Another Joyful Day on the Russian River

From  John Marold, Trip Leader,

On Saturday morning, 11 paddlers met at the Geysers Road exit from 101, north of Cloverdale at 10 AM: Don and Karen, Kate and Alan, Eric and Julie, Jan and Ruth, Keith, Ray, and John.

After looking at the weather forecast a week in advance, we changed the trip to be a Saturday-only trip instead of a full weekend.  We got it right on two counts: the weather on Saturday was beautiful, sunny and in the 70s, some wind in the afternoon, but nothing too hard to deal with. (Sunday was much cooler with rain in the afternoon.)  And Jan and Ruth were already planning to head towards the bay area on Saturday.

It was great to see Ray – he hasn’t been on one of our trips in a long time.  Special thanks to Linda for bringing Ray and for being shuttle bunny.  (I hope she is not offended by that term.)

The Russian River had plenty of water.  The flow at Cloverdale was about 650 CFS and in Healdsburg was about 1200 CFS – 50% more than Alan and Kate had for their trip two weeks earlier.

After looking at the river, Eric and Julie thought it was too high and were going to give up for the day.  We suggested they meet us at Cloverdale River Park which is just past the area with the narrowest/fastest stretches.

After shuttling, we got on the river about 11:40 and headed down through a great narrow class 2 stretch with 4 solo canoes, 2 tandem canoes, and one kayak (Ray).  This is such a beautiful run – isolated from the nearby roads and houses.

When we arrived at Cloverdale River Park, we found Eric and Julie already in their boats ( a C1 and a K1) on the water and practicing.  They had already eaten lunch, so they got a lot of practice while the rest of paused to eat.

After lunch, we headed downriver to Geyserville.  From our put-in at Geysers Rd. this is about a 13 mile run.  It took us 6 hours including our lunch stop and several knee breaks.  6 hours on such a beautiful river makes the long drive worth it for a day trip.  Along the way we passed the Crocker St. bridge and the location of the summer bridge at Asti.

We also had some entertainment from 4 OBEs (out of boat experiences).  At one point we thought that a paddle had been lost – caught in brush upstream of where the group congregated.  But the paddle managed to free itself and come down to us.  One hat was lost – permanently, I believe.  And a sponge was lost a couple of times and found both times.

The river flattens out after Asti and the wind became more of an issue.  If we want a shorter trip in the future, we might want to explore taking out at Asti – shortening the trip by about 5 miles.

After reaching our takeout at 5:40, there was much negotiation about a location for dinner.  The decision was for El Farolito in Windsor.  Ray and Linda headed home, but the rest of us stayed for a good dinner.  Definitely a place to keep in mind for the future.

Thanks to a great group of paddlers for a wonderful day on the river.

-John

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Russian River in the Spring

Russian River – March 31 – April 1, 2018
Participants: Alan and Kate, Jeff and Conrad

