Friday, December 25, 2009

Kayak adventures in your easy chair

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(Find more "armchair" links in the right-hand column of this blog.)

Maybe it’s that skim of ice at the shore. Or the bluish tinge on numb fingers and nose. Whatever, a winter day will finally arrive when it’s just too yucky to go kayaking. How to get a paddling fix? Just cozy up by the warm glow from your fireplace or computer monitor.

For the traditional fireside reader, I have two favorite books at the moment.

The first is Paddling Northern California by Charlie Pike. This is an info-rich yet readable guide to 65 kayaking destinations. I’ve owned a copy for a year and I’m still discovering details missed in previous readings. The 280 pages of text includes maps, photos, appendices (tides and storms, river/park addresses and phone numbers, reading references, and paddling organizations), and a lot more. As a writer, I kept thinking, “Geez, how long did it take him to pull all this together?” The author's approach is straight-forward and he has a sharp eye for useful details. If you’re a Northern California kayaker, buy this book!

The second book is a National Outdoor Book Award winner, the Guide to Sea Kayaking Central & Northern California by Roger Schumann and Jan Shriner. It’s 222 pages and covers 40 coastal paddle trips. I recently bought this one and plan to use it extensively in the coming year. While a bit less detailed than Pike’s book, I like the reader-friendly style and features such as “where to eat and where to stay.” (For me, good dining and a comfortable bed are essential when it comes to enjoying the outdoors.) The text is well-organized and the maps look easy to follow.

Both guides are in paperback. My suggestion is to photo copy only the pages needed at the moment and take them along in a zip-lock baggie. I've lost count of the times that I've been out on the water and wished I'd taken some reference along.

No fireplace? No problem – assuming you’ve got a high-speed internet connection. Here are a few online videos that have revived my paddling mojo on dreary days:

One features the lower American River as it runs through Sacramento. This is one of the most professional locally-produced online videos I’ve seen. The eight-minute segment features Sam Stanton, a Sacramento Bee reporter and avid river paddler. It’s a very nice audio/visual ride, so if you haven’t done the American yet, this video provides the proper incentive. (Also see NorCal Yak’s post on a shorter paddle of the river.)

On a more adventurous note, try the whitewater video down the Middle Fork of the Feather River with Bryant Burkhardt, a veteran kayak instructor in Northern California. This nine-minute YouTube segment features some stunts that I never hope to do. My rule of thumb is that when standard gear includes a crash helmet, I’d rather observe from a safe distance – say, at my computer. But it sure is fun to watch, and features very good production standards, especially considering the rugged conditions.

(Burkhardt also runs Paddling California, an excellent blog with lots of kayaking video from Northern and Southern California spots.)

The last video that’s recently grabbed me is a nine-plus minute on-the-water video around and under the Golden Gate Bridge. While I was unable to identify the camera-toting paddler, I want to thank you, whoever you are. Because I will definitely be prepared when I go on this kayaking adventure – wetsuit, splash jacket, and lots of Dramamine! I got a bit queasy just watching this video, yet it was strangely compelling. Usually, I don’t enjoy the music that people choose for their videos, but on this one, it just seemed right.

Got a favorite kayaking book, Web site or paddling video from Northern California? Share it with NorCal Yak! I’m working a list of links to post on this blog, and your suggestions are welcome.