Tag Archives: water

Christmas 2023 Whalefall

Christmas 2023 Whalefall

Hiking Sole Sisters Spring Lake Christmas 2023

Hiked Spring Lake with the Sole Sisters, see me in the Santa Hat above. Afterwards, when the main hike was over, I led four of the ladies to see the warm sulfur spring that feeds Spring Lake.

Came home and finished Whalefall by Daniel Kraus, a very fast read because it was so absorbing. I hated Finnegan’s Wake because it was word salad, but as the main character, Jay, dissolves into nitrogen narcosis inside the diving whale, the jumbled words make sense. Whether he survives, how he survives is the “McGuffin” that drives the book. On the framework of the McGuffin that keeps us turning the pages, author Daniel Kraus hangs the story of a teen boy bedeviled by his attentive but abusive father and his loving but powerless mother and two older sisters. Jay is flashing back to when he was 15 and the pressure from his father became unbearable in the aftermath of the loss of the boat after poor-maintenance caused two paying passengers to fall overboard. The father’s descent, and his mistreatment of Jay, drive the boy to risky behavior that leads to his becoming entangled in a giant squid which is the prey of a large sperm whale hunting in the Monterey Canyon. As you can see from the Google Earth image below, Monastery Beach features ditches that slide into the depths. My PADI Open Water diving certification took place in the water off Monastery Beach. I had to enter the surf (backwards) in full wetsuit and tank gear, swim out past the surf line, sit on the bottom with my regulator in my mouth, take off my mask and my air tank and put them back on, underwater with my eyes closed. I passed and went on to dive the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.

Monterey Canyon and Monastery Beach

I went back to the area to dive several times including Monterey Bay itself, and have paddled the nearby Elkhorn Slough. The writing really captures the thrill and fear of diving and being on the water on that part of the coast. The marine biology in the book was a treat making it a trifecta of science-fiction, skillful writing and engrossing information. A delicious Christmas overall.

Lake Hennessey-2023

Lake Hennessey-2023
Lake Hennessey April 2023

I’m on the left, our leader Joachim Vobis is center. Photo by Howard Clair.

According to our leader, we had 10 kayakers, approx 8 miles, approx 3 hrs. moving time.


Liam joined on the paddle and enjoyed the much higher water. When we paddled Lake Hennessey before the water was so low we could paddle through a tunnel that went under the encircling roadway. This time, the tunnel was not even visible!

We stopped for lunch at our regular place with the nice dirt beach and the port-a-potty, across the lake from the put-in. The weather was cool to start for this mid-April day and overcast, but the sun came out before lunch and the day was superb. I enjoyed the vigorous lunchtime discussion of electric cars with engineer Joachim.

Is is bigger than a breadbox?

Justin, Frank, Joachim, Howard

Walker Creek 2022

Walker Creek 2022

Justin organized a Walker Creek paddle because the optimum tides of about 5 feet would occur at about noon. This time Wayne joined us for his first paddle of Walker Creek.
walker creek put in

We pulled our boats to a small gravel island when we stopped for lunch, but they were nearly afloat when we returned.
Walker Creek Pt Reyes

We hiked up a hill to enjoy lunch, and checked out the trees on the river bank, some with sweeping arrays of Spanish moss.

Walker Creek can be truly magical with the sunlight reflecting off the water creating dancing lights on the tree trunks.

Justin brought his loppers and cut back many of the large branches to clear a way for us and for the stand-up paddle-boarders we saw. The large river otters were not pleased with our intrusion!

I brought hand clippers and enjoyed the stability of my wide kiwi as I trimmed the smaller branches in our path. The nimble kiwi was great maneuvering around the snags, but a lot of work to paddle on the open stretches near the put-in. Justin in his canoe was paddling two strokes to every one of Wayne’s in his beautiful, slim ocean boat, and I was paddling two strokes to every one of Justin’s! The sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I was surprised at how little birdsong there was.

Spring Lake July 4th 2022

Spring Lake July 4th 2022
Spring Lake Santa Rosa CA

There I am — Way In The Back

Nancy took this photo from her Oru foldable kayak. Lori organized a Girls Paddle for the Fourth of July with Brigette, Greer, and Robin whom I met for the first time. She is a songwriter who uses GarageBand. I learned that Brigette is three years younger than I am and was born in Austria. She and Lori each spent about $800 on gasoline to drive their Travatos to Seattle and back. A Travato gets about 16 mpg, a little more if they travel “dry” and fill their water tanks when they arrive at a site with “hookups.”

