Tuesday, September 28

North Fork of the Stanislaus

I posted earlier about the Class III Stanislaus run below Camp 9, here's an interesting post from another paddler's website on the Class V run on the Stanislaus. Interesting stuff along with some great whitewater action pictures! Check it out:

Monday, September 27

Wilderness First Aid Training

About two years ago I took a 20 hour class on "Wilderness First Aid" at UC San Francisco. It was one evening of CPR plus two full days of instruction and practical exercises. I would really recommend this class for those who kayak regularly, especially if you are on more remote sections of rivers where rescue is difficult or there are extreme conditions, e.g. cold. They were long days, but I had a lot of fun taking the class.

Wilderness first aid differs from regular first aid quite a bit since it assumes that help is at least hours or days away. As a result, many of the solutions to medical situations go beyond what is taught in "regular" first aid classes, e.g. where the primary response is always "Call 911".

My class was taught by Bobbie Foster from Foster Calm: http://www.fostercalm.com . I think she is a great instructor, but there are many other places that offer instruction & certification. Including CPR certification, it was about $100 or a bit less depending on the size of the group.

** My Gear Review **

I thought I'd capture my thoughts & opinions about the gear I'm currently using, here's a breakdown along with my review:

  • My height/weight - 5'10", 155#
  • Kayak (Riot Booster 55) - I love this boat. Got it used for about $550. Easy to roll and got my offside for the first time. Nice to surf, stable in bigger water (under 2000 cfs). Comfortable and well outfitted making it adjustable for the best fit. Downside is that the rivets, ratchets, and studs inside can tend to rust and will break over time. Overall I don't think it is made as well as some other boats, but I have a lot of fun in it and I'm glad I got it. I think 155# is at the top of the weight range, works well for me but if you're heavier you might want to think about the Booster 60.
  • Paddle (Adventure Technology AT3) - Got this on sale (can't remember how much). Nice paddle, my first experience with a crank shaft which took a bit of getting used to. Couldn't roll worth a crap after I first got it. Now I like it a lot. A little heavier than some others, but I don't mind. Very durable and heavy duty. Some of the lighter Werners can tend to get beat up on the edges when hitting rocks, but the AT3 is much more resistant. I wouldn't go back to a straight shaft. $260 new at full price???
  • Helmet (Rock Headz) - Decent kevlar helmet that I think is an off-brand. I got it at a good price, not as trendy and eye-catching as Grateful Heads but does a great job.
  • Sunglasses (REI) - $20 for polarized ones. I learned the hard way that $100 sunglasses and rivers don't mix.
  • PFD (Lotus, Rio Grande) - Not a hardcore whitewater PFD, but does the job quite well. Doesn't have any integrated rescue functions and I tend to find that the Lotus PFD straps are very long and tend to dangle. Not sure that I'd buy this one again. Runs about $100. I also added a whistle on a dummy cord as well as a Gerber river knife on the lash tab.
  • Throw Bag/Tow Rope (Salamander Retriever) - Nice purchase at around $75, combo tow rope and throw bag that attaches under your PFD around your waist. I added some foam inside at the end of the rope to improve flotation. Never had to use it as a throw bag, but tested it and it seemed to work fine. Have used it as a tow mechanism plenty of times and liked it.
  • First Aid Kit (Adventure Medical) - I carry a First Aid kit in a dry bag in my kayak. I supplemented a "Fundamentals" kit from Adventure Medical that works really well. Unfortunately I think I've used it more on myself than anyone else!!! For the most part pain pills (mostly Ibuprofen aka Ibeenboatin) and ointment are the popular items.
  • Paddle Jacket #1 (IR Shortie Paddle Jacket) - Great for hot weather. It does let a lot of water into your boat though.
  • Paddle Jacket #2 (Whetstone Drytop) - I think this company is out of business now. This was a bad purchase and I think these are poorly designed and only moderately effective as a true drytop.
  • Paddle Jacket #3 (Kokatat XCR Goretex Wave) - I just bought this one and have had it out on the river once. It seems to do a great job and my friend loves hers. Pricey at $340, but seems to be worth it!! In cold weather you need plenty of layers so get one large enough to accommodate clothing underneath.
  • Sprayskirt (Mountain Surf Dur-O-Ring) - I love these sprayskirts and think they are some of the best on the market. I had to buy another since they one I had for my Wavesport didn't fit my Riot. I think they're worth the $150.
  • Wet suit #1 (NRS Farmer John) - Average wet suit, I don't think they fit very well, but they do an OK job. About $110.
  • Wet suit #2 (ONeill Shortie) - Nice wet suit made for surfing, pretty trendy and fits well. The zip up the back makes them a little awkward for kayaking, especially if you need to take a leak on the river. About $125.
  • Booties (Nike ACG Koketee) - I just got these. They have a nice tread and are very adjustable so they fit well. If your boat is tight at the feet these might cause you problems, but I like having the confidence of good grip when I get out of my boat or are wading through water. About $45.