Day One: (Steelhead Beach to Gureneville) (gauge at Healdsburg 1,000 CFS) Kate /Alan and Jeff and Conrad (new POST members) met at the Steelhead Beach parking lot in Mirabel Park off of River Road. At approximately 1 ½ mile down Sunset Beach County Regional Park, we located the one channel which was open through a brushy area just below Sunset Beach on river left and continued on. Many cottages and summer homes dotted the Redwood Tree-lined shores of the Russian River, and there was one spot where pilings for a summer bridge were punctuating the water course-way, without any weir, where we made a lunch stop. Upon reaching Guerneville at 2:30 p.m.; we took out at Johnson’s Beach, just above a weir, separated by iron posts extending across the river. We loaded both canoes onto Jeff ‘s big canoe racks and headed out to Cloverdale to set-up our camp at the KOA Cloverdale facility. After setting up camp, we scouted some alternative launch sites for the following day, along with some sight-seeing at Squaw Rock. We then went to Cloverdale and had dinner at McGowan’s Bar and Grill, where an electrical power outage was on-going throughout our dinner—not hampering our appetites or the kitchen’s expertise, and not hampering the guitar strumming entertainer there at McGowan’s, who sang and played for the customers there at the bar.
Day Two (Geyser’s Road to Geyserville) (guage at Healdsburg 800 CFS) After breakfast at the campground and driving the shuttle vehicle to Geyserville, the group proceeded in Jeff’s truck to the previously agreed upon launch site at Geyser’s Road one mile further upstream from Cloverdale River Park, We did not trespass along a nearby private road to put-in and launch, instead we made the 150 yard hike on uneven terrain to the water’s edge just downstream from the new Highway Bridge on US-101 north of Cloverdale along an abandoned and overgrown fire road. The first river mile was exciting with a scenic canyon water course-way with rolling wave trains and Class II rapids. There was one portage where brush and a fallen tree limb completely blocked the river channel before leaving the narrow scenic canyon. Passing the alternate boat launching site at Cloverdale River Park, we continued to the first Bridge at Crocker Road where we made our first rest stop. From there numerous brushy passages required precise maneuvering in swift moving water. The channels soon became wider and required good judgment in route selection and brush avoidance. Stopping for lunch at the summer bridge abutments at Asti, we carefully studied the approach. Kate and Alan did chose to run this Class II turn to the right which required catching the last eddy on the left before going through the concrete abutments in swiftly moving water. In the final mile, a second portage was necessary due to a dividing wall of thick brush and trees only allowing water to pass. The portage was about 15 steps over stones, with all four persons carrying the two boats consecutively to the water beyond—in previous runs here this passage had been open with a two-foot wide chute, however the chute was no longer wide or deep enough to allow a canoe to proceed. Being Easter Sunday, we saw no other boats but there were people along the shore enjoying the day and the warm sunshine, We took out 4:00 p.m. at the Geyserville Bridge with easy access to SR128 on a short footpath and recovered the shuttle vehicle from the “free parking” in Geyserville SR128 at the ride-share parking lot, returning to Geyser’s Road for Jeff’s truck, and hence to load up at Geyserville Bridge at SR 128 and were all homeward bound after a very satisfying 2-days on the water.
Alan

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Musings on School and Courage

Yikes, I posted this on the post canoe club page by mistake.

go to Kithewitt.wordpress.com

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Trinity River 10-6 to 10-8, 2017

Calamity Made Perfect
by Eric Rasmussen, Trip Leader
POST Trinity Trip, 10/6-8/17
Everything went wrong,
At exactly the right time and place.

