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)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Everything you need to know about kayaking -- not

Hundreds of kayaking blogs and Web sites...

A textbook example of  NorCal Yak's First Law
…offer useful instructions and insights to help paddlers hone their skills. This particular post is not among them. Instead, as we launch another prime paddling season, a few random thoughts, serious and otherwise.  Here goes: 

1.  NorCal Yak's First Law states that you know your limit just as soon as you've paddled past it. This applies on and off the water, from sandbars to dive bars and everything in between. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say. Bull hockey – it just makes you lucky for once. That's why you should never exceed your personal speed limit in the thought process, even if that keeps you in the slow lane most of the time. 

2.  If you are about to land your kayak at a spot crowded with other paddlers, or if people are just sitting around on a beach, rest for a moment some distance out. You may feel ready to die from a long, hard, painful paddle, but never show it. Catch your breath, wipe

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.