Monday, August 14, 2017

Food for Kayak Camping

As summer starts to wind down, I start to get excited about kayak camping trips.  Our favorite "get-away" is to load up our kayaks and go on a wilderness kayak camping trip.  Usually we do a whitewater river trip of a week or so but also we will jaunt off in our sea kayaks to various locations on the coast.  Coming up later this month, we are guiding a sea kayak trip on California's Lost Coast.
Kayak camping on the Owhyee River.
Food preparation for self-support kayak trips can be a daunting task.  I enjoy the challenge and get better with each trip that we do.  Most of our meals are one pot meals a protein, starch, and lots of vegetables.
One pot meals make for easy prep and minimal cleanup.
Many paddlers buy pre-packaged dehydrated meals.  This is a convenient way to plan, pack, and prepare meals in the backcountry.  I usually keep a few pre-packaged meals around for emergency supplies and for extra food on our trips because they are lightweight, don't take up much space, are easily prepared, and have a long shelf life.  The disadvantages of prepackaged meals are that they are usually high in sodium and are expensive.  For these reasons, I prefer to create my own meals.
To minimize dishes, we often eat right out of the pot.  It was a good meal when the pot looks like this.
There are a lot of good resources and recipes on the internet for backpacking food.  One of my favorites is  This site is helpful because it has directions for dehydrating your own food and serving sizes for dehydrated food.  He also has some good recipe ideas.

My new favorite site for backpacking recipes is Dirty  A nice resource that they have compiled is backpacking foods that you can find at the local market.  It is less expensive than the prepackaged backpack specific meals.  It gives you ideas so you can shop for Non- GMO, gluten free, organic or other dietary options.  I also like the Dirty Gourmet's recipes.  When Jeff and I did 10 days on the John Day River this spring, I made a variation of their Thai Coconut Soup.  Jeff is allergic to soy so I used freeze dried chicken instead of soy.  It was delicious!!!
Preparing Thai Coconut Soup on a kayak camping trip.
 When planning food for a trip, planning your menu is key regardless of whether you buy or make your own meals.  I usually scratch out all my menu ideas on paper then mix and match what foods would be best on what day.  If I am packing fresh produce, I plan my meals that need produce at the beginning of the trip.  Planning the menu also helps you with shopping for ingredients and preparing and packaging the meals.
Fresh vegetables are a luxury for us on kayak camping trips.
For food preparation at home, I definitely use my dehydrator.  This time of the year, our summer garden is bountiful.  What we aren't going to eat, share, or trade, I will dehydrate for our future camping trips.  Right now, I am dehydrating zucchini chips for dipping in hummus, ceviche, crab dip, or tuna salad. (Down Home Foods in Fort Bragg carries Fantastic Foods Dehydrated Hummus.  It is tasty and easy to pack and prepare).
Dehydrating zucchini from our garden into zucchini chips.
Kale, broccoli, carrots, onions, roma and cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, huckleberries, and king boletes (porchini mushrooms) are seasonal items in my dehydrator.  Dehydrated vegetables are easily added to soups, mac and cheese, instant potatoes, instant rice, or pasta during the cooking process.   I dehydrate my own spaghetti sauce (homemade or store bought).  One of my favorite wilderness meals is dehydrated spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce and a protein (chicken, beef, or fish).
Dehydrated spaghetti sauce.
Dehydrating spaghetti squash.  YUM!
Buying tuna, salmon, or chicken in packets is an easy way to add protein to a meal.  I also use freeze dried chicken or catch fish depending upon where we are camping.  For eggs, we have found Ova Easy Eggs to be the best.
Using a handline to fish for rock cod on the Mendocino Coast.
Spices and seasonings are essential if you are preparing meals from scratch and want them to taste good.  We carry our favorite spices in our camp kitchen kit and small packets of chicken bullion.  Of course, it is important to plan and pack special treats and snacks - maybe some fresh fruit or vegetables but definitely chocolate.  Huppybars are a staple in my snack bag.  Hot chocolate also is a necessity on chilly nights.
Snacks and special treats.
These are but a few of my backcountry food ideas.  If you enjoyed reading about them, I will share more including some of my favorite recipes.  Please share in the comments if you have other good resources or recipes.
Kayak camping on California's Lost Coast.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer of Love

I debated whether to call this post Summer of Love or Labor of Love.  Running a kayaking business is a bit of both.  This summer seems to be flying by.

