~Darling Clementine – Thru Ice and Sleet and Snow?

~Darling Clementine – Thru Ice and Sleet and Snow?

If you can dip your paddle into Lake Clementine, be sure you do it in the “off” season.  This will pretty much ensure you have the place to yourself and you won’t be fighting with boat and jet ski traffic at the ramp or on the water.

Several years ago, a few of us paddled Clementine in December.  It was a beautiful day, back when Winters didn’t really mean Winter since we were in a drought.  It was pretty chilly but nary a whisper of wind to be found.

What we did find was ice!  This was one sheet of ice picked up out of the water as we made our journey to the back of the lake.


When you launch from the lower put-in, you’ll drive down a narrow and somewhat windy and steep road that’s paved.  The goal is to paddle about 4 miles to the upper put-in for lunch and a nice stretch.  When we arrived at our destination, we found snow covering the ground!


The reflection off the tip of my kayak was nice.  How many times do you get weather like this in December?  We are lucky to live where we do.


Another money shot!


This is a great place to paddle with friends.  The launch is easy and if you check in advance for wind and weather, you’re sure to enjoy yourselves.  Pack a lunch, a change of clothing and bring you camera if you can.  I’ve seen Eagles and Osprey here.

The put-in is less than 45 minutes from Sacramento.  Parking is $10 (or use your CA Parks Annual Pass) and after you off load your kayak and gear, you’ll want to drive back up the hill a bit to find a place to park. There are pit toilets too.  All campsites are boat-in only, if you want to be even more adventurous!

Directions: Exit Right on Foresthill Road (just above the town of Auburn) and look for Lake Clementine Road on the left, about 5 minutes after you exit I-80.


~Lopez Island: Spencer Spit

~Lopez Island: Spencer Spit.

When the winds are howling, dip your paddle on the other side of the Island!  And, that’s just what we did.  Our original plans were to paddle from Odlin County Park over to Indian Cove on Shaw Island.  However, the winds were coming in from the West that day, so after some research, I decided to start us out at Spencer Spit instead.  This is a state park with a campground and restrooms.  Parking is limited, so prepare to buddy up to get your kayaks to the water.


The wind was non existent here as we paddled along the shoreline.  The only question; how far shall we go?


It’s always nice to see such big smiles!


What would a paddle here be without our token Bald Eagle!  Some people say you eventually get used to seeing them.  I still get a thrill every time.


The scenery along the shoreline changes from rocky to sandy.  One familiar site is all the washed up logs.  Rumor has it most have washed up from Canada.


A young Bald Eagle watches for his lunch to swim by.  Bald Eagles typically don’t get their white head until they’re about 5 years old.


Interesting sign.  I never called the toll free number.  I wonder if it’s still working.


Ah, yes!  A perfect place for lunch and soaking up the sunshine.


As we paddled back to the take-out, you can see Frost Island on the far right.


This was an easy and relaxing paddle.  The winds were on the other side of the island, and the weather sunny and warm.  I believe there was a fee to park, or you can use your Discovery Pass.  Be sure to be mindful of the ferry schedule as you’ll want to be in line and ready to go when the last ferry boards.

If you’re lucky, Lopez Island Vineyards will be open when you visit the island.  I’ve been here twice, and the vineyard was closed both times.  This is an organic vineyard on 6 acres of land.  You can find their wine (LVI) all over Washington state, even in the grocery stores on the islands.  My favorite is their Siegerrebe.  It’s a white wine that’s crisp, clean with a hint of sweetness.

~Sucia Island: The Good & Bad side of the Island

~Sucia: The Good & Bad side of the Island.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of having an opportunity to dip my paddle into a new body of water is exciting.  In preparation for the Orcas Island trip, I spent several hours researching and talking to outfitters on the phone about taking our group over to Sucia Island.  After all, I’d heard such wonderful things about this little island.

I narrowed my search down to Outer Island Excursions.  I told them how many (24) and what we wanted to do; have them port us and our kayaks over to Sucia Island, and lead a guided tour around the Island.  Seems like a simple enough request, right???

