Monday, July 31, 2006


Buck Island Run, Cache Creek, kayaking class II, July 30, 2006

BruceH, KimF, CarolynD and I kayaked the Buck Island Run on Cache Creek (mostly in Yolo County, California, USA). The gauge at Rumsey is stuck, so the flow of 825 cfs was estimated by adding the release from Clear Lake and the release from Indian Valley Reservoir (Dreamflows). At this flow the river was more lively and the whitewater was a lot whiter than it was last week at a lower flow. BruceH paddled his Dagger Crossfire, KimF paddled a WaveSport Easy G, CarolynD paddled her Dagger RPM and I paddled BobL's Dagger SuperEgo.

Swallows were zooming as we scouted Mother rapid from the Hwy 16 bridge.

After driving across the low water bridge we saw dozens of IK rental customers lined up waiting for the shuttle bus. We also saw 7 shuttle buses returning from Buck Island after dropping off the first load of IK boaters, so we were expecting to spend the day on a totally crowded river. The road is narrow most of the way, so vehicles passing in opposite directions often had a tough time. The dirt road to Buck Island was long, but the views were really great! We went up a nice little canyon, then ran the top of the ridge before dropping back down to Buck Island.

By the time we got there the first group of IK boaters was already downriver, so Buck Island was peaceful as we dressed and launched our boats. We kept looking for the next caravan of buses to arrive but we never saw it.

Warm water boating !!!! Some people pay big bucks to go to Mexico or Central America to boat in warm water rivers, but we have one right here in our own back yard. It was so nice to just boat in shorts and a windbreaker, no neoprene or drytops required.

I guess I'm slowly getting used to the SuperEgo kayak. When I'm aggressive about driving it around in the river I can start to trust how it will perform. Figuring out this little boat adds a bit of a challenge on a river that would otherwise be very easy for me.

Normally we run this section of river in winter as the last 3 miles of the 14 mi Wilderness Run at flows of 2,000 to 10,000 cfs. This section of canyon doesn't get much attention at the end of such a long day, but I do remember winter runs with nice class II/III whitewater and class IV strainers everywhere you look! At summer flows the river mellows out to nice class II whitewater. With the water down in the normal riverbed most of the trees and bushes are no longer in the water where they could create hazards. And we saw many neatly sawed stumps where the rafting companies had removed strainers that would threaten their summer customers.

Two merganzers rudely paddled out of an eddy right in front of me as I was running a rapid. They were as startled as I was as they jetted back into the eddy. Then I looked over my shoulder. I saw them paddle an incredible ascent up the rapid in a steep, fast section of river where I'm sure that nobody could have paddled a kayak.

There were loads of dragonflies zooming overhead throughout the day. We saw mobs of yellow swallowtail butterfiles, monarch butterflies and bumblebee-mimic moths on the white globular flower clusters of (unknown) plants growing along the shore. (Where is JimH our botanist when we need him?)

And we had the river almost totally to ourselves for most of the day. When we caught up to the tail end of the IK boater fleet, we decided to quickly stop for "first lunch." (Plans for "11ses," "second lunch" and "oneses" were later forgotten.) We didn't pass any rental boaters all day until after Mother rapid and didn't see any boaters coming behind us as we drove shuttle, so the second group waiting for buses in the morning must have been taken to the Bear Creek put-in.

KimF was doing stern squirts on eddy lines with the greatest of ease. I'll have to learn how to do those one of these days. We found lots of little playspots throughout the day. The big ledge below County Park #2 was not quite as good as it had been last week at a lower flow, but it did have a nice Crossfire playspot on river-left and the short-boat spot on river-right. The big wave below County Park #3 still looked really great, but the current was so fast that we couldn't even get onto the wave.

We portaged the low water bridge. At 825 cfs the river was less than a foot from the top of the bridge, so whenever the flows get this low in the winter it should be possible to access the west side of the canyon for mountain biking and hiking.

We all had good lines at Widowmaker rapid. This class II+ rapid is steep and twisty and turbulent and complex enough to provide a variety of challenges depending upon the line you take and the eddies that you catch.

Mother rapid was much more powerful than it had been last week at a lower flow. BruceH, CarolynD and I all ran right-right-right, while KimF eddied left before finishing right. With such an experienced group the river was just an easy, fun day in the (almost) wilderness. Nobody even flipped except of course KimF, who was rolling up after his stern squirts.

