Thursday, December 30, 2010

Return to Rancheria Creek

When we returned home from Christmas with the family, our voicemail and email were full of messages from our whitewater paddling buddies. Rainfall Christmas day had all of our Mendocino County rivers flowing. Many were too flooded for fun whitewater but ahhhhh - our closest whitewater river run - Rancheria Creek was running at a playful level.

Nick, Chuck, Jeff and myself set out for a rainy day of play on Rancheria Creek.It was starting to rain and the forecast was for several inches of rain (enough to flood the river and to close the road), but time was on our side.

Last year, we ran Rancheria Creek numerous times for fun and then as research for an article for California Kayaker ( Winter 2010 Issue).

Approximately 500 cfs was a mellow flow with lots of fun eddies to catch and waves to surf. Steady rain kept the flow increasing. Glacial green water, mossy banks, wood ducks, herons, and dippers oooed and ahhhhed us as we played down the river. We saw 3 common mergansers and wondered if they were the same 3 that escorted us last year.

Horse Creek is always a beautiful spot to admire. Today, Jeff and Chuck had other ideas for the waterfall drop. Nick and I of course were up for the entertainment and to be team photographers.

First decent? Nick says that he has run Rancheria hundreds of times with many boaters commenting on running the Horse Creek waterfall but no one to his knowledge has.

As we paddled the rest of the river, I recalled our paddles from last year and tried to determine which was my favorite stretch. Running "The Ledge" and using it as a lunch/surf play spot is definitely a highlight as are some long class 2 rapids. However, I have decided that the aura of the creek - its mossy rocks, redwood lined gorges, and riparian/woodland wildlife are the highlight.

I wish (like most others who have run Rancheria Creek) that there was an earlier take-out option. Rancheria Creek loses its whitewater character and scenic appeal after it is joined by Indian Creek and becomes the Navarro River.

Today, we put a stick at the takeout at Hendy Woods to see how much the river rose while we paddled in the rain. It rose several inches during our paddle; however, over night it rose from 500 to 4,000 cfs which is a lot of water on a creek.

We have been having fun creating photo slideshows with captions. Here's a link to our December 2010 Rancheria Creek Slideshow.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Paddling Candy Cane Lane

Arriving home after some pre-holiday travels, we were anxious for some boating close to home. We decided on an exploratory paddle of the South Fork of the Noyo River - a class 1 tributary of Fort Bragg's Noyo River.

We have heard nightmare stories from locals trying to run the Noyo's South Fork at flood stage. Our plan for the trip was to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. Being in a wooded area, log strainers are inevitable hazards so we chose a flow that would be high enough to float us down the river but mellow enough for us to limbo under logs and easily get in and out when necessary to portage obstacles.

Our journey entailed approximately 4 miles of paddling (and portaging) on the South Fork of the Noyo River followed by 4 miles down the Noyo River to our shop at Dolphin Isle Marina.

The trip met our expectations lots of log strainers and great scenery and wildlife watching. We limboed 12 logs and portaged numerous times.

Our favorite sitings of the trip were 6 Coho Salmon and numerous American Dippers. We came across a couple of the Department of Fish and Game surveyors wading the river and counting salmon. Talking to them, we discovered that the candy cane striped ribbons that we were seeing along the river were their markings of Coho Salmon sitings.

In addition to enjoying the scenery and wildlife, we realized that the run was a good preparation for our upcoming swiftwater safety class for the local fish surveyors.

Check out our photo gallery for an entertaining photo slideshow of our adventure.

Friday, November 26, 2010

November Notions

Kayaking is our business but also our passion. We are feel very blessed to be able to do what we love professionally and to share our joy with others.

November is an interesting month for us in our business. The days are much shorter, and we are starting to see the first of our rain. We enjoy a slow-down in the daily hustle and bustle of the tourism part of business and use this time to review our business plan and plan for the upcoming year. It is also a good time for some professional development and some time away.