Sunday, September 26

Trip Report: American (South Fork) - Sept 24, 2004

Run: Marshall to Salmon Falls
Difficulty: III - IV
Flow: 1300 cfs

We ran the South Fork of the American River yesterday (Saturday) from Marshall to Salmon Falls/Gorge at around 1300 cfs (according to the flow guages).

We put in around 12 Noon at Marshall, the water was still looking very low with many of the small rocks still visible in the middle of the flat water at Marshall. Overall the flow was on the low side and although we had fun, I don't think I wouldn't run it much lower, especially from Marshall to Greenwood. I think that the Gorge below Greenwood is much more runable at lower flows. Although the flow says 1300 cfs, I can't help think that the actual flow was lower than that. On other days at 1300-1400 cfs I think the flow looked significantly higher. Even though the temperature was well into the 80's, the water is damn cold and the Gorge gets chilly at the this time of the year because the sun is off the water. So layer up if you head down the river.

The run down past Greenwood was uneventful and routine, apart from a collision while surfing Barking Dog! It did get more fun below Greenwood, since the Gorge stays interesting at most flow levels.

Bouncing Rock and Satan's were unremarkable, but Hospital Bar was CRAZY! Damn, that wave was big. My friends ventured in to surf, but I just watched from the sidelines. The "Surprise" hole towards the end of the Gorge was also damn big, it was a total blast. Due to the low flows we had rapids practically to the end of the run with a very short paddle out on the flatwater at Salmon Falls - one of the benefits of low flows.

The last time we ran this we did a fun seal launch right by Fowler's Rock. On the way into the rapid, there is a big rock on river right, the flow goes around the rock to the left and there is a small eddy right in front of it. There is a big crack through the rock, large enough to wedge your kayak bow first. You can stable yourself and climb out, then haul your boat up to the top of the rock. The seal launch is off the back of the rock facing downriver. Very fun. Be careful you don't break your neck climbing up there.

It is unclear how many more weekends there will be water, but it sounds like at least two more in September with potential for some weekend flows in October. I think we'll be putting in at Greenwood and just running the Gorge. The unfortunate news is that my collision in Barking Dog managed to break two of my ribs!! So I'm told it'll be a few weeks before they are back in decent shape, so we'll see what that does for my kayak adventures over the next couple of months.

Thursday, September 23

Trip Report: Trinity River (Pigeon Point)

We had an excellent Trinity River trip back in the late summer of 2002. We ran the Pigeon Point run down to Big Flat campground where we setup camp for a long weekend. California Creeks has a good mile by mile description.

- Me on the Trinity River - Dagger GT

The US Forest Service has some good resources to help you plan your trip that include camping information. There aren't many (or any) stores near or around the Big Flat Campground to speak of, so be prepared to plan and to bring most of what you need. Otherwise check out the store situation for yourself in case something has opened since I visited, so be warned! You might get stuck with a long drive to get supplies.