River trips I lead sometimes start out sleepily.  I forget they’re going to happen,  and then someone says “I want to come.”
That someone was Carol E. this year; her 9/9 e-mail was like a cup of coffee.  She’s a “professional” paddler, always well-prepared with a smart boat and skills to match.  On a winter Eel trip a few years ago we needed a good lead paddler.  She was perfect.  That she was coming calmed my enthusiasm.
The next day Alan L. logged in to request places for he and Kate N. These college sweethearts, regulars on our trips, always warm me with their generous affection and ever-improving paddling.
Newlyweds (didn’t you know either?) Shauna and Vince soon fortified the roster, and increased my calm, by signing up and offering to do their Oatmeal with Everything on Sunday morning.
When Don signed on with Karen, he mentioned the fire that had aborted the Labor Day trip and devastated on to burn 20% of the homes in Junction City.  As the trip grew nearer, so did the fire and its effects.  By Friday 10/6, when the now 20 paddlers would convene at Steel Bridge Campground, we’d learned that while the fire no longer threatened and smoke levels were tolerable, the Junction City Park would be closed, so we could not leave our vehicles there until our take-out, something we’ve done since several were broken into on a recent Memorial Day trip on the Trinity.  Fortunately, Don had located another, slightly upriver, site we could use. Unfortunately, Don got sick the Friday morning the trip began and couldn’t join us, or lead us to that site.
But Alan had a printed map that showed the site and Vince got it on his GPS at the Steel Bridge put-in Saturday morning.  Veteran that he is, Vince was in his vehicle in good time and honked to spur on the rest of us.  Soon all the drivers were behind him, ready to set up the shuttle, and off we all headed from the day use site unto the windy road to the highway.  I, in my blue pick-up, was last in line, not a problem since, while I didn’t know where we were going, I did know that once we got there, I would ferry all the other drivers back to the campground where my vehicle would stay the night.  My truck started right up and bounced over the bumpy non-paving almost to the end of the parking lot, then died.  Dead.  I honked, to let the others know,  but nobody slowed.  I watched the last car disappear ahead.
Since Don wasn’t on the trip to personally shepherd us quickly along, so we’d get to our on-the-river campsite in time to prepare dinner in daylight, I’d been trying to push myself to play that role.  But at that moment, I surrendered, got out of the truck, and dialed Vince on my Verizon cell.
“That number has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”
I then tried Dave LaD. number and reached him.  It might have been better if I hadn’t.  You see, even though I had Verizon, the service from that beautifully remote site was imperfect.  Dave heard that I was stuck, and from his mid-pack position was able to slow and stop several of the other cars, but not Vince, who got to Junction City before Dave and I communicated, after several call drops and very few understood words, that I would not join the shuttle.
Fortunately somebody else at the put-in had Vince’s number and I reached him somewhere in Junction City and managed to communicate even less with him than I had with Dave.  Miraculously, all the shuttle drivers found each other, a reasonable take-out, a safe place to park (in front of a fire station), and a way to get all the drivers back (in Alan’s car).  All this heroic effort did take some time, and they did not get back on time for our desired 10;30 put-in.  No, they got back to Steel Bridge about 12;30.  The trip was not off to an auspicious start.
Several cool heads suggested that, since a downriver lunch stop would only delay us even more,  we ought break with POST tradition, and not eat lunch after the first turn, but immediately.  Breaking with POST tradition is a capital crime, usually, but that’s what we did.
So we pushed out into the river not so promptly at 1:30, vowing to not stop until we got to the Douglas City bridge where we would not break for ice cream at the nearby store.
This plan did not flow freely at first because I, in the lead boat with Jane, eddied out after each ripple, making sure our newest paddlers, John and YaYa (not her real name), didn’t fall out, drown and delay dinner.  Soon other smarter paddlers disregarded my pauses and plunged ahead, so we did get to the no ice cream bridge in good order, about 3;30.
After brief stretches and walks to the bushes, plus some gloomy conversation about the likelihood we’d soon be paddling by headlight, long before we reached our favorite Steel Bar campground where Eric F and company would have to prepare dinner in the dark, we got going again.
While everybody was concerned about the possible dire consequences of our delayed start, Keith G, used to making do on outings with scouts, had maps showing likely campsites, and he shared those at the bridge.  We’d never visited these new sites and the maps offered no details, so we had hope for, but no certainty of, decent camping before dark.
Beyond the bridge we began to encounter more challenges, and about half an hour after we resumed paddling, what I’d dreaded, happened. There was a huge log intruding on river right.  It was a partial strainer, and difficult to get around, and John and YaYa didn’t. They didn’t yet know about “Kiss the Whatever” and so let their upstream gunwale stay low when they slid up on the log.  Instantly, water flowed in over the low edge, and they were swimming.  I watched helplessly from the eddy below, and saw a strange thing happen.
Quite quickly they got their swamped boat into shallow water just below the log.  One scooped, the other pumped.  And both laughed. And laughed.  You’d think, being soaked with icy river water and trying to empty a couple hundred gallons of the same stuff was the funniest thing ever, that this accident was better than Disneyland.
While all this hilarity was happening, Keith, who on his outings with scouts is used to looking through fun toward its consequences, declared, “They’re all wet, and it’s getting dark and cold. We should camp here.”
Here, was the Douglas City park, a campground sometimes used by other POST leaders, like Charlie Beazell.  It’s normally for car-campers, not for the all-over-the-beach camping we were set-up for.  But it was potentially perfect, so we stopped and sought out the host to see if we could stay.
The host, Steve, is a friendly guy who likes his job, and knew an inspection was unlikely.  To be acceptable we would have to sign up and pay for two regular sites, and use them, but the rest of the gang could camp on the beach by the boats.  We could prepare our meals in the group dining area, on a level overlooking the rapids below, and sporting ample tables and bear boxes.  And we could use the bathrooms, including the hot showers.  We had, by accident, fallen into 5 star accommodations. The price?  $30 for the two sites.
All fears and complaints vanished, and soon appetizers, then a big, hot meal, appeared.  We’d have a long paddle next day, and we’d be ready for it.  And we’d re-found a great campsite that may become our regular choice, all due to mishaps.
The morning came, we got our fill of Vince and Shauna’s oatmeal with all the trimmings, and plenty of coffee thanks to Dave LaD, and headed downriver.  It was a long paddle just to the campground we were glad we didn’t have to stay at, and a good ways farther until we realized we’d missed the take-out.  This discovery came just before a bridge that marked the spot where Don and I had thought we’d take out.  It was a short walk from the fire station where the cars were, and gave easier access to them, once they were driven near.  I.e. we’d made another fortuitous mistake.
As far as I’ve heard, everybody else drove happily home, after making sure that Jane and I had lodging, at Indian Creek, which became our base not only for getting a new fuel pump in the pick-up, but for enjoying the shops and cafes of historic Weaverville, which we did easily thanks to Carol E’s taxiing.  She also spent two good nights at the fishing lodge, our last multi-star consequence of lucky accidents.
ER

