Friday, December 30, 2011

A Series of Unexpected Events

Surreal would be my best adjective for 2011. Of course phenomenal paddling is to be expected when one's regular paddling playground is the Mendocino Coast. However, 2011 seemed to be the year of the unexpected.
Jeff catches air and Kathe gets a saltwater facial.
As I reflect on 2011, I recall regularly thinking, "Really? Someone pinch me so that I know this is really happening."
Cate and Amy coasteering on the Mendocino Coast.
From befriending a garter snake

Cate's friend Hairy.

to testing strip-built sea kayaks, 2011 was a bizarre year.
Cate takes the strip built sea kayak in the rocks.
Probably one of the most unexpected events of 2011 was helping Jeff salvage a sunken sit on top kayak from the bottom of Noyo Bay.
Salvaging a sunken sit on top kayak in Noyo Bay.
Equally unexpected was stepping my game up to run some Class IV whitewater.
Cate descends Double Drop on the Eel River.
My favorite adventure of 2011 was our 169 mile Paddle to the Sea on the Eel River. In 8 days, Jeff and I paddled whitewater kayaks from Lake Pillsbury to the Pacific Ocean on the Eel River.
Setting off on Day 2 from Hearst.
2011 was a year of fun and adventure but also of frustration (Tales from the Surf Zone) and disappointment (Skunked). And also sadness as 2 of my beloved pets - Button and Aften passed away. It is these moments that remind us that we are human and things aren't meant to be perfect.
Aften's first kayak trip on Fort Bragg's Noyo River
What will 2012 bring? More fun adventures I hope. Jeff and I will be traveling a little bit more in 2012 and sharing the fun. In January, I am meeting with Risa Shimoda to consult with her on The Ladies' Project. Later in January, we are road tripping with the toys to Bodega Bay for Crabfest 2012 sponsored by The Headwaters and Promar. In March, we will be sharing our Eel River Paddle to the Sea Adventure with several clubs including Explore North Coast.

Unexpected has been the positive response that I have gotten from readers of my blog. Initially, I was surprised that people were reading my blog. Thanks for reading and sharing the adventures. Here's a link to some of our favorite photos of 2011.

Best wishes for fun and adventure in 2012.
Looking for Pearls?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interval Training - Mendo Style

I vowed to get stronger, faster, and more skilled this fall/winter and have been trying to stay on track with regular training. With limited hours of daylight and lots of other projects to do, this presents a problem. Fall/winter is also our favorite time to hunt and gather. Hmmm - the need for high intensity exercise and the need for hunting and gathering?

Ah-Ha!!! Interval training!!! For years athletes and fitness enthusiasts have used interval training to boost fitness levels. The general gist of interval training is interspersing bursts of high intensity effort with periods of low intensity effort. Here is my evolving Mendo Interval Training Plan for Forage, Frolic, Feast, and Fun.

Intervals in the Woods - Mountain biking and Mushroom hunting

How it works - Riding to specific mushroom patches and stopping to pick. Mountain biking on single track trails through the forest constantly engages the core muscles as well as challenges ones balance and timing. Short steep climbs and long sustained efforts provide cardiovascular training.
Cate mountain biking
Results - in 3 hours - cardio and core training, 2-3 pounds of choice edible mushrooms, fresh air, and FUN!!!

Variation - hiking and mushroom hunting. Not quite the core workout but a fun way to get a workout in while trekking to mushroom spots and sharing the adventure with friends who don't mountain bike.

Intervals at Sea
- kayak surfing and crabbing

How it works - setting crab rings in a sandy area near a surf zone and then going surfing. After 20-30 minutes, return to pull the rings which are hopefully heavy with dungeness crabs. Repeat 4 times. We usually end up sprinting between the crab rings and the surf zone and of course surfing always involves rolling.

Results - in 3 hours - an intense paddling workout(sprints, rolling, and salt water sinus cleaning), fresh dungeness crabs, and FUN. Lately I've been working on surfing a sea kayak and demoing a Dagger Alchemy. The day hatch is a handy place to transport and store crabs.

Variation - Dropping crab pots and going rock gardening - see CARS.

SUPing for Crabs
- (I got a SUP for birthday/Christmas this year). This week was our first time on the SUP's so we are still learning and developing this variation. The SUP is definitely a good core workout and a lot of fun.

Frolic, forage, feast, and fun is the theme of these evolving Mendo Intervals. Who knows where the adventures will lead next.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Woman on water has been a bit subdued lately as I enjoy the short days and quiet times of fall.