As you'll see, the Trinity area is absolutely beautiful with warm, clear water in the summer. On one early AM run we had the river to ourselves and all of the wildlife was still out on and around the river, it was very cool. This isn't a long run, so you can either take your time and play on the way down or you can actually run it once in the AM and again after lunch. Since we camped at the public campsite at Big Flat, it is right at the takeout and in fact you can carry your kayak up across the road to your tent. A little bit of a hike, but not a big deal. There is a private campsite right below that on the river, it seemed crowded and noisy to me and so I much preferred our location on the uphill side of the road.

Depending on the drive, this may be too tame for those who are more experienced, but I think it is an excellent intermediate run. This was my second season on the water so it was a good skills fit.

Here is a video of one of my seal launches, I love 'em....!

Hell Hole is the one Class IV rapid that you can portage easily and run over and over again, just like a roller coaster. It's a crazy couple of fast moves into a big zero consquences pool. This movie doesn't do it justice since you don't see the whole rapid, but you get the idea. I try desperately not to roll, but don't quite succeed...

Here are some other stills of the trip, unfortunately I don't have any of the other significant rapids.

- Dan & Kevin B

- Kevin J gets on a wave

We found an excellent spot for a seal launch and entertained the river for while....

- A couple of other launches.

- Tatiana strikes a pose

- The group (Kev B, Tatiana, Diego, Kev J and Dan) get together for a shot, with me behind the camera.

Trip Report: Angel Island Rip Tide Whitewater (SF Bay)

For those "whitewater" paddlers who know their way around a sea kayak, another alternative to hitting the river is to checkout the rip tide in Raccoon Straits on the way out to Angel Island in the San Franciso Bay. The put in is on the beach by Sea Trek Kayak in Richardson Bay. You can also rent a sea kayak from Sea Trek for a reasonable rate - be prepared to prove that you have the necessary skills for self-rescue and that you have some experience in order to rent a closed deck boat.

The few times that I have been out in the riptide, it seems to get started right around the time that the tide is turning and will vary dependent on the relative strength of the flood/ebb flow. It's fun to play there and you can ride through it and paddle back around again, assuming you are a strong paddler.

If you want to take a class, Sea Trek Kayak offers "Angel Island Skills" which is a pretty challenging all day paddle including a series of self-rescue exercises in the riptide.

Stanislaus River below Camp 9

It looks like the Stanislaus III run below Camp 9 Powerhouse (one class IV) is both a manageable drive from San Francisco and could be flowing, but the flow guages and exact location of the put-in & takeouts are unclear. The report from Creekin.net also suggests some problems if you're running it for the first time due to possible debris and the need for scouting.

If anyone has experience running this section, let me know!

Wednesday, September 22

Next Challenge - Lower Kern

The Lower Kern reportedly runs year round (according to Creekin.net), which has a great description of the run, but I understand that flows below 600 cfs are bony and not worth running. Whereas the North Fork of the Kern only sports class III over about 4 miles, the Lower Fork offers a series of Class IV's over 11 miles with one required portage around a V+ (don't miss that takeout). As a Class III/IV run, this looks like a good step-up for those (like me) who are looking to gain some Class IV experience.

While the Kern is a nice 3 hour drive from SOCAL, it is a good 6+ hours from San Franciso, making it a challenge for a weekend jaunt. For mile by mile details, see Creekin.net at the link above.

I'll keep you posted on the trip report once we manage to run it!

Monday, September 20

Kayak Surfing Around San Francisco

There are two main surfing spots that I know of within a reasonable distance of San Francisco:

- Bolinas north of Stinson Beach off Highway 1.
- "Surfer's Beach" at Linda Mar south of Pacifica off I-280.

