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: 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Yosemite waterworks on full blast this season, but...

The Swinging Bridge, mid-May 2015; now barely above the river. Below, a recent photo just downstream 

...it's a case of too much of a good thing for kayaking, rafting... 

The most spectacular spring runoff in decades is rushing through Yosemite National Park. Unfortunately, it's so good that the section of  the Merced River in the heart of the valley is off-limits to paddlers, as levels are dangerously close to bridge abutments.

 Yosemite observers predict that river-running might be delayed as late as August. But if my paddle in 2015 was any indication, it may be worth the wait. (The Merced recently has run over 5,000 cubic feet per second through the valley. At the same time in 2015, it was in the 400-600 cfs range.)

 …and too much for a bear in high, fast water (video)