I've been stymied and skunked by the surf. After not much surfing over the summer, I jumped in over my head and over-stretched into some trickier breaks with bigger waves and bigger consequences. No bad carnage but badly shaken confidence has me with my tail tucked between my legs looking for some mellow surf sessions.

I just re-outfitted my surf kayak. My previous outfitting had me sitting too far back in the cockpit. I didn't have enough weight in the bow to punch through waves resulting in the wave or foam pile catching my bow and pitching me backwards - heels over head - not real fun. I took her out for a spin last week but still have more work to do to get the necessary body-boat connection.

Most of my on-water time has been work related and pretty mellow - swift water training for the local logging company fish survey crews, guiding wildlife watching tours on the Noyo River, paddling in Noyo Harbor's lighted boat parade, and testing out some new gear.

Off the water, lots of projects are underway. I am organizing our home office and slipping out to pick goodies for dinner. In addition to wild edible mushrooms, apples have been on the goody list. The dehydrator has been cranking as I envision days on the river whitewater kayaking and sharing my tasty dried apples with friends. Our first river run is going to be this Saturday. It will be a slow, low water run as we paddle and survey birds along the Russian River for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, but it will feel good to be back on the river again.

After a busy summer, it is nice to have some quiet time to get projects done and rest and rejuvenate. However, stay tuned for more lively woman on water adventures as they are definitely on their way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CARS -Crabs, Abs, and Rocks

A storm out of the Aleutian Islands is heading our way. The marine forecast for the next couple of days are for gale force winds, combined seas in the 15-20 foot range and rain. As the storm brewed and winds started to pick up, we figured that we better get out and stock up on food and play. Our whitewater paddling buddy Nick joined us for the adventure.

A 10 knot southerly breeze had started with some gusting in the 15-20 knot range. The texture on the water was definitely showing the effect of southern winds with occasional whitecaps on the outer waters. Our plan was to paddle our sea kayaks out of the Noyo Bay, drop our crab pots, play in some rock gardens, abalone dive, and then pull our pots and head for home.

Of course, we could have dropped our crab pots in the protected areas of Noyo Bay, but instead had to charge out to where things get interesting. I think that Jeff wants to simulate the drama of Deadliest Catch on our crabbing missions. We are definitely getting a lot of towing practice on our sea kayak crabbing adventures.

We dropped our pots and off we went in search of adventure and abalone. First we paddled into a favorite spot and had to stop and admire the US Coast Guard plane doing maneuvers out at sea. This is not an everyday occurrence on the Mendocino Coast, and it was fun to watch.

The area where we were going to play and dive was really gusty with the southerly winds so we modified plans and tucked into a more protected area. Despite the small swell, Nick and I had some fun rides while Jeff took photos and prepared to dive for abalone.

Both Nick and I regretted that we didn't bring our dive gear. Jeff plucked his abs easily but lingered in the water for a bit marveling at the beauty of the vibrant underwater colors of sea life.

Eventually the fish got out of the water and we strategized how to pull our crab pots in the windy conditions. I was going to pull the pots as Jeff used a tow to keep me from drifting into the kelp and onto a reef. Nick was going to stabilize my boat and help with strapping the pots onto my boat.

I was excited to get to pull the pots and be the first to see our catch of the day. I was a little apprehensive though as the last time we pulled a pot in this area there was a giant octopus on it (feeling crabby). The first pot that I pulled didn't feel heavy so I knew that there wasn't a giant octopus on it. It also didn't feel heavy with crabs. There were 3 crabs in it though. One was a nice sized dungeness crab. Into the cockpit of my boat he went.

When we pulled the next pot, I was excited to see 2 crabs. One didn't look right though. He was a beautiful dark red color and had latched his claws onto the bars of the trap. It was a rock crab. It took some finagling to get him to let go and out of the trap. After I got him to let go of the cage, he latched on to my finger. OUCH!!! Fortunately I was wearing my gloves and he didn't break the skin. I got him off and happily sent him on his way back into the drink.

Back to shore we paddled - happy that we had 3 abalone, a crab, and a fun day on the water.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Feeling Crabby?

We are working on planning our 2012 calendar and updating the Liquid Fusion Kayaking website. Lots of time on the computer has me feeling a bit crabby so I figured a good cure for crabbiness might be a little kayak crabbing .

We decided to put our new Dagger Alchemy sea kayaks to the task. Mostly because they are very stable. We also wanted to get a feel for their outfitting and performance (review of the Dagger Alchemy will be in a future post).

