Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kelp Wanted

This Okie could not have been more surprised to learn that one of the coolest kinds of wildlife around is seaweed!  The beauty of the kelp forests around the Channel Islands is clear to any visitor. Did you know this amazing plant grows 12 inches per day in cold water?  We even got to snack on some of the young bits of kelp. It ain't bad!

Kelp Wanted
Sea kelp is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth, in fact Japan has harvested kelp from its natural habitat commercially for over a century. More pics from our trip can be seen on our Flickr feed.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sea Kayaking Around Santa Cruz Island

What an amazing paddling trip!

Dianne and I drove about 6 hours to Ventura, California. Early the next morning we took a one-hour ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island for some sea kayaking!

The ferry ride itself would be pretty dull, but we were blessed with some company about halfway out. A pod of dolphins swum up to check us out and surf our boat wake! We also saw some seals and sea lions and the ever-present sea gulls.

Shortly after our arrival at Scorpion Beach we spotted a few of the Santa Cruz Island Foxes that abound here. They are dwarf foxes. Our guide says that their dwarfism is an evolutionary result from being genetically secluded on the island. It was nice to have a few minutes to relax and watch the foxes while my stomach settled down from that ferry ride!

Santa Cruz Island is known for three main things: the island foxes, kelp forests, and some very cool sea caves. We came to kayak through as many of these sea coves as the time and the tides would allow. Our guide led us to an through 6 or 8 of these amazing places on our three hour sea cave kayaking tour. The kayaks were all wide heavy SOT kayaks, well suited for the quickly changing conditions. This ain't flatwater kayaking, The waves were much larger than I have ever paddled in on Eufaula and the weather was you should expect to get wet.

I have some more fun pictures to share from the trip, but Dianne and I were in a tandem kayak so you won't see much of either of us. Additionally, the dark steaminess of these sea caves makes kayak photography even harder than usual! However, the experience of paddling through sea caves is a blast and many of them are truly beautiful inside! Other sea caves are dark and loud and steamy and the constantly changing water level can make you woozie! In any case, emerging from the darkness into the bright sunlight was always a bit thrilling!

This time I took two cameras and no lights in hindsight that was a poor choice. There was lots to photograph, once the sun came out. Santa Cruz Island even has their own Elephant Rock, just like on the Illinois River in Oklahoma...sort of. Here is a photo of it. See the elephant?

I highly recommend contacting Channel Islands Adventure Company and taking this trip if you ever get the chance.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lake Natoma - Flatwater Fun Near Rancho Cordova

For our 2nd trip with our new kayaks we decided to paddle Lake Natoma. Lake Natoma is on the American River, located between Folsom Dam and Nimbus Dam in Sacramento County. The lake is located within the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.

Lake Natoma Kayaking
We launched from the Negro Bar area, which was the site of a gold rush era camp for black miners. Now the area hosts many rowing championships and even includes a kayak rental operation. Lake Natoma is 15 miles northeast of Sacramento on highway US 50, so it is very close to home for us. It is a pleasant place to paddle, as long as you don't mind paying. Fees are required for both parking and for each boat you launch.

It is a short paddle from the boat ramp at Negro Bar to the Rainbow Bridge and then until you can see Folsom Prison. It is prudent to then turn your kayaks around and head back once you see the prison, which is what we did. This part of California is the super-scenic but, as with any body of water, it can breathtaking in the right light/weather conditions. I find photo-paddling a bit disappointing around here due to the lack of clouds on most days but there are birds to watch and some lovely rock formations.

What it lacks in scenery it makes up for in lunch options after paddling. We opted for a visit to Famous Burger and I recommend it highly. The burgers are excellent, affordable and they have about a dozen craft beers on tap. Expect a happy landing if you stop by Famous Burgers in Rancho Cordova after your trip!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Win Kayaks at Scenic Rivers Fall Fest 2017

A Wacky Boat Race is a new, fun way to participate in the Grand River Dam Authority Scenic Rivers Fall Fest 2017 on Saturday.

The Kiwanis Club, with its annual Race for the Kids, is partnering with GRDA to create a festival atmosphere from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Diamondhead Resort, 12081 Oklahoma 10.

Registration for the canoe and kayak races is at 9 a.m. and the race begins shortly afterward.

For the Wacky Boat Race, participants can decorate a vessel or make a floating raft.

Four kayaks will be prizes for competitions – two for the canoe race, one for the kayak race and one for the Rubber Ducky Race.

For entries into the afternoon Rubber Ducky Race, participants can purchase one ticket for $5 or five for $20, with prizes for winners.

Proceeds of the Kiwanis' activities all go to support kids programs.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day is for Paddling

Sure it is hot, but you just have to leave early, right? That is when you can catch the most fish and the best light anyway! Dianne and I hit the American River again this year. This section of the river is not real scenic, but it is fast clear water and it is walking distance away. We car-topped our two kayaks on foam blocks and and used one of our bikes and a short Uber ride to self shuttle.
We got a bargain on both boats. Both were on sale for the holiday and came in well below $300 hundred each. Here in California we are not required to tag them but there are darn few put-in that won't make you pay for both parking and boat launching.
As they say: "It's the land of milk and honey, but you better have good money."

I had been putting off replacing our boats, but all that flooding in TX and Louisiana got me nervous. The lime green boat is a Revel 10 kayak made by Emotion Kayaks and Dianne picked a Pelican Tracker Angler kayak. Both boats performed well on the short trip from Sunrise Recreation Area down to the take-out at Rossmore Bar. Got a plan a longer trip next time though. This one only took about an hour. We spent more time setting the shuttle up than paddling the river today!