Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

First off, Merry Christmas to all. I hope everyone out there is having a great time with friends and loved ones, and that Santa is leaving plenty of paddling gear to be used in the new year. I love this time of year for many reasons, but since this is a paddling blog I'll stick the things relevant to kayaking.

I hate winter. I hate being cold. I don't like the rain (paddling in it is fine, but changing out of paddling gear in a muddy parking lot is no fun). Most of all, I don't like the short days and early darkness. I don't let is stop me from kayaking, but it makes it harder to enjoy all the things I like. I like to be outside, to be able to work and walk without getting soaked. I like to sit around a river after a paddle, enjoying a warm evening and beautiful sunset. To cruise on cool water as the sun scorches down. I enjoy summer.

December is the start of winter - so why do I like this time of year? The solstice has just passed. That means the days are getting longer. I know that winter has plenty left. January and February are the coldest, March the rainiest. But just knowing that sunset will arrive later and later makes me happy. Makes me hopeful that spring will arrive soon and summer will follow. And much paddling will ensue.

Monday, December 17, 2012

of the class II variety

It's interesting how many of us paddlers will travel far and wide to explore new waters. We'll drive hours to get on a new river or explore a new piece of coast. We'll plan vacations to go to remote places, using days of precious vacation time just to get someplace that isn't all that different from our backyard. It's so easy to overlook what we have around us.

Confluence Put-In
I live right by the American River, downstream a short ways from where the North, Middle, and South forks come together into Folsom lake. I don't paddle Folsom lake often - too many powerboats in the summer, more 'interesting' places to go in the winter - and I mostly just paddle the South Fork when teaching. I've never paddled on the Middle Fork, and haven't done anything on the North Fork in the past couple years.

This past weekend I got on two new stretches of the North Fork. They were both class II so the paddling wasn't the real attraction. I got to take a new boater down - one who lives in the area and wanted to experience the beauty of her local river. I got to enjoy something new and different a half hour from my house. And I got to enjoy that beauty as well.

Shirttail Put-In
The confluence run starts where the Middle and North forks meet and continues to Folsom Lake. It covers the location of the no-longer-planned Auburn dam and has some class II-III rapids and nice scenery. The next day we did the Shirttail run which ends at Lake Clementine (just above the confluence). I'd done the top part of it before but never paddled all the way to the lake. The scenery is even better here, the same look and feel as the class IV Chamberlain Falls run right above it.

While I doubt I'll be doing either run very frequently, I feel better knowing my backyard a little better and appreciating what it has to offer. I'll continue to travel to find new and interesting places to paddle, but I'll try to remember that I have it pretty good right where I am, and the lack of time or money to travel around the globe is no excuse not to get out there and enjoy yourself.

Sorry for the lack of photos and video - it was cold and rainy and very short days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The joy of knowledge and skill

I went for a nice little paddle on San Francisco Bay the other day. Launched from Horseshoe Cove, went out to Angel Island, circumnavigated, then back to the start. Very pleasant paddle with nice weather and nice views. Thing is, the tides/currents were completely unfavorable.

We launched as the ebb was staring. That means Angel Island is directly upstream. Most people plan their trips trying to use the tidal currents to their advantage. That's a good idea and I use it often. But sometimes I have a free day and want to take a friend to the island and the moon and stars (literally) don't align. I don't like letting such pesky things like heavenly bodies limit my fun, so I do what I want anyway.

If you don't want to be at the mercy of the elements you have to understand how things work and have the skill to work around them. We couldn't paddle direct to Angel Island, but instead we ducked into Richardson Bay where the current is minimal and worked our way up to Belvedere Pt. Then we ferried across Racoon Strait. This takes some harder paddling to overcome the current, and the water can get rough because of the shelf the water flows over, but we had the speed and skill to handle the conditions. We worked our way around the island by hugging the shore as tight as possible, often get a boost from the eddy current as the main current flowed past us just a few feet away. We even went in the worst direction which meant we had to fight the current longer (but arrived at the desired lunch spot right on time).

The point is, if you don't really understand how currents work, if you don't understand eddies and ferry angles, if you can't handle rough water or paddle hard for short distances, then your options are limited. If you stay within those limits you can have a great time. That's great. If you expand your knowledge and work on your skills, your limits will grow with you. Don't we all like more options? I know I do.

And yes, the rumor is true, I used a Greenland stick for part of the paddle. Wasn't the first time and won't be the last.