Saturday before our Mushroom Paddle, we paddled out into Noyo Bay and dropped our crab pots. It was a gorgeous morning with calm seas and the full moon setting to the west.

Quickly we dropped our pots and headed to the woods to gather mushroom specimens for my mushroom identification and ecology lesson.

After the mushroom paddle, we paddled out to pick up our pots. Wind and seas had picked up considerably. Also, quite a few more pots were dropped in the vicinity of ours. I was glad that I had my towline. As Jeff pulled up our pots, the wind and currents were blowing him into the lines of the other crab traps so I had to use an anchor tow to keep him from drifting into harms way.

Jeff was stoked as we pulled up the first pot because it was quite heavy. We both envisioned a pot full of tasty Dungeness crabs. As the pot neared the surface, we were dismayed to see a Giant Pacific Octopus wrapped around the top. The tentacles on this guy must have been 5 feet long. It took some coaxing and prodding to get him back into the sea.

Obviously, the octopus was as interested in the contents of the trap as we were. Inside the trap were 8 Dungeness crabs. Four of the crabs ended up being too small so we put them back. Jeff stuffed the 4 keepers inside the cockpit of his boat - No, they didn't pinch him.

Off to the next pot we went. This pot was heavy too but we were cautiously optimistic about its contents. By darned if there were no crabs in it but 2 large slobs. Slobs is a term that crab fisherman use for Sunflower Starfish which are notorious for getting into pots and devouring crabs.

We stowed our pots and happily surfed the swells back to the beach. We would be having fresh crab and Chanterelle pizza for dinner.

Special thanks to Jimmy Callian for tagging along with us and taking photos (and keeping us laughing).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Save Daylight?

I like the end of daylight savings time in the fall. Of course one of the best features is getting that hour back that we gave up in the spring. Yes, it is dark earlier in the evening but it is also light earlier. Growing up on a farm, my body and mind are programed to maximize the day and are most productive in the morning.

Colder weather always seems to come to the Mendocino Coast with the time change. We haven't had a good frost yet but it seems to be impending. We look forward to seeing the salmon travel up the river to spawn and the arrival of our winter migratory birds. Buffleheads are one of our favorites.
Bufflehead drakes - a winter migratory duck.

Shorter days and colder mornings have us spending more time indoors. We have started our winter training regime of cardio, strength and flexibility training. This year, I have realized the need to put more time in on the flexibility end. No, I am not admitting to getting older but realizing the toll that paddling takes on my body. So its time to pump up the pilates ball and throw down the yoga mats for winter cross training.

Mountain biking is good for cardio and agility and is down right fun, but targeted agility and strength training. We recently watched this YouTube video of Laird Hamilton's workouts. WOW - I have no illusion of being like Laird but find his workout regime to be inspiring.

Shorter days, chilly mornings, also resonate that it is a time to rest and recover. Tom Cat happily helps us with this aspect of winter training.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Amanitas, Boletes, Chantrelles . . . Oh MY!!!

Mushroom season on the Mendocino Coast is in full swing. We've been enjoying the treasures of the forest and sharing them with others.
The Mendocino Wine and Mushroom Festival is a fun way to learn about the mushrooms and enjoy culinary delights with our local wild mushrooms. We host Mushroom Paddles to share our love and knowledge of the fruits of the forest with others. The day begins with Jeff and I collecting specimens in the forest. I then present a lesson on mushroom identification and ecology followed by a paddle on the Noyo River enjoying the fall scenery, wildlife and looking for wild mushrooms.
So what have we been finding in the forest?
Amanitas are just starting to pop-out. Many are familiar with Amanita muscaria aka fly agaric or Alice and Wonderland mushroom. These beauties add color and beauty to our forest but not to our dinner table. Many species of amanitas are toxic and some are even deadly.

This year we have had a bumper crop of boletes - Kings, Queens, Admirals, and Manzanita. The boletes are my favorite to find in the forest as they are quite stout and they are also my favorite for the table. I feel like a trophy buck hunter when I bag a big-un.

I like to dry saute them and eat them as a side dish. On a bountiful year, I will dry them and put them in burgers/soups/stews. This year I have been finding lots of admiral boletes - these ones have lemony flavor and are great with chicken.
Chantrelles are a favorite choice edible that grows well in our forests.
I like to collect them and eat them in just about everything from omelets to pasta and rice dishes and my personal favorite homemade chantrelle pizza. Piacis in Fort Bragg makes a great pie and usually has wild mushroom specials that are scrumptious.

