~Fall Paddling on Rollins Lake

~Dipping your paddle into Rollins Lake in the Fall, can be a real treat!

If you like paddling in the Fall, then you’ll want to put Rollins Lake on your list.  This lake is typically full of power boats, water skiers and jet skis during the warm Summer months.  However, come Fall, you’ll have the lake pretty much to yourself.

Rollins Lake is located off I-80 near the town of Colfax.  There are a few launching facilities; this is the launch at Orchard Springs and is next to the dam.  The fee to park here is about $10 per car.

The water was perfectly flat when I paddled here in November 2014, the day after Thanksgiving.  What better way to burn off that turkey dinner than a paddle!

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If you’re lucky, you’ll spot an Osprey along the way.  This one was watching us, but also looking for a post Thanksgiving meal.


Just look at that flat water!  These pictures were actually taken in the Spring of 2016!  Which can also be a great time of the year to paddle here.  You’ll notice the water is almost at the tree line from all the rain.  Compare this to pictures following to show how low the water was in 2013 and 2014.

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This photo was taken in November 2014.  The water that year was so low.


This shot was from November 2013, my first time paddling here.  Sometimes it’s fun to surf on the logs!

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One of the many Stump creatures crawling down to the water.


After about a 3 mile paddle you’ll reach an area where the Bear River spills into the lake.  Depending on water levels, you can continue to paddle to one of the rocky beaches and take out for lunch.


Marty was enjoying the paddle!  He loves to fish and typically you’ll see him geared up with a pole and line in the water.


Another shot when the water was the lowest I’ve seen.  Getting out was a bit of a challenge.

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This is the launch at Long Ravine, which is easier to get too, once you get off I-80.


Regardless of where you launch, bring along a change of clothing in your dry bag and your lunch.  Be prepared for some wind in your face upon the return (isn’t this always the case?!?) on most days.  You’ll get in at least a 6-8 mile round trip paddle depending on water levels and how far back into the canyon you go.  There won’t be much activity on the lake aside from a few fishermen and possibly a few other paddlers, who like yourself, enjoy a nice quiet day on the water.

Follow I-80 East from Sacramento for about an hour and take the Colfax exit and follow 174 to your desired launch spot.  To get to Long Ravine, you’ll take Rollins Lake Road at the “Y” where 174 splits off and the entrance will be on your left.  To get to Orchard Springs, you’ll continue on 174 past the “Y” for about 15-20 minutes.  Watch for Orchard Springs Road on your right.


~Slab Creek Reservoir

~Slab Creek Reservoir

Over the course of the past seven+ years, I’ve dipped my paddle into Slab Creek Reservoir countless times.  Typically, I paddle here in the Fall so I can incorporate a side trip to Apple Hill!  As the outside temperatures start to cool down, and leaves begin to turn red, yellow, orange and brown, Apple Hill starts bustling with fresh and yummy things made of all things apple, all those memories of Slab Creek pop into my head.

Weekends here can be busy, so come during the week if you can.  You’ll want to be prepared for chilly air and winds in your face on the return, for this approximately 8 mile round trip paddle.  You can launch from the Upper/East end, or from the Lower/West end.  Directions to both provided at the end.

Each adventure here has delighted me with wonderful reflections of glass like water, such as these.




Slab Creek Reservoir is managed by SMUD, so the water level will very rarely be consistent.  If the water level is too low, the put-in at the West/Lower can be somewhat challenging, but usually still quite doable.  SMUD has plans to eventually improve the West put-in by adding a porta-pot, expanding the parking and adding ADA access.

While paddling here in October 2015, water levels were unusually low.  We ported our kayaks down to the water and launched one by one.   Typically the water is at least up to that first bend in the road where you see the person walking up the hill.


This was one of the muddiest take outs I’ve had while paddling here!


And, while taking a bio break, I captured a photo of this car that was most likely below the water line.  A fellow paddler actually saw my picture and notified the authorities.  I believe the car was eventually hauled out!


When water levels are high, paddling from the Lower to the Upper end of Slab is quite enjoyable and you can have lunch on this rocky beach.


In all the years I’ve been paddling here, I’ve been “lucky” one time to launch at the East/Upper end.  This was only because the gate to the Lower end was locked.  Everyone was a good sport and this was our prize.  Usually the water is moving so fast here you’ll have a very tough time launching, let alone paddling back to get out.


