Monday, February 26, 2007

Sollie's W.E.T. Trip

Gorge rapids
It was all Sollie's idea, "Let's go up and raft the Smith River in February.. (it made sense because the Smith is dependent upon rain and not snow for its flow and it was finally raining). What didn't make sense was the fact that it was February, and we should have all been snowboarding!

Nine of us finally committed to go as we faced a long President's Day weekend. So Heffe and I drove up to Lotus to load the gear Friday night.

3:30am Sollie left Newport Beach for his 400 mile drive to Sacramento. Maggie left Reno at 5:00am. Jason and Brian would leave Marin in time to rendezvous with us on Hwy 101 in Willits. Justine, Nate, Heffe, Vlad, and I met Maggie in Sacramento at 9:00am. Sollie came in 15 minutes later.

After a quick food buy and securing all the personal gear in the Dodge Ram and Justin's new Toyota 4x4, we left the parking lot by 9:45am. We rolled north on I-5 to Hwy 20 where we skirted the north shore of Clear Lake while noting that none of us had seen more mobile homes in any community that had not been leveled by a tornado. Knowing that tornadoes are attracted to trailer courts (yes, scientific fact!), we realized that we were in potential danger and thought best to move quickly to Hwy 101 and head north to Willits.

Northern Rivers
Once we reached Willits, it was time for a Taco Bell stop. After 18 tacos, 6 burritos, odd nachos, and other quick meal fixes, the seven us walked out into the warm early afternoon sun to meet Jason and Brian as they rolled up in Brian's Illinois-rusted Toyota Camry. We gassed up, bought some potatoes, eggs, and carrots at Safeway and headed north as a caravan of three vehicles with nine passengers.

After a quick blast up 101, we skimmed the incredible northern, winter coast of California just north of Eureka. We went through redwoods, watched the sun drop to the surf, and crossed the Mad River as well as the mighty Klamath and Eel Rivers. We thought about the consequences of hitting a Roosevelt Elk at 60mph as we past herds of the beasts.

WET River Trips
Just outside of Crescent City, we headed northeast on Hwy 199 to Jedediah Smith, Redwoods State Park on the banks of the Main Fork Smith River.

Since it was getting dark, we made camp (while we marveled at Justin's full-size inflatable mattress and 12' x 12' Easy-up covering his entire truck) and quickly and cooked up a meal of pasta, dutch-oven chicken breasts, garlic bread, and salad. Interestingly, the water source was fifty feet away so due to that hardship, we took full advantage of Jason's forethought in stopping at the Marin Costco to pick-up a case of micro-brew. Well done.

It rained all Saturday night and we were greeted by BLUE SKIES (in February…in a rain forest!). After a round of breakfast burritos of potatoes, egg, hot sausage, and onion… we loaded up to find a section of river to run (interestingly we did not plan which run to do since there are four distinct runs suitable for rafts and only two of us had ever been on the Smith…yes, we are professionals!) Luckily 199 gave us some great views of the river, and we decided to do the Oregon Hole run on the Middle Fork of the Smith. The flow looked perfect and the run had a nice and easy warm-up before dropping into some class 3 and hard Class 4. As we drove to the put-in, I discovered that we were only 42 miles from Cave Junction Oregon, the put-in for the Illinois River as it flows north to the Rogue River and ending just inland from Gold Beach Oregon… sounds like a new combo trip: 3-days on the Illinois, a day on the Smith, 2-days on the Cal Salmon, and hit the Scott River on the way back to I-5… as Borat (or Vlad) would say, "Very Nice!"

We ran our shuttle and put-in just above the Gasquet Bridge. Just like every season, the wetsuits shrank, the dry-top gaskets tore, and the pfd's felt extra snug… odd. We loaded into two Hysides with Sollie, Heffe, Maggie, and me in one boat while Vlad, Justin, Nate, Jason, and Brian took the other.

The sun was out, the temperature was mild, and the water was crystal clear. Wow…a great day on the river!

After some easy class 3, we hit the Oregon Hole section. We ran three Class 4 rapids back to back with the only drama coming from Vlad's boat as they paddled into a deep hole with no momentum and off-angle causing three swimmers. Heffe threw a spot-on shot with his throw bag (we were first through and set-up safety) right to Vlad (the other guys got to their raft) and Heffe pendulumed Vlad into Saul's grasp. Vlad would paddle again!

The rest of the run was Class 3 and finished with sections of Class II as we united with the South Fork of the Smith River just above our camp.