Chicago 2022

Chicago 2022

I have wanted to go to Chicago for years, and my family visit to Milwaukee over Memorial Day gave me the chance. I took the train from Milwaukee — only 90 minutes and about $20 — and arrived on a Tuesday afternoon. I went straight to the Art Institute, my main objective and found, to my dismay, it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays! Because I was planning to leave on Thursday, this was a setback. I took this selfie because I was afraid it was all I was going to get. I walked a little farther to the shore of Lake Michigan and dipped my toes, continued on to admire the fountains of Millennium Park, then did a little shopping on State Street.

I checked out Chicago’s Riverwalk the next morning. The corn cob buildings are Marina City, a mixed-use residential-commercial building complex designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg.

Green trees, very tidy, very welcoming, easy river access but no small watercraft in sight. These steps to the water’s edge reminds me of the steps on the Potomac River where we would listen to the Army Band play on a barge.

Chicago’s architecture is very impressive — it rivals London to my eye. Around noon on my second day I enjoyed a 90 minute architecture tour from a Chicago River boat and was impressed by the glamorous big-name architects and architecture.

Architectural Tour Boat on Chicago River

The Salesforce Tower is nearing completion. The size and variety of the skyscrapers is stunning.

Chicago Salesforce Tower Nearing Completion

I learned about hydraulic movement dampening systems and that the parabola around the red metal sculpture is a high tech rain gutter!

Lots of wonderful sculpture on the streets, too! This is Flamingo, created by noted American artist Alexander Calder, is a 53-foot tall stabile located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building. I was hoping to visit the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve, but alas…

Got to see The Bean, more formally known as Cloud Gate, by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, that is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park.

I was puzzled by the knee-high drifts of grass, something we never see in fire-prone California, but it rains frequently in the summer in Chicago. I asked horticulturalist Michelle Derviss who replied, “This is a style of garden design championed by Piet Oudolf, a Dutch designer, who is praised for his large drifts of perennials and ornamental grass masse. He designed the Lurie Garden and Millennium Park along with several other designers. He is also responsible for New York’s High Line Park.”

I pushed back my flight to Thursday afternoon so I could see the Cezanne special exhibit at the Art Institute. Even though I am a member of San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, and they have reciprocity, I could not set this up with online ticketing. I would have had to telephone and, well, the museum was closed when I needed to do this. So the guard would not let me in at 10, I had to wait until 11 at the main entrance.

Main Entrance to Art Institute

Got to see the Cezanne show and some very nice Picassos. The building, Designed by Renzo Piano, is spectacular and rivals the Frank Gehry museum in Los Angeles, Brentwood.

1879–1880 Still Life with Fruit Dish by Cezanne.

Cezanne Painting Once Owned by Paul Gauguin

Gauguin’s Woman in Front of a Still Life by Cezanne. Click the link to the museum’s page to learn more about this loan from NYC MOMA.

Gauguin: Woman in Front of a Still Life by Cezanne

The America Windows by Marc Chagall

American Windows by Marc Chagall

The Japanese woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai that is part of the design for this blog is in the Chicago Art Institute, but the print is not available for viewing now and will not be for several years. I guess I’ll just have to return to Chicago.

Milwaukee River Access

Milwaukee River Access

Milwaukee has a beautiful River Walk with astonishing sculpture, history, and river access for watercraft small and large. From the Acqua Grylli bronze arch depicting a mythical female figure, sculpted by American Beth Sahagian, to the multiple sculptures of Gertie the Duck. As the story goes, in 1945, war-weary Milwaukee discovered that a duck had nested on the bridge pilings and was caring for eggs. Gertie and her brood evoked a continuing community interest and even a book!

Although power boats ply the Milwaukee River, the kayak access is remarkable, with easy entry from either side of the river. I was also astonished to discover that museums and many businesses were closed on Memorial Day weekend — another glaring difference from tourist-centric Sonoma County, where concealed-carry weapons notices are never found on office doors.

Acqua Grilli

Gertie and — to the left — one of her ducklings

Another Sculpture of Gertie and Her Ducklings

Easy Kayak Access on Milwaukee River

Kayaks Along The Hank Aaron State Trail

The Hank Aaron State Trail along a railroad right-of-way reclaims the environment and offers access to a beautiful stretch of the Menomonee River for canoes and kayaks.

Leaving Milwaukee was an unexpected challenge. I planned to take the Lake Express Ferry, a 2 1/2 hour ride across Lake Michigan to Muskegon, Michigan. I hoped to rent a car in Muskegon and drive to Detroit for a few days, then on to Chicago. I was dismayed to learn that, not only were there no car rentals available in Muskegon, there were no cars available to rent in Milwaukee! So I took the train to Chicago.

Lake Express Ferry

Paulin Creek is Dry

Paulin Creek is Dry
Paulin Creek Dry

Paulin Creek Is Dry

The neighbors, some of whom have been here longer than the 20 years I have, are fretting because Paulin Creek has gone dry for the first time in memory. So far this year, we have escaped wildfires in this area, but the anniversary of the 2017 Tubbs fire is a couple of days away. This summer has been cool — I have only worn shorts a couple of times — and we got a few sprinkles of rain in September, but the fire hazard does not abate until the first good rain. No rain is in the 10 day forecast.

