~Exploring the Cosumnes River’s new personality

~I’ve dipped my paddle into the Consumnes River more than a dozen times, but never like this.  Recent rains have resulted in swollen rivers, one of which is the Consumnes River that flows through and along the Consumnes River Preserve located off I-5.  There are 50,000+ acres in the preserve and this is a winter haven for migratory birds as they fly along the Pacific Flyway.  There are hiking trails, paddling and birding opportunities, and a multitude of educational programs.

If you’ve been here before, you will recognize the building off in the distance as the Visitor Center.  The area flooded with water is a parking lot.  Water levels have subsided by about 4-5 feet as is evident from the grass that’s been flattened out.

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My good friend and paddling buddy Nancy had the idea to go exploring.  She’s paddled here in recent years when water levels were just about as high.  So, we loaded up our gear and kayaks, drove past a few ‘road closed’ signs (we also talked to a local sheriff) and prepared to explore.

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Here’s Nancy launching from the road leading out of the parking lot.

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If you’ve paddled here, you’ll recognize this as the last of a 200 yard cement path that will lead you from the parking lot (above) and down to the floating boat dock.  The picture following is the stairwell leading to the lower parking lot in my first photo.

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We followed the 200 yard path by memory, down to the boat dock, which was floating well above where it normally resides.  We typically would lock up our wheels on the tree to the left of the signs, barely poking up out of the water now.

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I’ve taken a few walks on the preserve’s hiking trails in the past.  These trails are now all under water.

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This sign looks in need of a haircut!

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There was little to no wind, although the sun hadn’t poked out from behind the cloud cover, so it was a bit chilly.  The reflection in the water was pretty cool.

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Had the marsh grass not been washed into this boardwalk, we could have paddled through.

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The preserve will have a lot of cleaning up to do, once the water is gone.  Other than the walking trail that takes you on about a 3-5 mile loop, most of the preserve is protected and there are signs telling you to stay out or off of sensitive habitat areas.  I saw many bird boxes that had toppled over, but this was one was still standing.

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Two different views of the train trestle, which afforded a way out for most wildlife.  On a visit here last week, we spotted a dozen or so deer heading North towards dryer ground.

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As to wildlife, we saw this Great Blue Heron and Egret focusing their attention on something to my left.  (Not pictured, we also saw hawks, tree sparrows, blue jays, king fishers, squirrels, several vultures and sadly, a dead bobcat.)

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I had a chance to get out and stretch my legs, as I pulled Nancy over a little grassy area.

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This is an interesting plaque nailed to a creosote soaked train trestle support post.

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After exploring for about an hour or so, the sun’s warmth started to push through the layer of clouds.  It felt good as my toes were starting to get a little cold.  I should have known to wear my wool socks (polyester just doesn’t cut it like wool does!).

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This is the only section that is actually the Cosumnes River.  The current was moving swiftly so after going upstream about a half mile, we decided to turn back around.

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It was interesting to see this ‘personality’ of the river.  We didn’t venture towards the faster moving Mokelumne river, but rather chose to error on the side of caution and stay closer to the preserve.

There is more rain coming this week, so I imagine it will be quite a while before water levels here completely subside.  I would venture to guess the preserve will have a lot of cleanup and restoration work to do, so if you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please check out this link;

http://www.cosumnes.org/homepage-2/volunteer/

 

 

~Bowman Lake can be worth the trouble

~The very first time I dipped my paddle into Bowman Lake was in June 2014.  I wasn’t sure it would be worth the slow drive in, bouncing and dodging boulders on at least three miles of dirt road.  Well, it was in 2014.

You’ll want to make sure you’ve got a high clearance vehicle if you come in off Highway 20.

At the South end of the lake, there are a few primitive campsites along with a steep rocky road down to the water.  We took turns, one at a time, offloading and driving back to the top to park.  The rocky shoreline held our kayaks until we were ready.

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Ross looks a little chill and and Ted has his award winning smile on his face as they waited with me, while the others launched.

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We paddled around the perimeter of lake on glass-like water!  Paddling conditions were going to be good today.

