Looks an unlikely place to find a sea kayak, but there are opportunities...

Looks an unlikely place to find a sea kayak, but there are opportunities…

On a cloudy day in April we headed east. Clear sailing until five hours out and a pronghorn played chicken with the truck so I had to cross into the opposite lane and take my foot off the gas so it could pass on the right and run in front of the truck at 60 mph. I hate it when they do that but no one was coming in the opposite direction for miles so it was okay. This one was younger than last year’s buck and you could see his mouth open sucking wind. Still, he was keeping pace and even beating us.

There was all kinds of crap in the road this year

There was a lot of stuff in the road this year. I almost broke my foot on this item trying to kick it out of the way.

In the afternoon we arrived at Skull Camp and there was no one there. We set up camp and it was dusk when our friends arrived and we circled the wagons. That night we soaked in the hot spring and listened to the coyotes. It was cold.

Skull Camp

Skull Camp

A few days later when I got a chance (we get so busy in the desert) I took three hours and scouted the creek to see if it was doable. There were some iffy spots where beavers had created little pourovers, some of them cushioned by reeds and grass which would allow us to slide over. The beavers had culled the willow thickets along the creek making wide meadows of thick coarse grass where we could hop out and line the boats if necessary. There were only two or three places where we would have to portage ten or twenty feet. Startled waterfowl flushed with a clatter: a black-crowned night heron, mallards, canvasbacks, geese. It would be a bushwhack but it would be fun and there were long stretches of unobstructed current running through deep gullies and meadows. It was sunny and warm which boded well for the next day.

We found sun stones, a type of citrine

We found sun stones, a type of citrine

That night the rain blew in with gusto. The highs that week were in the fifties, lows in the twenties and the morning was dark, wet and cold. We spent the morning soaking in the hot spring discussing the weather. When you’re living out of doors weather is a big deal. We decided it was not a good day to go bushwhacking down a creek. Plus the road to the launch site could be compromised. Roads in the desert rain can turn slick and miry. So we went to Plan B. For me, that meant a hike up a sweeping mountainside to check out a field of yellow flowers.

Tumbleweed mustard

Tumbleweed mustard

I started out gingerly on the slick, muddy road. Off the road it was better: the desert pavement provides firm footing even in foul weather. I climbed up to the flowers and discovered they were tumbleweed mustard. Since I was well up on the ridge’s shoulder it seemed reasonable to continue up to the first big rock outcrop at the top of the rise. The higher up the more lush the flora: there were wildflowers everywhere, although few were actually blooming yet. The plants looked really healthy and in six weeks or so the display would be spectacular. There were many different grasses too and up here they were more luxuriant than lower down. There seems to be a critical point at which the steep grade prevents cattle from going there (no cow pies or hoofprints) and that’s where the plants really flourish.

Interesting little wildflower peeking out from under stones

Interesting little wildflower peeking out from under stones. Note the rubbery finger-like leaves and the desert pavement.

At the outcrop another long slope revealed itself and another rock formation further on. The bracing northwest wind spat rain and hail like grains of sand but it wasn’t cold. The whole vast desert and a multitude of mountain ranges were falling away beneath me and the views were spectacular so I decided to keep walking.

Sweeping vistas at around 6,000'

Sweeping vistas and rain curtains at around 6,000′

On the way I found small worked obsidian chips and a pronghorn antler, spongy with age. Guessing there was a story behind the antler and the chips I played desert detective and searched the ground till I found the arrowhead I suspected would be there.

Checking out another hot spring

Hot spring with a view

In the rocks there were lichens, wildflowers, a species of currant, and many burrows, some containing bones and some containing culled grasses still green. I’m sure the residents were nearby but they didn’t come out to greet me. So much desert life is underground. The views were amazing: far away mountains obscured by rain and mist and clouds rolling across the landscape. After looking around a bit I headed back to camp and a hot soak in the spring.

Aaaaah, more hot water!

Aaaaah, more hot water!

The weather wasn’t improving so we loaded up the truck, left Skull Camp and headed out on a quest for another hot spot. We found it in a creek flowing down into a large pond from a source up the slope.

Happy feet

Happy feet

The water temperature was 114F (we had our trusty swimming pool thermometer), and it was too hot for us but we hiked downstream until we found a place where the water was cooler, about 99F.

Up a hot creek with a sea kayak

Up a hot creek with a sea kayak

I grabbed the X-O and put in, paddling upstream toward the source. The shallow water steamed around me. There were yellow flowers that looked like a type of mimulus on the banks. I kayaked up till the water got too shallow.

The Source

The source

Almost to the source, I pulled over to the bank to check out the flowers and saw a dust devil whirling along the high bank. The swirling wind buffeted the kayak and I was concerned about tipping over into the scalding water but after biffing me around a bit the whirlwind passed and danced away.

