October – Tuolumne and the Stanislaus

By Eric R.

10/17/15 Turlock Lake Campground

The cheerful music of Alan’s concertina carries easily through the screened window of my camper. The campfire where he plays illuminates his and another paddlers face: a glowing conclusion to a lovely day on the Tuolumne River that we canoed from the old La Grange bridge to this campground.
Here Bob and Joan prepared our dinner. As part of their 5 star service Joan delivered the plates of pulled porkwiches, potato salad and beans to each diner. We helped ourselves to the three bottles of wine. Without help, Kit and I emptied a porter and most of a Newcastle Brown Ale. Joan also delivered dessert – rich, gooey brownies she’d made, and, just in case those didn’t yield enough endorphins, a package of Costco cookies, chocolate chip.
During the meal most of us, including surprise arrivals Charlie and Kit, talked about the events of the day, as well as various occurrences during the late Middle Ages. They happened near rivers.
One person worked through dinner. Treasurer Jan Lockie, who would otherwise have to deal with it once she gets home, wisely chose to figure out what each participant owed and collect it between bites.
“It’s all done!” she exclaimed with a smile about the time Alan started playing and Kate built and started the fire.
“I’ve always been a firebug.” Kate confessed with a grin.
Alice gave the day’s paddling a touch of class by rakishly sporting a wide-brimmed black felt hat. Bob reminded us of the season with a plastic jack-o-lantern affixed to the prow of his canoe.
“What’s in it” I asked.
“Candy.” he replied.
Of course.
Ever energetic Vince asked late in the day if he could paddle my XL13. I instantly said yes. At that point I was tired with trying to keep the little Mohawk in a straight, speedy line. Vince and Shauna were sweep and I’d spent much of the afternoon being dust. It was a relief to get in the bow of their boat and just paddle, needing no j-strokes or prys to stay on course. Shauna easily aimed us into every Y and avoided all rocks.
The lovely and mostly serene day was enlivened by, new to POST, but experienced sea-paddler, Katarina. She’d been encouraged not to bother getting a river boat, so she brought her very long, keeled, bright yellow, tippy sea-kayak. By the end of the trip she was dreaming of going down river in Alice’s short, but very stable bathtub shaped Kopapa.
Bob got out of his boat to pull Katarina’s boat free of one traffic jam, and Joan gave her company and coaching most of the way. And she showed great spunk, emerging from her inevitable spills with smiles and good cheer. Instead of complaining, she continued to express delight and gratitude for being on this lovely river, seeing the Osprey and noble Great Blue Herons and being with us.
Katarina’s third tip didn’t change her attitude, but it did take most of her breath away. She found herself upside down and couldn’t get the spray skirt to quickly release.
All her travails persuaded the rest of us that Katarina’s got what POST requires: an ability to laugh when wet, hurt and embarrassed. Repeatedly. And she brought two bottles of wine.

10/18/15 Looking back
Today the sun came up early – no overcast. We left camp early, but somehow got divided. Most went right on Lake Rd. That was right. Some, though, went left. That was not right.
All managed to get to Knights Ferry and most elected to paddle upstream past the old covered bridge and warm up in the wave trains. No surprise that Vince and Shauna deftly moved from one to another, enjoying apparently leisurely stays mid roiling water. Not expected by some of us was Jim’s ease at doing the same thing. Our appreciation increased as word got round that Jim is 82. Evidently paddling is healthy.
Also riding those waves were Kate and Alan. Had you noticed what good paddlers they’ve become?
There were some changes at Russian Rapid. Proving that she also has sense, Katarina chose to walk the left side path, totally dry this year. Kit and Charlie used the same route to rejoin us for lunch, which Bob and Joan served on the river left beach. Continuing their “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” service, they forced nobody to fix sandwiches between bites of breakfast, but brought lunch to the beach. We gladly took their tasty wraps and ate them. Thank you Bob and Joan.
There was some mystery in the woods between the river and that left side path. Always enthusiastic, Vince and Dave set off up that way carrying the big red Legend, I think it was. After awhile voices were heard to wonder where these men were. We of course expected to see them come splashing any minute through the waves to have lunch. But many minutes passed, and wraps were eaten. Eventually they did re-emerge, out of the brush, not the river. Something was said about the impenetrable berry vines. It’s not just the bears that can get you in these riparian thickets.
After we left the rapids, we found some others adequate to excite us, and in time there were a lot of musical boats. Early on David and Peter traded with Shauna and Vince to try out the for sale Legend. After Katarina’s second Sunday swim, Karen asked if she’d like to paddle with Don. “Yes!” she replied with maybe even more than her usual gratitude. For her to become Don’s bow paddler, and student, Karen partnered with Shauna, Vince got to paddle my Mohawk again, and I got into the tippy sea-kayak. Not wanting to become breathless, I didn’t fasten the skirt.
Soon Bob led us ashore at Horseshoe Bend, Upper Horseshoe Bend it was. After we all stretched and snacked, as suggested by Bob, we got back into our boats and paddled for a full 8 to 10 minutes to Lower Horseshoe Bend, where Bob again bade us come ashore. Sure enough, nobody felt the need to stretch or snack. We were all ready to put boats atop quickly shuttled vehicles, and clear out, after promising to meet on December 12 for the POST party. Let’s.

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