Catching the Cal. Salmon

Yesterday and today's written and video blog entries: a chilled out day beside the Klamath river followed by an excellent day boating on the Cal Salmon.

After our two day paddle on the Klamath, we decided to have a bit more of a rest day. We grabbed fresh bagels from the shop at Somes Bar as well as a couple of lovely fresh oat scones with maple icing. We then fed Macy and found some maps of the rivers here.

They're a lot more into their water based recreation over here, the national Forest Service provide numerous access points for all the rivers, often with toilets, picnic tables and information boards. The information boards at the Salmon told us what levels were good to paddle the river at and else where (e.g. on the dam release sections of the Trinity) they say what the level will be on what date. All pretty good stuff, but they don't stop there: local shops display up to date flow data from the web and the State of California produce guidance booklets for popular rivers, with maps showing access and egress points as well as the location of major rapids along with the grade of the section. Their grading isn't always in line with what I'd say, but I'm not sure if that's me being used to the British grades, or them not accounting for level variances.

After a chilled out morning I had a little park n' huck on Ikes falls on the Klamath (for the uninitiated, 'park n' huck' refers to driving directly to a rapid and just running that, rather than driving to the top of the river and paddling downstream to a different point, as is normal). We also looked for the beautifully named (but unrunable) Ishi Pishi falls, but didn't really find a god vantage point.

We set up camp early and took to opportunity to use the solar shower we've brought. It's a bag you fill with water and leave in the sun – the sun heats it up and you then stand under the bag and open the tap and have a shower. Simple but effective and it enables us the luxury of being able to wash our hair.

On Thursday we ran a section of the classic Cal. Salmon – an excellent river I'm glad we caught, since the levels are dropping off quickly… To vary the media a bit, we've taken a video diary, let us know if you think this approach works, or if those of you checking in from work have problems watching it.


We're off now to hop the border into Oregon and paddle some of the rivers there. We're going to stop off at the Smith on the way to see if that's running still.

P.S. We can add Bald Eagles and numerous vultures to the list of animals we've seen in the wild.

Klamath Marathon

The write up and videos of our first overnight whitewater trip, on the Klamath river in North West California.

We were hoping to paddle our first overnight trip on a whitewater river over here, and the Klamath seemed to present the ideal opportunity. The Visitor Centre described the Klamath as a 'backwards river' because its upstream areas are all flat wetland with lakes in Oregon, while downstream it loses its gradient in the northwest part of California before joining the Pacific Ocean. It conveniently runs near highway 96 with several access points, and so we chose a 26 mile stretch from below Happy Camp, to Persido Bar.


Having selected the put in, take out and provisional camping point, our next concern was the shuttle since we didn't have one! David drove to the take out, and was lucky enough to get a lift back up petty quickly saving us nearly $50 by not having to use the local professional shuttle service. We'd been recommended to take some paddling kit when hitching a shuttle and this worked well in convincing the first car that passed that David wasn't a crazy stalker. Meanwhile at the put in, a huge hoard of duckies (inflatable sit on top kayaks) took off down the river followed by some rafts, so we wouldn't be lonely on the river.


Although the river wasn't as clear as some we'd been on, flecks of gold were still obvious all along the banks and the scenery impressive despite the presence of the road nearby. The flow on the river was about 3100 cfs and, according to the guidebook, was a grade 3 with a 4 and lots of 2. We'd describe it as Tigger like – bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun, fun-fun, fun-fun! The first real rapid of note caught us a little by surprise when it stopped being a wave train and turned into a pourover with a huge hole. Loaded boats caused interesting times here, but it was all good.


The wildlife dictated our lunch break as we spotted a family of otters playing on the left bank and so we stopped and ate on the right. They were beautiful – the first time either of us had seen otters in the wild. Moving on, we found a more smaller rapids, some ducks, fish and numerous birds, we paused briefly for a rock skimming session before continuing our leisurely float down to the campsite. Both the rafting group and the swarm of orange duckies were planning on camping the same place we were, so we stopped just upstream and set up camp.


After a very relaxing evening we woke up fairly early and started to repack our dry bags. Sharon was feeling the effects of the dehydrated meal – it wasn't quite as filling as we had hopped and therefore her blood sugars weren't being very co-operative. However, reducing her post breakfast insulin helped get them back to normal and we hoped to be off the river around lunchtime allowing further recovery time and (we hoped) a treat of Ben and Jerry's to restore blood sugar harmony.

It wasn't long before we caught up with the rafters and then the duckies downstream, but we managed to sneak past the rafts while they were engrossed in their finest Bohemian Rhapsody rendition and overtook the duckies while they were out scouting the crux rapid – dragon's tooth. We had a brief look and successfully paddled our chosen lines, to cheers and congratulations from our audience.

Further on downstream it flattened out and we put enough distance between ourselves and the other groups enjoying the river to notice lots of wild life their shouts would have disturbed. We were tempted to stop and eat lunch at Terrapin cove – a spot we named due to the turtle like creatures playing around a rock at the top of the large eddy – but decided to push on and reunite with Macy as early as possible.

More Tigger rapids and wildlife followed including deer and a yellow butterfly that hitched a lift on David's boat along one of the flatter sections. As the end neared the gradient reduced and we soon tired of the flatwater paddling. We were relieved to see Macy waiting safe and sound where we left her and pleased to have completed our first overnight trip – the first of many, no doubt.


David and Sharon

A quick update from N.W. Calif.

Hello Everyone,

We're currently up in a small place called Sommes Bar in North West California – the town consists of one little shop – which we're sat in now, hoping they're rebaking their bagels. We came here hoping for breakfast, but they'd burnt it so don't have any…

We're had an exciting overnight trip on the Klamath, but we'll post a blog entry and videos (!) about that soon, we're now off to paddle some of the Californian Salmon.

Rivers full of gold…

We've spent a couple of days chilling by the Trinity, a grade 2-3ish river with water so clear that you can see to the bottom. The sun shone on the gold shimmering in the river making it a visual delight. It was a great chance to see lots of fish and other wildlife too. We've now headed up to Mount Shasta, the tallest volcano in California, and are looking to do our first overnight paddling trip tomorrow. On the way up here, we got to drive through Redding just to remind us of home! But it was far prettier with the mountains in the background.

Upon the way, I've picked up a litle friend called Redford, who helped bear protection in the area. He's a little black backpacking bear who even has his own tent, sleeping bag and map. The funny thing is when I returned to buy him, the guy said “you've been deliberating over him for a while haven't you?” As David says though, you have to have souveniers!