Thursday, May 11, 2017

Don’t allow a rattle to disrupt your next paddle

Snakes have gotten a bad rap since that incident in Eden...

At the aptly-named Rattlesnake Bar near Folsom Lake (2015)
….and there are already a number of rattlesnake bite stories around Northern California this year. Kayakers need to stay alert whenever they launch or land in areas with brush, rocks or near downed timber, since that’s prime snake habitat.

But the rap on rattlers is unfair. An increase in snake sightings and incidents this spring may be traced to unusually wet conditions that have prompted an explosion in the rodent population. Rattlers and other snakes are great rodent predators. Since rodents are a prime carrier for ticks (Lyme disease) the Hantavirus and other risks to human health, snakes are beneficial.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring fever? Paddling offers blooms, butterflies

Scotch broom and waterfall across the channel from Rattlesnake Bar

“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is….” 

…wrote Mark Twain.  “And when you've got it, you want – oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

Lupine on the shoreline
Well, Mr. Clemens, a kayak tour of spring wildflowers will ease that fever quite nicely, as a group from the Sacramento Sea Kayakers club discovered while paddling toward the North Fork of the American River last weekend.

For me, the high point came at lunch  – my fave time of any paddle day – about midway into an eight-mile round trip. 

Landing below a sandy bank, our group suddenly faced a quiet riot of pipevine butterflies erupting from clumps of vetch on the hillside. Black wings fluttered wildly amid deep purple blooms – a “wow” spring visual, for sure.
Pipevine mob scene in the purple vetch 

We launched from Folsom Lake’s Rattlesnake Bar. Spring runoff has raised the water level, prompting park rangers to open the launch gates and allow vehicle access down a steep ramp to a floating dock.

Heading upstream, we passed small waterfalls framed by granite and greenery. Yellow splashes of scotch broom decorated some hillsides, with carpets of lupine elsewhere. And ubiquitous California poppies shared the slopes with stone wall jigsaw patterns that have defied gravity for more than 100 years.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Kayaking danger rises with storm-fed rivers

Floodwater rescue drill from Glenn Brank on Vimeo.

When it rains it pours, and when it pours, kayakers should think....

...long and hard before launching into storm-fed water. A few days before Christmas, a couple of Folsom paddlers launched their 10-foot recreational kayaks on Lake Natoma, just above the bridges and in the narrows that channel water releases from Folsom Lake.

The current was running close to 20,000 cubic feet per second – approximately the speed and power of your average freight train.

One of the paddlers wore his smartphone in a waterproof case around his neck. Its video

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Practical New Year resolutions for a kayaker

2016 draws to a close on the water
They tell us that the most successful New Year’s resolutions involve a small number of attainable goals – so here’s my kayaking resolution list, as simple as one-two-three:

1. Play it safe. Remember that every mistake can be a learning experience except for the final one, because that one is fatal by definition. Think about safety before a trip begins, checking weather, currents and tides; as well as tying the kayak atop a vehicle, and then launching with the appropriate gear and clothing.

2. Take out the garbage. Take a few seconds to remove a can or bottle floating nearby, or pick up a piece of garbage someone left at the shoreline.

3. Support the cause. Join or renew membership in local kayak clubs and non-profit groups that defend clean water and our rights to enjoy it. Now, more than ever, kayakers need to help protect our environment.

Happy New Year from NorCal Yak.