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Memorial Weekend (sorry to be so late)

Roy sent a link to see pictures of the Memorial Weekend trip:

https://www.dropbox.com/request/tn94l8QV8dcCulaUvaMc

Did anyone write a text report? I seem to have lost it.

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Independence Weekend: Freedom to Boat

Trip Report  Klamath River, 4th of July, 2017

Eight paddlers enjoyed a delightful 4th of July holiday weekend on the Klamath River. Don and Karen , plus Alan and Kate paired up in tandem canoes. Jan and Ruth soloed in canoes. John and Bob joined us in inflatable kayaks. We camped at Sarah Totten near Hamburg. The campground was in excellent shape with paths recently brushed out.

The weekend started with Don and Karen arriving Thursday evening to claim our favorite campsite. They explored the scenic byways on Friday, and found some extensive road damage up Beavertail Creek road from the wet winter. The campground went from empty on Thursday to full on Saturday. Bob arrived Friday night. Alan, Kate, Ruth and Jan arrived 9 AM Saturday morning in time to paddle the Brown Bear run. The flow out of Iron Gate Dam was the typical 1000 cfs. Side creeks added significant water so the flow at Seiad Valley was 1600 cfs. It is interesting to note that the flow out of Iron Gate increased after our trip. Brown Bear, class I (II) was straight forward. Bob tried the surf hole and swam. No one else was brave enough to try it. Bob and Jan went on after most participants took out at Blue Heron. Tom Martin rapid presented problems with a large hole on the left along the inside, a large haystack wave in the center and nasty eddies on the right. Bob got stuck in the eddy. Jan portaged. Saturday night, John joined us for Don’s taco salad dinner. It was delicious and a wise choice for a hot evening.

Sunday we rose to Don’s hashbrowns, ham and cheese creations. The night was warm under the trees but cooled off eventually. Some nights it stayed muggy all night. The bugs loved it and the bats showed up to feast on them. We learned to move out to an open spot after the sun went down. Between the bugs, hard paddling and late sunsets, we went to bed most nights before the first star appeared. Afternoons saw us downstream on a nice sandy beach with a recirculating eddy and shade. A bald eagle cruised the river by camp almost every day. The blue herons posed so magnificently on the rocks while the dragonflies danced across the river’s surface. Our favorite flying critter this year was a bright blue damselfly with white wings and bold black wing tips. A river otter was spotted above Schoolhouse on the final day.