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The shoreline closest to the dam has a few little islands for additional primitive paddling.  If you want one to yourself, you should arrive early in the week as I suspect these are taken first.

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Some of us scrambled up the rocks to get a better view of the lake and one of our paddlers decided to take a swim in the chilly water!

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Etsuko was exploring and looking for driftwood.

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Ric loves to explore the little nooks and crannies of every waterway we paddle on.

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This was a perfect place to get out for lunch.  Most of us found some shade to sit in.  Marty and Linda were enjoying the sun.  I think Marty even caught a couple of fish too.

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Tom must see something in the crystal clear water and Ross is taking a break with his feet in the water.

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Doug was taking pictures of each of us as we paddled by, high above.

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We lucked out in 2014.  Water levels were high and winds were non-existent.  This wouldn’t be the case when we came back the summer of 2015.  The drought was starting to take hold and the water levels were drastically lower.  We struggled to get into the water, the shoreline had shrunk dramatically and winds were gusting.

With the rain and snow we’ve already had already in 2017, I’d be willing to go back and explore Bowman again.

 

 

~A Dip into 2016 Memories

~As we say good bye to 2016 and welcome a new year, I thought it would be fun to share some pictures of Sacramento Paddle Pushers 2016 paddle adventures.  For those of you who were part of one or many of these paddles, thank you for making 2016 a fun year on the water.

These pictures aren’t in any specific order, but represent the following: Mokelumne River, Petaluma River, Feather River, Englebright Reservoir, Lower Sardine, June Lake, Lake Solano, Pardee Reservoir, North Fork of the American River, Wrights Lake, Echo Lake, Tahoe, Big River, Noyo River, Rodman Slough on Clear Lake, Rollins Lake and Lake Tahoe, just to name a few!!

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~A Happy “Family” of Paddlers

~This is the time of the year when most of us will enjoy time with our friends and family.  Family can mean so much more than just who we’re related to.  For me personally, not only do I have a wonderful and loving family I’m related to, but I’m very fortunate to have a rather large extended family, known as Sacramento Paddle Pushers.

While paddling is our main focus, there’s so much more to what we do as a ‘family’.  We’re about hiking, bike riding, sand castles, water color painting and cooking contests, trips to the beach, whale watching, shopping, good food and wine, and much more. If any of this sounds like something you would enjoy, I encourage you to join us via meetup.com.  We’ve some wonderful outings already planned for 2017.

Enjoy some of my favorite pictures taken at various outings this past year (2016).

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~A Meaningful Thank You

As children we are taught to say “thank you” or “no thank you”.  I’ve been very diligent about teaching this to my children and grand children.  While riding my bike this morning, I really starting to think about the true meaning of what ‘thanks’ means.  After all, today is Thanksgiving and aren’t we supposed to be thankful?

When I looked up the word “thanks” in the dictionary, the definition is “kindly or grateful thoughts” and “an expression of gratitude”.

Each and every time I dip my paddle into the water, there’s a little voice inside my head that whispers to me.  More often than anything, those whispers are whispers of “Thanks”. What am I thankful for? When it comes to paddling, there are so many things.

Perhaps I’m thankful for the glass like reflection on the water;

 

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Perhaps I’m thankful for the wonderful people I’ve met who also have a true appreciation for paddling;

Or, perhaps I’m thankful for the opportunity to be so close to nature;

Whatever the reason is for being thankful, as long as there is a little heart and soul behind the words (or whispers), I believe being thankful can be quite humbling.

As many of you spend time with friends and family today, I encourage you to truly express your gratitude and give a meaningful thanks.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

~Clear Lake….Really? Rodman Slough

Before I ever dipped my paddle into Clear Lake for the first time in April 2015, it took a lot of convincing.  And, I mean a lot!  If you’re like most, you’ve driven along the shoreline of Clear Lake on Highway 20.  At least this was my memory since I was a kid.  It looked like the water was always choppy and who wants to paddle along the highway.  Not me.

