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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Labor Day on the Trinity

I messed up and failed to post this on the POST Canoe Club wordpressblog. Jan, hope you don’t feel like I left you out on purpose. – Kit

After all that mishegass there was a trip on the Trinity. Apologies to Alan for all the trouble and uncertainty. I hope to hear from some of the Middle Fork paddlers and I wonder what other boating adventures happened over this weekend. I stayed home and the only water I swam in was a tiny swimming pool in the Berkeley Hills.  I guess you can see why Jan stopped leading the Labor Day trip a couple of years ago – its just too stressful. This year’s trip was only possible for her because its a short drive from Arcata and Jan’s willingness to take the chance on the drive. That’s something Alan, who lives in the bay area, didn’t have available to him…

From Jan D.
The flow was up. The air was clear. We missed our paddling friends.

The salmon were too hot, so the bureaucracies involved decided to give them water and let them live another year. The judge quickly acted to deny the water agencies request to save the water for crops. The Trinity has been flowing at 1150 cfs for a couple of weeks now. It should last for a couple more. For us whitewater boaters, that means the Trinity is the finest place to paddle in California. It just happens that 1150 cfs is a delightful flow on our favorite runs.

The lightening caused fires created a lot of smoke in the Burnt Ranch Gorge. The smoke traveled down the New River to the Trinity. Some days it blew upstream, Some days it blew downstream. Some days the wind roused enough to break the inversion layer, but many days the smoke kept accumulating. The air quality board issued daily warnings of unhealthy air for communities up and down the river. Then, rain came. It calmed the fires and broke the inversion layer. Some fires actually went out. The big fires blew back the way they came and found little fuel to burn. The air cleared. On Thursday and Friday before Labor Day, there were zero health advisories issued along the Trinity River.

My family decided to venture out to the Trinity and test the air. It was mildly smoky on Saturday between Hawkins Bar and Hayden Flat. Jake, Ruth, Yukon and I put on in the C1 and the Canyon. The flow was fun! Enough water to cover rocks, enliven waves and speed us along our way. The wind picked up a little early, but it mostly was noticed because it blew the smoke away. The air was a pleasant at 80 degrees. The water was a bit chilly. We stayed dry and appreciated not having to stop to drink water. Jake and I ran the tandem down the left side of Picket Fence. Jake paddles so fast these days that it felt like a roller coaster over the waves. He caught a lot of air in the bow. I did not bother to paddle and just steered whenever my paddle could reach the water.

Skunk Point remains a good campsite. The shade reaches it about 5 PM. The traffic on the road died down about 6 PM. It was fun to watch the fire crews use the parking lot as a rendezvous for several hours. The picnic tables along the cliff continue to have a splendid view of the river and the stars. There was bear scat on the beach, deer swimming across the river, ospreys floating by and otters splashing in the night. We saw few bats, probably there were no bugs. Sleeping without a tent was an excellent option. Sunday and Monday, Jake ran Pigeon Point with kayaking friends. After a late start, and missed meetings, Ruth and I stayed in camp. It was warm enough to swim and sun and drink cold fluids. Monday, we broke camp and got on the river by 10 AM. The interesting part was organizing shuttle for two runs with only two cars. Fortunately, the Pigeon Point people were willing to paddle on down to Skunk Point, where the class II paddlers were happy to start. We all met at the French Bar takeout to exchange passengers and boats. We even timed the arrivals perfectly.

The only problem was too few people to camp with. We missed all our POST friends. Next weekend, Pigeon Point will be run again. Let me know if you want to make it. We will try to make it worth the drive. We also hope to see some of you at the Nugget Slalom race Sept 19-20. It really does improve your paddling skills. This year, maybe I will even attempt all the gates.

I hope to see you on the water soon.

Jan Dooley

PS Thank you again to the many paddling friends who came to Chuck’s memorial. I wish I could have spent more time with each of you. My family felt, and continues to feel, very loved. Now, make the long drive again to enjoy the river with us.

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Trinity River Camp Out and Mindfulness Exercise

by Eric R.