Housing Density Increases — Water Supply Decreases

As soon as he survived the recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law:

S.B. 9 allows duplexes to be built in most neighborhoods across the state, including places where apartments have long been banned. It essentially ends single-family zoning, but with a modest shift: Under the bill, property owners can build up to three additional units on their land, allowing single-family homes to be transformed into as many as four units.
S.B. 10 reduces environmental rules on multifamily housing and makes it easier for cities to add high-density development.

It is true we need more moderate-income housing and new shelters to accommodate the homeless, increasing population density as water supply diminishes and wildfires become annual predicts a downtrend in quality of life for Sonoma County. The number of county residents who were shelterless became exacerbated after the Tubbs/Nuns fires in 2017, the Kincade fire in 2019 and the Glass fire last year (2020). I realize that the outlook is trending in the wrong direction.

I bought A Painting

I bought A Painting
painting by Isabelle

á la soupe, as hung

In 2014, I took a Sierra Club trip to Loon Lake, led by Isabelle. I met Liam on that trip and taught him how to say “buon giorno!” I returned to Loon Lake several times, including this private trip, also with Isabelle and Liam.

Isabelle was born in France and her father bequeathed her the family stone cottage in the southeast part of France, about an hour from the Rhone river. She would go back every year to make sure it was okay and to keep her ownership intact. The pandemic took a financial toll and Isabelle decided to retire, which required moving back to France permanently.

She decided to sell the oil paintings that were studies from her portrait class. This is titled “á la soupe” because that is what the French say when it is time to come to the dinner table. “French people eat soup for dinner,” Isabelle said.


Isabelle said that the decision to retire was difficult because she had spent about 20 years building her business as an acupuncturist. Her resilience shows in her journey of self compassion.

Lake Hennessey 2021

Lake Hennessey 2021

Spent a beautiful Saturday at Lake Hennessey with the Marin Canoe and Kayak club. This is a great winter paddle because this area is too hot in the summer. About an hour drive to the lake and a pleasant eight mile paddle from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a pleasant stop for lunch.

Kayak club at Lake Hennessey

Marin Canoe and Kayak Club

Lyz took this photo with her cell phone as we waited for the others.

Lake Hennessey kayak

Enjoying Lake Hennessey

Lyz has a folding “origami” Oru boat.

This is the path we paddled, about eight miles. The lunch spot, with a porta-potty, is marked in red.

I drove along Silerado Trail to witness the Glass fire burn, and on the way back I took Chiles Pope Valley Rd. I realized that there is still “nowhere” available in this state. The pastures, which are supposed to be emerald green in January, were not because the year has been very dry so far. Not a good omen for this wildfire area.

Chiles-Pope Valley Rd.

Walker Creek Paddle

Walker Creek Paddle

Deb turner organized a Wednesday outing to Walker Creek which started at the Keys Creek Put-in. Justin joined us to further scout after an outing with Miguel from Marin Canoe and Paddle a few weeks earlier. A cool, 65° day was predicted but it was warm in the parking lot.
Walker Creek Put In

There was a 5′ high tide at 12:20 pm, so we put in at 10:30 am and paddled upriver with Justin who would stop and use his lopping shears to remove overhangs. At noon we hiked to the top of a hill with a magnificent overlook of the valley shadowed by the coastal mountains. The sun went behind the clouds and a breeze came up — I regretted leaving my compression shirt in the car. We took a short hike on the valley floor and saw some beautiful owls fly away. My knee-high rubber boots were adequate for the short hike.

Walker Creek Satellite Map

Red circle: estimated lunch spot

The creek is beautiful and lined with a variety of riparian trees: birch, alder, bay, and sycamore. There are many submerged logs, so a 5′ or higher tide is necessary to clear the logs and it was like paddling a slalom in many places. I think my short Kiwi boat would have been a better choice than the 14′ boat. We saw a river otter early in the trip, and as we went farther up, the water becomes very clear. When the sunlight hits the surface you can see the bright green grass growing on the bottom.
Walker Creek Map

On the return trip, we saw some ENORMOUS brown cattle with big horns at the crest of a hill where a subsidiary creek enters. We were all wondering what cattle breed we were seeing. The paddle back took one hour and the outgoing tide was clearly moving, so a shorter boat would have been fine except when transporting tree loppers as both Deb and Justin were. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Santa Rosa to get to the put-in. This was a sensational day trip when the tides are advantageous! Very beautiful and satisfying, with a real sense of visiting a place rarely seen. I almost didn’t see it — I missed the turnoff to the Petaluma-Tomales Road twice!

Two Rock Turn Off