Either I didn’t communicate effectively, or they didn’t realize what they were getting into.  As our group arrived at the designated time and place, I saw the looks on their faces that read “how in the world are we going to take all these kayaks and people over”.

Here’s how they did it.  A picture is worth a thousand words!


They piled our kayaks on top, on the side and any which way they could.  They actually had to add a second boat to fit us all.

After the exciting boat ride and off loading of all the kayaks, this should be fun, right?


Here is one of the two guides talking to us about the paddle ahead of us.  Notice his clothing.  He never wore a life vest, nor did he have anything to communicate aside from his cell phone.


One by one we launched from Little Sucia and were in the water.


The plan for the day; paddle counter clockwise around the island, taking a break for lunch as we waited for the tide to calm down.  We were to all come back to Little Sucia to be picked up at the end of our tour.


The scenery was breathtaking.  The water was calm and the rock formations worth multiple discussions.


Here’s a shot of one of the many Eagles spotted along the way.


Little did I know when taking this picture, we would all be on the beach later that day waiting for the ‘mother’ ship to come pick us up.  This wasn’t part of the original plan.


Our guides, while lacking in proper paddling attire, made up for it with knowledge about the area.  We decided to have our lunch break here, in Ewing Cove.  It was beautiful here with a long stretch of rocky shoreline, a pit toilet and a few nearby hiking trails.


Oh look, there’s Mount Baker again, and the channel we would be paddling through after lunch.  This was a channel into all hell breaking loose!


A short hike up the hill took me to a vantage point to see the other side of the island (Mount Baker in the background).  Notice the water, it was choppy and the tide was moving quickly.  Our guide said, we’ll only have to paddle hard for about 25 minutes to reach Little Sucia.  He was so very wrong!


We all launched and started making our way through the channel in the earlier picture.  Paddlers were scattered immediately, some almost colliding with each other as the swift current swept the bow of their kayak into an unexpected direction.  My thought was to paddle hard and fast to make it through, and I did.

It never got better for a really long time.  I knew that if I stopped, I was going in the water.  Something I usually try to avoid.  I kept going, along with four others.  We thought the rest of the group was a little ways behind us.  Once we finally found a safe place to rest, we knew we were wrong.  Where were they?  What do we do now?  Our decision was to keep going and we did.  We stopped on occasion to check for other paddlers and we spotted two more coming towards us.  Now there were seven of us.

The following picture was taken by a fellow paddler.  I’m the paddler on the right and the water you see is what we paddled through for at least an hour and a half!  I had never felt more exhausted.  I learned that day what a ‘tide line’ was.  It’s a river moving across the water at a pace faster than anything I want to try to paddle through!  I got some encouragement from my friend Linda and pushed through.  And, as soon as I did, I was on the other side moving at a pace of at least 6 mph!


Once all seven of us made it to Little Sucia, I called the outfitter to let them know where we were.  We were scolded for not staying with the group.  We were told to stay put and someone would come get us.

The boat arrived and loaded us up along with our kayaks, and took us to where the rest of our group was; the cove where my earlier picture was taken.


It was beautiful here and I was thankful to be alive and well.  This is where we learned that one of our paddlers had flipped twice in the channel and the rescue was a challenge.  The guides were apparently trying to corral all the paddlers to come back, which all but the seven of us did.  I didn’t hear any whistles and I didn’t hear anyone telling me to come back.


I was exhausted by the time we arrived back on Orcas Island.  This was, and still is to this day, one of the most exhilarating adventures I’ve been on.  Would I do it again?  No way!

I hope the outfitter learned some lessons that day too.  Our group’s story was one that would be talked about and I’ll be willing to bet they never took that many paddlers out for a guided tour again.

I know others who have paddled directly from Orcas to Sucia to explore and camp.  There are designated camp sites and there are miles of sandy and rocky beaches.  You should be an experienced paddler if you attempt to cross, or hire and experienced guide.  Just be sure to check their references first.