One of the outcomes of the cancer that was discovered on my tongue last year, then excised and radiated, is that I began meditating regularly.  At Stanford where the radiation was delivered, an eight week course in Mindfulness is regularly offered.  I took it twice.  During the first session I became convinced that meditation is a powerful practice. During the second I began to do the practice, and so to enjoy the uncommon delight of noticing and keenly perceiving the wondrous interest and beauty in which we always live,

Paddling down the Trinity River this past weekend with 8 other members of my whitewater canoe club,from Steel Bridge Campground to Junction City, was an opportunity to be mindful.  Floating along in my solo boat was, I realized, like watching a well-done nature film.  From my spot in the canoe, a rich array of natural treasures passed before me.  Sometimes dragonflies would hover just overhead, their blurred wings shimmering as they darted about.  Distant views of forested slopes and ridges alternated with the thick willows and alders crowding and overarching the river. Trees miraculously grew out of steep rock walls  At times Don and Karen or Eric and Arvid pulled close to shore to snatch clumps of grapes off the vines that grew right into the river.  It was fun to follow Eric and Arvid when they wove through foliage hanging near the bank.

Better than arm-chair travel was the adventure afforded by sitting in a boat.  Breezes, scents and splashes gave the experience a sensuality rare in living rooms.   And the frequent appearance of rocks and rapids, most capable of capsizing my chair, added suspense.  And then, when the movie ended, all of us gathered in the kitchen to share pasta and stories, mostly true.

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Memorial Day Weekend (not the Eel)


A River with Water

5/22/15 Indian Creek Lodge 11pm

John M. and I got rolling toward Weaverville from my Castro Valley home a little after our noon plan, but at quarter past one the traffic was light on this Friday of the Memorial Day weekend. We were ahead of commuters, and of most weekend vacationers, but not all. As 680 neared 80 by Suisun, the distance between bumpers shrunk, and the odometer showed no speed. When we finally crawled onto 80, we were ready to exit.

John typed in “Winters” and selected “non-highway” for route.

“Take Exit 43.” announced the phone.

It was just ahead and we turned onto it. Immediately we shifted from stopped to speeding. Until a red traffic light appeared. It wasn’t the last, but there were welcome gaps in between as we rolled between Fairfield suburbs and woods just north of 80. We were happy. The views were good and motion constant. Sometimes these things aren’t about getting there faster, just about being sane and happy upon arrival.

Then our road turned away from town and we saw signs for Lake Solano, ten miles distant. Now there was no traffic and we often topped 50. Plus we were in the country, passing farms, fields and vineyards we’d never seen before. If we’d had champagne, we would’ve toasted Google.

Crossing Putah Creek we saw boats and discussed returning with ours and our grandkids. They’d put up with a two hour drive.

We stopped briefly in Winters, then drove without traffic to Redding and on to Weaverville where we entered Marino’s Italian restaurant well before their 8 o’clock closing.

5/23/15 about 8pm, a grassy strip about 10 miles downriver from Lewiston

For the 17 of us to be on this remote stretch of scenic river with our nine boats, ten gallons of home water and food and lodging for two days and nights is a miracle that deserves very honorable mention. Eric and Amy doing their first trip have done a fabulous job putting together this biggest trip of the year. They credit Don for making the vital change from the Eel, flowing at about 200cfs, to this Trinity beside us which is moving ten times that much water. We put-in at 1:45, took out by 4:30. Our average speed was 5.5 mph, and our highest rate over 9, according to Don’s GPS. And Don came up a week ago to scout and found this fine site. Thank You, Don!

Part of the logistics was the shuttle. Six of the seven vehicles we needed to get all our bodies and boats to the put-in were driven down to Junction City via a new to us road to Highway 3 and then through Weaverville and parked as usual high up on the take-out beach across from the county park. Getting out of his red VW Dave uttered several expletives. He had just secured his car with one of the family steering wheel locks. One his key didn’t fit. His beautiful car could now not be driven by thieves, or him.

In Don’s packed Toyota lively discussion ensued. Dave called home and laid out the dilemma and the possible solution of wife Debbie or son Eric making the 10 hour round trip to bring the right key. Both were sympathetic, but neither volunteered to spend their holiday in that way. These locks, several of us knew, could be quickly cut with a grinder, at least one connected to an outlet. But the campground was some hundreds of feet away.

In Weaverville we detoured to the True Value hardware store where a likely and reasonable option was presented. For under a hundred dollars Dave could buy a battery-powered Sawsall and 3 carbide blades that would cut the hardened steel, according to the hardwareman. It was not certain the tool would make the cut in the 15 minutes its one battery, which the store would charge before Dave picked it up on Monday, provided. So Dave might need to get more than one shuttle between beach and store, for recharging. We decided to check with the local locksmith, too.

