal wave coming at me. I went over the falls and the first thing that happened I hit a rock and cracked my tailbone, and to this day it hurts. Then I went down to the water below and it was a whirlpool. I couldn’t get out and a guy there said if you get caught, just go to the bottom. You can get out but you can't swim against it. So I went down to the bottom. What he didn’t tell me was it was going to shoot me up like a torpedo. So I went out."
Years before the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" would become popular, Reynolds would have one while caught in the force of that churning whirlpool.
"They said later that they saw this 30-year-old guy in costume go over the waterfall and then about fifteen minutes later they saw this nude man come out," Reynolds recalled in the interview, "It had torn everything—my boots and everything off."
For more about the movie see Canoe and Kayak Magazine article Summer of Deliverance.

River Wild (1994)
We don't think of Meryl Streep as an action star, but when she says "We're are risking death a number of times on this trip", we know we're in for a wild ride. called the Gauntlet. "It's off the scale," Streep's character says. "One man was killed, and another one paralyzed for life. The Rangers no longer allow anyone to try it."
She stars as a suburban mom and former white-water rafter who, while trying to save her marriage, battles wits with an evil Kevin Bacon and runs a dangerous stretch of river
Many of the movie's whitewater scenes were filmed on Montana's Kootenai River, while other scenes were shot on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, the Colorado River in Utah, and Oregon's Rogue River.
While most of the dangerous river scenes did require expert stunt doubles, Streep did several of her own stunts in the film on some milder river sections, but even those had some peril when the star was swept off the raft into the river.
''Actually, I was really very quiet and not scared, which is not at all how I thought I'd react under these circumstances", Streep told the New York Times in 1994. ''I remember sinking down to the bottom with this powerful and freezing water pulling me in deeper."
Wearing a PFD, she was rescued by a hired kayaker after the river pushed her 500 yards downstream.

The White Mile (1994)
Like The Titanic and A Perfect Storm, we have no doubts about the fate of the rafters. But it's hard to look away as we watch their misguided steps that lead to disaster. In the end, five men are killed, setting up moral crises within their corporate world when the surviving relatives file a liability suit against the firm.

Loosely based on a true story, the movie depicts an advertising agency taking 11 executives rafting on Canada's Chilko River. On a Class V section of the river known as the White Mile, the rafters suffer catastrophe after their raft capsizes, tossing them all into the raging current.
A not-so-nice Alan Alda stars as a hard-charging and unrepentant advertising executive who bullies not only his colleagues and clients into the male-bonding trip, but also the raft guide by piling too many men into the raft.
During filming, however, California's South Fork of the American River (standing in for the Chilko River) dished out more than a few licks on Alda.
In a 1994 interview with St Louis Post-Dispatch, Alda tells how he and co-star Robert Loggia were struggling to stay afloat in the rapids while shooting one of the extremely edgy and authentic whitewater sequences above a big drop in the river.
"We didn't go over, but we came close enough I remember thinking to myself," recalled Alda "When the hell are they going to come out here with one of those kayaks?' Everybody thought the scene was going great and they weren't going to interrupt it. We had gone twice as far they said we would before they stopped us. And we were heading for the waterfall!"

Friday, February 15, 2019

THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS

The usual placid waters of Lake Natoma bolster a fast current now with releases coming down from Folsom Dam.
A Pacific storm system known as the “Pineapple Express” blasted California earlier this week dumping waves of water and snow across the west coast region raising risks of flooding and mudslides.
Drawing its name from a weather phenomenon that periodically heads east in long and narrow bands of water vapor formed over an ocean adjacent to the Hawaiian Islands this past weather system was one of season's strongest in series of storms this winter.

“The (Pineapple) Express is no joke,” Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland told Reuters. "We're talking 3 to 5 inches of rain in San Francisco and coastal areas."
Those torrential rains beginning last Tuesday shattered daily precipitation records in Sacramento and led to flash-flood watches across the region. Water releases from Nimbus and Folsom dams increased as the storm moved through the region.
While at Lake Tahoe a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service in Reno remained in effect for much of the week as some ski resorts on Thursday morning did report over a foot of fresh snow.

