Saturday, January 13, 2018

From trickle to torrent in minutes -- a paddler's tale

Testing the new spillway at Folsom Dam (Youtube photo from late 2017)

It began like another uneventful winter day on tranquil Lake Natoma…. 

Karen paddling into "big pipe" on a typically calm day (2009)
….as we pushed off from Nimbus Flats on Friday (1/12) and paddled into “the big pipe” just across the lake. Of course, we had no idea that the new spillway at Folsom Dam, about seven miles upstream, had opened minutes earlier.  The outflow shot from around  2,000 cubic feet per second to more than 14,500 cfs – and was coming straight toward us.  

To put it another way, that was about 6.5 million gallons a minute -- enough to fill about ten Olympic-sized swimming pools. A significant amount of water, even in a bathtub

Monday, September 25, 2017

I've seen the Golden Gate from both sides now

Before a paddle under the fog-draped icon of San Francisco Bay…

 …our leader asked, “What are your goals today?” An easy one for me: “I want to paddle out the Gate – and I would prefer to come back.” As it turned out, that would be the right goal for a kayaker who ended the day feeling nearly as time-worn as the span that symbolizes San Francisco.

Thousands of kayakers have paddled under the Gate, and they’ve done it many thousands of times. I bet all of them remember their first trip. For me, the allure had little to do with kayaking and everything to do with another trip under the Gate in 1943.

It was a clear night. A troop transport ship chugged out of the Bay carrying hundreds of  soldiers. Including a 19-year-old, Blue Ridge Mountain farm boy. He had never traveled 

A paddler's wish comes true: "...and I would prefer to come back"
more than ten miles from home before he volunteered for the Army. Below decks, the heat from jammed bodies was so stifling that men were allowed to sleep on deck.

“I could see all the stars in the sky – and then suddenly it all went dark as we passed under the Golden Gate,” Dad recalled years later, awe still in his voice. My own Gate voyage began with those nostalgic thoughts and ended very much in the present. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

All you need to know about kayaking (part 2)

Second in a one-part series that pretends to be….

…the last word on paddling tips. And it would be if you drown, God forbid. So start by wearing a PFD whenever and wherever you go kayaking. Recently, I encountered a nice  
Paddling on July 4th or any summer weekend: Hit the water early, get off early 
fellow at the Russian River estuary at Jenner, in Sonoma County. He was about to launch a large, fairly stable sit-on-top kayak. It was a mild, warm day, especially by North Coast standards, with barely a breeze. He asked, “Do I really need to wear this life jacket?” I paused and silently thanked the Water Gods for endorsing NorCal Yak’s Third Law, which states: