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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

June 3-5: Kayaking and Camping

We arrived at Mike's beautiful house in Mt. Shasta in the late afternoon on Monday after a long drive. We unloaded the bikes and other non-related camping gear as we would need 2 cars for the shuttle.  On the morning of the 4th, Mike suggested that we go for a short walk at the head waters of the Sacramento river. It was amusing to see the signs warning people that the waters had not been tested for potability, while people filled up huge barrels of drinking water:
The views of Mt. Shasta were quite stunning, as it was easily the tallest peak in the area, with few other peaks to offset it.
After that, we went back to Mike's house to get all the materials settled for our kayaking adventure. Mike prudently suggested that we go to the local lake to practicing flipping the boat and getting back in before we tried it on real white water. This also gave us a chance to sort out all our equipment, including neoprene pants for me, a life jacket and helmets for each of us, and deciding between the tandem kayak and the single. That latter was a tough decision, as a tandem kayak would enable Bowen to feel like he was contributing, but a single kayak was much more maneuverable, and as a neophyte I expected to need all the maneuverability I could find.
Bowen after some thinking decided that the single kayak would go, so we loaded all the kayaks into Mike's car and drove down to the lake. It was pretty amazing that we could fit all that into his car, but inflatable kayaks roll up just like sleeping pads, and were light enough that each person could carry one (excepting Bowen).
After the inflation, Bowen and I got into the water and paddle around a bit. The boat felt cramped, because Bowen's helmet-encrusted head was basically in my lap, making paddling awkward, but after some practice I discovered I could even paddle into a stiff wind! We practiced turning circles and then with some help, practiced flipping the kayak, flipping it back upright while we were in the water, and getting back in.  I was impressed by how stable the kayak was, and saw that it would take quite a bit to flip it. Bowen yelped and screamed a bit when we first hit the water, but by the second time we practiced this, he stayed calm and hung on to the boat while I flipped it, swam to the other side, got in, and then helped him in. Arturo's boat drifted from him in the wind and we helped pushed the boat back to him while he practiced the self-rescue.

After that, we had a sandwich lunch and then repacked everything for the camping trip, but first visiting the local fish hatchery, which apparently used to have bread you could feed the fishes but we had arrived too late as it was locked!
Tree of Heaven campground was right next to the Klamath river, and was conveniently where we were going to put-in the next morning. It was cooking hot when we arrived, around 90F but we had plenty to do, picking campsites, pitching tents, setting up the hammock, and then scouting the river so Mike could tell us what to expect the next day.
That evening, a deer visited us, and Bowen got his customary marshmallow. It was so warm that I eschewed putting up a rain fly and opted to sleep with my sleeping bag open, since it was forecast to be 60F even at night, and I had brought far too warm a sleeping bag for the conditions.

The next morning, after setting up the kayaks again and setting up the shuttle, we embarked on our adventure. I asked if the seat on my kayak could be moved back because I'd felt cramped the day before and after help from both Mike and Arturo I managed to do so. We did a test put-in and it felt much better, vindicating all the time and effort.
The actual river was far more challenging and exciting than the lake and my previous white-water trips. Being on a kayak is like being on a bicycle, while being on a paid rafting trip on a highwater raft was like being in a bus. The difference in experience cannot be over-stated. "The water is much higher with faster flow than in previous years, which will make some things a lot easier!"

Indeed, the first couple of rapids were fast but felt completely manageable in our new configuration. Water did flood into the kayak as we crested waves, but other than making Bowen yelp with cold, it wasn't an unpleasant experience and the feeling of control vs a traditional raft was exhilarating. Mike suffered a deflation event when something he wore snagged open a valve, so we put in to fix the flat.
Despite the cold, Bowen was committed to finishing the entire trip, and was really starting to enjoy it! "Can we do this again tomorrow?" "Well, tomorrow it'll be cold and we're going to do a bike tour." "Aw..."
During one of the rapids (I think it was called school house), we got stuck on a rock! Arturo passed us and saw us, but couldn't do anything to help. After trying to rock the kayak forward I gave up, got out of the kayak, and pushed, being careful to get in before the kayak was taken by the waves! It was a nerve-wracking experience, but I figured anything was better than being stuck there all day. Bowen whooped with joy, and the last couple of fast rapids were bigger and better than anything we had faced all day, but our experience meant that we were able to do it without problems. When the end came it came much faster than expected, and we finished the trip in style, landing our kayaks easily and celebrating.

I had neglected to start my watch until 3 miles into the trip, but it was great. Arturo said he wasn't happy with his previous white water experiences but this was an order of magnitude better and more exciting. We ate lunch in Yreka after picking up Arturo's car, and then went back to Mike's house to prepare for the next days' bike tour.

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