For Sunday’s paddle, we braved Trees of Heaven class III- run. The put in was packed. Two large raft and IK groups put on at the same time. Everyone was courteous, and we even shared lunch spots. By the end, we intermingled, and then all took out together. Dutch Creek was easier than usual and could be run down the middle, which we found out at the bottom. Jan led everyone down the usual route, cutting right of the rocks at the bottom. This caused a few bobbles, but no swims. Bob showed us that the easier route went left of rightmost rock. Ruth as nightmares about Schoolhouse all year. She nailed it with a perfect line. Kate and Alan turned their canoe into a submarine, but stayed upright and self rescued. Don and Karen flipped. Beau immediately started swimming for shore and Karen went with him. Don and rescuers chased the tandem canoe down the river a ways before wrangling it to shore. Beau hitched a ride in Bob’s IK and looked quite happy. Karen jumped back in the river and bumped her way down over rocks. Honolulu caused problems on the bottom half. Jan was on her side for awhile, but managed to get upright. Many paddlers in the big groups went down the left side finishing with big smiles. The high flows from the wet winter cleared out the thick river weed above Schoolhouse. This year there was no need to pole the canoes through the plants clogging the river in the center of the flow. Sunday night, we ate Dutch oven dishes with Jan’s Tamale Pie and Ruth’s Strawberries in Chocolate cake.

Monday started with pancakes and sausage courtesy of Alan and Kate. We decided to do the class II Rocky Point run. Jan volunteered to paddle the Winona tandem with Kate, so Alan could solo in his Mohawk. Don and Karen led, despite it being a new run for them. Granite Point rapid, class II, swamped Kate and Jan in the high waves. They were so deep in the water that Yukon floated out of the canoe. Kate and Jan managed to keep the boat upright and self rescued. The best part of this run is a long, continuous class I/II rapid below the hwy 96 bridge. You keep picking your way between little rocks and waves for half a mile or so. It feels like a long, slow dance. We forgot to look for a lunch spot along the long curve away from the road. So we ate in a hot, steep, rock patch just before rejoining the road. The final rapid above Sluice Box is a bouncy, winding class II on the right with most of the water. None of us knows what the left side looks like. It is supposed to be harder.

Part of the group took out at Sluice Box. Jan grabbed her solo Prodigy canoe off the car and joined Bob and John for the Portuguese Creek run.  The Portuguese Creek rapid, class III, was a first for everyone. We boat scouted it and ran it on the left no difficulty. The right side looked too low and presented an inconvenient rock at the bottom. The most recent memories of the run was Jan and Bob’s, who paddled below Portuguese Creek over a decade before. Scouting Savage Rapid was mandatory because it is rated class IV by Neil Ruckers. At our flow, it was a class III. It consisted of a wide rapid that narrows down at the end to drop over a ledge into a chaotic channel. Few landmarks make the upper part easy to get lost in. Bob led and picked the right spot to drop over the ledge. The water coming in laterally cancelled each other out and made for a relatively smooth ride over the reaction wave. The boily water below the ledge caused lots of spinning for those boats that tried to eddy out. This section of river between Upper Savage and Ft Goff Falls consists of gorgeously clear water flowing rapidly over channels in smooth grey rocks. It is beautiful and exhilarating. No scouting was done for Lower Savage because it usually looks intimidating, but is a straight shot on the right with a diagonal wave to deal with. Not this time. The higher flow changed this rapid significantly. Most of the water flowed over the ledge on the left. Jan started down the right and quickly went left due to the large eddy fence at the bottom that looked likely to be painful. She had no back-up plan and ended up with plan C down the middle. This plan went over the ledge, dodging rocks and going over tall waves. It looked like the least likely way to get hurt. It proved successful, even though John swam on the bottom wave. It was a fast rescue. Just around the corner waited Otter’s Playpen, quickly followed by Ft Goff Falls. Otter’s Playpen is a rock fence with several, narrow openings. The guide book says all openings are possible. The straight ahead routes looked bouncy. We followed the main current around to the right and through the usual chute second from the end. I still wonder how rafts run this rapid. At Ft. Goff Falls, the water pauses long enough to allow a move right to the lowest part of the fall. We took out at the primitive access called Tim’s with huge grins. Bob declared he finally felt alive. On the return drive, we scouted the left route at Lower Savage which looked easy. Alan and Kate cooked hamburgers, potato salad and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Yum!

