Monday, January 27, 2014

Endless summer, frozen mist launch kayak season

Strings of natural "pearls" -- ice drops -- drape the shore of the Albion River

This seems to be a year of endless summer in Northern California. Perfect for kayakers, except the paddling recipe always includes the phrase, “add water.” So NorCal Yak will be dishing up more kayaking venues to counter this infernal drought.
Mendocino County fits the bill. Although earlier this month, a trip up the Albion River produced some weird weather of its own. Highs were in the mid-60s for several days, so we dressed for an unseasonably warm day on the water. But the farther upriver we paddled, the more the air temperature began to fluctuate. 

Under bright sunlight, the river was as cozy as a country kitchen. But when we slipped into the mountain shadows, it became more like paddling into a meat locker. Felt like a 20-degree swing, almost instantly. My toes went numb from icy water beneath the hull.
A strange white smoke boiled up into the sunlight 
Then we spotted something most peculiar – white plastic bags littered the darkly shaded shoreline ahead, and low smoke blew over them. Or so it seemed.

Frost piled like snow in the shadows
We paddled up to the scene and found large clumps of heavy frost deep in the shadows untouched by winter sun. But where the sun did find its way, mist began to boil off the ground. Then the mist floated back into the shadows and promptly froze once again – coating bushes, branches and even cobwebs with millions of tiny, glistening ice-drops, like fine pearls.
This phenomenon is called rime ice – essentially frozen fog. I've seen it in the Blue Ridge Mountains so thick that it could snap tree branches like twigs. Very unusual, but weather-wise, it seems that anything goes this year, so be prepared. Like, always carry extra warm socks, even when it's supposed to be an endless summer. Those toes still feel cold. 

Launch lines

Assuming mild weather conditions, the North Coast provides great off-season  kayaking. Here’s more info on the Albion River.

Cold weather kayaking can be tough on more than your toes. Here are some safety tips for those winter paddles.  

© 2014 Glenn Brank