~Orcas Island: Obstruction Pass & Lessons Learned

~Orcas Island: Obstruction Pass & Lessons Learned.

Visting Orcas Island in June of 2015 offered a few new places for me to dip my paddle.  Obstruction Pass by way of Lieber Haven Marina was going to be our first paddle and I had the luxury of being a follower, rather than the leader.

This was an outing with the largest number of paddlers ever to travel so far with me.  Twenty-four to be exact!  I think everyone was present for this paddle too.  Parking was tight, but we managed to get everyone situated and ready to go in their kayak as we launched from the rocky beach.


As I waited for others to launch, I checked out a few of the nearby boats in the water.


Another pretty boat floating in the harbor.


This photo was taken as I floated in the water, not realizing this would be a good lesson later in what “NOT” to wear when paddling in cold water.  We’re taught to dress for the water, not the weather.  There’s good reason for this.


Some wore dry or wet suits, but most wore attire suited for a warm Summer day.


When you launch from Lieber Haven Marina, you’re launching directly into Obstruction Pass.  This is a narrow channel between Orcas Island and Obstruction Island and as we paddled towards East Sound, the water seemed to move faster than most expected.  This was the final picture taken paddling in this direction.  Read below to understand why.


While the above picture shows pretty flat water, this wasn’t going to be the case for long.  As we rounded the bend and paddled into East Sound, the waves were splashing and it felt as if we were in a large washing machine.  The wind was howling and if you sat still you would most likely end up in the water.  I made the decision to turn back, as this wasn’t a situation I felt comfortable paddling in.  I let those paddling with me know I was turning back and most followed suit.

As we started to paddle back, the tide was moving like a river through the pass.  I struggled to keep moving forward.  I dug my paddle into the water and used all my energy to keep going.  I knew it would eventually get better, I just had to keep going.  As I neared our launch spot, others behind me had heard one of the paddlers took a spill and couldn’t get back in their boat.  Fortunately, one of the more seasoned paddlers (not the leader) was able to safely rescue the paddler and get them to shore.  The paddler was picked up shortly there after from the road, along with the kayak.

One huge lesson learned by me was to always check the tide and paddling destination myself.  What wasn’t realized was the tide and current increase quite a bit as the water moves through the pass.  Our paddler was lucky.

After everyone was back to the launch, we decided to paddle in the opposite direction towards Deer Point and into Buoy Bay.  Winds were non existent as we paddled along the shoreline.


The current was moving pretty fast, as you can see in this picture, so hugging the shoreline was my plan for the rest of the paddle!  And Mount Baker is always enjoyable to see from several places on the island.


My paddling buddies were enjoying the calm water in these shots.




If you keep paddling from Buoy Bay, you’ll eventually end up in Doe Bay.  I turned around before reaching that bay, but others continued to paddle forward.


When paddling with others, you should always be aware of your surroundings.  Take some time to look at the weather, tide charts and maybe even talk to the locals about your paddling destination.  It’s never a good idea to rely solely on the leader.  Taking some self and assisted rescue classes from a professional is also well worth it.  Once you learn self rescue, it’s a good idea to practice this skill a few times a year.

~Can’t go wrong with Wrights Lake!

~Can’t go wrong with Wrights Lake!

I try to dip my paddle into Wrights Lake at least one time every year, especially when the heat in the valley is unbearable.  This year, the water was especially high, cold and clear.  I’ve not paddled Wrights Lake this late in the season before, but October proved to be a spectacular time to visit this little lake that’s situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Desolation Wildness.


Launching is easy from the gravel put-in and parking is free.  There are a handful of parking spots just above the launch, or you can park in the day use (for free) just a short walk away.  There is a pit toilet here too.


Outside temperatures were around 40 degrees and as the sun started to touch the water, steam rose up eerily like something from a haunted lagoon.


My two paddling companions gave big smiles as they were as thrilled as me to be in such a beautiful place.


The mirror like reflection off the water was perfect!


As you paddle along the shoreline of this shallow lake, you’ll see the bottom most of the way.  Be watchful that you don’t get stuck.