This time we paddled all the way to the West/Lower end for lunch!


Along the way, there are a few little channels to explore and interesting pieces of wood floating on the water.  And, yes, those reflections.  I never get tired of looking at them.


Getting out for lunch on this trip was a bit muddy in May 2015, but the sun was shining and the weather could not have been better.


Short sleeves and tanks were the attire of the day.


No matter the weather, bring a change of clothing in your dry bag, and lunch or a snack and plenty of water.  Be prepared to paddle against some wind on the return, especially when starting at the West/Lower end.  Make sure you let someone know where you’re paddling and when you’re off the water.  Cell service here can be spotty at best.

The East/Upper put-in is located in Pollock Pines.  The drive from Sacramento is about 1.5 hours.  Follow Hwy50 to the Sly Park Road (Exit 60) exit and go left.  At the stop sign make a left on Pony Express Trail.  The Safeway is a great place for a bio break or a last minute item you forgot to bring. The first right will be Forebay Road.  Follow this for about 30 minutes, you’ll cross a bridge and the gated access road will be on your left just past the bridge.  There is a porta-pot and plenty of parking here, but bring your wheels and if the water is moving too fast, go to the lower put-in.

The West/Lower put-in is located in Camino.  The drive from Sacramento is about an hour.  Follow Hwy50 to the Carson Road exit and go left, then make a right to stay on Carson Road.  Make a left on Larson Drive, then make a left on North Canyon Road and finally make a right on Slab Creek Reservoir Road.  There will be a gate you pass through (auto closes at dusk), continue down this gravel road and at the fork, make a right (goes up a steep hill) and follow this for about 15-20 minutes until you get to the water.  This is a very narrow road with little room for two cars to pass each other.  There is room for about 6 cars if you park smartly.  If others are parked here when you arrive, it can be a challenge to turn around, depending on where and how they parked.  There are no services here and don’t leave any valuables in your car.


~Hood Canal Adventure: Chapter 3 – Theler Wetlands

~Hood Canal Adventure: Chapter 3 – Theler Wetlands

As I dipped my paddle into the warm cloudy water, with a slight wind coming up from behind, my thoughts took me back to a few days before as I explored the Theler Wetlands by foot.  The sky was full of threatening clouds and yet the water was perfectly calm.  This shot was taken at the farthest point you can go by foot.  There are 139 acres of protected salt marsh and estuary wetlands, with a variety of trails to explore.


While the tide is out, the shoreline expands and the shorebirds search for something yummy to eat.


We launched from Belfair State Park around 5pm.  The tide was moving in, but the shoreline was mostly exposed when we started.


Mike was just coming back in to join us.


Linda certainly is in her happy place!  She and a few others paddled from their rental houses a few miles up the canal.


The breeze was making small ripples in the water as we headed towards the wetlands.


Well, hello Mr. Eagle.  I almost missed you.


The farther inland we get, the more narrow the Union river becomes.  You can see the bridge off in the distance, which is accessible from the wetland entrance off Hwy 3.


This flock of Least Sandpipers was busy nibbling up insects before the water hid them from view.


As the river became narrower, the sun warmed us and the wind an afterthought.  You can see the waterline on these old pillars.  I’ll bet these were from an old dock from years gone past.


We paddled about 6-7 miles today and the wind started to pick up as we made our way back to the put-in.  But the smiles on Debbie and Jody’s face say it all.  It’s a good day when you’re on the water.



~Hood Canal Adventure: Chapter 2 – Tahuya River

~Hood Canal Adventure: Chapter 2 – Tahuya River

As I dipped my paddle into the Tahuya River, a river I didn’t even know it existed a few days before, I looked at the water movement and was amazed at just how fast the tide was coming in.  Was this normal?  Or, was the channel of the river so narrow that it gave the appearance of moving in faster than it really was?  I looked at the tide charts and the tide didn’t seem abnormal.

As we launched our kayaks, one by one, into the water, the grass in this picture looks as though it had just been sprayed down with a hose!


The Tahuya River, I later learned originates from Tahuya Lake, west of Green Mountain.  I never did search out the lake, but was appreciative of the beauty before us as we began to paddle upstream gazing up at a beautiful blue sky.  We had plenty of head room as we ventured under the bridge.  This would change when we came back.