Monday, Bob, Alan and Kate departed after Jan’s polenta and spam breakfast. The remaining four boats debated whether to paddle the class II Seattle Creek to Joe Morgan section. We call this the kids and dogs run due to its forgiving nature and beauty. We traditionally take out at China Point, but a large slide had closed the road to it. Continuing on to Gordon’s Ferry made it eleven miles and added a long right curve with class I rock dodging. After staring at each other for awhile, we decided we were tired and felt Brown Bear sounded fine. Jan had a silly swim trying to paddle a wave on her off side. Everyone took out at Blue Heron, which gives you an idea of how tired we were. We spent a leisurely afternoon enjoying the beach, water, shade and snacks. Jan cooked sausages, baked beans and peach dump cake for the 4th of July dinner. We heard no fireworks, and most importantly encountered no fires. The local Hot Shot team drove past at some point and we saw smoke. There was a report of a fire near Dutch Creek, but we never saw it.

Wednesday, Don provided oatmeal and granola. We broke camp. Don and Karen drove back via the Scott Valley. John, Jan and Ruth paddled the short version of Trees of Heaven from Skeahan Bar to Gottville. Ruth again nailed Schoolhouse and finished full of confidence solo paddling in her Flashback canoe. We went down the left side of Honolulu. The top requires negotiating a boulder garden with some waves. Once clear of the rocks, the bottom is a bouncy, straight shot. It was fun. John said it reminded him of the rocky, shallow rivers in New England.

This was one of the simplest, most enjoyable trips I have been on. The river and campground is perfect for canoes with enough nearby class I to III runs. The weather was hot, but not insufferable, and made swimming inviting. The company helped each other and enjoyed each other. All of the most experienced paddlers swam, usually laughing, while the other paddlers learned a lot and stayed upright. Ruth stayed dry and gained tremendous confidence. Best of all, for me at least, was the lack of forest fires requiring sudden changes in plans. Thanks to all who came and helped to make the trip so fun!

 

 

 

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Navarro River – March 18-19

NAVARRO RIVER Trip Report

March 18-19, 2017

By Karen J.

Imagine soft misty-blue water with sediment still settling, the plonk-plink of dripping foliage, the rich green of happy moss, the damp cool clean air, a beautiful gravel bar, and a 16-foot class 3 scramble from parked vehicles to get down to river-level. The Hendy Woods Bridge put-in. We normally put in at the day use area inside the park, but it was closed; not just gated-closed, but impassible-closed. The recent storms/floods caused damage that has not been repaired. It would have been a long, long carry. The bridge was bad, but better.

The intrepid but crazy group of 7 people with three boats met at 10:00 AM. When Don and Karen arrived (early), Kate and Alan already had their boat and most of their gear down at the water, as did Eric , girlfriend Julie, and son Arvid. Once all gear was loaded and the car-shuttle to Dimmick campground completed, we set off.

The river was running a little under 400 cfs; the weather prediction was 50% chance of rain Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Skies felt grey and watchful, giving that eerie sensation a downpour was imminent. However, the temperature was mild. I love paddling in the rain; hearing the drops rustle in the foliage and plop onto the water surface, watching drip-rings spread, and feeling a sense of joy that exists nowhere else. But keep in mind a 50% chance of rain predicts that 50% of the forecast area would receive measurable precipitation. Rain may have fallen elsewhere in the area, but all we got the entire weekend was about 60 droplets each. It felt like rain, but none materialized.