The elevation of this lake is about 7,000 feet so there’s not much bird action.  However, this pair of Buffleheads was a treat to see.  Of course the male is the most colorful.


On the left side of the lake you’ll want to watch for a channel, which will lead you to the South Fork of Silver Creek.


This bridge is part of the trail that goes around the perimeter of the lake.  And, if you have time after you’re done, go for a hike and work those leg muscles!


Evidence of how cold it was, there is still frost on the grass scattered along the shoreline.


Around every turn along Silver Creek, the views are stunning.


If you’re lucky, you can paddle under a second bridge, before taking out for lunch.  Sometimes the water is too shallow to proceed farther.


We found a nice sandy and shallow spot to exit.  A little farther upstream we spotted several trout swimming in and out of the shadows.  We also ran into a few hikers making their way around the lake or to another nearby destination.


Paddling back along the windy creek with sometimes only the head or paddle showing of my companions.


Wrights Lake is perfect for beginners, just be mindful of late morning and afternoon winds that come up from the West.  You’ll want to bring along your lunch and eat midway through your paddle, or on the beach or day use area, after your paddle.  Depending on the weather, it’s a great place for swimming and fishing (no gas or electric motors though) as the sign indicates.

To get here, take Hwy50 East from Sacramento.  You’ll drive through the town of Kyburz (don’t blink or you’ll miss it!) and about 8 miles farther, you’ll see the Wrights Lake road sign telling you to make a left.  The road is narrow and a bit windy, and there are some blind corners to be mindful of.  Total drive time from Sacramento is about 1.5 hours.



~San Juan Island: Argyle Lagoon

~San Juan Island: Argyle Lagoon.

Dipping my paddling into a new body of water is always exciting.  As a few of us paddled for the last time while visiting San Juan Island, we were thankful for the beautiful weather.  We launched at Jackson Beach into Argyle Lagoon.

The cement launch is about ten minutes from Friday Harbor, has plenty of free parking and restrooms.


This little tip of land is called “Little Island”.  Although it really isn’t an island, just a little land poking into the lagoon.


Once you leave Argyle Lagoon you enter North Bay.  We paddled along the shoreline watching jelly fish floating in the water and seeing several starfish clinging to the rocks just under the surface.  The water here was very clear.


I think Debbie sees a starfish!


Off in the distance is Dinner Island.  The cloudy sky and reflection in the water was beautiful.


The outbuildings and houses along the way were a variety of old mixed with new.


These are Harlequin Ducks, my first and only time seeing them.  The males, of course, are the most colorful.  They love cold water and pounding surf.


As we paddled along, these fellows were checking their crab cages.  They pulled a few up while we watched throwing the smaller ones back in the water.




My paddling companions were just ahead as I captured this photo.  The cloudy sky was a bit deceiving.  While rain looked possible, we never felt a drop.


Rumor has it this is a prime spot for seeing Bio-luminescence.  You’ll want to go out on a moon-less night after a day of sunshine.  Since total darkness doesn’t descend until after 10pm, bundle up and be sure to have safety lights so you’re visible to any nighttime boat traffic.

This is a great place to paddle, depending on the direction of the wind, since you can hug the shoreline and be somewhat protected.  There are a few rocky beaches along the way to exit for lunch or to stretch your legs.  Bring along a change of clothing in case you take a spill.

~San Juan Island: Adventure to Deadman Bay

~San Juan Island: Adventure to Deadman Bay

Little did I know that morning, as I dipped my paddle once again into Garrison Bay, that by the end of the day I would have paddled fourteen miles!  Hiring a guide, when you’re looking for something more adventurous, is highly recommended.  After all, your guide will be doing all the research and all you have to do is sit back (or up) and paddle along.

Our guide met us at our house, which made it all the more enjoyable!  She’s in the white kayak below (it’s been too long for me to remember her name, but she was a great guide!).


As we made our way out of Garrison Bay we entered Mosquito Pass.  The morning fog was still heavy in the air above us.


But slowly, the fog dissipated.  Debbie looks pretty happy in this shot!