The clear water was flat and the wind was calm.


I thought this big tree trunk was interesting as if it was clawing its way out of the water while being weighed down by green moss.


We paddled around each bend in the river anxious to see what was around the corner.


We paddled about 2 miles until we couldn’t go any farther.  The water was coming downstream almost as fast as it was going upstream.  We stopped to stretch and eat dinner, but quickly had to load back up before we lost the sandbar we were sitting on.  I ventured upstream and captured this pretty little yellow bird taking a bath in the stream.


This was the end of the line, time to turnaround and head back.


The sun was a little lower in the sky, the reflection like diamonds on the water.


Well hello there.  Looks like the water has risen about 3+ feet since I paddle past this stump about an hour or so earlier.


There were plenty of birds taking refuge in the shoreline grass.


We passed our put-in location and continued to the mouth of the river.  The wind was in our face a bit, but by hugging the north western shoreline, we had a little protection and quite an enjoyable paddle.


As we neared the take-out, I noticed there was barely room to paddle under the bridge and the grassy area in my first picture was completely flooded with water.


This paddle was an afterthought after a little exploring.  I found a picture of the river on Facebook covered in snow and happened to make a comment.  Thankfully, the person who took the picture commented back and said it was his favorite river to paddle.  This was such a lovely paddle, as the tides moved in.

There is a huge dirt parking lot on the left side of the road, just past mile marker 14 on NE North Shore Road.  There are no facilities.  The launch is a little steep and covered in gravel, and if you take your time launching, you’ll be fine. ~Enjoy



~Hood Canal Adventure: Chapter 1-Lake Kokanee

~Hood Canal Adventure: Chapter 1-Lake Kokanee

~Dipping my paddling into a fresh water lake in the state of Washington was unexpected and a true pleasure.  When I first planned this trip to the Hood Canal over two years ago, my original thought was to paddle on Lake Cushman.  However, I quickly learned to trust the locals, when it comes to paddling.  And, BOY!!, I’m sure glad I did.  I mean, just look at the flat water and beautiful shoreline of Lake Kokanee.


A quick stop at the Chamber of Commerce in the little town of Belfair, to purchase our Washington’s Annual Discovery Park Pass (Cost was $35, is good for 12 months and you can have 2 license plate #s noted), and it was suggested we paddle here rather than on Lake Cushman this time of the year (July). So, after a quick (3 hour drive) recon, it was decided this would be the group’s first paddle.  There were 15 paddlers who came along for the journey.

See the snow on the Olympic Mountains in the background?


Lake Kokanee is a private lake and there is only one place the public can access the water.  Once on the water, you cannot exit, until you get back to the take-out.  Directions noted at the end of this blog.

These three ladies were enjoying a cool morning as we started out.


When you look at Lake Kokanee on the map, it looks rather small.  However, we paddled for about 2.5 hours along the shoreline, past waterfalls, and a few fisherman in search of land locked salmon.

Capturing a shot of this pretty King Fisher was a surprise.  Usually they fly away to quickly to get a good shot.


Our entire paddle greeted us with perfectly flat water and blue skies.  The water was crystal clear and the color changed from aqua to green to blue.


The moss hung from the trees along the shore like lace.


This Osprey was perched in a nearby tree waiting for his lunch to swim by.


Lake Kokanee sits below Lake Cushman and both were man made to generate electricity.  The shoreline is steep in most places and we noticed several land slides with caution signs telling us to stay back at least 100 yards.  However, I’m doubtful the width of the lake in some spots was more than 50 yards.

The views were breathtaking from every vantage point.


One final shot of an Osprey perched high at the top of a tree as I walked by on my way to eat lunch at the park.  We were lucky to befriend the security guard who gave us permission to sit in their ‘private’ park for lunch.


If you’re in the area during the busy season, I highly recommend paddling this little lake rather than busy Lake Cushman.  The speed limit is 7mph and if you arrive early, you’re sure to get a parking spot right by the gravel launch.

