Sunday, March 10, 2019

Water's high, and so are kayaking hazards

Cosumnes Fire Department crew practicing rough water rescues on Lower American River (2017)

Many Northern California paddlers are dusting off their boats.... 

 ….but before that first launch of the season,  it’s time to review a safety check list. Especially since Northern Californian waters will be running extra high, fast and cold this spring. Long-time kayaking instructor Dan Crandall recently posted a comprehensive list of tips on his River Store web site.  While that post may be primarily  oriented toward the white-water crowd, it’s worth a read by flatwater kayakers, too.  Also check out this 2017 NorCal Yak post on high-water paddling with photos, videos, and some incidents that reinforce the need for extra safety this time of year. 

©  2019 Glenn Brank 

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.