Kemper's "wildflowers of Southern Oregon" identifies these as seep-spring monkeyflowers.

Kemper’s “Wildflowers of Southern Oregon” identifies these as seep-spring monkeyflowers.

That evening we soaked for hours watching the stars come out among piles of clouds. A squall slammed us with wind and rain in the night, rocking the truck, but the next morning the playa was dry as a bone.

Camping on the playa

Camping on the playa

Another hot soak before breakfast and we packed up and split. On the way home we had the usual assortment of spring desert weather: rain, snow, hail, sun, and wind, alternately and all together.

The road home

The road home

On this desert adventure we raced the annual pronghorn, found sun stones, hiked, soaked, met our friends, scouted a cold creek and paddled a hot creek. Mission accomplished! Maybe we’ll hit that cold creek next year…

What quests have you been on lately? Go ahead and share your adventure!

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by Ed Anderson

Editor’s note: Thanks so much for this post to Ed Anderson who always does such an amazing job as Master of Ceremonies and Paddler Extraordinaire at Reef Madness. And thanks too to Lars Howlett and Jim Kakuk for all the great photos.

Bob Stender and Nani and TR Michael Powersr

Prepare to party!

Paddle. Party. Piracy. That’s a perfect day! Sunday June 8th saw numerous paddlers of great spirit and questionable judgment gather beneath the flags and banners at Miramar for yet another chance to test their mettle. Both the weather and Mother Ocean were gracious, a cooling fog hanging over the waters that were mostly welcoming. Blue sky and sunshine looked down on Michael and Nani’s amazing home, providing warmth and vibrancy to the land-bound spectators and well-wishers. The stage was perfectly set.

Party with the pirates

Party with the pirates

At High Noon paddlers gathered on the beach for the safety talk and warning. Tsunami Ranger Dave Whalen took roll call so we would know who was missing when bodies failed to return. That done, I started the safety talk with the First Rule: Everyone Comes Back! Then very consciously mirroring the themes of our inspiration Eric Soares, I broke down the reality of this event: the suggested course can be dangerous, people can and have been seriously hurt and worse in these waters, nobody is responsible for the safety of any paddler other than that paddler him- or herself, and the prizes and recognition are not worth risking one’s life for. While it was good karma to aid another paddler in distress, the First Rule means not becoming another victim. Help may be limited to, “You’re f***ed! I will go get help!” The safety talk closed with the admonition that if at any point during the event a paddler is wondering if they are up for this, they should back the hell out. This included right there at the beach. The First Rule: Everyone Comes Back!

Ed Anderson reads the racers teh riot act

Ed Anderson reads the racers the riot act

With the briefing concluded, 17 paddlers went to 13 boats. This year saw the greatest proportion of doubles yet: Tsunami Rangers Steve King and Scott Becklund piloting a Tsunami X-2 Starship, TR Commander Michael Powers and Bob Stender paddling a venerable Nootka, Rick Blair and John Randall doing battle in a restored Seascape, and as the first Father-Daughter team, Aiko and I paddling a second Seascape. Rick Blair had restored these mistreated Seascapes to fine condition, and what they lacked in speed and bulkheads, they made up for in length and volume. (This would prove significant later.) Delphin kayaks were popular with the single paddlers, being used by Neptune’s Ranger Bill Vonnegut, BASKer “Don’t Follow Don” Don Barch, and fellow BASKers Sergei Yechikov and Richard Smith. Mike Staninec employed a Captain America-motifed Tsunami X-15 and Jon Wittenberg went with a less flamboyant X-15. Alan Marshall had a single Nootka Lopaka, while Professor Mike Higgins and Wild Johnny Werbe represented the Coaster contingent.

And they're off!!!

And they’re off!!!

At the ear-splitting blast of the horn, paddlers raced their boats to the water. Aiko and I had worked out our tactics: we would launch left of the main area where the surf was usually smaller, I would get the boat water-borne after she was secured, then I would hop in, we would punch out, and I would secure my spray skirt once we cleared the surf zone. We had also agreed on a general rule that should the boat capsize, we would roll; we would exit only in the event of failed rolls. This was a great plan, and it lasted at least 45 seconds.

TR Michael Powers and Bob Stender come in for a landing

TR Michael Powers and Bob Stender come in for a landing

We ran our battleship to the water line, Aiko strapped in, I pulled the craft out into shallow water, then ran to the back and jumped in. “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” I cried, and we were churning ahead. The first wave was an easy foam pile by the time it hit us but I could see that the second was going to be more of an effort, and the third was….oh sh*t, the third looked from our low vantage point like the Berlin Wall hurling at us! Aiko saw it too and voiced her concern. (Why oh why did I promise my wife to bring our daughter back in one piece?)