Running a kayak business isn't all fun and games.  There is a lot of "invisible work" that goes into running the business.  Countless hours are spent on the phone, replying to emails, writing newsletters, scheduling, managing photos, posting on social media, planning trips, cleaning and maintaining gear, bookkeeping, managing the website, banking, and the list goes on.  In our 10th season I am learning to take it in stride and finding humor and enjoyment in it.  One question I got this summer was about our return policy - I could have verbatim rattled off LFK's cancellation/no show policy.  Instead, I responded "Our goal is to bring'em back alive."
Poster that I created for the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce.
This summer, I am spending a lot of time guiding our wildlife and nature history tours on the Noyo River Estuary.  I love it!  Each trip is different. Our trips often include first time kayakers that don't know how to swim, families with kids of all ages, as well as seasoned paddlers.  I like to challenge myself to improve my teaching and guiding methods to meet the individual needs and interests of all participants on the trip.

I really enjoy incorporating my knowledge of the natural world into the kayaking experience - aka "nerding" out on nature.
Doe and fawns checking out the kayakers on the Noyo River.
With the maturity of our business, I am continuing to learn how to create time to enjoy life within the busy summer season - and making Jeff do it too.  At the end of the day, we are dog tired.  We often go to bed early but with smiles on our faces.
Jeff and I enjoying dinner that we caught and grew. 
Carving time out for life means regular mountain bike rides, trail running, kayak surfing, kayak fishing, time with friends and sometimes quiet time with a book.  Last week, we managed to slip away to the South Fork American to connect with some friends and run whitewater.
Kayak fishing on the Mendocino coast.
Our summer garden is producing.  It is so nice to come home and pick fresh vegetables for dinner.  Our winter crop of kale continues to produce, and we have been eating it as well as fresh broccoli, zucchini, and lettuce.  The cabbage is starting to make nice heads and the tomatoes and cucumbers are coming along.

Last week, I was wishing I had some fresh potatoes to go with the rock cod that we just caught.  I was doing some digging in the garden and unexpectedly found a fresh batch of red potatoes.  Fresh kale and potatoes from our garden and fish that we caught in the ocean. YUM!
Food of our labor - fish we caught and vegetables from the garden.
All is not perfect of course.  The house is a bit of a mess.  Oh, well - its summer time!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mountains to the Sea - Day 8

To the Sea!

We awoke on day 8 ready to complete our mission of kayaking 169 miles of the Eel River from the mountains to the sea.  The early days were fun with lots of whitewater and wilderness.  The past couple of days were scenic but primarily flat water with glimpses of the 101 highway and sights and sounds of civilization.
River view of the gas stations and conference center at Riverwalk in Fortuna, CA.
The Eel River Brewery is one of our favorite stops on all of our travels along the 101 corridor in Humboldt County.  We thought it would be fun to hop out of our kayaks and pop in for a beer on the last day of our trip.  We have been enjoying the fast moving current but it rushed us along too early for beer at Eel River.

The river is quite flat now and meanders through the farmlands of Fortuna and Ferndale.
Checking out the historic Fernbridge at Ferndale, California.
When we hit the historic Fernbridge, Jeff dug out his cell phone and makes our extraction call.  Our friend Hawk Martin (owner of Humboats at the time) was going to pick us up at the beach.
After passing Fernbridge, we anticipate landing within the next 1.5 hours.  Jeff makes the extraction call.
We were surprised to still be seeing signs of the dilapidated Eel River Railroad.

We knew we were getting close to the ocean when we started seeing barnacles on the logs and harbor seals swimming.

As we got closer to the ocean, we could see the surfzone and waves breaking.  We also discovered that we were being swept out to sea very quickly.  We were too far in the middle of the river to get to shore before hitting the ocean and surf.  Oh well, we got to end our trip surfing a wave back onto the beach.

Our Eel River mountains to the sea journey was special in many ways.  It was my first multi day kayak camping trip.  It was a special time for Jeff and I - just the 2 of us for 8 days in the wilderness.  This trip was one of the best weeks of my life - whitewater kayaking in the wilderness with my sweetie.  Since this trip, we have done numerous overnight kayak trips on the Pacific Ocean and on different rivers.  Self support kayak river trips continue to be my favorite.  I am already looking forward to the next one.
Mission Accomplished! 169 miles on the Eel River from the mountains to the sea.  We are still smiling.
Photo by Hawk Martin

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Eel River Mountains to Sea - Day 7