Bolinas is the classic beginner's spot where the waves are forgiving and the beach is shallow enough to be a safe rolling zone. Sometimes to can push off with your paddle! It is located here, just north of Stinson Beach off Highway 1. The drive can take about an hour from San Francisco, but is very dependent on traffic since it narrows down to a 2 lane highway that is highly trafficked by tourists. There have been reports of sharks and actual attacks over the past few years, but you'll need to make that call for yourself!

Linda Mar is much closer to San Francisco and is located off the 280 freeway. You'll find it here across from the Taco Bell right near the Safeway off to the right, about 5 minutes south of Pacifica heading down Highway 1. The surfzone is between Rockaway Beach and Shelter Cove. The waves can tend to "dump" at Linda Mar and so you frequently find yourself surfing the foam, which is fun all the same. I've had to call it quits at Linda Mar more than once since the waves can get quite big, so don't feel bad about making the call to get out of the water.

For those who have never surfed in the ocean in a whitewater boat, I think it is a blast. It is great practice for the river and gives your combat roll a workout. Keep in mind that paddling out against crashing waves takes a lot of stamina, so be prepared.

As for surfer etiquette, there are lots of resources online that you can Google, I found this page to be a good summary. Just remember to be courteous around boarders, and that the person nearest the break has the right of way! It's easier for us to catch waves, and so be considerate at places like Linda Mar which get very busy.

I always check the tide times, size and flows before heading out. Very high tides and strong flood currents can make for dangerous kayak surfing. Although there isn't always a method to the madness, I usually try & hit the water about 30 to 60 minutes before high tide, or right around max flood. Let me know what you find to be the best formula!

Kayaking the American River - South Fork

My suggestion for an excellent weekend on the South Fork:

- Arrive Friday night.
- Camp at
Camp Lotus. I think this one of the nicer and quieter campsites in Lotus/Coloma. It is also right on the river and perfect for put in and take out. It is also at mile 9, which is almost half way down. You can run half the river over two days due to the central
location. Also makes shuttles much easier!
- Put in at Chili Bar early on Sat morning (9am) as the flow comes up. Run the river back down to Lotus and take out.
- After sleeping in, put in at Camp Lotus later on Sunday morning once the flow is up. Run the river all the way down through the Gorge to Salmon Falls.

The South Fork of the American River is the kayaking staple - the meat & potatoes - for kayakers in the Bay Area because of its proximity. It is located just northwest of Sacramento about 120 miles from San Francisco around the small town of Coloma - a 2.5 hour drive on a good day, a hellish 5 hours on a bad one like a holiday weekend!

The whole run from just below Chili Bar dam to the Salmon Falls takeout at Folsom Lake is just over 20 miles and can EASILY be run in one day. Creekin.net has a great summary mile-by-mile and has lots of details about other runs - cool website. You can also checkout the flows and news on the American River site. The South Fork has enough excitement to keep you coming back for more.

Meatgrinder (III+ due to technical difficulty) and Troublemaker (III+ to IV- dependent on flow) keep you humble. Meatgrinder isn't really scoutable, but Troublemaker definitely is and should be the first time you run it.

There are lots of places to put in and take out:
- Chili Bar: The morning put in that'll set you up for the whole day run to Salmon Falls through the Gorge, or for a take out part of the way down. It all begins here.
- Marshall Park: Popular put in, "officially" not a take out point, but I think they are more concerned with rafters.
- Lotus Park: Popular lunch spot, I never put in or take out here personally.
- Camp Lotus: You can pay to park here, but this is a great campsite where you can stay for the weekend and use it as a take out to have lunch and get back on the river.
- Greenwood: Popular take out for those without the stamina for the Gorge. Marshall to Greenwood is an excellent beginner run.
- Salmon Falls: The end of the South Fork run after exiting the Gorge. At lower lake levels the paddle out isn't too long since you will be on flat water, but at higher lake levels the paddle can take 20 minutes.

Drop me an e-mail if you'd like more info.....and let me know how it goes!