I taught both my girls that in the surf zone, once you commit, you’re committed. And the math here was simple: if we dug deep and paddled hard, we had a 75% chance of getting pulverized; if we held position, we had a 100% chance of getting pulverized. With a voice just a little bit higher in octave than I would have liked, I yelled out, “Paddle hard! Right through!”

We charged the wave with grim determination. The wave charged us with utter indifference. The wave won.

Ed contemplates the specter of defeat

Ed contemplates the specter of defeat

I yelled, “We’ve got it! Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” as we climbed the steepening wall. I hoped the pounding that was about to drop on Aiko would not do serious damage. The face was fully vertical when it slammed on her, but our bow had crested. For a brief, shining moment it seemed we would make it. Then I realized we were being driven backwards despite our strokes. The stern dropped behind (or is that now in front of?) us and I felt us broach bow-right. My last thought before going to the world of cold water and no air was I hoped Aiko took a breath. Under water I found myself partially out of my seat, and thinking there was no way Aiko could be setting up, I kicked out. My head broke the surface just in time to see Aiko execute a flawless sweep roll….on a fully flooded double kayak…. with no bulkheads….in the surf. I was so proud of her! And she was so taken aback to see her old man swimming. I grabbed on to the boat and stabilized it as best I could. She looked me straight in the eyes and with all the gentle understanding she could muster she said, “I thought we agreed to roll!”

"Okay, Dad, this time you're going to listen to me..."

“Okay, Dad, this time you’re going to listen to me…”

We got our Titanic back to the beach, dumped most of the 350 gallons of water taken on, and set up for our (my?) redemption. Aiko never wavered once on the beach or in the water, and in short order we punched through the surf and were out in open ocean. The boat felt heavy and unstable, like a fat drunk at Mardi Gras. I realized that even with 90% of the water dumped, it still felt like we had 35 gallons of water sloshing around inside the boat. I grabbed our one remaining pump and went to work until my shoulders burned and I was seeing stars. After several long minutes I rejoined Aiko in paddling but felt my contribution was moral support at best. Approaching Pillar Point reef we saw Scott and Steve blazing their way back, Bill hot on their tail. I could see that The Slot was a no-go for us and the thought of wrapping way outside of The Boneyard for an extra 20 to 30 minutes of paddling was more than I was up for. Feeling like Aiko had already made her bones back at Miramar, I asked her if she would be crushed if we didn’t go all the way to Ross’s Cove. She swallowed her pride and agreed to hang out at the reef and watch the returning boats come back. We headed back to Miramar when all but Rick and John had passed us. (These two decided to add a mile or so to their paddle by going all the way up to Flat Rock in the hopes of finding a landable spot).

Father and daughter take a moment at the finish line

Father and daughter take a moment at the finish line

Every adventurous salt water kayaker should see the crowds and flags over Miramar at least once, and it is truly a great feeling to surf in to applause, drums, and ululating. Aiko was very conscious of the swell and waves driving us in to the beach, and she braced gracefully as our oversized vessel broached in the surf. We dragged the boat from the water to the finish line, which seemed to have moved a hell of a long way away from the water since we started. Once across, I thought of the little girl who was 9 when she got her first kayak, and was rolling before she graduated elementary school, and looked at the amazing young woman she had become. Then I flashed to her upstaging me by rolling that monstrosity in the surf and decided she could walk home. Let’s see everyone applaud that!

Sergei comes in smiling

Sergei comes in smiling

While the paddle is always an experience, the party really is the attraction, in no small part due to the now traditional band. John Lull and the South City Blues Band were once again amazing. They are a tight outfit that know how to keep a crowd jumping. They played two amazing sets and were showered with well-earned love from the revelers. John himself is a Tsunami Ranger, as well as former ACA Instructor and Instructor Instructor – so yeah, he is kind of a big deal. And he wails on the saxophone! Luckily for the competitive types, he has always skipped the race to focus on playing at the party, but he said he is thinking that next year he may paddle and play. It may be time for some of us to step up our game!

Boogying down to the South City Blues Band

Boogying down to the South City Blues Band

The party was awesome, with stories, laughter, and love. Nancy was her usual effervescent self and I only regretted that in all of the hullaballoo I could not spend more time with her. Tsunami Ranger co-founder Jim Kakuk publicly gave Mike Staninec a Captain America t-shirt to match his boat. Mike Higgins appeared to be having a great time as he did the rarely seen and actually danced. (Very well, I might add.)