The snow is great news for those heading to the Lake Tahoe slopes. The latest in winter storms have increased snow depth at area ski resorts to above-average levels delighting would-be skiers looking for fresh powder. While whitewater kayakers like world-class kayaker Carson Lindsay know that the higher snow means the bigger the water come springtime.
"I’m not only looking forward to some bigger flows in the rivers this spring during the peak runoff but also longer and more sustained flows into the summer as the snow melts!" said Lindsay, "My friends and I have our eyes on some epic whitewater missions and adventures this spring.

The biggest winner however just might be California's water supply which has face uncertainty over the past decade. The snowpack, where the state gets one-third of its water supply, always plays a pivotal role as it slowly melts filling the state's reservoirs, rivers and streams. In wet years, the runoff begins in April and can continue to flow through into August. But in years with less snow accumulation, therefore less precipitation, the runoff can run out as early as May.
The latest statistics from the California Department of Water as of Wednesday, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has an astounding snow water equivalent of 136 percent of historical average for this time of year. That's a big jump from a month ago when the snowpack was at just 69 percent and huge from just last year when it was at only 18 percent of normal.

Californian boaters are cautiously optimistic those numbers will translate into longer high flows and even bigger summer rapids.
"I'm hopeful this year will be better than last. December was drier than normal, but January was above average, so we're off to a good start," said Shingle Springs, Ca., based photographer and paddler Martin Beebee, "I'm looking forward to having more time to run some of the rivers that are really dependent on the winter rain and snow, such as the North Fork American. The more rain and snow."
Lindsay agrees even though he says that typically with these bigger snow packs it makes access difficult in the higher elevations until much later.
"The weather quite a bit nicer and it helps spread out the season a bit more," said Lindsay, "Also, this will help fill the reservoirs so we can have guaranteed world-class commercial rafting 7 days a week."
Although hopeful, Beebee emphasized the uncertainty of the weather and a past history of droughts over several years.
"It's so hard to tell anymore what's going to happen," said Beebee, "Call me a pessimist, but it could just as easily stop raining and snowing after this next storm and leave us high and dry again. 2017 was really an anomaly in the last decade or so when we've mostly been dry"

Landmark Conservation Bill Protects Nearly 620 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers

In a landmark conservation bill, the US Senate earlier this week, passed legislation to protect nearly 620 miles of wild and scenic rivers across seven states from damming and other development. With bipartisan support, the bill is the biggest step forward for Wild and Scenic River designations in nearly a decade.
"The overwhelming local support for these protections are the reason why they are moving through Congress despite the gridlock that usually dominates Congress when it comes to natural resource issues." wrote David Moryc the Senior Director Wild and Scenic Rivers and Public Lands Policy for American Rivers on their website this week.

Some details on the rivers protected compiled by American Rivers:
  • 256 miles of new designations the for tributaries for the Rogue River, the Molalla, and Elk Rivers in Oregon;
  • 110 miles of the Wood-Pawcatuck Rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut;
  • 76 miles of Amargosa River, Deep Creek, Surprise Canyon and other desert streams in California;
  • 63 miles of the Green River in Utah;
  • 62 miles of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook in Connecticut;
  • 52.8 miles of the Nashua, Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Tour boat will change kayaking at Pictured Rocks

 

Courtesy of Moran Iron Works Inc.
Paddling at Lake Superior's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore will get easier for some folks after Moran Iron Works Inc. announced the production of the first-ever kayak launching vessel, designed to take 72 passengers and 36 kayaks. The 64-foot-by-19-foot vessel will be used to take passengers and their kayaks around the Pictured Rocks for guided tours. The custom-designed kayak launch system will be tailored to allow passengers to launch their kayaks offshore once the boat is parked.
Tourism companies on big lakes such as Lake Tahoe will surely take note.


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Friday, February 8, 2019

OVER THE BOW; SOUTH FORK OF AMERICAN, VALENTINE'S DAY EDITION

Photo Courtesy of Julie Mitravich
 Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere. -- The Shape of Water

When we saw Julie Mitravich's wedding photo entitled, "Nothing like getting married in your Pyranha!" on Facebook this past summer, We knew, we wanted to share on Outside Adventure to Max in our Over the Bow series telling the story behind the image. We were hoping to share funny tidbits about being in long term relationships with a paddler, aka, too many boats in the garage, it doesn't matter that it's raining, every day a great day to paddle and the smell of wet neoprene that permeates from the back seat of their car.