PS Candy Caps are just starting to pop out as well. Mushroom ice cream any one? Sounds totally gross even to a mushroom head like me, but it is delicious and my favorite flavor. It is made from the Candy Cap mushroom which is a rare form of milky cap that grows prolifically in the forests of the Mendocino Coast. Cowlicks in Fort Bragg makes a delicious ice cream. I use them in pancakes and muffins, but my favorite baked good has been a special recipe that I have developed for Candy Cap Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tales from the Surf Zone

Would you/Could you launch here?

This was the decision that I had to make. We had just finished 3 days of coaching and instructing at the Lumpy Waters Symposium and today was coaches' play day. We critically looked at this surf zone. As we scouted from the parking lot, a lull hit. We deemed it doable. 20-30 minutes later we were dressed and on the beach and this is what it looked like.

(I'm not sure if this photo does it justice. Many armchair QB's will say that this was nothing.)

There were some rips and areas with lots of whitewater and poorly formed waves, but it was the large dumping closeout waves on the outside that were intimidating. It was interesting to hear each paddler's read on the water and the best line and strategy for getting out.

About 100 yards out there was a dumping monster wave that intimidated me. I felt confident that I could work my way through the frothing whitewater of the broken waves just to the north but was not certain that I could time it correctly to avoid being there when the monster reared. Much of this intrepidation came from an incident 3 days prior in which I was sucked out of my boat and had a long swim in to shore (more about this later). My heart said go for it but my gut said that I might be a liability to the group. I went with my gut and decided not to launch.

The first wave of paddlers hovered for a while just in front of the dumpers waiting for a lull and then tried to punch through. They ended up coming back in to regroup. It was validating to see Sean find the seam in the foam piles that I had selected as my line. I was supposed to launch in the 3rd group with Jeff and Bryant. They took Sean's route and just made it over the top of the outside dumper as the monster reared up and crashed. I knew that I didn't have their speed and power and very likely would have been caught in the monster's big teeth.

As the guys disappeared from sight, I knew that I made the right decision but was pissed that I wasn't out there. I contemplated taking a nap in the sun or going for a walk on the beach, but decided that this could be a learning experience so I sat and studied the surf zone and honed my water reading skills. I practiced picking routes and timing sets. Could I have made it out if I had sat and watched it longer? After having watched it for an hour, I had a sense of the lines and timing and was confident that I could launch but had made my decision to stay on the beach.

Some of my decision came from an experience that I had on Friday . . .

On Friday, we went out for a morning surf session in short boats. Prior to getting our boats, we walked along the beach and saw others launching from the north end. It was a relatively straight forward surf zone. We opted though not to drive up there but launch from the beach right in front of the house where we were staying. There was a significant rip there and a mid surf zone dumping closeout wave, but some nice peaks and shoulders on the outside that were quite alluring.

I looked at it for a moment and looked at Jeff and off we went. I found a rip that created a seam through the inside and was on my way out to those peaking waves on the outside. I saw the mid zone dumpers and felt certain that my line and speed would carry me between them. Just then one reared up in front of me. I guess I drifted slightly to the south and right into the impact zone. Rather than take the impact on my head and risk imploding my spraydeck, I attempted to duck dive under it by capsizing my boat. The plan was to sneak under it and roll up on the other side. My timing was a little late and I went cartwheeling over the falls upside down and backwards. I rolled up only to face the next thumper about to crash on my head. I purposely capsized again and expected the same maytagging but instead felt suspended in the wave and then sucked out of my boat. I was dismayed and grabbed for the cockpit combing to hold myself in but the wave had other plans and ripped me out.

Jeff was just 10 yards to the north of me and avoided this whole experience. Another paddling buddy was 10 yards to the north of him ended up out of his boat too. Due to the rip currents and trying to swim out of a rip with a boat full of water, it was a long swim in to shore. When I made it to shore, I was glad to be out of the grips of the sucking currents but felt invigorated. It has been awhile since I had a good swim in the ocean. There's nothing like a little cold water immersion to make one feel alive.

Chalk these 2 up to experience. Paddling is about skill but it is also about experience - applying ones paddling skills in situations/conditions and applying the knowledge gained through experiences to good decision making. I hated the decision that I made not to launch but I still think that it was the right one. Of course those that know me, know where much of my time and efforts will be spend this fall/winter training season.

PS Fall/winter training has already begun.