|Feather River College||
The 2016 week long Eel River excursion has been completed! This trip was filled with fun splashy rapids, delicious food, and fantastic company. The one common thing every class member took away from this trip was the fantastical beauty of the vibrantly green Eel River. At every campsite on this trip we viewed the tracks of a certain silent observer of our group. I feel like this individual can better express the true beauty of our trip than I can myself. Enjoy this take on the Outdoor Rec Eel River trip 2016.
A collection of photos taken by Veronica Ruvalcaba
'Phish!' 'Clang!' 'Zip!' 'Splash!' "Everything has a place, put like items together!" "Let's set up the tarp first!" "Is it really gonna be raining?"
He forced opened a bleary round eye and glared at his surroundings. What was this awful noise that irritated him so? A snort that could bend an oak blew through his nostrils as he rolled onto his massive brown flank and to his feet. The once green grass that had been crushed beneath him gasped painfully for air but was unable to move, pressed flat against the ground. He shook the flies from his thick hide and padded quietly to the overgrown train trestle and promptly halted, taken aback by what he viewed, and more so, what he smelled.
Two legged creatures scurried all along his beach and in and out of large colorful mats floating in the river. They set a shiny box here, a wooden thing there, crawled in and out of bright colored shelters which flapped uncontrollably in the wind, and how they stunk! It seemed every time one of the creatures would wave their arms over their head (which was all too often) a new and even more pungent stench would blow across his sensitive nose. Three of the things gestured towards the trestle and began to lope towards it. Why were they tormenting him! Didn't they realize this was his beach? He turned and trotted downriver along the tracks towards a less crowded part of his domain while swinging his massive head side to side to rid his sinuses of, ugh, that terrible smell.
Broken down train tracks which line the Eel River Canyon. Izak Lederman photo
"Honk, Honk, Honk!" He swiped an angry paw at one of the geese as the young couple flew past. Stupid birds. Noisy for no reason, and they were disturbing his fishing hole. This break from the wet of the stormy weather that had persisted through the day and the night previous was his window to eat, and it seemed he would now be forced to wait again. His river would be much more peaceful once spring was over and the annoyance of honeymooning geese was finally gone.
"Here, this is the spot for sure!" "Finally, Tim, we're tired man!" "Foreals brah, did you guys know we went like 20 miles today?" No, no, no! The dumb birds weren't squawking needlessly, they were running from the multitude of floating mats and the gangly individuals piloting them that had bothered him the day before.
He splashed his way out of the river and up the green hill near the long riverside beach that was now covered with things that did not belong. Fine, let them make their useless shelters and sleep on his beaches. The coming storm would surely do away with this nuisance. He dug his large paws into the sand as he traced a ring around the beach to warn other creatures of the river away from the bright shelters and noisy items the foreign animals had brought with them. As if the ever deepening pungency of their hairless bodies was not enough.
Left and Middle: Izak Lederman photo. Right: The silent observer's print, Irshad Stolden photo
The morning after the wet rains was truly beautiful. The morning mist quickly burned away in the heat of the sun and the residents of the river emerged from their shelters. Fish leapt for the flies that hovered close to the surface of the emerald green river water. Multitudes of small birds twittered a call to the morning light, thanking it for its warmth. Even the nighttime crickets were awake, though only to run from hungry lizards who were energized by the sun rays. He flicked his ears back and forth taking in the sounds of the early day. He stretched out to his full majestic length and released a contented growl deep in his throat. He emerged into the daylight and scratched his wide back along the aqua green serpentine boulder he had taken shelter under for the night. Sinking his claws deep into the sand he wandered forth to experience all which this new day had to offer.
Vibrant sunny day on the River! Izak Lederman photo
It was late in the day when the floating mats reached him yet again. He let loose an angry snort and his spine arched in frustration. It was time to deal with this disturbance once and for all. Just as he began to move towards the fleet of mats a screech rang across the canyon and the creatures at the rear of the pack pointed and shouted with delight. A bald eagle soared over them, seeming to scout their path downstream through the swift moving river. He narrowed his eyes at the predator. Why were these creatures given such a mighty escort? He sank his claws into a stump in confusion.
He observed the pack of outsiders once more and noticed something which puzzled him. A sleek river otter bounced through the water near the shore, seeming to play a game of hide and seek with the mat riders. They were oblivious to this playful creature as they continued downriver. Several of the mats began to ram each other and splash water in their opponents faces. "Yaaaah incoming!" "Pull his skirt!" "Splash water in his boat!" One of the creatures rolled under the water and popped back up slightly further downstream yipping with happiness. They were playing! This he understood, he too enjoyed splashing about the river in the bright daylight.
The group moved past him and continued on their current willed journey. He cocked his great head and listened to the distanced elated sounds coming from the mat riders. They seemed so enamored with his home, and they had not harmed any of his precious river (save for disturbing a few moody geese). The eagle and the river otter welcomed the little fleet, and the river carried them forth without complaint. He wandered along the shoreline following the scent trail left behind by the outsiders, no longer irritated, but intrigued by these strange new creatures that seemed to only wish to view the green shores of his river and play little games in the sediment filled water.
