North Fork of the Feather

On Sunday, I headed over to the North Fork of the Feather with some friends to take advantage of what is basically the last of any boatable flows until the rain and snow begin.

From Reno, we headed north on 395 to Hallelujah Junction and then took 70 west through Quincy to the Belden area. Be advised: we got pulled over for speeding on 395 because it is patrolled by aircraft. Needless to say, when we pulled off at the Junction, a patrolman was waiting.

The North Fork of the Feather is a roadside run that is the result of a deal that the American Whitewater organization negotiated with PG&E. The deal guarantees flows on the last weekend of each month, June – October from 10am-4pm. I have been a member of AW for quite some time, and if you are a whitewater enthusiast I recommend that you join and support them.

The run itself is class III-V with most of the difficulty crammed into about approximately a 1 mile stretch. Our group was able to run it 3 times because of the ease of access and the relatively short shuttle.

This season has been slim for me as far as kayaking; in fact, worst season on record since I started kayaking 10 years ago.  I bought a brand new Jefe in the spring and never had a chance to take it out because of extensive house projects. Aside from the Rogue last weekend, where I boated a Kingpin, I had not been paddling at all.

My maiden voyage in the Jefe had me excited. I had heard many good things about this creek boat, but had never experienced them myself. I had also been warned that there is a break in period, and some of my friends had actually swam because of its nuances.

Well, swim I did. One the second run, I got pushed up against a boulder, flipped, and could not roll the damn thing. I tried several times to no avail. Eventually, I pulled my skirt and swam the most difficult section of the river. I couldn’t believe it! I used to paddle this very exact run in a playboat. It’s amazing how fast someone like myself can quickly get out of shape and out of his element.

After my Jefe disappeared for a while behind a big house sized boulder, it eventually emerged fairly unscathed. My friends pulled it to the side of the river and, after catching my breathe, I continued on. In fact, I went back for a third run to cure any psychological hiccups.

On the same disastrous second run, we came upon a group that had  unfortunately experienced a vertical pin. Apparently, the paddler had to cut his kevlar skirt to get out. While the NF of the Feather is not remote or considered to be difficult class V, it has the ability to throw some surprises at the unexpected paddler.

There are numerous undercuts and sieves, and because of its ease of access and popularity there are significant possibilities for future incidents, injuries and even deaths. I hope that never happens.

Regardless, I am pleased with AW’s efforts, and it represents the opportunity to get on a fun fall run when little else is flowing.

Update: A recent post on boof.com details the pin, as well as provides some shocking pictures of the sieve that the paddler was stuck in. Check out these Flickr Photos –

http://www.flickr.com/photos/92776479@N00/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/77403227@N00/

Scary! 

The Rogue River

This past weekend I journeyed northward for a long overdue trip down the Rogue River. A Tahoe contingency combined with an Oregonian posse to fly fish and float the Wild & Scenic section that starts just down the road from Galice at Grave Creek. We were fortunate to have 3 days of sunny weather complemented by beautiful fall foliage and a flow of 1250 cfs. Much bourbon was consumed, an excessive amount of shit was talked, and few fish were caught.

The Rogue is one of those classic rivers in Oregon that I have frankly always put off because there is so much to paddle in California. It is not a challenging run in terms of difficult whitewater, but it is a wonderful experience for any river enthusiast because it is filled with impressive scenery, abundant wildlife, and rich history.

If I recollect correctly, there are basically three distinct canyons with the first and third containing the only noteworthy rapids of any distinction. The first one is Rainey Falls. It contains a rather stompy hole on river left, which can easily be avoided. The second is Blossom Bar, which is generally run on the left.

I was paddling a Dagger Kingpin, which allowed me the freedom to explore interesting lines in both of these rapids. The rest of the time I sought out any play I could find.

We saw several bald eagles and deer over the course of the trip, and I had a river otter paddle by me just a few feet away. On the first day, there was an abundant amount of salmon spawning up the river, and it was fantastic to watch them leap clear out of the water around almost every bend.

The second night we camped just down from the Rogue River Ranch. It is a neat place with an old museum and several other interesting structures that were sold to the Bureau of Land Management under the Wild and Scenic Act. You can read more about it here. Suffice to say, it contains over 8,000 years of history involving both Indians and white pioneers. You may feel like a discoverer making your way down the Rogue River corridor, but the fact is many people have come before you. The Rogue has been used as source of sustenance, travel, protection, mining, and recreation for a long time.

As one who appreciates the incredible force of rivers, I will not forget the black and white photograph inside the museum that showed the Rogue at a tremendous level back in 1964. We were a great distance above the natural banks of the river, say, 100ft or more; yet, a grainy photograph showed the river coursing over the very ground we were standing on. When nature decides to kick ass, get out of the way. 

The Rogue is another example of what proper resource management can accomplish. It could be buried under a dam project or polluted to the point of no return. Instead, it is a source of revenue for local outfitters and businesses, and it allows for visitors and locals alike to experience wilderness and history unabated in a unique and preserved wilderness setting.

We must continue to preserve our rich natural heritage.

Snow in the Sierra

This past week we received some snow, with much of it visibly sticking to the ground in the upper elevations around Lake Tahoe. Coupled with beautiful fall foliage and the smell of winter in the air, I am definitely getting the itch for some Sierra skiing.

This is a picture I took a couple of years ago doing some backcountry above Emerald Bay on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. 

Kauai & The Na Pali Coast

Na-Pali-Coast

I am no slouch. I hike, run, bike, kayak, ski, and when I am idle, mentally pace about thinking about what I am going to do next. I say this because, despite all of my activities, backpacking the Na Pali Coast was a significant challenge of which I will not repeat.