As we paddled on the Western shoreline of the island, we were amazed at just how flat the water was.  The sun was poking through the clouds sporadically.  We kept a watchful eye out for Orcas or Whales but never spotted any.


We marveled at how nice it would be to live here and have this as your backyard everyday.


Our first stop for a quick stretch and bio break was at the San Juan County Park.  There were restrooms, a grassy knoll sitting high above the water, and plenty of room on the beach for our kayaks.



Our guide was fun and had a lot of knowledge about the local resident Orcas (J, K and L Pods).  At that time, Granny (the oldest known living Orcas) was still alive.


As we passed the light house at Lime Kiln Point State Park, I reflected on our visit here by foot a few days earlier.  There’s a visitor center and you can see how many whales have been spotted that day.  We didn’t get lucky enough to see any, but others had.


We stopped for lunch at Deadman Bay.  The take-out was a bit of a challenge as the pebbles gave way under every step, but we helped each other out and it felt good to stretch!  There are restrooms here and as you can see in the photo, a LOT of driftwood.


As we made our way back, I took one final shot of Lime Kiln Lighthouse.


The water was still flat and the sky filled with clouds, but it was sure a beautiful day.


We entered Mosquito Bay for another bio break and to explore this little harbor.  Sadly, I lost a very expensive pair of sunglasses here.  If you find them, please call me.  Ha!


The fall colors in the trees was evident of the time of year.


Another great shot of Debbie!  I must have told her there was wine chilling in the fridge!  I know I would have smiled too.


At the end of the day we were tired and thankful of the wonderful adventure.  Fourteen miles is nothing to sneeze at, but our guide made it well worth while.  We all gave her big hugs and tipped her well, and waved to her as she drove away.

~San Juan Island: Garrison & Westcott Bay

~San Juan Island: Garrison & Westcott Bay

If you’ve never dipped your paddle into the salty water surrounding any part of the San Juan Island, then you should add it to your bucket list.  The weather is better in June and you’ll beat the summer crowds, but if you like to take chances, go in late September or early October like I did, in 2013.  It did rain a bit, but when it didn’t the paddling was splendid!


There were only six of us on this adventure and the house we rented was right on Garrison Bay.  The luxury of launching directly from your lodging is sweet!  No loading, unloading, and loading again.  Just slip inside your kayak and off you go.


The paddling options from the island are pretty limitless.  You’ll arrive via the ferry at Friday Harbor.  Be sure to allow some time to shop and eat here, as there are a lot of great options.

This is Friday Harbor at about 6:30am prior to our departure.  I would have to say this is one of my favorite pictures.  Yes, it was hard to leave.


There was a break in the weather so we loaded up and set off to explore both Garrison and Westcott Bay.  Both Bays are somewhat protected but you should check the tides before going out.


The reflection of the clouds on the water was amazing.  It was hard to believe it had been raining the day before.


The clouds were looming above us, but we were bundled up pretty good.


One thing I thought amusing was our proximity to English Camp.  We had explored this federal park by foot the day before and didn’t realize we were across the bay from the house we rented.  And, if you remember the government shutdown?  They closed all federal parks on the island while we were there.  Some of the parks outbuildings are depicted in this photo.


One thing you’ll notice while paddling here are the huge swells that come rolling in, as if from no where.  They aren’t from no where!  Once one of these freight liners makes it way through Haro Straight, possibly on their way to Canada, you’ll feel the swell in about 8-9 minutes!



Oh, and the Bald Eagles.  I never grew tired of seeing these magnificent birds.  Most were perched in a tree along the shoreline.


This shot was taken from land, while exploring Sculpture Park.  I took this photo to show the mud flats you could get stuck in at low tide.  We paddled past this point, while exploring Westcott Bay.


While you’re on the island, you should plan a trip to Sculpture Park.  Here you’ll find all sorts sculptures in all sizes, and they’re all for sale.  Bring a few grand along, as most start at $1,500 on up to $10,000!