The Navarro this year is a new river. The good news is last year’s downed trees are gone, cleared out by earlier high water. The bad news is there are lots of creatively-placed new downed trees for your boating pleasure, and the channels, such as they are, are much more intricately arranged. The tree-and-brush lined but relatively entrenched channels are gone; the new channels often cut through the well-grown willows that lined the old channels. Channel-finding was difficult in places. We went over, under and around channel-blocking tree trunks. We bushwhacked with boats, dragging through dense heavy willow-stems that did NOT want to bend. We maneuvered around very tight turns while the current shoved us toward strainers, rocks, logs, and undercut banks. Progress was slow and channels, if they existed at all, were narrow. One interesting obstacle was a narrow spot with a ninety-degree turn and a log laying diagonally above the top part of the bend and sinking mid-channel into the lower part of the bend. The current wanted boats to be pushed under the log (minimal clearance) and trapped in debris on the far side. It was possible with clean entry, good angle and bow-paddler muscle to skirt the log to the inside. Unfortunately, Kate and Alan weren’t set up properly and washed under the log still upright, then got caught on the far side. They discussed the situation briefly, then with some struggle pried themselves off the obstruction and floated downstream where they eddied out. It was a nasty spot; both kept their heads, kept their balance, and kept working until they escaped. Kate was shaking, but never lost it. We were impressed.
Eric’s girlfriend Julie is great. She’s not an experienced paddler, but she’s strong, willing, and upbeat. Eric needed her help to navigate the tight channels, not to mention the non-channels. Arvid, a third-grader now, took turns with Julie paddling bow. Arvid was also the group’s motivated campfire-maker in camp, which turned out to be rather important to some other boaters.
Our usual sandy camping ground was washed out; we didn’t want to set up tents on large cobbles. Since the bulk of the sand along the Navarro has evidently left for the sea, we searched for somewhere with, hopefully, gravel or smaller rocks. Don found a nice spot just downstream on the left, with an overhanging tree branch perfect for the kitchen tarp, flat areas, and a ground surface reminiscent of concrete with small rocks jutting out. We set up camp, ate a Don-cooked dinner of rice and chicken curry, then sat by the fire watching the river and drinking wine, tea or hot chocolate as the light faded. Chocolate and cookies to finish off the meal. It was wonderful.
As we watched, and the grey deepened into night, two solo sit-on-top kayakers, man and woman, came around the bend and pulled up at the beach.
The man, Matt, asked “How far is it before we hit civilization?”
Don: “There is no civilization along the rest of this river.”
Matt: “Anywhere we can get to the road?”
Don: “The nearest take-out is nine miles.”
The woman, also named Karen, sat in her kayak gazing at the fire with intense and wistful longing. (This could get confusing. From here on, the kayaker-Karen will be referred to as Karen, the other will be called Karen J.)
Matt: “How far is it to the coast? We have a car staged at the coast.”
Don: “Seventeen miles.”
Karen sat in her kayak gazing at the fire. Craving the fire.
Matt: “Well, then we’ll paddle out to the nearest take-out and spend the night there, then I’ll paddle the rest of the way to the coast tomorrow.”
We all sat there thinking they were going to die.
Matt and Karen had started in Booneville that morning, and planned to reach the coast by dark. They had no idea what they were getting into and were completely unprepared. No extra clothing, no lifejackets. They had water and one flashlight and no dry clothes. It was a surprisingly mild night, but with the cloud cover it was black dark; navigation on the river would be difficult and dangerous. Rain was forecast.
Kate spoke up. “You can’t go. It’s not safe. You need to say with us tonight.” Kate kept insisting they stay. The rest of us joined her. Not that we had any idea how we could manage, but anything was better than that black river.
Karen, still sitting in her kayak, spoke quietly to Matt. “You’re not going to make me leave, are you?”
Matt: “Nope!”
They climbed out of their boats and up to the fire. Both were soaking wet. Karen was wearing a dripping cotton sweatshirt and shivering. Karen Jarrell’s mommy-nature instantly kicked in; she dragged Karen behind the tent and got her into all of Karen J.’s spare clothes; Karen J. even sacrificed her down jacket. Julie donated socks and Teva’s. Meanwhile, Eric had outfitted Matt with dry clothing. The next order of business was food. There was no dinner left other than dessert sweets, but Kate and Allen brought out their yummy good cookies, and others contributed lunch leftovers; Matt and Karen had a decent if strange dinner, then joined us at the fire with hot cocoa.