Capt. America, alias Mike Staninec, crosses the finish line

Capt. America, alias Mike Staninec, crosses the finish line

Scott and Steve recounted for the crowd how last year Bill rendered assistance on the water when they got themselves in a bit of a jam, and this year they were able to return the favor. The brotherhood felt among them kept them paddling together for the rest of the race – until the end, when Scott and Steve left Bill’s a** so they could finish first with a time of 1:08:10. (Bill came in a tight second with 1:08:43.) In sum, whether the gap is a week or a year, the party is a wonderful opportunity for fellow wave warriors, family, and friends to catch up.

Bill proudly displays his certificate of recognition and his prize beads

Neptune’s Ranger Bill Vonnegut proudly displays his certificate of recognition and his prizes

My opinion of this eclectic tribe of ours is the same today as it was almost a decade ago when I did my first Sea Gypsy: this is a motley crew hell-bent on benign anarchy and there is nowhere else I’d rather be than with them.

Tsunami Rangers Steve King and Scott Becklund emerge from the surf at the finish

Tsunami Rangers Steve King and Scott Becklund emerge from the surf at the finish to take first place

Here are the official race results. Thanks to Tsunami Ranger Dave Whalen as always for his help as timekeeper.

13 Boats, 17 Racers/Start June 8th – 12:08 PM

1st: Steven King & Scott Becklund
Tsunami X-2 Starship

2nd: Bill Vonnegut
Delfin P&H

3rd: Sergey Yechikov
Delfin T-34
4th: Don Barch

5th: Bob Stender & Michael Powers

6th: Mike Stamnec
Tsunami X-15

7th: Alan Marshall
Nootka “Lopaka”

8th: Jon Wittenberg
Tsunami X-15

9th: Richard Smith

10th: Mike Higgins

11th: Johnny Werbe
Mariner Express

12th:Ed & Aiko Anderson

13th: John Randall & Rich Blair
That’s it for this year, folks! See ya’ll in 2015!!!



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Put Yourself in the Picture! – The Armchair Sea Kayaker

June 9, 2014

ShareEditor’s note: This is one of the topics Eric had lined up for 2012. Some of the featured pictures he picked out himself and he specifically suggested that you “Put YOURSELF in the picture”. I can’t look at a painting of a seascape without evaluating it in terms of my kayak. Could I survive in [...]

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Fitness for Sea Kayakers – Hips

May 19, 2014

ShareHave you ever exited your kayak after a long paddle to find your first steps stiff and awkward until you find your “land legs”? When we kayak our hips are mostly stationary at about a 90-degree angle. Apart from getting in and out of the boat there’s not a lot of movement in those joints. [...]

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Riding Frozen Waves Of Water

April 28, 2014

ShareBy Tsunami Ranger Steve King As winter inevitably yields to spring I escaped to soar and crash down frozen waves of water in British Columbia not far from Revelstoke, Canada. I am not referring to a literally frozen wave of water, such as this image below from one of the Great Lakes during this winter’s [...]

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Sea Kayaking and Risk Homeostasis

April 7, 2014

ShareBy John Dowd Editor’s note: John Dowd has been sea kayaking since 1961. He is the author of “Sea Kayaking”, a manual for long distance touring. Dowd is also the founding editor and past part owner of Sea Kayaker Magazine and author of a series of marine adventure books for young adults. He is the [...]

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The Last Sea Kayaker

March 17, 2014

ShareI received the last Sea Kayaker magazine with mixed feelings. When Eric was alive I didn’t read Sea Kayaker much – just when there was an article about a place I found intriguing. Eric often railed at what he saw as uninteresting content and that put me off. One of his pet peeves was an [...]

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Sea Kayaking Microwave – Surfin’ Tsunami Style

February 24, 2014

Share By Steve King and Scott Becklund Editor’s note: The Tsunami Rangers refer to the wave at Mushroom Rock as Microwave for two reasons: it’s a mini-version of Maverick’s and there’s a naval station with radio and radar on the bluff above the break. Thanks to TR Michael Powers for all the great photos! Steve: About [...]

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February 1, 2014

ShareEditor’s note: Our featured poet, Katie Whalen, age 14, is the daughter of Tsunami Ranger Dave Whalen. We are reprinting her poem with her permission. Thank you, Katie. Rhythm by Katie Whalen  The warmth of the sun-beaten rock soaks into my skin. My legs dangle off the edge. Thirty feet below me I gaze upon the pebbles [...]

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Go For It!!! Commitment in Sea Kayaking

January 13, 2014

ShareCommit by Eric Soares Be there Scope it out Wait for the opportune moment Commit Commit with abandon Ride the grooveline Go ballistic Stay tuned Ambient to change Sense the crash Save yourself Be there Without commitment There is no fulfillment The venture fails The flower bears no fruit The love fades away The wave [...]

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