With our whitewater river season approaching, we felt it was time for a refresher on swift-water rescue. So we combined a little time away with swift-water rescue training on the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry. We enjoyed the geology and poking around the historical landmarks from the California's Gold Rush. Not to mention, the fall weather was gorgeous and seeing the salmon laying eggs in the river was very exciting. Still can't believe that we didn't take any pictures.

The swift-water rescue training that we did was taught by Julie Munger of Sierra Rescue. It was a very physical and intense 2 days of training with simulated rescue scenarios. Julie's breadth of knowledge and experience was invaluable as she taught us the skills that we would need as boaters in rescue situations. The number one key though is PREVENTION. Through the class I gained a new appreciation for swimming on the river. Prior to the class, I had developed my swimming skills on the river out of necessity for when I swam out of my boat (grrrrr - which was too many times last season). My perspective has changed and I see the value and potential fun of swimming in the river. I do foresee some river board play in our future as well.

Developing our 2011 calendar has been super fun and exciting - of course- we are creating a calendar of funness for ourselves and others. But lots of time in the office on the computer isn't our favorite. Fortunately mushroom season is upon us so we have been motivated to get our tasks done so that we can get out into the forest in search of treasures - boletes, chantrelles, candy caps . . . YUM!!!

Speaking of mushrooms, it was an honor to have our Mushroom Paddles featured in the November Issue of Sunset Magazine. So I guess our foraging in the forest falls into the professional development and training category. It is really awesome to be able to do what you love.

Thanks to all of our friends, family, and customers for sharing the magic with us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Whitewater Run on the Trinity River

After a 5 month hiatus from whitewater river kayaking, we closed Liquid Fusion Kayaking for a couple of days of "professional development."
We were heading north to attend the Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium (TAKS) in Trinidad and managed to sneak away from the coast for a couple of days to go to the Trinity River. The flow was holding consistently at 575 cfs so we did " The Slot" run which is a Class III run from just below Pigeon Point to Big Flat.

This was our first run on the Trinity and we were stoked to have a local paddler share the run with us.

Our whitewater kayaks felt comfortable and seemed happy to be getting onto the water. The water temperature was very cold but the fall air was warm, and we rolled frequently (some of us not necessarily on purpose) to cool off.

One of the highlights of the run was seeing a steelhead launch itself up the Hell Hole Rapid. He didn't make it but it was a spectacular display of this mighty fish and his efforts to reach his spawning ground. Too bad we didn't get a photo of it but this is a photo of the rapid that he was trying to go up.

We also enjoyed seeing a bald eagle as that is not a regular sighting for us on the Mendocino Coast.

The run was just beautiful. Fall colors, the whitewater rapids, and surrounding scenery made for some beautiful photos and ahhhhhh moments.

Many ahhhh moments occurred on the river as well as we worked the rust out of our whitewater kayaking skills. I am working on the timing and coordination of my boof stroke.

Jeff took most of the photos and videos of the run as we only had one camera with us and he is much more competent at paddling and shooting on the river. Does anyone know the name of this plant?

Our time on the river went by much too fast, and we are longing for more whitewater river kayaking. We were delighted to return to home to the Mendocino Coast with rain in the long range forecast.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium

Last weekend, we journeyed off the Mendocino Coast with our sea kayaks and greenland paddles and headed to Trinidad, California for the Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium (TAKS). Beautiful weather, calm wind and ocean conditions, and an eclectic gathering of sea kayakers interested in traditional kayaking made for a fun weekend.

The ocean was very calm and allowed for mellow paddling around and between the rocks of Trinidad Bay.

We fit 9 kayaks in this particular slot. Bob in his beautiful stitch and glue wooden kayak was very happy to have my plastic Avocet as a buffer between his boat and the rocks.

A pair of harlequin ducks added to the color of the weekend.

John Peterson of Shaman Kayaks organized the event. His kayaks are truely works of art. It was fun to see several of them on the water this weekend.

Greenland skill demonstrations included rolling and bracing. Jeff and I thought that the resting brace position looked great for an on water nap.

Wolfgang Brinck paddles over in an Aleutian Kayak sporting an Aleutian hat. Wolfgang is the author of The Aleutian Kayak and teaches skin on frame kayak building in the San Franscisco Bay area.