His shop/antiques store was on our way back and required a very brief visit. On its closed door were its Monday-Friday hours. None on weekends. And probably not on holiday Mondays. we assumed.   Well, we had a workable plan, but things at the take-out might get complicated.

Here at our first campground spirits are high. Ruthie and Arvid laugh as they fight playfully. The 2000 cfs lap loudly among the shoreline rocks and willows. Campfire conversation carries like a warble. The general generosity even extends to the few drought-stricken mosquitoes, Some suggest we just let them enjoy their small meals. Most continue to slap.

5/24/15 Steel Bar Campsite

All of us around the campfire have just learned a new paddling acronym. We now know there was an OBE today during our paddle past Indian Creek and Douglas City. Those familiar with this stretch from our Fall Trinity trips recognized the scenery today, though the landscape was greener and dotted with wildflowers, but the river was new – with trains of huge waves where there’d before been ripples. Several times we stopped to return hundreds of pounds of water to the river – from each boat.

With one exception there were no OBE’s. “It was almost pleasant.” Lena says, with laughter in her eyes and voice.

“There was this big boulder that we went close to and then tipped over. It was very gentle. I was afraid of hitting a rock, like with my head, but I remembered to keep my feet first. I also kept hold of my paddle and the boat, which I stayed behind.”

Neil added a little more of the set-up, as he saw it from the stern. “There were a lot of rocks and we tried to cross through them toward river left. We hit that boulder with our nose and spun around so we were going backwards, then went up on it and flipped.”

With Neil and Lena’s spill revisited, we moved on to the adventure awaiting Dave at the take-out with someone announcing, “You know, I’m not sure those carbide blades will cut that hardened steel, and those sawzalls go through batteries awfully fast.” So we don’t know if or how fast the cutting will go, but Jan has agreed that she and Ruthie will shuttle Dave up to Weaverville to get the tool and blades. At least once.

There’s one more development that I think I can get down before sleep, as it may adversely affect that sleep.

While I lay in the shade of willows near the kitchen before dinner, about to nap, I heard a strange for this area sound. It was the thump, thump, thump of a helicopter’s rotor. It was there again on awaking. Excited paddlers were watching it dip its bucket into the river just downstream, then flying off toward 299, the area where there have been recent big fires.

This continued until about sunset.

“They can only fly with visual guidance.” said Don, a safety expert.

So it wasn’t a surprise that the chopper, followed by another, soon headed off toward Redding. But it was a worry. We all had hoped they’d leave when the job was done, not just because of the rules. Common sense, and firey imaginations, suggest that flames may now be racing up nearby canyons, soon to engulf our remote, cell signalless camp.

Not exactly the peaceful refuge we expected.

5/25/15 Dunnigan Rest Area

When I looked out of my tent in the middle of the night I saw no red glow, nor smelled any smoke.

Don asked that we be on the river this morning by 10. Yesterday we broke camp at 10:30. John looked at his watch as the last boat left Steel Bar. “9:15.”

The paddle to the take out was calm and lovely. There was no excitement until people walked up to their cars and found their gas caps on the roofs, their doors unlocked, and some windows broken. We’ve parked in this place every Fall for many, many years without incident. We likely won’t park here again.

Some lost cash, a tablet and other prized possessions. We later learned that the thieves broke into cars along a long stretch of the river. It was an unhappy conclusion to a very fun trip. Much was said on the beach and via e-mail as we worked through our pain.

On the positive side, the carbide Sawzall blade zipped right through the ears of Dave’s Club, and since the thieves didn’t want his diesel, he, too, soon joined the homeward drive.

Eric R.

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#3 of Three Overdue Posts From the Fall (2014)

This is far out of date but there is useful info about Skunk Point so I thought I would send it out anyway…

Trinty River Labor Day 2014

by Robert Neff

Here are a couple of notes that give a flavor of the trip. We had a trip on Skunk Point to French Creek (class 2-) every day. A second trip on Hayden -> Cedar on Sunday, and 4 intrepid boaters (Jan, Jake,John, and Jobert) on Pigeon Point on Monday.