To get here:  Going North on 101, along the Hood Canal, you’ll make a left turn an follow highway 119 West at the little town of Hoodsport.  Follow this for about 2 miles until you come to a grocery store on the right and look for Lower Lake Road on your left.  Follow Lower Lake road down and down until you come to a large parking lot on your left.  This is a public launch and there are no fees to park or launch.  There is a pit toilet.  The locals we first talked to told us we couldn’t launch here.  We later learned this wasn’t true.  The park next to the public launch is private.  There is a fish hatchery across the road, but I’m not certain if it’s open to the public.





~Beeks Bight? When the water is high.

~Beeks Bight?  When the water is high.

~Dipping my paddle into Folsom Lake has been few and far between for the past 6+ years, especially since the state of California has been in a drought and most of the good paddling (to me) locations are better when the water is high.  Beeks Bight is just one of those locations.

You can access Beeks Bight by way of the Folsom SRA Granite Bay entrance.  Follow the signs and in about 2 miles you will come to a parking lot.  In the far corner, there’s a little opening where you can launch your kayak.


I was a little curious about the name Beeks Bight, but found no history online.  I did learn that a Bight is “a curve or recess in a coastline, river, or other geographical feature”.  Well, if you get a chance to paddle here, you’ll get that this really is a “Bight”!  The shoreline curves in many directions and you’ll have fun dodging big boulders as you make your way North.


I’ve paddled here twice in as many weeks.  The water level remains high and I suspect it will stay this way for another month or so, especially as the snow begins to melt and pour down the North and South forks of the American River.


There is wood debris everywhere.  The entire shoreline as well as each inlet/cove is socked in with logs, limbs, and twigs.  So be mindful of this as you paddle along.


This big beautiful Great Blue Heron was perched on a floating log with his beak open, almost as if he was panting.  It was about 92 degrees, so perhaps this is how they cool off?


I quickly captured a shot of this Cormorant before he jumped into the water and took off.


If you come out for a paddle, maybe bring along a bag to collect garbage in.  Unfortunately there’s a lot of it floating in with the wood debris.


This was my friend Tim’s first time here.  Sharing a new paddling location with someone is pretty cool in my book.

Sometimes I like to collect interesting pieces of driftwood for my garden and this was my top find of the day.


If you’re looking for a quite place to paddle, this is a good choice.  Late afternoons during the week are nice as there’s not too much boat traffic and the winds typically start to lay down.  I’ve not had a problem yet with mosquitoes, but you might want to bring some bug spray just in case.


There’s a $12 entrance fee to drive into the Granite Bay SRA or you can use your annual state parks pass ($125).  The park is open until 10pm during the summer months.



~An upside down River?

~An upside down River?  Yes, that’s exactly what the historical land mark plaque spoke of as we stood looking over Carrville Pond and wondered why there were huge, I mean HUGE, piles of river rock at the top of Trinity Lake.  As an aside, Carrville Pond is home to an annual fishing derby in May (kids only) hosted by the Trinity Lakes Lions and stocked by the California Fish and Game.  Great way to get the kids interested in fishing!

This area was severely affected by the Gold rush.  Efforts at Gold mining went the course from picks and pans to the use of hydraulic monitors and bucket line dredges.  Well, those dredges are the result of these huge piles of rock.  As we scouted out a place to paddle, we knew this was going to be one of them.



The gravel road on the right side of Hwy 3, is just before the Trinity River starts pouring into the lake.  However, because of these huge rock piles, we were well protected from any current.  And the launch was not too difficult, we just took our time driving down and off loading.


We were on the water by 9:30 and paddled around the rock piles gazing into the pristine water.  No sign of fish, but there was this pair Buffleheads in my line of site.


Tori was a happy paddler in her Eddyline Fathom.


After we finished exploring the rock piles, we decided to venture upstream as far as we could go before the current became too swift.  Well, I don’t know about you, but the view of the snow peaked mountains and the perfectly flat water sure put a smile on my face!


Time to turn around and paddle along the Western shoreline.  There was minimal boat traffic, mostly due to the 5mph speed limit in this area.  Some in the group spotted a Bald Eagle, but I didn’t seem him until we were on the other side of the lake.


After about 3.5 miles of paddling, our tummies were growling and I sure needed to stretch.  We found a nice area to take out for lunch.


So, if you notice in the picture above, there are ripples from a light breeze.  Well, after lunch and as we loaded back up to head across the lake, the breeze completely laid down.  Wow!  How often does this happen?  Just look at the view too.



Nancy and Linda were sure enjoying the beautiful weather and flat water.


