18 April 2011

Kayaking and Whitewater boating: Into the Flow, Immersion!

Into the flow, sometimes immersion is the only way to learn.

Precipitation is a wonderful thing and is very closely related to the amount of my salivation. When it's snowing up top it's probably raining down low. Moisture to a kayaker is like dreams to an insomniac.

Upper Elevations, Snow:

The upper Sierra Nevada begin to collect the year's worth of snow pack to supply the cities with power and fresh water. Kayakers and Whitewater rafters gather their gear to grab the most of the pristine river and creek runs. But the short daylight hours and the cooler temperatures in the upper elevations as well as labile wind and precipitation will need to be mitigated. Also, beware that the higher and/or new run-off may change river features. Most notable of changes to beware of are the river's edges may be high and therefore in the the trees or brush; erosion may change the river banks them-selves; and coupled with the erosion as well as recent weather, trees fall and become strainers (to be discussed in next blog).

Lower Elevations, Rains:

While it's snowing on the summits, it will be raining in the lower elevations. For simplicity's sake I call all of the mountains along the coast the Coastal Mountain Range(there are many, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mountain_ranges_of_California) as opposed to the Sierra Nevada Range and who you ask... The Coastal Mountain Range(s) are lower in elevation and generally warmer. Whitewater boaters wait for hard rains to come in and get their gear (as well as proficiency) up to par. Depending on how high or how low the water shed is according to the gradient... yada yada yada... let's just say some rivers flow depending on WHEN it rains.. for instance some creeks such as Cazadero will flow during a hard rain. But some rivers will start to flow some time after a hard rain. The Smith and Eel rivers generally flow between one and three days after a hard rain. Beware, brush and fallen trees are high danger during these early season runs.

What did the fish say when he hit a wall? ... Dam!

Kayakers, Rowers and Paddle Guides have a love-hate relationship with dams. Dams are bad because they "drown" the valley that they involve, suffocating the natural resources. There are many considerations to contemplate but a good start is reading the Cadillac Desert, http://www.amazon.com/Cadillac-Desert-American-Disappearing-Revised/dp/0140178244.

You never want to build the gutter to your house at the top of the roof. It will never collect the amount of water that you want to collect. And if you build your gutter around your property, then you will need a heck of a lot of bricks and will need to check on them often. Like-wise the best place to build a dam is at the Sierra Foothills. The deep valley walls coupled with the relatively small amount of bricks make collecting in these cisterns much simpler. Building a dam in the delta would be unthinkable as current levy systems are not able to be maintained as of this writing. The good thing about dams is that there is a guy sitting in the dam that quite literally dials up the flow. This means that I know exactly what the flow is. This consistency makes it a whole lot easier, especially when I take beginners on their first rafting adventure. The South Fork of the American River is the perfect example of this as it runs both above and below dams(six of them).

I touched upon the above, regarding sunlight... The longer sunlit days as summer approaches make getting further from home easier. Often with the ability to set up camp without the use of headlights. Although I always pack my tent, sleeping bag and flashlight last, just in case. The canyon walls in a river valley often obscure sun so that the only times that direct sunlight warms you is during the noon to immediate after noon hours. Time going on side-hikes to waterfalls accordingly. Not paying attention to this means that arriving at a waterfall when the afternoon sun no longer is visible and swimming in its pool is no longer as desirable.

Natural Phenomena: Bears and Snakes and Poison Ivy

The flowers aren't the only things that bloom around here. Watch out for the waking bears, snakes warming themselves on rocks and the blossoms of poison ivy. Snakes don't like people, they can detect our hard foot steps from about a quarter of a mile away by sensing vibrations through their body and tongue. All you have to do is step harder than usual and you will almost always not see them. (consider mountain bikers and rock climbers with a much more delicate footprint here)

Go fly a kite!

Wind tends to pick up (explained at summertimes' blog) later in the afternoon. When rafting, at the reservoir at the end of most days, approaching take-out may become a challenge. Reserve some energy to argue with this wind at the end of the day. It still beats a session at 24hr fitness, so take it in stride.

Ever Hit a Bubble?

A bump or bubble is slang for the release of a dam and therefore a dramatic rise in water flow. Rafters want to be at the beginning or during this "bump or bubble" to catch the release of fun. Too late in the day and the drop in water causes the rocks to make the travel challenging at best or worse, impassable at the shallower reaches.

Unlike the ocean when there is a lul between waves and a lull between sets of waves, the river is often relentless... please manage risks well. My next blog will cover several safety issues to consider when running rivers. Please stay tuned :)

Below are some websites that I use to check on river flows and conditions as well as beta (second hand information) about current ongoings with a particular level or run. These guys have been giving free information and in my opinion have been not only saving lives and limbs but also making boating so much enjoyable for as long as I have been boating. They deserve whatever kudos you can offer.

ca creeks: http://www.cacreeks.com/

dream flows: http://www.dreamflows.com/

cfs: http://www.cfsonline.org/

peak adventures: http://peakadventuresoutdoors.blogspot.com/2010/06/rafting-opener-for-2010.html

sierra rescue: http://www.sierrarescue.com/

waterfallswest: http://www.waterfallswest.com/

california canoe and kayak: http://www.calkayak.com/

I started this Blog a year ago, please look back at the Wildflowers and Waterfalls post as this year will be even more dramatic than last year due to the snow-pack. Note that I remember being excited about the waterfalls LAST year... this year will be even better... don't miss out!

Today, Roz has been out at sea for six days near Austrailia where she launched. On Sunday April 24th 2011, (Easter Sunday) she will have spent a total of 365 days alone at sea. This information is freely given to you in hopes that you will find a way to support her valiant and honorable efforts... www.RozSavage.com

Row Roz Row!