At the end of the day things got unexpectedly interesting. The 11 mi dirt road to Buck Island was a lot of hard driving to access 3 miles of really great, but not awesome river. Driving in to Buck Island was OK as long as you went slow enough on a few sections where the road was really torn up. But driving out was really tough because then we were climbing up the steep sections of torn up road. My little 2wd truck just barely made it out of there. I had to floor it and just hope that the truck didn't stall out, fishtail off the side of the road or vibrate itself to pieces on a few of the worst hills. 4wd trucks are really needed on this shuttle road!!

Then there was the big fire. Apparently after we started driving shuttle a fire got started in the canyon just upstream from takeout. When the shuttle vehicles were just about a mile from takeout the road was blocked and the FireDept lady said there would be a delay of a few hours or longer. So after all that brutal dirt road driving, we were forced to drive a giant loop back up Hwy 16 to Hwy 20, Interstate 5, Interstate 505 and back on Hwy 16, wait briefly at another roadblock, before getting a firetruck escort to finally get back to our take-out at Camp Haswell.

By the time we got back to Davis it had cooled down perfectly, so dinner on the patio at DosCoyotes was really nice. I'm sure the food was really great, but after such a long and interesting day almost anything would have seemed fine.

After spending consecutive weekends on "poor little Cache Creek" its really amazing how completely different the trips were. Tons of fun! Always something new to experience on and around the river!

I think the Buck Island Run goes into my category of once-per-year rivers. Definitely worth doing, but not very often. This year when we have good flows in the NF Cache Creek it is also accessible as part of a Wilderness Run overnight trip.

More about: Kayaking Trip Reports.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006


Captivated by the Dynamic Power of Whitewater Rivers

Getting back into my old, trusty Frankenstein kayak last Sunday was such a joy. After many years of paddling that boat, now all of my reflexes, expectations and strategies on the river are perfectly calibrated for the Frankenstein. It feels like I am interacting directly with the river because there is never any distracting thought or worry about what the boat will do in any given circumstance. I just instantaneously and automatically know that when the river does X, if I do Y, then I will end up at Z. Of course I don't always end up exactly where I expected, but that is because I don't always read the river perfectly or execute my intended maneuver perfectly. And that's what kayaking is all about! Exploring the river, learning its intricate details, tapping into its relentless power and feeling that dynamic aquatic environment so up-close and personal never fails to delight!!

More about: River Philosophy & River Quotes.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Whitewater Kayaking in The Zone - 1

In sports we speak of The Zone as a state in which the athlete "loses self-consciousness and becomes completely immersed in the task at hand. This engenders a state in which performance is very pleasurable and intrinsically gratifying." Being in The Zone "enables the body to function automatically with little conscious effort. In this optimal state, complex tasks appear to be easily accomplished and time can either stand still or rush by as the performer is completely immersed in what they are doing." (reference)

In many of the sports and other activities I've experienced over the years there have been a few brief moments when I was in The Zone (e.g. while playing raquetball, soccer, motorcycling, bicycling, etc.). These times in The Zone have never been very consistent or lasted for very long.

In contrast, whitewater river kayaking consistently puts me in The Zone and keeps me there through the whole trip. I think that the euphoric feeling of being in The Zone is one of the things that keeps me hooked on kayak paddling and always coming back for more!!

More about: River Quotes & River Philosophy.

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River Philosophy & River Quotes (subtopic)

Loving Wild Rivers - Experiencing their Natural Power through Whitewater Kayaking & Rafting 01nov2010.
Life is a metaphor for whitewater paddleboating 20july2009.
After the Last River has been Poisoned.... 27dec2008.
You know a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows.
Messing About in Boats !!
Try not !! Do or not do !! Kayakers are the Jedi Masters of the whitewater rivers.
Living in the Moment on the River.
Experiencing the Multiple Dimensions of Whitewater Kayaking.
River canyons are truly sacred places.
Creeks and Rivers to Explore.
Whitewater Kayaking in The Zone - 2.
Captivated by the Dynamic Power of Whitewater Rivers.
Whitewater Kayaking in The Zone - 1.
Purpose Statement - Blogging about whitewater kayaking in California.
The Face of the River.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006


Rumsey Run, Cache Creek, kayaking July 23, 2006.

It got up to 106 degrees F today in Davis. What more reason do you need to get out of town and what better place to go than someplace cool and wet!! RaoulA, MattA, TaylorC and I kayaked the Cache Creek Rumsey Run (Yolo County, California, USA) at 525 cfs (CDEC flow data). We had a festival of old fashioned, long speedboats with MattA in a Dagger Outburst kayak, TaylorC in a Prijon Rockit kayak, me in my Wave Sport Frankenstein kayak and we didn't even tease RaoulA about being in a short little Dagger RPM kayak.