Left: Rick rowing a 'floating mat'. Right: Sunny perch pointed upstream. Izak Lederman photo
He followed them through the mixed reds, blues, and greens of the boulder fields of his river, along the sandy shores, and among the mixed foliage of rolling green hills for the next two days. The river was blessed with shining sunlight and cool breezes. He watched as the odd little troop of mat riders traveled euphorically through the winding canyon shouting with glee every time they encountered something new to their foreign eyes. They gestured wildly at every wonder of his river whether it be a trickling waterfall, a colorful butterfly, or a bright red cliff band high in the canyon. He grew increasingly content as he viewed their ever playful and excitable demeanor. This was right. His domain was indeed impressive. The river otter continued to frolic alongside the little pod and even allowed himself to be viewed on the creatures' final day in his canyon, which seemed to bring them much joy.
"All these new colors bro!" "We will miss you Eel River!" The mats passed around the final snaking curve of his river and he rose to his powerful hind legs to watch as the final colorful craft disappeared behind the shroud of conifer trees that marked the border of his lands. The bald eagle flapped her way back up the canyon carrying a freshly killed trout to her nest and her famished week old chicks. The parting of this escort signaled the end of the mat riders foray through his river. The water was green and peaceful in the late afternoon shadows, even the geese were abnormally silent. He was pleased with the effect the beauty of his river had on the outsiders. He dropped to the ground and blissfully kneaded the soft earth with his weighty paws.
Laser pointer tribute at final camp. Izak Lederman photo
As he turned upstream a breeze fluttered through his broad snout. He sneezed audibly and his lip curled up in disgust. That awful smell, he would not miss. What kind of creature doesn't have the decency to bathe? His hide rippled as he shook his head to clear his nose, or replace that smell with anything beside it. After one final glance downstream he padded softly away from the shore, and with his stubby tail flicking in the wind the mighty bear melted into the shadows of the maple trees lining his softly flowing river.
Written by Jonathan Simenc
A collection of photos taken by Izak Lederman
There has been a bit of a time gap between this and my previous blog post. You are clearly wondering where I have been, and what has been keeping me away from the words that I so greatly enjoy sharing with you. It is quite sweet of you to ask after me, so I shall tell you what I have been doing. I also hope that I may pass on some friendly advice to anyone who has an itch to participate in some similar activity, but might not quite know where, or how, to begin.
Over the past month Northern California has been blessed with ample amounts of rain in the form of several large thunderstorms. These storms have encouraged the river gods to supply boaters with consistently good flows for paddling activities. Every nearby whitewater enthusiast has emerged from their comfy Subaru homes to take full advantage of the spring rapids popping up throughout the numerous creeks and rivers of the north state. As an excitable kayaking novice, I viewed this as my opportunity to better my water skills and learn from experienced paddlers.
I do not tell you this to seek some form of affirmation. I tell you this because I am doing something which I never thought possible for myself. Though my immediate family is not made up of whitewater enthusiasts I do have several extended family members who have pushed the boundaries of whitewater paddling; but due to their great humility and my own disinterest I didn't learn of their river feats until I decided to test out whitewater sports for myself. The little that I did know of kayaking came from a commercial for GoPro I saw on television, or the one scary photo behind the shopping list on our family bulletin board of my cousin Dan dropping off a big waterfall. These things forced me into the awfully common mindset of 'I could never do that'.
Though never at the forefront of my mind there was always a desire to participate in such an activity as whitewater kayaking, and until this last year that desire was always trumped by the unfounded belief that 'I could never do that'.
Many people hold on to the common misconception that outdoor adventure sports are only done by professionals, when in reality the majority of adventure sport participants are 'weekend warriors', or people who enjoy outdoor activities at a comfortable level purely for their own enjoyment. This misconception creates an invisible barrier around the realm of adventurous outdoor activity which deflects countless desires from individuals who wish to participate in adrenaline pumping outdoor fun. It pains me now to hear someone say, 'I could never do that' or 'I want to, but I know I couldn't' in reference to a story someone told about an outdoor excursion or a photo/video they have seen of an adventurous activity. There is truly only one thing you must do in order to participate in whatever they believe they cannot. This one thing is the common seam for beginning to participate in any adventure sport whether it be whitewater kayaking, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, or even base jumping. All you must do, is seek it out.
So many great ways too adventure in the outdoors!
Photo Credit: Top Left-Izak Lederman, Top Right-Sierra Speer, Bottom Left-J Simenc, Bottom Right-Saylor Flett
Here are a few tips/techniques for seeking out a way to begin your outdoor fun:
1. Phone a friend. Often people hear of an adventure sport from a participant of one, and just as often that participant is more than willing to teach you a few things. Outdoor communities are welcoming, take full advantage of them!
2. Find a class. Learning the skills necessary for an outdoor activity is often only a google search and a phone call away. This is always recommended for learning how to play outside safely. A great place to do this for all you people near Quincy, Feather River College Outdoor Leadership Program!
3. Use social media. In today's world we are able to connect with tons of folks online, and guess what, some of these folks push the sport you wish to do! There is no shortage of Facebook (and other social media) groups full of excited people waiting to introduce you to their outdoor community.
4. Don't fall into the misconception of Adventure Sports! Adventure Sports are for EVERYBODY. All you gotta do is have the desire to participate.
Adventure sports breed a community of fantastic friends! Photo Credit: Veronica Ruvalcaba
I hope this can aid you in seeking your adventure, I promise it will be well worth the trouble. I'll be waiting here in Quincy stoked and ready to enjoy some outdoor fun with all you new adventure sport enthusiasts! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play outside in a river.
*Special thanks to Rick Stock, Saylor Flett, Colby Elliot, Pat O'Connel, and many others for spurring forth my own passion for whitewater and adventure!
Written by Jonathan Simenc