But, thankfully, there were a few paddlers I knew who were rather adamant.  One fellow had actually paddled here a few times with another kayak club, so he was rather persistent about the beauty.  I didn’t believe him!  It wasn’t until someone shared with me the Water Trail details (there are 7) for, you guessed it…Clear Lake.  Hmm, this was what I needed to set the wheels in motion.

This particular story is focused on Rodman Slough WT7, as it is my favorite.  The put-in location is at the Nice-Lucern cut-off, in Nice (pronounced like Niece).  There’s a huge parking lot and the best part, no fee to park.  You’ll just need to offload your kayak and gear before parking, but please be careful crossing the road!

Once I was on the water, I wait along the shoreline for the group to gather for this photo op.  Looks like we’re going to have a great day on the water.

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Linda gives me a big smile!  If you’re curious about the lack of a PFD in this picture, it was taken before I instilled strict enforcement of always wearing your PFD when paddling with our group.  If I recall, the temperature was in the high 70s.

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So, we begin to head away from the main lake to explore the slough.

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A beautiful American White Pelican flies overhead.  One of my favorite birds to capture either in the air, or in the water.  They’ve a wing span of up to 62″!!

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As we meander along, I stop to capture this rather cool picture of some Cattails that have recently busted out of their sausage shaped ‘flower’ exposing what looks like huge puffs of dirty cotton.

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As you can see in the next couple of pictures, the water channel is not very wide and is somewhat protected from the wind, but try to paddle here in the morning, as there’s not a lot of protection from the sun overhead.  We had unusually warm weather while paddling here in April 2015.  This wasn’t going to be true when we came back in April, 2016.  More on that paddle in another story.

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Why, hello there Mr. Frog.  Looks like you’re enjoying the sunny day as much as we are.

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If you paddle here in the Spring, which I highly recommend.  Not only will you get to enjoy more water in the slough, but you’ll also witness something that’s rather extraordinary.  Great Blue Herons, Egrets and Cormorants all nesting in the trees overhead.  This is known as a ‘rookery’, in case you didn’t know.  Watching these birds fly in and feed their young was very rewarding.

 

Oh, and did I mention the Swallows?  Well, there were thousands!  They darted in and out of their nests, built under this bridge, multiple times as we paddled by.

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After paddling about 2+ miles, the water becomes a little cloudy and the channel isn’t as wide.  Water levels were a little low in 2015, as the picture below on the right was our turn around point.  What we didn’t know then, is that when the water is higher like it was in 2016, you can continue to paddle out into a rather large, but shallow waterway.

I’m not sure what we would have found had we paddled through this, maybe we’ll find out the next time.

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We found the perfect spot to take out for lunch.  If you’ll notice the opening on the other side of the water, that’s where we had to get out in 2016 as the entire area where our boats are in this picture, was underwater.

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There’s nothing better than stretching your legs and having lunch in a beautiful grassy field scattered with poppies!

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Hey Jack!  Can you do a little modeling for me??  What do you think his answer was!!

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As we paddled back, I captured a picture of the elusive Black Crowned Night Heron.  Such beauty!

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This was my view too!  Can you believe the glass like water in this shot?  Winds were non-existent, and if you’ve read how much I dislike wind, you’ll understand my gratitude.

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So, if and when someone asks you; “Hey, have you paddled Clear Lake before?” perhaps your answer will be “not yet”, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful.

 

~Chorro Creek Bound

As I dipped my paddle into Morro Bay for the second time, winds were bellowing (20 mph) and the air temperature was climbing (84).  Typically I’m on the water by 9 – 9:30am.  My goal; get off the water before the winds get too bad.  Yes, I know, winds are pretty common each and every day, especially when you want to paddle.  They come up around noon on most days and are right there in your face as you make your way back to the take-out.  I will admit that I really don’t like the wind.

Our original destination was going to be Avila Beach, but the wind gods weren’t cooperating for that to happen.  And, you should always have a plan B.  Today’s plan B was to launch from Morro Bay State Park’s Kayak Launch.  Parking is free and they have a restroom.  And, The Bayside Cafe is nearby if you want a bite to eat or a great glass of wine from Wolff vineyards.