Driving shuttles was short! Jan told me she had 40 miles of shuttle mileage for the weekend!

Skunk Point was a nice campground for POST, especially since nobody else occupied the 2nd group camp there, and we could spread out. No water, but not far to water, and we know how to deal with that. There were worries about smoke, but air quality was excellent until Monday, when we could see some from the Klamath fires. Easy access from the camping area down to the water, and views of the night sky.

Water was very cold for swimming, but plentiful for boating, and the water quality was good with the high flows

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# Two of Three Overdue Posts From Last Fall (2014)

This is a trip report that is going to take off on a related, but for some readers, irrelevant tangent. But before eddying out let’s look at some mid-river subjects, like Scotty’s Donuts on 120 in Modesto. These days, when all paddlers provide their own transportation to the put-in, there are surely some who don’t stop at Scotty’s. Back when Bill Hitchings was driving the POST van on our annual trip to the Toulumne, we all pulled into Scotty’s. I heartily embrace such traditions, however unhealthy, and stopped Saturday morning. Mine was the only canoe in the lot, and it didn’t stay long. I dunked my buttermlk bar carefullly, as I drove on.

Google predicted I’d arrive at 9, and I did. So I was ontime. My time. I assumed it was the common time. But when, as I reached the turn-off to the campground, two vehicles with familiar canoes pulled out and headed toward La Grange, I followed. Good thing.

“Oh, you made it.” folks hollered out from under their boats and burdens on the dusty country lane. Quite quickly I threw my gear onto the ground and drove back to park across from the grocery/liquor store up on the highway. Unless you arrived in a tank, you wouldn’t leave it down by the river. People used to. We no longer choose to support the local economy so directly.

The day was sunny and warm and soon our little fleet was weaving down the river in clusters and singles. It is such a delicious treat to step into the canoe, settle down, then, with so little effort, cause this elegant craft to turn and scoot out into the current. Cars are perfectly wonderful, but the waterworld we access on these little pods is so much more sensual, with us in the middle of the sunlight, the breezes and when we need it most, the shade.

And then there’s conversation. Much easier to talk openly with a fellow paddler, than another driver. And talk we do. My favorite topic on this gorgeous day was Ebola. In college biology I learned that populations are naturally controlled by famine, stress and disease. I’ve had some curiosity lately about the possibility our human, as well as the planets, extreme stresses might be on the road to relief via this lively excaped virus. So I paddled alongside Pat and Eilleen and inquired.

Pat, a professional pathologist, said he’s been following Ebola for years. It seems likely that the virus is endemic in bats, which in Africa tend to be much larger than ours. Big enough for a meal. Cases of Ebola have often occured in charcoal-gatherers, men who go out into remote places to gather and burn wood. And may shelter in bat-filled caves. The outbreaks have been small in part because they happened in the small villages these men return to, and burn out by killing all their victims. Among bats the symptoms are surely not as fatal. Maybe just indigestion. Similarly, this new strain, while killing most victims, leaves many people alive. And those that die live long enough to contaminate others.

The great thing is that its transmitted only by fluids. Pat affirmed this trait makes Ebola controllable. “I’m not worried.” he concluded. Nor am I, now.

With Ebola no longer threatening, the day grew lovlier. By the way, if you do find yourself in the company of someone with Ebola, don’t rub your eyes. That moist tissue is where the virus often starts a new infestatiion, said Pat.

The best place for a canoe to get through a rapid is, of course, the “Y.” Isn’t it a delight to slip through those? Not so smooth on the Toulumne were the too shallow spots we sometimes hit. Fortunately for the rest of us, newcomers Laura and Allison were paddling a Grumman that gave a wonderfully audible grinding alarm whenever it touched bottom.

The warm sun was a treat, except when it once in awhile doubled up, hitting us both from above, and reflected up from the glassy water. Just after one of those oven experiences, we paddled into the fern grotto. Ecstasy!

Pleasures continued off the river as Bob and Joan refused to let us do anything but enjoy their delicious meal.

After breakfast Sunday morning Eric Forsman was talking fishing with campground host Eddie, the ex-firechief of Ceres, and a big, red-faced guy who’d come in on a motorcycle. By this time our campsite had cleared as most drove over to Knights Ferry to run Russian Rapids. But we Erics planned to head directly to our homes for less exciting activity. For a little while, though, we could talk fishing.

