Great Basin National Park

Our camp near Great Basin National Park

Friday evening June 15 found us in Great Basin National Park. The word was that Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited parks in the country, and that said, we were hoping to find camping at one of the campgrounds in the park. We headed first for Wheeler Peak Campground, which was full, then on to Upper Lehman, which looked like a lovely campground, but it was also full. We then decided to try going off the grid, taking a dirt road near the Pole Canyon picnic area. The road took us just outside of the park where we found a quiet spot in some junipers to put the top up.A  very peaceful and pleasant spot. No services other than a fire pit, and we did not bring fire wood. Not a soul in sight, and not a single car on the road.
The next day we drove back up the mountain and we had a lovely hike up into the Bristlecone Pines. I was hoping to make it an early morning trip to catch some soft light, but given the drive and a 1 1/2 mile hike to reach the trees, that seemed unpractical.

 

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What Memo? And Whales!

Thursday, May 3. Up at 5:30 to take care of some business before joining my kayaking friends for a paddle out the Golden Gate. After taking care of business, a conference call, I hopped in my truck and drove to our intended launch site, Horseshoe Cove, near the Golden Gate Bridge. When I arrived I was greeted with “Didn’t you get the message that the paddle was cancelled?” It seems with the weather prediction for wind the official BASK trip had been cancelled. That left five of us with our boats and weather that looked manageable. We huddled up and discussed the prospects. If the predicted wind did come up, it would blow us back in the Gate.

With the requisite radio check and safety talk, we launched our boats for a “non-BASK” paddle. We went out the Gate, and hugged the coast along the north side looking for opportunities to play in the rocks. I’m a bit shy about rock gardening, not wishing to bash my wooden boat into rocks, and thinking I’ll need to get a plastic boat for rock gardening. Playing in the rocks looks like so much fun. I did find a few spots where I could poke in and out of the rocks confidently. We stopped at Black Sand Beach for lunch, and then continued on to towards Point Bonita. We found a blow hole not far from the point, and took turns nosing our boats into the hole and taking a shower in salt spray. An impressive amount of spray for just a little wave action. Then we headed out to the point where we waved to the tourists lining the railing at the light house.

For our homeward leg we took advantage of the wind to blow us back under the bridge. We went for the deeper water making a straight shot for the bridge.  It was there that we saw two whales spout. We first sighted them when they were a couple of hundred yards ahead of us. They closed in on us fast, passing between our boats.  We also saw porpoise, sea lions, seals and a huge flock of grebes. We made quick time returning to our launch site with the wind and current in our favor. We launched at 10 am and were off the water at 2:30 covering 8.9 Miles.

About the time we were pulling our boats out of the water blue shy was showing and the wind was picking up. I seems we were just ahead of the predicted wind. You can view more photos from our adventure here and view the track of our paddle here, including a way point that shows the whale sighting. A remarkable paddle for those of us that didn’t get the memo.

Back on the Water

On Thursday April 12, I manged to get back on the water to go paddling.  We were off to Africa in late February and upon returning home in mid-March I developed bronchitis which kept me off the water for a couple of weeks. Almost two months without a padding “fix!”

In any event,  my schedule permitted me to join my BASK friends for the Thursday Lunch paddle on April 12. Our journey took us from Ferry Point to Point Molate.  We paddled past the tanker pier at the Chevron facility in Richmond. Note the words on the superstructure of one of the tankers “Protect the Environment.” Seems a bit ironic. We had blue sky with puffy cumulus clouds and calm water. There were four of us and our paddle covered eight miles. You can view a track of the paddle here.  As we approached the San Rafael Bridge, I was struck by the graphic element of the bridge with the clouds and I thought it might make an interesting black and white image. What do you think?