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Winds were expected to drop from 20mph to 11mph by 2pm.  The tide was high (5.5ft) at 1:30 and wasn’t dropping by more than 1.5 feet by 4pm.  So, I figured this was going to be our best opportunity to paddle.  By the time we launched, temperatures had soared to 93!!

Wait, aren’t we on the coast??  Well, I kicked off my flip flops and dipped my feet into the ice cold bay water.  Ahhhhh!

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As we paddled you can see the wooden boardwalk that follows the shoreline.  What you can’t see in this picture is how shallow the water is.  I looked at the map and see the word ‘mud flat’.  Christie pushes on in her Eddyline Equinox.

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A few pushed on with Christie and made it through the shallow water.  A few of us paddled a little farther from the shoreline in search of the channel that would take us up into Chorro Creek.

These Harbor Seals almost looked like pieces of wood dried out from the warm sunshine.  They didn’t pay us much attention.

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Beyond the wooden boardwalk is the Morro Bay State Park Campground.  This is really a nice campground with plenty of wind protection as well as hot showers.  The wind isn’t too evident in this picture of Nancy, but it was there.

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There are two protected areas here;  the Morro Estuary Preserve and the Morro Bay State Marine Reserve.  Chorro Creek cuts through the middle of the Estuary which covers 800 acres of wetland and the bird life here was quite abundant.

This Great American White Pelican looks to be giving some instruction to a few Snowy Egrets and several Cormorants.

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A few of the Cormorants decided to take flight as we paddled by.

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The farther inland we paddled, the more evident the channel was that would lead us into Chorro Creek.  The waterway begins to narrow slightly and we get a little protection from the wind.

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Off to my right I see a rocky crag popping up among the foothills.

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In front of me are one of the many volcanic ‘bumps’ that dot the entire area from Morro Bay to Edna Valley, which is about 45 minutes south.  Morro Rock just so happens to be one of the seven “Sisters”, which are part of these volcanic bumps.

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The creek continues to get narrower and we are fully protected from the wind by now.  The reflection of the naked trees in the water is always worth a photo.

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After we reach the end of the creek, that dead ends into Hwy 1, we turn around.  I know what’s going to happen now.  The wind will be at our back and we’ll get a nice push!

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As we wind our way back through the creek, find the channel that’s deep enough to paddle in, we are once again graced with the site of Morro Rock.  She sure is pretty.

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We’re a little wind blown and hot, but it’s been another great day on the water.  After loading up our kayaks and gear, we decide to stop in and get a bite to eat at The Bayside Cafe.  Their clam chowder was quite tasty as was their fried calamari.

~A Calm Morning on Morro Bay

The water is perfectly still, except for a 5 knot tide moving in, as I dip my paddle into Morro Bay for the first time.  This paddle had been planned for more than a year and I knew we could get some sketchy weather, but was hoping we didn’t.   Well, the Ma Nature was certainly going to smile on us today.

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There was a slight layer of fog looming along the shoreline on the other side of the bay, but the air temperature was close to 63.  As our small group of eleven paddlers unloaded our kayaks and gear, I started seeing layers come off.  I joined in as well.  Bye-bye scarf and fuzzy warm hat!  I could see blue skies and knew the day was just going to get better.

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Our first bird sighting was a lone Great Blue Heron.  He was sitting on top of some lobster traps in the harbor.  Perhaps waiting for his breakfast, but more than likely just taking a break before he sets off in search of something lurking in the nearby estuary.

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We decide to paddle towards Morro Rock first.  Yes, we’ll be paddling against the tide, but I know winds are coming in by 12:30pm, and doing this later on isn’t something I want to do.

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We cross over to paddle along the sandy spit, hoping to spot some Sea Lions, Brown Pelicans or other bird life.  I caught this shot of a few Double-crested Cormorants as they dried out their wings in the morning sunshine.  The California Gull photo bombed my shot!  If you’re wondering why the Cormorants do this with their wings, it’s because they lack the oil on their feathers that most birds have, to keep them dry in wet weather.  Cormorants are diving birds.  Not only do they dive for small fish, but they also dive for their nesting material.  So, before they can effectively fly, they need to dry out their wings.