The big guy, Dan, teaches fly-fishing and gave us some tips. Eric promptly took his son Arvin down to the river with the two super compact poles he bought from Walmart on-lline for a mere $40 each. I left for home.

I got as far as the giant Outdoor World in Manteca. You see, on the river yesterday there were these two guys on kayaks casting lures in a huge eddy. They said they’d caught a lot of bass. Dan had told me about a sure-fire bass lure. It was here in the Bass Pro Shop.

The first clerk didn’t recognize the name, so he sent David to talk with me. What David showed me is only remotely related to the trip this report is about. As we all know POST doesn’t fish. David told me how to catch bass, something he did professionally for over thirty years. You could use his technique while on a canoe. But not on a POST trip.

What David showed and sold me was not shiny or fancy. Or expensive. What bass most like are worms: big, fat, long fake worms. This guy, who regularly hauled in more pounds of bass than any of the other experts he was competing with, knows how to serve up a worm. Just like in fine restaurants, presentation is everything. Briefly, without describing the special knots and their precise placement, what David does is to dangle the worm just above the bottom, jiggle it, and then jump it along back toward him. To keep the worm down there, he attaches a very clever weight that is unlikely to hang up in grasses or rocks, and if it does, can be quickly replaced. The rest of the rigging won’t also break off.

“I’ll bet you really feel it when those lunkers hit.” I offered.

“No, often the line just feels heavier.”

When this happens, to be sure the hook gets set before the fish spits out the imposter, David pulls the rod back sharply at resistance. Then there’s some action!

If that sounds like fun to you, let’s talk. I’ve got a bagful of worms and weights, just waiting for someone to say “Eric, let’s go fishing.” Is it you?

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One of Three Overdue Posts about Trips last Fall (2014)

ERIC’S TRINITY 2014 NOTES Putah Creek Cafe, Winters, 9/28/14, 7:40pm Eleven glasses here, still bearing the imprints of the six other paddlers, all who’ve finished their meals and continued homeward: David driving Peter toward the promised home refridgerator ice cream that made Pete happy to leave the treats of this table. Kit and Charlie soon to see their lively foreign student, and Kate and Alan wanting to get to BART before it shuts down at midnight. I was last to arrive, chew the slowest and am motivated to stay until I finish this story and the chocolate cake only Kate was willing to help me devour – only true chocolate lovers give such help after so ample a meal. This story is taking form thanks to our waitress who took my plea for paper to the office gal who brought me two freshly torn off sheets from her yellow pad. This restaurant, suggested by Dave, is great. We all enjoyed our varied meals, the paintings on the rustic wood walls, and the uncrowded, unnoisy room. And it’s only about 5 minutes off 505.

The good company, as on rivers, doubled its pleasures. Those river pleasures commenced for me around the cement picnic table Saturday morning at Steelbridge Campground where Eric, Amy and Arvid; Karen and Don and Neal Cassidy joined the restaurant gang for coffee and cereal. It was my first trip in this medically exciting year and I loved all the warm greetings. We all loved the relatively warm weather – no fingers went numb this trip. Maybe the general warmth deserves some of the blame that inspired Don to later, much later, from concern bred in miserable after-dark take-outs, observe “We’ve never put-in this late on this trip.” As lead boat, he helped keep us from such misery with his legendary paddling. There was only one nasty argument on this trip. It happened when someone said that Don had one time in his life flipped a boat. Ridiculous heresy! He and Karen certainly didn’t on this trip, nor did anyone in their elegant wake. Thanks to such good paddling and brief breaks, we all got to our Steel Snag campsite before the sun entirely left the beach, let alone the canyon.

Earlier in the day Neal voluntarily swam during a break, proving that the river wasn’t frigidly cold. I happened to arrive this year with mask, snorkel and fins, so as soon as the kitchen boats were hauled up and placed so dinner could be started, I went to work on a dream I’ve been trying to develop – to provide a fresh fish for our dinner. Last year some local fishermen cast their lines into the water right here. And we’d seen fins roiling in the upriver shallows. Were there any here? I followed Neil’s inspiration and jumped into the river above camp, hoping to discover just where the salmon and steelhead were lurking. The water was quite clear, and clearly devoid of lunkers or any other form of visible life, like crawdads. Only in the shallows just below camp did a large trout dart past me.