 

Up the Creek

On Sunday February 20, I paddled my kayak up San Rafael Creek, launching from Loch Lomond Yacht Harbor. The original plan was to meet with a number of fellow paddlers for a paddle across the bay.  With high winds predicted, crossing the bay did not sound like a wise thing to do, so I cancelled the organized paddle. Being the trip initiator though, I thought I should show up at the launch site to intercept anybody that might not have gotten the word about the cancellation.  No other kayaks showed up. From the launch site it’s just a short distance to San Rafael Creek, and for the most part, staying close to shore provides protection from the wind. I decided I would go on a solo paddle. I was wearing a full dry suit for protection should I end up in the water, my personal flotation device (PFD, lifejacket), and I had a marine VHF radio and cell phone which I keep in a Lifeproof case, along with my trusty little Olympus Tough TG-4 waterproof camera which has become my go-to camera for paddling. I was also curious to know how my new boat, the Pygmy Ronan, would handle in the wind. So I put my boat in the water, climbed in and took my time paddling up the creek as far as I could go. Being solo I was able to poke along and explore the yacht harbors and boats without having to keep up with the gang; free to do my own thing. Here are a few photos I captured along the way. Happy to report that the boat handled the wind better than I expected. Many kayaks tend to “weathercock” meaning they turn into the wind, which adds to the effort required to get the boat to go in the direction you want. Skegs and rudders are often used to correct for this. I’m thinking I may be fine without any modifications. Shortly after I returned to my launch site the wind picked up and I was happy to be off the water.  A round trip of 5.5 miles. If you are curious about just where it was I was paddling you can see my track here.

Lunch at China Camp

 

I joined a few of my fellow BASK members for a paddle from Lock Lomond Yacht Harbor to China Camp where we had lunch. At the launch the weather was looking a bit chilly with the potential for some wind. By lunch time thought, the weather had warmed up and the little wind we had seemed to have disappeared. We paddled out from Loch Lomond going between the Marin Island and then altered our course for The Sisters. There where we took the opportunity to “thread Gridel’s Neddle” a slot in the rock on one of The Sisters that one can paddle through.  Once through the Needle, we headed for the beach at China Camp where we broke our our lunches. After lunch we had the current with us for a quick trip back to the Yacht Harbor.  Clear skies and calm water for the day’s paddle. We get some of our best paddling weather in the fall and winter.  Our course covered nine miles. You can view the GPS track here.

Gone Seal Hunting

On Sunday, January 28, 2018 I signed up for a kayaking workshop, Traditional Paddling & Rolling with Helen Wilson; a workshop offered as part of the Paddle Golden Gate symposium. My motivation was to learn how to roll my kayak, so that if I flip over, I can get back up without assistance; a skill that is essential to seal hunters in Greenland, since flipping over in the cold water could be life-threatening given the cold water. Greenlanders typically don’t learn how to swim. They do however take their kayaking skills seriously. Traditional paddling involves using a Greenland paddle. Rather than the spoon shaped paddles commonly called a euro-style paddle the Greenand paddle looks more like a long stick. We weren’t so serious about learning how to use a harpoon, but it was fun practicing and learning about the Greenland culture. I didn’t quite mater my roll, but I came away with some exercises to practice to move in that direction.

Paddle On

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Here’s a photo I captured yesterday at Horseshoe Bay as the morning fog was starting to dissipate. The three kayakers in the foreground were part of the Paddle Golden Gate Symposium, and event sponsored by California Canoe and Kayak. I participated in a workshop on “Forward Stroke Refinement.” When paddling with others recently, I’ve marveled at paddlers that can go great distances without their arms falling off, and I’m motivated to learn how to do that. Who would know how much technique can go into making a kayak go forward smoothly and efficiently?  On the very basic level, you just put your paddle in the water, use it as an anchor and drive the boat forward with your feet, using your hamstrings and obliques to power the boat. Sounds simple right?

Our class had 11 participants, with folks from Boston, Port Townsend, Seattle, and Los Angeles, and three world class coaches, Sean Morley, Chris Hipgrave and Marcel Bieg. I took a quick tally of the class rosters and figured there were well over 100 boats on the water with paddlers participating in 13 different workshops. Quite an amazing event. I’m off today, catching up on some work projects, and back tomorrow for “Traditional Skills & Rolling.” I may get wet tomorrow. Stay tuned!