Carl Inglin led more than two dozen people on a beautiful section of the Russian River yesterday that we rarely get to paddle because of summertime dams and bridges. We met at 9:30 on Sunday morning, completed our shuttle and were on the water at 10:45. Here is how we looked at our 12 noon lunch stop near Bohemian Grove.
The biggest surprise was at the Vacation Beach temporary bridge which was still up. There was a large fish counter on river right. We all got out to check the little weir that had been installed which was clearly marked with orange triangles mounted on I-beams that were parallel to the shore.
Several of us ran it, including me. Most walked their boats to the other side of the bridge. The biggest surprise was a VERY strong current immediately past the drop that tended to push me into the bridge stanchion. Carl remarked on it, too. I think it was man-made to drive the fish into the counter. The inflatable boater below is just entering the strong side-current.
Debi made the drop successfully in her new Eddyline. Many happy boaters on this trip.
Because there typically little boat traffic on this part of the river, there were lots of large wading birds like herons and egrets. Here is the view from our lunch beach. We were back on the water at 12:30 and I was loading my boat back on my car in Guerneville at 2:30. Very successful day.
Sonoma Land Trust opened the locked gates for MarshFest and Martha and I enjoyed Sonoma County’s only public access to the Bay. We paddled Dickson Ranch, the newly restored tidal marsh along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay, and hiked the Dickson Trail. Here is a photo from the Sonoma Land Trust website.
The event was part of a day-long celebration of the Bay and the timing was sub-optimal for paddling. Sonoma Land Trust provided bikes, nature hikes, and sit-on-top boats, but the tide was only two feet and going out. Ideally, the tide would be three feet or higher and coming in to reduce the chance of being swept out through the breaches in the Dickson Ranch dikes and into the currents of San Pablo Bay. The low, ebbing tide made paddling difficult because the kayaks barely cleared the silty bottom in many places. Those who exited after we did had a long slog through the mud, so checking the tide charts will be important in planning a visit.
This area is open to the public, but the locked gate is a distance from the put-in. On this day, the gate was open, but on a private visit, wheels will be necessary. It is paved for 99% of the way.
The put-in is at the end of Reclamation Road. To reach it from Lakeville Highway from Petaluma, just keep going straight as if you were going to drive to the Bay. That is, when you reach Hwy 37, CROSS it at the stoplight. Soon you will reach the locked gate with a parking area. The Land Trust area is open to the public but access is restricted by the locked gate. That just means you have to wheel your boat in. Sit-on-tops are ideal because the water is very calm and protected, but shallow. The mud has tremendous suction and pulled my sandals off, so consider mud boots and don’t even think of trying this in flip-flops. The Sonoma Land Trust personnel were just barefoot.
The photo below is from the little rise just past “Railroad Crossing” on the map above. You can see the locked gate in the distance, and Lakeville Highway coming to a T at Highway 37. You can see the parking area adjacent to the locked gate and you can see paved road where you will wheel your boat to the put-in shown in the map above.
Here’s the payoff you will get. This is Martha paddling toward Mt. Tamalpais. This is a very easy paddle, flat water even though it is technically San Pablo Bay, and surrounded by wetland birds and open vistas.
Dickson Ranch is actually adjacent to the original Baylands restoration project and this trail sign explains the history and some of what they learned. San Pablo Bay is at the top of the sign. We paddled the flooded-for-restoration Dickson Ranch and hiked Dickson Trail.
This is what happens when the tide gets too low.
The sky would be as dark as possible after 2 a.m. on Sunday August 11 because that’s when the bright, three-quarters moon set. I rose from my tent and walked to the end of the pier (see below). Walking in the dark in the pre-dawn hours in an unfamiliar place, using red cellophane rubber-banded over my flashlight to retain my night vision, was a challenge. The lake pier was only about half a mile from my tent, but it required several turns. Distances seem so much longer in the dark. There were audio cues, like the water rushing over the dam, and roadway cues, like the bridge just below the dam. When I reached the cow catcher by the park entrance, I realized I had made a wrong turn and had to retrace my steps in the dark.
The meteor shower was beautiful. I saw about four in 30 minutes, sitting in my little green fold-up chair on the pier. While the vast sky was great, next time I will find a meadow to lie in with my sleeping bag. Our camp (site 60 in the RV area on the south side of the lake) was in the trees that ringed a meadow. Sites 61 and 62 were in the meadow in the center, just across the narrow paved road. Earlier in the day, we hiked toward Rockbound trailhead and Dark Lake and found this beautiful meadow. Trey took this photo using my cellphone.