The best and most memorable part of my dive was when, about ten minutes after it, the sun reappeared from behind a cloud and bathed my shivering skin in still hot shine. That was my swim’s only sensory pleasure. Even though I’d seen no big fish, I still attached the new spinner bought in Weaverville mid-shuttle and cast across the river, after first working the near pool where the trout probably lives. Not surprisingly, the fish that weren’t there didn’t bite. Nor were they missed. About the time I would have begun cleaning my fantasy fish, Kit and Charlie began serving real sausage, potato and salad. Everybody ate with relish.

Next morning something usual happened. Charlie got up early, made coffee, then oatmeal, with Kit’s help. And everybody was happy. Thank you Kit and Charlie.

If you think I’ve been too profuse with my praise of Don, read on. I arrived at Steelbridge Friday night – no, early Saturday morning, towing the Subaru that was supposed to get me from Pendleton to Weaverville the Wednesday before. Instead, my car overheated on one of several mountains along 395 in far eastern Oregon due to, the local mechanic said, a blown head gasket. “Subaru’s are known for this.” he added. He would also have happily added several thousand dollars and many days to my trip, so I instead bought a fine pick-up from a more trusted local, and towed the car on a U-Haul trailer to the Trinity. It was, after all, my trip!

Thanks again to Charlie and Kit for doing all the actual work that made the trip such a success. Don was present during the shuttle when I dropped the trailer, by previous arrangement, in the employee parking lot of the Indian Creek Lodge just before Douglas City. On Sunday morning during oatmeal he suggested I look along the river for a 2×4 or similar size piece of lumber. He’d watched the jack of the trailer sink deep into the lot’s wet gravel and knew we wouldn’t be able to raise it to tongue height without a stronger substrate. That he had been puzzling over and trying to solve my problem touched me. I hugged him, then looked for 2x’s at every stop. Futilely.

Aways down the river, as sweep boat with Neal, I was surprised to round a bend and see Don and Karen pulled up on river left. They rarely stop for personal reasons and this was no beach where we could all get out and stretch. As Neal and I drew close, Don pointed to a long 4×4 freshly set atop his loaded boat. “This’ll do it.” he declared. It sure did. Back at the lodge parking lot when I returned after fetching my truck at Steelbridge, Don guided my backing up right to the trailer safely raised up well over the ball. In a moment the connecting was completed. Yes, it went on without a hitch, then all of us got on the road toward Putah Creek Cafe or straight home.

On my way back home I couldn’t help replaying a dramatic episode that almost dunked Neal and me at the beginning of the last stretch of river before our Sunday takeout. At this curve the river makes a sharp left and pushes boats hard towards a big boulder on its right edge. Two years ago, because my old legs got so stiff kneeling that I couldn’t quickly leave my boat to help with a rescue I decided to experiment. Could I, with years of experience, beat the natural law demonstrated in our first Richmond Plunge class, that sitting on the seat so raises ones center of gravity as to make tipping likely. The experiment was successful until I got to that rock, where I gracelessly flipped, emptying my solo boat of some gear that sank and was still visible last year. This year. forgetting the power of the river I, in the stern, turned too late, and Neal and I banged against the boulder. By the way, once again I was sitting on the seat. Not because I hadn’t learned to respect physics, but because the seats of Neal’s boat were too low for my feet to fit under them. On the positive side, they afforded a lower center of gravity. But not low enough to keep the boat from responding to the collision by tipping away from the rock and toward the onrushing water. Just before the inevitable over-the-gunnel deluge swamped us an old phrase appeared like a huge neon sign on my mind’s emergency warning screen: “KISS THE ROCK.” With no argument, resistance or thought of any kind, I obeyed. I leaned toward the boulder. My lips didn’t make contact, but my hand did. And as I leaned right, the canoes left side lifted above the about to rush in water, the boat leveled, and Neal and I stayed upright and mostly dry.

That “Kiss the rock.” emerged from my congested brain seems a miracle. But it also demonstrates the power of education. Like all POST paddlers, I’ve heard that expression many, many times. And I’ve used it in situations nowhere near as dicey as this one. So, I’ve been successfully educated. Once again, I’m grateful for POST and its emphasis on safety. And to Don, who later advised that we start such turns earlier. But kissing rocks sure kept that one wrong from becoming two. And that’s all right.

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