Redwoods and 101

We awoke on Day 7 a bit stiff and sore but excited to see the sun.  Our journey today would take us through some of the largest trees in the world - the coastal redwoods.  The river was still flowing very fast and was in a semi-flooded state.  We enjoyed the current pushing us down river.
Giant redwood stump in the flooded Eel River .
We pulled over to take a hike in one of the groves of Avenue of the Giants.  For our hike, we took off most of our paddling gear but kept our drysuits on.
Hiking up a creek to get into the Avenue of the Giants.
We came upon a local photographer that was hiking in the forest.  He looked at us like we were aliens - guess we looked a bit odd in our drysuits.  We said hi and continued on.  He doubled back and asked us why we were dressed in yellow suits.  We explained that we were on our seventh day of kayaking the Eel River from the mountains to the sea, and we just pulled over for a hike in the redwoods before continuing with our journey.
Hiking among the giant redwood trees of Avenue of the Giants.
He was very interested in our trip and shared that he likes to do multi-day cross country motorcycle camping trips.  We inquired about his photography and found out that he is an amateur photographer that works full time in the lumber mill in Scotia.  After an interesting chat, he wished us well and we continued on our hike.
Photos barely do justice to the grandeur of the redwood forest.
It felt good to stretch our legs, eat some lunch, and of course enjoy the awesomeness of the redwood forest.
An abandoned road in Avenue of the Giants.
Back in the boats, we journeyed along the 101 corridor.  The river is quite wide at this point and moving fast.  At times we still see evidence of the Eel River Railroad.  We also notice that the geology has changed significantly from the jagged, dark sandstone to smoother, lighter colored sandstone.

At the town of Scotia, we landed to stretch our legs.  Jeff decided to jaunt into town and get some tasty beverages for our last night on the river.  Up until this point, we have been totally self sufficient.  We had planned enough food for 10 days and still had plenty, but why not enjoy a comfort of being close to civilization.  As he started to hike up the hill toward town, the local photographer that we met in the redwoods greeted him and gave him a ride into town to the local market.
Landing at Scotia near an old dam.
On down the river we traveled.  Highway 101 crossed over us numerous times and seemed to be ever present.
Highway 101 crossing the Eel River.
We found a campsite on a gravel bar that was on a bend away from the highway and enjoyed our last evening on the river with a nice bottle of wine and another one pot meal.
One pot meals were lightweight but hearty and easy to prepare.
We planned to complete our journey and reach the sea the next day.
Last night camping out of our kayaks on the Eel River.
Day 8 - To the SEA!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Eel River Mountains to Sea - Day 6

Into the Redwoods
On Day 6, we launched from Cain Creek Crossing and continued down river.  Our spirits were a little low as it was raining again, and we knew that the whitewater portion of our trip was over.

Before too long, our spirits soared.  This current was moving us along quickly and the scenery was spectacular with lots of waterfalls.  We don't have a lot of good photos from this stretch of the river because of the low light and rain but our memories of it are how serenely beautiful it was.

We saw lots of nice beaches for camping.  The area was becoming more forested.  We were starting to see more coniferous trees along the river including redwoods.  It was a great day for floating and contemplation.

We stopped for lunch to explore a side creek that had numerous cascading waterfalls.  (one advantage of the rainy weather).

Just above the confluence with the South Fork of the Eel River, we were awed by redwood trees towering over us on both banks.  In some spots, the redwood trees, overgrew the railroad trestles. We were on the edge of Avenue of the Giants.

When we went under the Dyerville Bridge just above the confluence with the South Fork Eel, we knew the remote wilderness portion of our trip was over.  It had been a long day on the water.  We covered over 24 miles and were tired and chilled from all day in the rain.  We floated down to a gravel bar where Chris Creek enters the Eel River and set up camp.  We ate dinner and crawled into our tent for the night.

Day 7 Redwoods and 101

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rock Garden Etiquette- Part One

Northern California has an awesome coastline for sea kayaking - specifically rock gardening.  There are many variations of kayaking in ocean rock gardens.  I believe the simplest explanation of rock gardening is kayaking in and around rocks in the ocean.
Sea kayaking in the rock gardens and sea caves of the Mendocino Coast.
Variations range from tooling around rock gardens and sea caves in calm conditions to traversing technical passage ways, riding pour-overs, and surfing in rock gardens and sea caves.  For safety and enjoyment, it is important that we follow the written and unwritten rules of this marine playground.
Cate with a juicy rock garden pour-over ride.
First we need to consider that this is not just our playground but is home to many marine creatures and our actions can effect their survival.  Right now, things are drastically changing in the Eastern Pacific.  Many marine creatures are struggling to survive.  The rock garden habit in which we play is quite sensitive.

What we need to do:

Tread lightly - avoid landing on and crushing marine life.  Mussels, kelp, sea stars, anemones, and abalone are all important to the balance of the marine ecosystem.  Be cautious about where you land and try not to step on creatures or injure the kelp.

Police plastic - pick it up and pack it out.  We all find trash and plastic out in the marine environment.  Help out by picking it up and packing it out and of course packing out your own trash.

Minimize impact of plastic from kayaks on rocks.  Timing, boat control, and judgement are key skills to make sure that we don't impact rocks with our kayaks and leave behind plastic curly-q's.  If the tide is too low or the swell is not powerful enough to run a feature without scrapping over it, move on and find a spot that is working.  Avoid landing and dragging kayaks on abrasive rock surfaces including mussels and barnacles.