The Rockbound trailhead is the gateway to many stunning vistas and is very near the tent campground on the west side of the lake. I would love to someday set foot in Desolation Wilderness.
Here is the map with notes for tent camping and kayaking. Note the rocky tent sites near the Rockbound Trailhead. These sites are have comfortable privacy but they are a long carry from the lake. Sites 1-3 are close to the small beach adjacent to the pier which is a good put-in, and they are well removed from the day use area which can get noisy. The RV area is called Meadow Loop on the south side of the lake. Trees rim the meadow, so the sites on the outer edges have more shade. The RVs use bright motion lights at night and the generators can be noisy in the afternoons as they provide air conditioning, so it is not ideal for tent camping. There are clean pit toilets and good-tasting cold water from the spigots. A very enjoyable campground when you choose your site wisely.
Dark Lake is just above the Rockbound Trailhead and has a nice, small, beach put-in right by the road. One would have to move the vehicle to the nearby parking. Notice the little squares on the map on the north side of Dark Lake. These are summer homes that have been grandfathered in by the Eldorade National Forest. There is a nice path around Dark Lake, pictured below.
The Wrights Lake campground did not open until after the Fourth of July because of the late May snow. About a week before it opened for camping, Trey and others camping at Ice House Reservoir had driven over to check it out. They were able to paddle the small lake and liked it so much we returned six weeks later. The campsites can be reserved through Recreation.gov until about mid-October, the Camp Host told us, and then it is walk-in (first come first served) until snow closes the camp.
My efforts to get to Utica Lake for the annual meteor display have failed for the last three years due to smoke from forest fires and insurmountable logistical difficulties. I was so happy to get a chance to join photographer Trey Steinhart and his wife Becky in this area named for the dairy farmer who worked the land until about 1950. The drive from Santa Rosa took four hours on a Sunday morning in mid-August. The tricky part is making a left turn on Highway 50 which is only a two-lane mountain road in this stretch just a little north of Kyburz. Thank the stars that a space opened up just as I needed to turn.
The sign above appears just about where the “31 min” indicator is on the map below. The six miles are to the turn onto Route 50, north of Kyburz.
Fun paddle 11 a.m. – 1:30 on a Saturday with Marin Canoe and Kayak MeetUp let by Ken N. New solar panels cover some of the parking area for the Petaluma public launch by the Sheraton, so I could park in the shade. Yay!
Ken had selected a day with a five foot tide change, so there was plenty of water in the river and it seemed cleaner than the last time I paddled it. We continued to paddle until we entered Lynch Creek.
That’s Greer on the left and Kim from Vacaville on the right. It was fun chatting with them on such a beautiful summer day. We had a wet winter and four inches of rain in May, so there were lots of snags and fallen trees in the creek. Greer deftly steered her boat past this snag, and ducked under a large tree that had tumbled down.
We paddled as far as we could go, then we turned around about 12:30, about the time the tide changed. Ken, in blue boat below, did a great job of planning.
I was happy to see the railroad bridge that signaled what we were getting close to the takeout. Great, fun paddle.
A passer-by took the above photo on the classic Pinnacle Gulch hike. At the start of the hike (photo below) we were joined by Linda Johnston who usually leads this classic hike (third from left, with husband Gerry, second from left).
We start this hike at the ShortTail Gulch trailhead and descend the wide steps to the beach which is filled with beautiful tidepools. Then we clamber over the rocks which extend from the cliffs into the sea so that we can reach Pinnacle Beach. This hike is technical, and a specialty of Linda Johnston’s, because it can only be accomplished when a sufficiently low tide coincides with the time of the hike.
The tidepools are at the bottom of the ShortTail Gulch steps. There are more fisherman on Pinnacle beach.
Carolyn on Wide Steps to ShortTail Beach
The tidepools are rich with mussels who are hungry filter-feeders. Don’t these guys look healthy?
Below, we have a larger starfish. They eat the purple sea urchins that have been devastating the kelp by chewing off the “holdfast” that anchors them to the sea floor. We are so glad to see the return of the starfish that seemed to have disappeared for a few years, recently.
Joe Tenn took lots of pictures, too. This shows the crusty mussels on the rock outcropping.
About a year ago, Jane Richter reserved space in Silver Lakes for the four-night annual Old But Not Dead Yet (OBNDY) camp out. She kept following up with the Forest Service as the June 27 start date got closer, but on the morning of the 27th the Forest Service cancelled our reservations. Jane and others were already on the road, so we scrambled to find campsites on the weekend before the Fourth of July holiday.