But when we reached out to Mitravich, a former employee of Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips,  about sharing the story behind the picture, we received a distinctively different view. She shared her story of two people not only in love but also connected by a strong bond to a sport that brought them together.
We weren't surprised. As Ashley Woodring wrote in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, "This kayaker species certainly has its idiosyncrasies, but what becomes evident very quickly is that they are also some of the most passionate people alive. They have reverent relationships with the natural places on our planet, and that passion for life and nature is only magnified in their relationships with people around them."

So for our Valentine's Day message this year, we are sharing Mitravich's letter as she echoes that same love and passion for her husband, her friends and family and those wild places of the water.

For those who paddle, its a passion beyond simply enjoying the sport. We love to paddle- we always paddle on the weekends, sneak in paddles before and after work, our garages are filled with gear, our cars embody the essence of booties and polypro, and we watch kayaking videos whenever possible. Our friends do the same, and even better, our significant others do as well.

As Ken Kastorff from Endless River Adventures once told my husband "When you meet a girl kayaking on the Grand Canyon, you have already answered the first five questions." I was lucky enough to meet my husband on the Grand Canyon. For those who have been on the canyon, you understand the magic of the canyon.

It changes lives, some more than others, but you definitely never come out the same person. For me, the canyon has always been a treasured place, I believe it is one of the "thin spaces", the veil between heaven and earth.

On my first trip down, everything fell in place and I knew that I wanted to live on the river. After I dropped into Lava Falls and paddled into the eddy to celebrate with the dearest of friends, I had decided to quit my job and move up to Lotus, California. It is that powerful.

A few trips later, I met my husband. In the canyon, you see the real person, how they handle stress and situations, how they act with friends and strangers, how organized they are and how they help out around camp or on the water. Beyond that, the first five questions are answered. We may not all have the same questions but a good guess are that they kayak, they love the outdoors, they enjoy hiking, they have a thirst for adventure and that they can do it all over again for 15 days with the same smile.

People always ask if I knew he was the one or how do you know they are the one. The first part is easy, yes- I knew. The second part is harder to describe but after 15 days there are so many experiences both on and off the water, so many highs and lows, and within all those moments you simply know.

You know how someone handles those highs and lows, how they support you and yet can understand that you may need space. The time spent with each other is invaluable but they also appreciate time learning about others on the trip. It is not about you or the other person, it's about the entire experience that is enhanced by the characteristics of the other person.

Once I knew, there wasn't even a doubt in my mind and I never second-guessed my decision to leave Lotus and move to Virginia. When we were married this year, we did it twice. Once in front of our immediate family, at a place that was special to both of us but more importantly it was a place that signified home for him. A place that he loved, a place where he built his house that looks across the lake at its beauty.

Then we were married at Camp Lotus, back in Lotus, California amongst all of my dearest friends. It gave him the chance to see the place that will always be home for me. He finally learned about the Gorge and Barking Dog- my two absolute favorites. He met my friends and put a face to the story that probably started with "no s**t, there I was ..." 
 
We all paddled together and shared stories for one glorious week. The one thing that he will always remember is that up until a couple hours before the ceremony, we were surfing at Barking Dog.

More importantly that it wasn't even his idea, I had started the day saying- "The water is up (it was No Water Wednesday) and if we get our set up done by 1, we can surf for a few hours!"

Then we were married on the river by one of our best friends, Mary DeRiemer. 
It had a perfect start when few kayakers were behind us in the eddy practicing a roll, we all paused and watched, mumbled about his head coming up too quick, then after the second attempt we all cheered his success. 
Mary spoke about the importance of each individual in the marriage, never overshadowing the other person but a continued appreciation for who they are. At that same time, all of the paddling couples that were there looked at each other and smiled.

We all have our stories, each of them beautiful, weaving together another river, a river that it is sacred to all of us and brings us all together for the rest of our lives.  
                                                                                                     Julie Mitravich

Disclaimer - Photoshoot only, no whitewater involved, flat water only with safety team and equipment inside the boat.