Be aware and avoid wildlife during the nesting and pupping season.  Most paddlers are aware of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are conscious of not disturbing harbor seals.  It is also our responsibility to avoid bird nesting areas during nesting season.  On the Mendocino Coast, this is typically March through the beginning of August.  The population and nesting success of birds that nest near shore is being monitored by local and state Audubon Societies as well as by Fish and Wildlife.  Human disturbance is a considerable issue and one that often results in chick mortality.  Human disturbance can also lead to areas being closed.  It is best for us to avoid these areas during the nesting season.  On the Mendocino Coast, species of concern is the pelagic cormorant.  Pelagic cormorants nest on the cliffs of headlands, near shore rocks and commonly around sea caves.
Large nesting colony of pelagic cormorants on the Mendocino Coast.
Smaller nesting colony of pelagic cormorants.
Stay tuned for Part II where we talk about rock garden etiquette related to humans.

Sea kayakers using a circuit for safety and fun.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Eel River Mountains to Sea - Day 5

Whitewater the Dilapidated Eel River Railroad

Day 5 - We awoke at our camp at the confluence of the main and north fork Eel to sunshine!!!  After enjoying the previous day of exhilarating whitewater and a relaxing afternoon and evening on the beach, we feel ready for whatever lies downstream.  We know that the toughest rapids of the Dos Rios to Alderpoint stretch are coming up.  They are class III, but we are expecting powerful hydraulics caused by the high water.

We start the day immediately with some fun rapids.  The river is still flowing very fast.  We estimate it to be in the 12,000 cfs range.  The water is quite squirrelly at this flow with boiling eddylines that grab at our kayaks and try to spin us about.

The country is fairly open.  The gradient of the river is not very steep but the current is fast for several miles.  Then around one bend, things drastically change.  The river constricts between some boulders, and we seem to be entering a steeper gorge section.  We suspect that we are at Island Mountain Falls and get out to take a look.

This was one of the most fascinating scouts that I have ever done.  I guess because I am continually amazed at all of the abandoned infrastructure, machinery, and rail cars of the Eel River Railroad.

The railroad through the Eel River Canyon was opened in 1914 to transport logging and mining materials and passengers between the San Francisco Bay Area and Eureka.  Since opening, the unstable soils and floods of the Eel River have wreaked havoc on the railroad infrastructure.  A continuous battle ensued between man and nature to keep the 95 miles of tracks and 30 tunnels clear.

The Eel River Valley has the highest erosion rate in North America.  The employees of the railroad were constantly working to clear the track, rebuild the tracks, remove debris from the tunnels and repair cave-ins.

Traveling down the Eel River, catastrophic devastation is evident everywhere.  Derailed cars lie on their sides on the steep banks of the river and in the bed of the river.  The ground has eroded out from under the tracks leaving the tracks suspended in the air and washed into the river.  From the river, most of the tunnels appear to be caved in or blocked by landslides.  Part of the wonder is the way that nature is working to reclaim the terrain.

In 1997 the railroad was abandoned.  Some of the Eel River Railroad employees now work for the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg and Willits.  It is fun listening to tales of their adventures on the Eel River Railroad.

We hiked along the railroad tracks to the bridge that crosses over the river and the entrance to the mile long tunnel that goes under Island Mountain.  It is called Island Mountain because the river circles around the mountain almost 300 degrees.  Standing on the bridge we are well over 100 feet above the river.  It is amazing to think that in December 1964 the river flooded over this bridge and into the tunnel.  During this Pineapple Express Storm, the river was flowing at 936,000 cfs.

At Island Mountain, we hiked along the railroad tracks.  From above we could see the line that we needed to paddle through Island Mountain Falls.  The water was definitely moving fast but the line looked fairly straight forward.

Our run through Island Mountain Falls was fun and exhilarating.  The line was straight forward but the hydraulics that we were paddling beside were HUGE.

On down the river we traveled.

The current was fast and we were enjoying the sights when suddenly the topography on the banks of the river got steep and lined with boulders.  The river was constricting, and we saw a horizon line - Kekawaka Falls.

Kekawaka Falls is a river wide hole (hydraulic).  The reversal was so powerful that I cleared it but it sucked me back in.  I dropped my edge and capsized but it flushed me out and I rolled up.

After Kekawaka Falls, the river valley started to open up and so did the skies.  We continued down river past Alderpoint which is the regular take out for multi day trips on the Eel.  We started scouting for a campsite but with the high water, they were hard to find.  We finally settled on a spot near Cain Creek Crossing where the golden spike was driven in to the rail line in 1914 to celebrate the opening of the Eel River Railroad.  The railroad was closed that same day due to a landslide.

At our camp, we prepared for the upcoming days of flat water - including paddling through the giant redwoods trees of Avenue of the Giants.

Day 5 Into the Redwoods