Knowing that we might need to do some river rescues I was really happy to have my Frankenstein to speed to the scene and have the hull speed to complete the rescues quickly. I was also glad to get some practice with my towing system one time when the swimmer and the boat ended up on opposite sides of the river. Over the course of the day two paddles were lost, but after extensive searches we found one of them. So our final tally of lost gear was not that bad. Among all of our many swims fortunately there were no injuries to any of our boaters, but whenever we stopped we were treated to carnivals of crash and burn antics by the novices in their rafts and IKs.

There were a few nice surfing spots. The big ledge below County Park #2 had a nice surf spot about 15 feet wide on river-right. The big wave below County Park #3 looked really great, but it wasn't sticky enough for any of us to stay on it for more than a micro-second. We found a few other nice spots here and there throughout the day.

We saw an osprey and a king snake, but most of the wild life we saw was the hundreds of novice boaters in rafts and IKs.

We scouted Mother rapid and we all decided to run it. At this flow there were rocks sticking up at various places in the middle and left side of the river, so we all ended up running it on the right from top to bottom. I punched both of the diagonal waves that threatened to push me out into the middle of the river, so I managed to keep on the plan - enter right, stay right, be right, end right!! ...And then eddy out on the left.

Arriving at takeout, I was totally euphoric/exhausted from an awesome day on the river. Between the rapids, the rescues and the surfing I had used it all up and I was really ready to stop. As soon as we got away from the river we started burning up in the 100+ degree heat of the day and then I wished I had just stayed at the river!

Beers at Matt's house at the end of the day never tasted so good.

Flow Data - What It Is Flowing NOW As You Read This

Topographic Map

A=Put-in. B=Takeout.

Full-Screen Topographic Map: Rumsey Run - Acme Mapper.

More about: Kayaking Trip Reports.

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Monday, July 03, 2006


Shirttail Run, NF American River, kayaking class II, July 3, 2006.

BruceH, CarolynD, EllieH, BruceG, KiyoO, MakiO, HiromasaT, KendallG, and I kayaked the Shirttail Run on NF American River (Placer County, California, United States). We put in at Yankee Jim's Road. Poison oak is common all along this run, so be sure you know how to recognize it.

After some carnage on the first rapid we had one wounded boater and two helpers hiking out to get medical attention. The first aid kit that I normally carry was not there when we needed it because it didn't fit into the playboat I was paddling. In a group like this somebody should have been designated to carry a first aid kit. And I'm long overdue for a refresher course on how to give first aid.

The rest of the day was really great. The flow of ~290 cfs (NFD flow information) was very low, but with a little scouting we found boatable channels that didn't require too much rock bumping. We found a few tiny playspots, but mostly it was a scenic river tour at this flow. We saw some geese, and also a merganzer duck with two cute little ducklings already decked out with the "punk style" feather tufts on their heads. We saw the merganzers run a rapid that we were scouting, but we didn't like their line, so we picked another route.

The Dagger SuperEgo "tugboat" that I was paddling performed a little better on this trip, so although it is a slow hull its also clear that I seriously need to get my paddling motor tuned up. There were enough waves and currents to provide some whitewater challenges and we got lots of practice rescuing swimmers. One more moment of concern was a boater who got snagged in a little rock strainer, but fortunately the swimmer flushed out immediately after bailing out of the boat. The bow of the SuperEgo kayak worked OK for pushing boats to shore. Swimmers were unable to keep a grip on the short, tight grab loop on this boat, so I'll need to add a length of webbing to give swimmers something that they can hang onto.

Originally we had planned to boat all the way down to the takeout at the top of Lake Clementine, but that was much too far to go on a day with low flow and high carnage. Fortunately we got one of our helpers who hiked out at putin to meet us at the Ponderosa Way takeout. There was daylight remaining, but many of us were quite happy to take out at that point. It made for some epic shuttle driving at the end of the day to collect all of our vehicles. We had seen only one other boater and a few gold miners as we came down the river. After all that solitude it was quite a culture shock to wait for our shuttle driver while surrounded by the big holiday weekend crowd of people who were spending their day hanging out at the beach by the river.

We got to Ikeda's in Auburn just before closing time (9 PM) and those burgers and fries really hit the spot! I got home before 11PM - not too bad considering the various misadventures of the day!

This beautiful canyon and great whitewater would be drowned under a reservoir if Auburn Dam was ever built. See Auburn Dam Directory - more reasons to oppose it.

Flow Data - What It Is Flowing NOW As You Read This

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Why Post a Comment on BRT Kayaking & Hiking Blog

1. Blogging is designed to facilitate an online group discussion. Don't be just a passive reader. PLEASE participate by adding your thoughts and knowledge into the discussion !!

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