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Also along the shoreline is a huge flock of Caspian (or Common) Terns with a few Royal Terns thrown into the mix.  This is my first sighting of a Royal Tern!!  The Caspian’s and very similar Common Terns have the solid black crown, while the Royal’s have the salt and pepper band of color.

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As we turn and paddle in the opposite direction, the fog is still lurking above us and the reflections in the water makes it look as if we’re paddling on melted silver.p1020137p1020112p1020156

Carole and Teri are both enjoying their day here too!

If you enjoy taking pictures as much as me, you’ll understand that capturing that ‘one’ great shot, is pure heaven.  This shot just spoke to me.  The boats seemed to be perfectly lined up.  This will surely find a spot on a wall somewhere at home.

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After we took a quick bio break at the Morro Bay State Park kayak launch, I thought this was a picture worth taking.  What a great way to store extra kayaks.  Hmm, I wonder if this would fit in my backyard.

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Apparently there are at least 100 decorated cows that dot the SLO County landscape from September 2016 to May 2017.  This famous event is called the Cow Parade and apparently has been held all over the world, including Paris, Hong Kong, London, Milan…just to name a few.  Well, this lovely lady was paddle boarding her way along, as Monarch Butterflies tickled here face.

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Fresh Oysters?  Oh yes, Morro Bay has them.  A couple of fellows were hauling in about 100 feet of oyster nets as we paddled by.  The guy in the picture was busy getting them ready for transport.

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Oh!!! And, then there were the beautiful Brown Pelicans!  We paddled by a barge floating in the bay with about 70+ birds who were sunning, preening and just plain old chillaxing in the afternoon sun.

 

As we got closer to the take-out, the wind was just starting to rear her head.  The breeze felt good and my tummy was starting to growl.  I knew the winds would continue to increase to over 15mph, so we timed it perfectly.  What a great experience and I’m so thankful to have spent some much needed water therapy, on a new body of water.

 

 

~Fall brings Fond memories of Fall River

Before I begin my story about dipping my paddling into Fall River, I want to give you a little history first.  It was more than three years ago when I first started thinking about putting together a trip to Ahjumawi and I knew I didn’t want to boat in camp.  So, I did my research and just happened across a little town called Fall River Mills.   The proximity to the put-in at Ahjumawi was perfect.  My next thought was I wanted to do an all girls trip.  So, we had our “Gals go Glamping” trip and shared a huge house that slept eleven of us.  This house, just so happened to be situated right on Fall River.  Lucky us.

Most of the access to this beautiful river is on private land.  We were in luck.  The owner of the house we secured had a lodge a few miles up the road with direct access to the water at both the put-in and the take-out.  Two of my paddles here were handled in the same fashion, with the second allowing the guys to join us for a “Co-Ed Glamp”.  The third (May 2016) was also a co-ed paddle, but we secured a different house.  This house had direct access but we had to scout out another place to take out.  We found it, just off of Island Road.  As I tell my story, I will tell of the three times I paddled on this beautiful river famous for fly fishing.

The water is shallow, but I hear the volume of trout here, per square mile, is pretty amazing.  This was our starting point in May 2016.

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This is the other side of the same bridge/road, which is private access only.

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Some of the wildlife you’ll see along the riverbank; a pretty deer, a turkey vulture eating a deer, and one of those muskrats that probably escaped from the muskrat farm I talked about in an earlier story!

We’ve seen cloudy days, windy days and perfectly calm days.  And while the sky has been threatening to release it’s wrath upon us a few times, we were lucky to paddle without as much as a drop.

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Here’s a shot of our first paddle when it was just the gals.

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Gina was having a good day!  This was her second trip with us.

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I love this shot!  This little guy was just chilling!

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As you wind your way through farms, grasslands and marshes, you’ll see Mount Shasta as your backdrop.

And, the beautiful mustard lining the fence, just out of reach of hungry cows.