No matter when you go, you’ll want to be sure you check the ferry schedule first, which can be found here: https://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/

We caught the ferry from Anacortes.  There’s two grocery stores in town to pick up any forgotten food items you may need, although the market in Friday Harbor had most everything we needed for our stay.  Give yourself plenty of time to explore the island by foot, bike, car and kayak.  There are countless adventures waiting just for you.

To research tides, use deepzoom.com.  It’s an interactive tide chart that will allow you to see the wind, current and measurement of the tide as it moves in and out during the day.

~Three Bridges

~Three Bridges

I’ve dipped my paddle into Lake Natoma at least a hundred times in the past seven plus years.  I’ve hosted full moon paddles, BBQs for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, Costume contests for Halloween and St Patty’s day, morning paddles, afternoon paddles, dog days of summer (bring your dog) paddles, winter paddles, etc. You name it, I’ve probably done it!  And, my most favorite place to launch on Lake Natoma is from the Negro Bar boat launch.

Why Negro Bar?  It’s closest to the prettiest section of the lake and, yes, the bridges (there are three); Folsom Crossing (newest), Rainbow Bridge and the Folsom Historic Truss Bridge.  The later is only open to foot and bike traffic.  Each is unique and well worth a story of their own.  Enjoy the beauty of each, taken at different times of the year and from a variety of angles and kayaks.  See below for directions and launching information for Negro Bar.

100_0175 100_0846100_0651100_0292100_0096100_9815100_3170100_2370100_9285100_9286100_1725100_1753100_9047100_9350100_8916100_1664100_2371Negro Bar is part of the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) and is one of three launch spots on Lake Natoma.  Lake Natoma is just below Folsom Lake, separated by Folsom Lake Dam.  Negro Bar has a huge picnic area and is very popular in the Summer and accessible from Greenback Lane.  There’s a cement boat launch and parking is $10 per day, or you can use your annual California State Parks pass.  The park is open until 10pm during daylight savings time and only open until 6pm the rest of the year.

You can paddle upstream, current permitting, from Negro Bar to the Folsom Prison “cable”.  This is a popular ‘sport’ and challenge by most who paddle here and there are only a handful of occasions that I’ve not been able to make it all the way.  Local kids can be seen jumping off the rocks into the chilly water as you paddle by.

When paddling here, always wear your PFD, as the water is very cold.  Winds can pick up in the afternoon, or you can have a perfectly flat day on the water.


~Stumpy Meadows – Yes, it’s a lake

~Stumpy Meadows – Yes, it’s a lake and one worth visiting.

I’ve only had the pleasure of dipping my paddle into the cold clear water of Stumpy Meadows on two occasions.  Once in 2013 and again in 2014.  And, while I’ve made a few attempts to go back since 2014, a return trip hasn’t yet materialized.  So, I’m adding it back to the top of my list for good places to go during the Summer, Spring or Fall.

This was the waterline in 2014, much lower than when I paddled here in 2013.  However, recent pictures from a friend indicate the water is back to the tree line.


Hmm.  While I don’t typically wear a face mask while paddling, I assume one would if they’re going to practice rolling!


The cement launch is on the steep and long side, but with some help from your fellow paddlers, launching here can be quite easy.


This claw like root system has enclosed a nice tasty rock for snacking on later!


During my 2013 visit we paddled around the bridge and up the small stream for a lunch break.  The water was quite high that year.


However, in 2014 the water was much lower and stream ended just past the bridge.  We actually had to walk here for our lunch break.


I’m sure this piece of driftwood has found a home in my garden somewhere!


Stumpy Meadows is 16 miles East of Georgetown, CA on Wentworth Springs road in the El Dorado National Forest and about a 1.5 hour drive from Sacramento.  There’s a huge parking lot on the right, just before you go over the dam, with restrooms.  There’s a day use fee to park, but I’m unsure of the current rate.  Most likely at least $10.

Winds will typically pick up around noon, so be prepared.  Bring a change of clothing and your lunch, so you can enjoy the fresh smell of the mountains as you watch for an Eagle or Osprey to fly overhead.  Both are commonly seen here.