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, February 1, 2019

PADDLING THE DELTA

Photos Courtesy of Kathy Bunton

By Outside Adventure to the Max Guest Blogger Kathy Bunton


What makes paddling the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, AKA the California Delta, so special?
I'll try my best to answer that question in hopes you'll take it upon yourself to come and experience it on your own or with myself on a guided tour.

I'll begin with a little background information. The California Delta is unique in that it is an inland inverted delta. What that means is that it's not your typical delta where a single source of water flows to or through a narrow opening and then fans out depositing sediment. Our California Delta is fed by many rivers and streams and encompasses an area from Sacramento to the north, Tracy to the South and Stockton to the east. All waters come together at the Carquinez Strait where it continues to the San Francisco Bay and out the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean.

The California Delta is the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. It encompasses an area of over 1100 square miles which include over 50 major islands and hundreds of smaller ones. There are endless paddling opportunities whether kayaking, paddleboarding or canoeing. One thing I love about the Delta is that every day it's different. You can paddle the same spot every day of the year and you'll experience a difference in how it looks and feels each day. You'll have diverse animal encounters whether it's viewing countless species of waterfowl or a chance meeting with a family of river otters, the Delta never disappoints.  Viewing wildlife from a kayak is a unique experience. You become part of the river as there is no way to get closer to the water unless you swim. Your soundless movement over the surface of the water allows you to get a glimpse of the wild as it truly is. It's an amazing experience to feel solace and tranquility while being surrounded by nearly 7 million people in the Bay Area.

With so many paddling options where do you start? Because I am completely biased, I'd suggest Antioch. With Antioch being a designated San Francisco Bay Water Trail site it makes launching a breeze with the kayak launches available at the Antioch Marina. If you don't have your own kayak you can always rent from Delta Kayak Adventures where I will offer suggestions and tips based on weather and tides for the best possible experience. You can search my blog here for trips I've posted on paddling from Antioch. I will continue to add trips as time goes on. Beginning your trip from an SF Bay Water Trail site is a great choice because that site has been determined to be human powered craft friendly.


There are currently 4 SF Bay Water Trail designated sites within the "legal" delta with more additions planned. They include Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley, the Antioch Marina, Pittburg Marina and Riverview Park in Pittsburg, though Riverview is more practical for kiteboarders. There are also 2 sites in Suisun, not considered to be a part of the legal delta but another beautiful area to explore. My hope is that someday the SF Bay Water Trail will link to the Great Delta Trail which is in its planning stages.

Another reason the California Delta is such a special place to paddle is that it can be paddled year round. With proper gear and attire, you can enjoy a cool winter paddle and view migratory birds visiting our area. When the summer winds pick up, you can surf the swells on the San Joaquin or find secluded islands and smaller sloughs to explore that are protected from the wind. In spring you can see hundreds of egrets and heron raising their young. Fall brings new winged visitors to our Delta and is my favorite time of year to paddle.

The Delta is an exceptional place to fish. Kayak fishing is another way to enjoy time on the water. You can fish for Salmon during the fall, black bass, striped bass, bluegill and crappie year round. If you want a sleigh ride you can try your luck at targeting sturgeon. The Delta is known as a world-class fishery with many tournaments and festivals throughout the year. Delta Kayak Adventures offers guided fishing tours or fishing kayak rentals throughout the region.

Delta Kayak Adventures is a Mom owned small business. My children are often at my side ensuring our client's safety on the water. We offer kayak and paddleboard rentals, guided tours, classes and use high-quality equipment to ensure a good time on the water. Our classes include an Intro to Kayaking or Paddleboarding 2-hour class to get the basics and safety down and to give you the chance to see if kayaking or paddleboarding is a sport you want to pursue. We also offer more in-depth sea kayaking classes that are a full day of learning and having fun on the water. Rescue classes are offered to ensure you can safely re-enter your kayak in real-world conditions. We offer private group tours throughout the Delta region and discounted trips for veterans and their family. Rentals are available from the Antioch Marina 7 days a week and you can choose to rent for an hour, half day or full day.

I invite you to come and explore the Delta with me. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Kathy Bunton is the owner and operator of Delta Kayak Adventures based in Antioch, California.  You can keep up with Bunton in her blog Kayaking in the California Delta.  

Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at Nickayak@gmail.com, if you are interested.

 

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