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You’ve gotta love Christie’s double Decker hat!  You might think she’s in a short little kayak and would have a tough time keeping up with the rest of us.  Well, this gal can cruise along at warp speeds!

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One of the most special memories for me was when we ventured across nesting Sand Hill Cranes.  They are stunning!

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We didn’t see any nesting on our last paddle, but I did capture one flying through the air.

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I love the shapes of the cotton ball clouds as they float above this barn.

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This is an American Bittern.  I had to look him up in my bird book when I got home as I’d never seen one before.  He was pretty elusive.

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These Terns  were putting on quite a show as we paddled beneath them.  They would fly and dive, fly and dive, fly and dive.  It was endless entertainment.  They were taking a break as I captured this shot.  Followed by a shot of two White Pelicans, which by the way, are one of the largest birds in North America.

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I know I will have the pleasure to dip my paddle here again at some point.  I have such fond memories of this river.  It was almost by accident the way I happened upon it and that makes it all the more special.

 

 

~Majestic Ahjumawi!

The very first time I dipped my paddle into Ahjumawi Lava Springs, in May 2010, I was just a beginner.  You see, it was only my second time paddling.  The group I was with was going to boat-in camp, it was Memorial Day weekend, and it just started raining!  We loaded our gear, hit the water and went in search of our camp sites.  All camp sites (9 in all) are boat-in accessible only.  There are no public roads to any of the camp sites.

After we paddled what felt like hours in wind, rain and waves, we finally found our spot located in Crystal Springs.  As a newbie I didn’t bring my camera, it wasn’t waterproof, so I’ve nothing visual to share.  However, you’re in luck as my longing to come back here, with a camera, brought me here again three more times.

The pictures that follow were taking on one of three additional trips here.  Different paddlers joined me, different weather was experienced and each time I was awestruck by the majestic beauty.

To launch, you’ll need to scout out the PG&E launch, known as Rat Farm. Why is it called Rat Farm you may ask; there was a muskrat farm here until 1930.  You can still see this furry creatures swimming along the shoreline from time to time.

Off in the distance you’ll see Mount Shasta.  This mountain will be a cameo many of my pictures.

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We started in the fog on this particular paddle, but the wind was non existent.  Oh look, there’s Shasta again!

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My dear friend Nancy has paddled here with and without me.  I’m glad she was along for this trip.  The rain clouds in the background would hold back until the next day.

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We had a foggy start and Etsuko was bundled up, but where are her gloves!?!  Brrrr!!

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Then, there are the birds; Osprey, White Pelicans, Terns…just to name a few.  Depending on timing, you can see migratory birds as they make their way South.

One of my favorite shots from our May 2016 trip.  This Great Blue Heron just took off, with Shasta as a backdrop.

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Foggy or cloudy, if you start early to avoid afternoon winds, you’ll be rewarded with views like this.

There’s a bridge where Ja-She Springs flows into the upper part of the “Ahj”.  You can walk on the bridge.  OR, you can remain in your kayak and go under the bridge?  Yes, that’s just what a few of our paddlers did.  Gina is giving us a ‘thumbs-up’ as she disappears.

If you read about the history here, you’ll learn this is one of the nation’s largest systems of underwater streams.  When you paddle here, you’ll fully understand what this means.  Pristine, crystal clean water.  As you paddle into hidden coves, you’ll discover different colors of aqua, blue and green.

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At first glance you may not recognize what this is.  It’s an ancient Fish Trap built by the Achomawi Indians.  Believe it or not, but sucker fish and trout were on the menu.

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As you paddle along the shoreline, you will see turtles, muskrats, and possibly a deer.  Or, you’ll just see the clouds and trees reflected in the water as you soak in all the beauty here.

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A rare shot of me in my Tampico as we paddled towards the backside of the park.

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Teri was having fun as we started back after a lunch break.

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This was Vicky’s first paddle here.  You can see Mount Lassen in the background.

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Here’s a shot of some of the ladies I was with as we got out for a short hike, stretch and bio break.  Some have returned with me again for a new adventure.

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Until I return again, I’ve great memories and photos to look back at.

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