And, who’s this little fellow?  My vote is Paulie, who is “quackers” for paddling.


As we made it to the other side of the lake, I spotted this pair of Common Mergansers.  The male is black and white, while the female is rust and grey.  I also snapped a shot of a Killdeer as he plucked bugs off the shoreline.


And, what would a paddle be if there wasn’t some sort of Tree Trunk Lake creature walking down the shore to dip his toes in the cool water.


This was my first time on Trinity Lake and I’ll definitely be back again.  We took advantage of early morning launches and pre-Memorial Day weekend crowds and were not disappointed.

Trinity Center is only 4 hours from Sacramento, offers a beautiful KOA campground (with cabins too), a few stores, a gas station and a few diners to grab a bite.  I didn’t want to camp so I rented a cute little 3 bedroom cabin (via VRBO) to share with a few ladies.

If you plan to visit, stop at the Visitor Center off 299 above Whiskeytown Lake and pick up a good map.  You’ll want to know where the launch points are, as there are many, and many arms and fingers to explore here.












~Silent Serenity on Lake Solano

~If you want to dip your paddle into a little waterway that’s not too far from Sacramento, but far enough away from the noise of the world, then you might want to check out Lake Solano.  Lake Solano looks similar to a slough that’s somewhat narrow but goes about 2 miles in each direction from the cement launch and is about 15 minutes West of Winters.  The waterway is mostly protected from the wind is a great bird habitat and is part of Putah Creek. 


As I walked my kayak to the launch I was delighted to see a little Gray Fox sitting on the trail.  I captured a few pictures before this little fellow disappeared off into the brush.


This morning the flat water and reflection of the bridge (Pleasants Valley Road) was sure pretty.


Once you’re in the water, if you head East you’ll eventually come to a dam.  You’ll enjoy about 2 miles before this happens and along the way there are plenty of birds to keep your camera busy.

These Cliff Swallows were busy collecting mud for their freshly built nests (under the bridge).


We had the water to ourselves, another reason to come early.  There were a few boys at the Cub Scout campground fishing from the shoreline, and one solo paddler as we made our way back upstream.


This Red Winged Blackbird was busy nibbling insects on a piece of abandoned wood in the middle of the shallow lake.  He fluttered from branch to branch, which gave me a chance to capture this photo.


I’ve seen Green Herons quite often while paddling, but this morning, they were out in full force.  These elusive birds sound like a monkey or parrot when they call out.  Its quite amazing.  They’re called Green Herons although they are mostly grey and rusty brown.

I believe this fellow is a Red Shouldered Hawk, but it’s hard to tell.  He was high up in the tree getting ready to invade a nest, based on the threatening squawks I heard coming from a bird in close proximity.


You can paddle upstream about 2 miles and eventually the current starts to move a little as this is where Lake Berryessa spills into Putah Creek.  The water is clear and cold.


This Wood Duck pair were quick to dart away from us, but I got this shot before they did.


There’s a $6 day use fee to park here, the parking lot is small and the gate is opened promptly at 8am.  I try to get here as close to 8am as possible so I can get a parking spot and enjoy the quiet of the morning.  There are flush toilets and you’ll need to wash off your kayak after you exit the water.  There’s an invasive snail that will attach to your kayak.  Besides, your kayak was probably needing a bath anyway!


~Reflections of Rattlesnake Bar

~Dipping your paddle into the water can be therapeutic.  Especially when the water is perfectly calm and the only movement made, is from your kayak, as you glide across the water, and from your paddle as you pull yourself forward, stroke by quiet stroke.  The reflection of the hillside in the water says it all.


Rattlesnake Bar is one of the many State Park launch points on Folsom Lake, located in Newcastle about 15 minutes from Granite Bay.  The beauty about this launch is that once you’ve paddle upstream about .25 miles, you’re in the 5mph zone for boats.  You know, the annoying speed boats that like to zip past as fast as they can, interrupting your calm.  I’m not saying all speed boats are annoying, but I personally prefer quiet and calm on most occasions.  There’s enough noise in the world, I don’t want it here.