Marin Canoe and Kayak club was camping at Ice House Reservoir and they found spots for Lori’s RV, Trey’s Trailer, and Jane. They captured the first-come sites on the main loop that were doubles and allowed the space to be shared. Deb Turner pitched her tent in next to Lori’s spiffy new Travato RV. Jane’s friends shared her double site.
The map at left shows the main loop with Units starting at 1. The yellow highlight marks where the car campers were. Liam and I found space in an adjacent loop on the other site of the Boat Ramp which is a tent-only area. These were not car camping sites like Jane’s in the first loop. We had to carry in our equipment about 1000 yards from Liam’s truck which was parked the boat-ramp parking lot, but we scored the beautiful site 39 right on the water which allowed us to tie up our kayaks near our picnic table.
The reservoir was beautiful and featured two dams, one of which seemed to drop off the edge of the earth.
Photographer Trey Steinhart was with us and captured this breathtaking image of dawn the next morning.
Just a few moment later, some Canada Geese swam into view, looking for breakfast.
The OBNDY paddlers joined the Marin Canoe and Kayak Club for a great, midday paddle. I am the third kayaker from the right, in the green boat.
Trey and the others paddled the next day at nearby Wright’s Lake. I plan to check it out soon because it looks great.
Wisteria in full bloom, and the first lilacs in five years. This winter was cold and wet, which I guess is what it needs.
I brought some new equipment to this year’s annual SCPN campout at Doran Beach sites D & E. The Wind Warrior worked very well after Bruce enlarged the opening the plastic connectors and hammered in the “no tools” stakes.
The inside of the plastic connectors were convex when they should have been straight, so Bruce corrected them with his pocket knife. I had spent hours trying to resolve this with the manufacturer and am grateful to Bruce for his resourcefulness.
I also tried out my Big Agnes sleeping bag with integrated air mattress. It worked well in southern California last October, and in Loon Lake last month, but it is a summer bag and an air mattress is not insulation. I was so cold the first night I got very little sleep, and the second night the wind was even stronger. I could not tuck the sleeping bag close to me because the mattress held it away from my body. Finally, I moved to my car to at least get out of the wind. I forgot that it is always 40° at the coast and that the wind can make it feel like December in Alaska. I should have had some hot tea to warm up, maybe take the mattress out of the sleeve pocket in the sleeping bag. But it kept me awake enough that I got a chance to see the Perseids.
The food was delicious and the fire was roaring. The quinoa dish I brought to the potluck was not popular. This year we did not have the pleasure of the company of Helen, Jeannie, Gretchen, Lillith and others. Billy recently retired and invested in this Arctic Fox and will be letting go of his apartment in the area, so I wonder if I will see him again.
There were 33 of us, counting Bob’s Saturday Saunterers on the art walk. We visted some of the sculptures of Patrick Amiot, then visited the sculptor himself at his home and studio. We were told that he creates the scuptures for his neighbors based on the neighbors themselves. I don’t think I would like to see this one titled “Surrender Dorothy” as the choice for me!
The studio was better organized than most people realized. There was a lot of very good art by others on the wall, and I loved the statue of the Madonna with a sunburst clock supplying her halo. The drawers full of many small parts were all carefully labeled. The artist and his wife are from Montreal, and they met when they were young and she was on her way to being a lawyer. He knew he was dyslexic and she encouraged him to become a full-time artist.
We were fascinated by his process. He prefers to assemble the pieces and based on that, plan the artwork. My guess is that part of his brilliance is pattern-recognition. He can remember the vast range of items he has and his creativity assembles them into a unique assemblage of found-parts. He is now doing commissions and he sounded frustrated in trying to fit what he has into a vision that has been already been committed to by contract.
We also visited a Seed Farm where plants are not harvested at peak but are allowed to go to seed to be shared so that people can grow unique varieties that work well in Sebastopol’s sandy soil. The team, pictured here, works every Wednesday afternoon and alternate Saturdays. There were a few Master Gardeners on the walk, so there was a lively discussion. We also visited the outdoor sanctuary of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and the mosaic artist who created the waterfall backdrop of the altar told up about executing the non-denominational imagery.
We continued on to Ragle Park to see the mother-and-child carved in to a chestnut tree by a Japanese woodcarver. The hike was a long five and a half miles by the time we got back to the central plaza in Sebastopol where we started. Martha and I topped it off with a delicious lunch at Gaijin Ramen which was decorated in woodblock prints of comic book superheroes.