Since we had some daylight after the shuttle, we played a Bocce Ball tournament that started in our camp and ended on the cobbled beach of the Smith. We played through the redwoods and ferns, down steps to the day-use area, along the beach, and back up the stairs to camp… team Gold won the tournament. Sollie came in last.

We had another pasta dinner with hot sausage, garlic bread and salad. Justin had to go to work on Monday so he and Nate left for Sacramento.

Again, the water spigot was simply too far away and we had additional beverages: Maggie had brought along a friend by the name of Jose Cuervo. And someone else had a friend named Jack Daniels. It was a lively campfire and everyone was safe and sleeping by 11pm.

Monday morning, we had another round of breakfast burritos, and we packed up camp leaving one raft inflated and strapped to the rack of the Dodge as we headed back to Crescent City.

Just south of the main drag in Crescent City, Maggie, Heffe, Sollie, Jason, and Brian put a raft into the surf while I took pictures and Vlad reveled in memories of his conversations with "Jack" around last night's campfire.

With 8' waves coming in strong and fast, the crew hit the surf for two sessions and called it quits by 11am. We said goodbye to Jason and Brian and we took Hwy 299 east to the Trinity through Willow Creek, Weaverville, past Whiskeytown Reservoir and to I-5 just south of Red Bluff. After our obligatory stop at Petro Truck Stop, we made it back to Sacramento by 6:30pm. We unloaded, said goodbye and Sollie drove 400 miles back to Newport Beach, and he arrived home at 12:30am.

So, after 1,600 miles of hwy, 15 miles of river, 1 hour of surf, and a sunny February weekend on the north coast of California…we were done. Thanks Sollie, it was your idea.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Road Trip to River Rafting

The guides gathered over this past weekend and hit the road for a Northern California river tour... successful runs and a fun time was had by all... silliness prevailed as they ended their road trip surfing in the ocean with the rafts... stories were formed as they headed home tired and spent... some rain fell, but most days were sunny and beautiful with whitewater rapids.

Here's some pics raft surfing on the Northern coast after the river trips...

Sollie led the crew on this recent California road trip, and before they headed back to home base in the Lotus Coloma Valley, they stopped for a brief respite at the ocean.

A gray day contrasted with the colorful gear of the crew as they carried the raft out into the sea. There the water was rocking and rolling as waves came in for a nice surf.

... it seems we just can't get enough... ever.

Postcard from the Great North

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Graduation for Mom

The transition is difficult... from her being here everyday. I watch her as she packs up old toys and books from her childhood. But isn't she still a child? Still a youngster who needs her parent? The transition is difficult... she's pulling pictures and posters from the wall. And the colorful poem written in bright paint on the closet door is highlighted even more without the surrounding poster decor. It will be very difficult for me to let go.

High school is almost over for her. She's planning her next move into a house of her own and a college schedule that seems close to her high school schedule. She'll still have to get up early and juggle teachers and classes just as she does now. But who will fix her breakfast? and lunch? and dinner? Who will buy the groceries and plan the meals? Who will wash her clothes and linens... on a regular basis? Who will hold her when she's sick with a fever? Not me... anymore.

I walk by her room now and the echo is apparent. She's packed most everything and discarded what she no longer needs. Hubby and I went through the garbage bags and found too many keepsakes. And we fished them out and dusted them off and placed them carefully in our memories. We just can't throw everything out. I kept her first books. I kept all the teacher's accolades. I kept all the awards and trophies from every event and more. Her first doll. Her first stuffed animal. Pictures of her first river trip. On and on, we poured through the remnants of her childhood as tears rolled down my cheek. Sigh... I will miss her so much.

Overwhelmed by her near empty room, I slip out only to hear her scrambling through papers. Another bag of garbage coming out of her bedroom. She has a grin on her face; wide from ear to ear. Her excitement over her new anticipated beginnings is contagious, and I don't want her to see me cry.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Big Snow = W.E.T. Rivers

After the driest January in the recorded history of California, a new WET world has dawned in the middle of February giving whitewater rafters and kayakers a moist (naw...make that a W.E.T. River Trips) Valentine's gift. Much love came down from the skies from across the watery Pacific Ocean ranging from over 3 inches of rain in the Sacramento Valley to 10 inches in the upper foothills. Fat whiteness also dropped in the high country with over 3 feet of very WET snow.

