Spring Break California: Kayakers gone wild

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Being a grad student, I'm not allowed outside much, and living in Colorado, the paddling is also a little scarce in the winter, so when spring break rolled around, I was ready to take full advantage of the opportunity.
Typical Colorado winter paddling

After another all-nighter trying to finish my math methods homework thursday night, I was really energized to start the solo drive from Fort Collins to California. It went a little faster than usual, or at least seemed to. Upon arrival in the Sacramento area, I met up with my old friend Stoner and my new friend Martin. I say new friend because Martin sports a mullet, just like I do, and any kayaker with a mullet is my homeboy. Of course, Martin is a miniature little man, so his mullet is much smaller than mine, but still, it takes a certain kind of person to rock the mullet.

Stoner and Martin

Stoner, Martin and I had come to Sacramento to run Pauley creek. Well, Pauley creek was almost dry. So we rocked it! I hadn't driven this far to let some low water stop me! We had a great run. Sure, more water would have been better, but ultra low water was okay. A waterfall at low water is still just as tall as it is at perfect flows.

While toasting a great run over pizza in Downieville, I managed to convince Stoner and Martin to follow me back north, to the Salmon. We stopped off at Brandy Creek near Redding on the way. It was the same story as Pauley creek; totally awesome. We elected not to hike all the way up to the real gorge, partly because we were a little lost, and partly because all those nights in the office had made my legs weak and my belly big. We were faced with a lot of rock gardens with almost no water, but the real drops were still sweet.

After two days of sliding down wet rocks in my playboat (although sometimes the rocks weren't wet at all), I was ready for the one place where you never hit rocks: the ocean. The crew headed back to Stoner and Martin's home base, Arcata, where I lived last year. Stoner was gracious enough to let me crash at his house for the night, and then the next day we hit up Camel rock, my favorite surf spot. The surf was about 13 feet, so too small for the good break to go, but big enough to kick ass. Martin and Stoner got in before me, and as I was paddling out, they both sprinted back in, screaming “shark!” or something. I meant to ask them what they were saying, but didn't get a chance since they wouldn't get back in the water, and I wouldn't get out. Oh well. The surf was great. I really love paddling the Nemesis on any kind of wave.

Tired from surfing, we nevertheless packed up the cars and headed the rest of the way up to the Salmon. A couple more Arcata paddlers joined us; Lila and Orion. The Salmon was high, but not high enough for the famous Trip Point (a.k.a. Dirka Dirka) wave to come in. There was still a ton of fun medium size river running to be had, though. The problem was that I couldn't seem to convince anyone to follow my lines. I would be in the lead and say something like “This one is called Airplane Turn. Boof the huge hole in the middle!” And then Martin or Orion would drop some smartass comment like “But you can avoid that hole by running right.” And they would all go right. Eventually I started trying to trick them with beta like “Whatever you do, don't go right at the bottom.” even though actually there was a sweet ledge boof bottom right. Unfortunately, they decided to listen to that beta, and all missed that one. Too bad for them. There was a sweet little eddy/hole below the boof. I decided to stop there for a little while and practice my roll a few times. I might have also done some cartwheels, loops, or mcnasties. Hard to tell, uh, I mean hard to remember. Something nasty definitely went on in that eddy.

The Salmon was the climax of my break. After a few runs on the Nordheimer section, we headed up to the North Fork, which was a great all day run. Lela met a rock (facefirst) in one of the earlier rapids, and decided to hike out, but the rest of us had a full on day. That night, I drove back down to Sacramento, and ran Giant Gap with my good friend Alex J. Wolfgram, and a huge posse of other Colorado boaters in much the same situation as myself, who had just started their spring break. Then I started the long slow drive back to grad school. Of course, I did manage to squeeze in a session at the Reno park with my friend Dave, who's in grad school at UNR. But soon I was back at the grindstone, waiting for summer vacation to come around.

-the famous Leif Anderson

p.s. Stoner's name is technically “Dustin Stoennerr” or something, not just Stoner. He likes to toss in some extra letters, to make it a little classier. But it's pronounced Stoner. Nothing to do with marijuana. It's just his name.


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