After watching the weather for a few days, it was looking good for a Saturday evening paddle.  Mild temperatures and little wind, ah yes, my favorite conditions to paddle in!  I asked a few friends to join me and although a few accepted and later backed out, one lucky friend was waiting for me as I drove into the parking lot.  We offloaded our kayaks, packed our dinner and set off upstream.  The North Fork of the American River spills into the lake not too far from here, an our plan was to go as far as we could before the current was too swift.  That was our plan anyway.


This was Debbie’s first time from this launch, so I was excited to show her around.  We paddled on the Northern shoreline and poked our boats into a little cove where PG&E’s Newcastle Hydroelectric water station churns water into power for the town of Newcastle.


The walls look like giant puzzle pieces.


The cove eventually ends where a little creek spills into the lake.  There’s a hiking trail up above, and you can hike for many miles, just beware of Rattlesnakes, especially when it’s warm out.  This is a great place to hike in the winter.


As we make our way back to the main channel, the sun and clouds are busy making shapes on the hillside.




As we round the corner, the sky starts to get a little darker and Debbie points out the little sprinkles hitting the water in front of us.  Hmm, let’s go a little further before heading back in.


Ok, the sprinkles are more frequent now, time to turn around.  No time to eat our dinner on the shore this time.


We paddle back to the launch, load up our kayaks and head over to an overlook to eat dinner.  Can’t beat the view!


I couldn’t resist taking a shot of the grass with the sun sinking in the background.  Boy, are we lucky to live where we do.  Debbie said it earlier and I wholeheartedly agree!



~The “other side” of Tomales Bay

~I’ve dipped my paddle into Tomales Bay on a handful of occasions.  Mostly on a moonless night, to explore the Bio-luminescence.  If you read my last blog about paddling inland to explore Lagunitas creek, then you will understand some of what I’m about to write.  Winds are typical on this body of water and for the second day in a row, the wind was almost non-existent.

This sunrise was a welcome site as I sipped my morning coffee and thought about the paddle ahead of us that day.


We launched from Miller Park, which is located on the Eastern side of Tomales Bay.  This is my first time launching on this side of Tomales.  You pay at the kiosk to park, and the cement launch makes getting into the water a breeze.



Our Plan “A” was to head across the water, circle around Hog Island (protected), explore the Western shoreline before having lunch at White Gulch Beach.  If you’re an experienced paddler, you are never afraid to go with Plan B.

So, once everyone was in the water and after a quick safety talk, we paddled towards Hog Island.  The wind, still non-existent, as you can see from these pictures.  It was so pretty and calm!


One of our paddlers was using a ‘peddle’ kayak for only the second time, and he indicated he was already getting tired after only 10-15 minutes of paddling.  So, we partnered someone up with him and continued to Hog Island.


The eastern shore of the Island was closed due to sensitive Seal habitat and Seabird Colony.  So we paddled around the island, my first time up this close, and talked about our plan.  Our tired paddler was now a concern, as the wind had come and there were rather large swells that seemed to some out of no where.  I’m serious, the conditions changed in a matter of minutes!


After a conversation with a fellow paddler who has been on this section of Tomales countless times, we decided it would be best to paddle back to the launch and let our tired paddler take out and rest.  The rest of our group would paddle on the Eastern shoreline, heading inland.  This must have been meant to be, as this turned out to be a beautiful paddle.

So, after our tired paddler was safe to shore and out of their kayak, we paddled by the little sitting area off of Nick’s Cove restaurant, where later we would enjoy an adult beverage.  I was hopeful I could take this old gas pump for my backyard!


Most of us ladies had fun joking about our ideal ‘man’, stationed up on the hill, overlooking the bay as if to flag us in with his stoic stare and well positioned lantern.


A resident Bald Eagle was perched up in a tree, so I paddled under him and too this shot.


My favorite part of the day; Lunch!  After about 2 hours of paddling, we found a great place to exit, stretch, and enjoy the sunshine as we ate our lunch.  I even found a ‘planted’ piece of driftwood for my garden at home.


Once our tummies were full, we decided to explore a little channel that only went inland a few hundred yards before dead ending into Hwy 1.  There was an Egret eating his lunch, but my pictures didn’t turn out well.


However, this picture of the Egrets turned out quite nicely.


I’m sometimes amazed at the great shots I get.  This was one of them.  These Cormorants were drying out their wings and the silhouette was breathtaking.


After a long day of paddling, we headed back to the take-out.  This will go down in my memory banks as a top 10 paddle experience.