This means that with 2 more months of precipitation left, our snow melt rivers like the North Fork American and Cal Salmon are in great shape and our dam-controlled rivers like the South Fork and Middle Fork American Rivers will gain added storage to ensure predictable, boatable flows well into late summer and early fall.

With more rain and snow to come, we are in for some big fun with great whitewater rafting, beautiful rivers, and mountainsides dripping with wildflower color.

It's going to rain and snow some more....Bring it.

My snowboard needs some exercise and so do my legs for that North Fork put-in, the scouting on the Cal Salmon, and the portaging on the Middle Fork... and not to mention for chasing Ryan Mac around the warehouse after he pulls another prank that needs major payback! Like I said...Bring it!

Another Big Poppa Post; are u hearing it Mac?

Monday, February 12, 2007

California Rafting -

Whitewater rafting in California is looking very good after this recent series of storms. The snowpack was a welcoming sight for all the Sierra skiers and rafting enthusiasts. Pent-up energy sent a lot of travelers up to the snow country this past weekend as witnessed by the traffic jams on the summit.

On the North Fork American, we should have a normal mid-March through May season with flows starting as the snow melts or precipitation falls. North Fork American is our favorite Class 4+ river run in Central California. Easy access from San Francisco and the Bay's outlying areas, this river will delight the advanced or experienced rafter. W.E.T. River Trips has been running this river since the late 70's and our guides enjoy this challenging whitewater run.

Included with W.E.T.'s river rafting packages are wetsuits, splash jackets, helmets, lunch, kayak support, guide service and shuttles. You can even combine this trip as a double run in one day or as a 2-day combination trip with another river.

Both the South Fork and Middle Fork American will have great flows as both reservoirs are in good shape. We recommend both these rivers for groups and corporate programs.

Our start date is March 17th, Saturday on both the South Fork American and North Fork American. Wetsuits are part of all our trip packages so don't forget to have the height and weight information when you reserve.

This year, you can either call in your reservation 1.888.723.8938 or reserve online at Store pricing includes the government land use fees so you don't need to figure the fees out with your calculator. And remember, "If you can't find the info you need, just call us!"

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cal Squirrel Whispering

UC Berkeley has a subculture of furry flittering-tailed creatures. Squirrels. Having grown up visiting Capitol Park in Sacramento, I've a great love of squirrels.

I'm Stephanie, and I'm a student at UC Berkeley.

While the courses are amazing and the city is alive, this first post, I felt I should dedicate to something I feel is a bit of a metaphor. The other day I stepped out of Dwinelle Hall on campus at ten in the morning. I walked toward the south gate when I for the first time consciously noticed a small gaggle of brown furry campus squirrels. I realized at that moment that the hordes of students simply left them alone. Sometimes they'd feed the squirrels, but nobody attempted to approach them, or generally notice them beyond the opportunity of feeding them.

I had time to kill and attempted an experiment. I walked up to one of the squirrels munching on a peanut shell. I had some pistachios in my bag. I kneeled in front of the little guy -- about a foot away -- and held out a pistachio. He squirreled up to me, sniffed the nut and jumped on my shawl. I pulled the treat back... and the little feller jumped on my knee. So I gave him the nut, then offered him another. And another. Continuously. And after a moment, I extended my index and middle finger toward the back of his neck. And while he feasted on my pistachio snack, he let me pet him.

And the hippies stared in awe.

I love going to Berkeley. Give the squirrels a Nobel Peace Prize.


Steph is a University of California at Berkeley student. W.E.T. River Trips welcomes her musings as a college student and her experiences at one of our favorite universities!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Auburn Dam, G'night

10 billion dollar price tag for the Auburn Dam is just too much for too little. Doolittle's own requested research has shown what an incredible waste of tax payers money and time would be spent on this dumb project. Keep in mind, too, that this project study is based on a 1978 dam design that may or may not even "hold water" today. Is the economic impact of whitewater recreation and other recreational uses be willingly sacrificed? Is the loss of a wild and scenic canyon and its natural rivers such as the North Fork American be sacrificed for so little?

Will Doolittle and his dam cohorts finally give up this pipe dream? Is 10 billion dollars for only 1/2 the water storage, his team had originally been claiming, be worth the trip to the taxpayers? And how will they address the fact that no one or no entity will step forward to even purchase this water? And will they hear their own research that the flood protection doesn't even exist with this project?

Or will Doolittle cite another Michael Crichton story to discredit the science and research of his own requested study?