At bedtime, The Jarrells donated their tatami mats and a pillow to the Matt-and-Karen cause, Kate and Alan contributed two blankets, and Eric et al contributed their tent footprint as a groundcloth and a completely-zipped-open down sleeping bag. Amazing what we came up with. Then off we went to bed.
The following morning, Matt and Karen were necessarily up early, since we’d built their bed under the kitchen tarp in case of rain. Breakfast was hot oatmeal with nuts and fruit, and lots of hot coffee and hot chocolate. Hot is so wonderful on a cool morning. (Brief pause while the author recalls that first sip of sweet hot coffee and how luxurious it feels going down the throat.)
As we were packing, Matt and Karen tried to return the borrowed clothing. Since NOTHING they owned was even remotely dry and much of it was dripping and covered with sand, this effort was refused. As a matter of fact, Karen acquired a waterproof shell and rain pants when Karen J. changed into her dry suit. Karen J. can be quite insistent, even pushy at times, and wasn’t taking no for an answer.
The second day, our group of now 5 boats headed downstream. We asked… well actually, Karen J. demanded… that Matt and Karen follow the lead boat, paying attention to both boat placement and angle when entering drops or tight turns. They were perfect. Part way down, Karen was heard laughing with joy – “It’s so beautiful here, I love this!”
Our most interesting obstacle the second day was a cluster of three freshly-fallen redwoods blocking the twelve-foot channel, the bottom edge of the upstream tree sitting barely under the waterline. No good way around to the left; heavy brush and a steep bank with nowhere to stand. No way around to the right; tree-roots and a vertical bank blocked the way. Fortunately, there was little current on the right edge of the channel, so Don and Karen J. leaned their canoe gunnel against the three-foot diameter log and scrambled up and over. On the far side of the first log, the two smaller logs formed a lovely, stable dock just above water level. The Jarrells dragged their fully-loaded boat over the logs and back into the water; Karen J. tied it up while Don steadied Matt’s boat. Matt and Don pulled boats over while Karen J. helped the paddlers. People clamber out, boat is pulled over and steadied in the water, people climb back in and paddle to the nearby gravel bar. Easy. But don’t think this was the only obstacle; it’s just there were so many. And we were getting better at them.
The Dimmick take-out still had the nasty bank, but was much easier overall than in prior years. The high water on the North Fork of the Navarro, which joins the main Navarro just upstream of Dimmick campground, deposited a nice gravel bar at the take-out, so all boats could beach and unload easily. There was a downed tree at the top of the bank, but it was easy to go around. Everyone, including our guests, carried boats and schlepped gear.
Then hiked out to the road, around the ‘Campsite Closed’ barrier, and into cars to run a double car shuttle. Matt and Karen J. took Don’s Highlander to the coast so Matt could bring back his truck. Eric took Alan back to the put-in and retrieved Alan’s car. Everyone else prepared boats for transport and loaded gear. Matt and Karen J. were the first back; Matt jumped out to shift the barrier aside that partially blocked the entrance, whereapon the barrier collapsed into 3 or4 pieces. It had been propped together like a house of cards and was now laying in the middle of the road completely flattened. Matt moved the rightmost piece or two so the cars could get in. And on to loading.
During the high water of a few weeks ago, the North Fork of the Navarro had obviously swept enthusiastically through the campground. Karen J. headed for the nearest bathroom, though Don said it was likely locked. Karen J. still doesn’t know if the door was locked or not; the debris pile in front of the door prevented her from ever reaching it. She instead used a sunlit green clearing amidst soft leaf litter and the delicate, gleaming new leaves of poison oak.
Our unexpected guests Matt and Karen were awesome the entire time they were with us. They jumped right into the group, never whined, helped with everything, fun to be around. They’re strong, bright, articulate, and full of life. GREAT people. Arvid is likely to miss Matt; they had fun together. Karen J. already misses Karen; she felt like a friend. All of us hope they’ll paddle with us on other trips and bring their friends.
Many thanks to Don Jarrell for planning the trip, packing all the equipment, buying the food, preparing the meals, and leading on the river. Don, you are totally awesome. (OK, I’m biased, I’m his wife, but he’s still totally awesome.)
I feel sorry for all of you who didn’t make this trip. I’ve never been as proud to be a part of this group as I was this weekend. The culture of caring, supportiveness, happiness and adventure is so special. There was enough adventure and misery-quotient to make a memorable trip. And Lord, it’s so beautiful out on the water, even when we share it with brush thickets and downed trees.
Hope to see you on the river soon!
Karen J.

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