Despite the roll or drown motto of paddlers dedicated to greenland paddling techniques, Dan and Andrew demonstrate a rescue and recovery of a swamped boat.

Our friend John Henry observes the lunch break from the deck of Jeff's kayak before going back into his drybag.

We paddled around Trinidad Head - home of the Smack Wall. We paused for a couple of rides on the refractive waves that come off of the Smack Wall. Here's a link to Ralph Johnson's video of Tony's wild ride on the Smack Wall.

Cheri Perry and Turner of Kayak Ways and Jeff of Liquid Fusion Kayaking held a surf zone training and practice session at college beach. Here is Marcella of the local kayak club Explore North Coast catching a wave.

Admiring the handmade kayaks and listening to presentations on the history of kayaking and kayak designs provided much food for thought over the weekend. Here is a photo of Andrew paddling a baidarka into the surf zone. Much debate ensued over the weekend of the unique bow design of the Aleutian kayaks. Any ideas?

I left my skin on frame kayak at home. It would have been fun to have in the surf zone and rock garden and definitely would have been an object of curiosity and critique as it is not a long pointy greenland kayak.

Monday, September 27, 2010

California Coastal Cleanup Day 2010

The sun was shining on us as we joined forces with the Lost Coast Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association to clean up Fort Bragg's Noyo River. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day.

Of course being water folks, we kayaked and rowed to locations to retrieve trash and retrieved quite a bit (over 800 pounds).

It is amazing how many little plastic wrappers accumulate in our our waters - ziplocs, chip bags, and wrapper from candy. Thanks to Jim and Jim for their efforts in collecting those annoying little bits of trash.

Lin donned some gloves and waded in to retrieve a toilet that someone had dumped into the river.

Jeff turned one our our recreational tandem kayaks into a garbage barge, and Stan and Selby towed an old rowboat garbage boat as well.

Speaking of towing . . . we have another story to share from the day. Stay tuned for the Towing of the Vrrroooom, Vrrroooom.

Friday, September 17, 2010

End of a Foggy Mendocino Summer

Fall is almost upon us on the Mendocino Coast. Our tomatoes are finally getting some sun and our first rain of the season is predicted. Yes, we get excited about rain which in Mendocino County means mushrooms and whitewater kayaking.

After a super busy summer with lots of visitors joining us kayaking; we are enjoying quieter days, the late summer weather, and calm coastal paddling conditions. Many of the old time fishermen tell us that these calm ocean conditions with lots of fog used to be the norm for our ocean in the summer.

We are enjoying our relatively calm seas and are planning some special trips for the fall of 2011 including a Tour de Mendo with new twists. One of our recent exploratory paddles involved a beach launch at one of our most picturesque Mendocino Coast beaches followed by paddling around giant sea stacks and headlands with sea caves that were interconnected by tunnels. Any guesses where we were? No, it is not Russian Gulch, Elk, or Van Damme.

Jeff and I are also cleaning out the gear closet and kayak rack and having a sale. We borrowed Marna of Kayak Zak's idea of a kayak yard sale and put our own spin on it to make it an online yard sale. Check it out and see if there is any kayaks or gear that you need.

We are offering lots of fall kayaking classes for beginning through advanced paddlers. Monday night, our Introduction to Kayaking Class starts at the Mendocino Park and Rec. CV Starr Pool. Next weekend as the Bay Area Sea Kayakers visit, we are offering several kayak rock gardening classes including our specialty - Whitewater of the Sea.

In October, we are preparing for birthday celebrations as both Jeff and I celebrate birthdays in October. Lots of play in short boats is likely to be in store (kayak surfing and rock gardening). We are also looking forward to attending the Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium just to the north of us in Trinidad, CA.

Planning for 2011 is in the works . . . more Tracks to Kayaks, regular kayak surfing instruction, winter and spring whitewater classes in Mendocino County and beyond . . . are a few more goodies that we are adding in for 2011. If you have a special group, trip, or event that you would like to plan for 2011 - let us know.