Friday, February 27, 2015

Get ready kayakers, bouquets are on the way

No lupine just yet, but a beautiful day to paddle the American River North Fork
How to improve a kayaking trip on a gorgeous spring day? Throw in a football-field-sized bouquet of wildflowers. Northern California paddlers can find some of the best floral displays anywhere in the nation, from poppies to paintbrush and irises to Crimson Columbine.
A preview of things to come (photo from last season)
The trick is to figure out when blooms will go boom. And in an unusually warm, dry year such as this one, the color show may fizzle quickly. So get ready -- rain showers across parts of the North State this weekend could signal the beginning of a brief wildflower season. 

The only way to know for sure is to make some calls or just go -- see tips below.

A paddle up the North Fork of the American River at Rattlesnake Bar last week found none of the lush fields of lupine that carpeted the area last season. But the water level has been rising nicely, so it was a good time to do some reconnaissance. Plus,  spring-like temps and sunny skies made for a pleasant paddle and a chance to work off that "spare tire" around the cockpit. But unless you want a real workout getting to the Rattlesnake Bar launch, bring a kayak cart. Details in the NorCalYak post linked above.) 

Early season paddle helps remove that "spare tire"
Here are some more tips and links to finding wildflowers at or near the waterline, beginning with Jenkinson Lake in the Sierra foothills and some other prime spots. Of course, it helps to know just what you're looking at -- here's one guide to flora

And if the trip is going to involve a long drive to a state park, you may want to do a bit of research and call ahead. Or check reports by nonprofit groups such as Park Watch. That helpful site also noted recent mountain lion sightings not far from Rattlesnake Bar. Think I'll leave Fifi at home when I go back for the flower show.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kayaking paradise found, then nearly lost to fire


Before the fire, a typical view of Slab Creek Reservoir along the south shoreline
There are many kayaking venues in Northern California with spectacular scenery, but perhaps only one where the view floats back and forth in time, right before a paddler's eyes. That would be Slab Creek Reservoir, near the El Dorado County town of Camino.

Slab Creek paddlers follow a green shoreline of timber that's stood untouched for perhaps a century. But only a few yards away on the opposite shore, deep scars run down the mountainside from an epic forest fire that scorched the Sierra just this fall.  It's a before-and-after panorama that is both incredible and unsettling.

After the fire, a swath of Slab Creek forestland burned on the north side (photo courtesy Paul K. Redd)
Today, the north side of Slab Creek offers glimpses of the devastating King Fire that destroyed thousands of acres of El Dorado National Forest. On the south side of this thin

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hands down, the most amazing kayak trend yet


Look for something unusual here -- and it's not that orange is the new black (photo by Cate Hawthorne)
Kayakers generally fall into two camps when it comes to paddles. There are European paddles (as shown in the blog title photo above), and there are Greenland paddles (below). It’s sort of like Microsoft and Apple – they do the same thing but have basic philosophical differences on how to make it happen. Paddlers may claim one is superior to the other. Until now.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sea otters, paddlers, PBS find a special environment

Sea otter dines casually in the surf off a Monterey beach
One of the best things about paddling is that it brings us closer to nature. Out on the water, we become part of our surroundings in a quiet, unobtrusive and personal way. Kayaks are an ideal vehicle for exploring a wild world that can’t be fully appreciated from shore. 

So it was with my very first kayaking experience six years ago, on Monterey Bay. Just floundering around in a rental sit-on-top when a sea otter nonchalantly paddled right by. Thick fur, expressive eyes, whiskers, playful personality – the whole animal kingdom package.