Kauai is the northern most developed island in the Hawaiian chain. It is mountainous and beautiful and famous for its rugged landscape.

Hanalei and Haena are the two primary towns on the north side, and they are close to the trailhead for the Na Pali Coast. While they are my recommended places to stay, keep in mind that it does rain here more often. If you are the type that prefers golf, resorts, and sun bathing you might like the south side more.

For the trip, I was joined by my wife, Julia, my stepbrother, Winslow and his wife, Katharine. We were all in shape and confident that we could tackle the 11 mile hike, which would lead us to the desired campsite situated at the base of fluted cliffs, ribbons of waterfalls, and the type of tropical scenery that one dreams about.

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Traveling the Yucatan


For many people the Yucatan represents Cancun, the Mayan Riviera, and Chichen-Itza. While each of these locations posses many positive attributes for the wayfarer, there are many other reasons to travel to the Yucatan. Most flights do culminate at Cancun, but there are also air services to Merida and Campeche on the Gulf side of the Peninsula if you prefer to start there.

As you approach the Cancun airport, the first striking characteristic is the relative flatness of the terrain. Thick vegetation commands the landscape in an even blanket that stretches in all directions. The only thing breaking the even green is a lonesome road or a foreboding electric tower appearing larger than it should be considering the surroundings.

The reason the Peninsula is so flat is because it is entirely composed of a limestone shelf jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The layers of limestone are composed of the life and death of compacted ancient coral reefs and sand, which serve as a metaphor for the multi-layered human history that chiseled its own existence into the surface of this even terrain starting more than 12,000 years ago.

Built on time, stone, and water, human habitation of the Yucatan has always relied on the geologic composition. At first glance, one would surmise that there is no fresh water available in this flat landscape. Surface lakes and rivers are practically nonexistent, for they lay predominately underground. The spongy limestone has been carved from underneath by the slow erosive properties of water and time, and it has created a vast network of cenotes (wells) and connecting rivers fed by rain and springs, which bring life. A trip to the Yucatan would not be complete without a visit to one of the countless cenotes that pock the landscape.

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Marlette Lake

Marlette Lake is situated above the East Shore of Lake Tahoe between Spooner Summit and Sand Harbor.

What is most notable about Marlette is the fact that it has been a source for trout fishing since 1887 when it was first stocked with Cutthroat Trout.

Today, it is still used as a source for Rainbow Trout eggs, which are gathered during spawning season in tiered gates that run into the south end of the Lake. They are then transplanted in both Lake Tahoe and Walker Lake.

Fishing is allowed on the Marlette Lake, but you must use barbless hooks. If you get lucky, it is catch and release.

Marlette is also a popular area for mountain biking and hiking, and you will often see people circling the Lake to access the Flume or Rim Trail. Keep in mind that biking is only allowed on even days, so if you are planning a hike you might want to do it on an odd day. 

Regardless, it is beautiful, especially in the fall when the aspen leaves turn a vibrant gold and yellow. 

Riding the Rim Trail

This past Sunday I met up with a couple of my fellow colleagues from Twelve Horses, and rallied up to the Lake Tahoe Basin for a little mountain bike ride.

We selected the 23 mile loop that takes you from Mount Rose Meadows, out along the Tahoe Rim Trail, around Marlette Lake, back on the Flume Trail, and down Tunnel Creek Road to Ponderosa Ranch.

Continue reading Riding the Rim Trail

Roads & Rivers

 

Any avid whitewater enthusiast can appreciate the commitment it takes to pack up the car and drive the many miles required to get to your favorite river. Generally, you also have to run shuttle, and then there is the long drive back home. You stare at the road through cracked capillaries produced by countless holes and the sun’s glare with a tired smile generated by the many miles of majestic scenery and quality whitewater. It is all very worth it, but if often comes at the expense of extensive wear and tear on the driver, his or her car, as well as a hefty gas bill at the end.

Hailing from the Southeast, driving to my favorite rivers was long, but not a journey of epic proportions. It was usually a couple of hours to the Green, Overflow, or Chattooga, and I never felt put out by it. When I moved to California 7 years ago, driving to the put-in took on a whole new meaning. Not only was the cost per gallon significantly larger, but also the distances were exponentially greater.

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Megee Creek

Megee Creek is a beautiful high Sierra hike located 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, CA.

My wife and I chose this particular hike for our Labor Day Weekend retreat because of our previous year visit. We had been very impressed by the diverse geology, incredible profusion of wildflowers, and impressive high alpine views. However, we only made it 3 miles in before we had to turnaround.

This year we had 3 days, backpacks, and no one else to dissuade us from making it all the way to Big Megee Lake, which is situated at 10,500 feet, and 7 miles up a fairly grueling climb.

We followed the twists and turns of Megee Creek up and up, and it was not long before we became oblivious to the heavy loads we carried on our backs because of the beautful views. We eventually made it to Big Megee Lake and setup camp alongside its shores.

The next day we slept in, waiting for some high Sierra howling winds to subside, and eventually got out of the tent, fixed breakfast, and prepared for a day hike over Megee Pass.

Continue reading Megee Creek

Backcountry

The snow just keeps coming! Last week it was a full moon so a few of us ventured out in the backcountry up around Mt Rose Wilderness.

The snow was light and deep and beautiful in the moonlight. Couple of days later it snowed again and we were right back out there touring around, dropping in, and having an absolute blast.

Here are a couple of pics from Saturday.

Robert Payne

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