We drove through Yosemite a few weekends ago. It was packed with summer travelers and waterfall gawkers. The major falls are glorious, and fuller than they have been in years. New, smaller falls have even appeared much to the delight of park goers.
As we drove through the park, out past Mono Lake, we were stunned by the high water levels and snowy peaks in early July. We laughed, thinking that we could even cross-country ski in some spots above 7000 feet.
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Recently I joined a mini reunion of college pals in Sun Valley, Idaho for a trifecta of outdoor activities: mountain biking, fly-fishing, and river kayaking.
Read all about it in the San Francisco Chronicle travel section: Sun Valley’s Summer Rush.
Cue the Deliverance Music.
It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves. We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March. The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the thought of a trip down the Mekong was the stuff of nightmares. The place was a war zone, and the only way to see it was courtesy of Uncle Sam. But thankfully times change, and today the great river that runs from China through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is accessible to anyone who wants to put paddle to water, assuming you have the proper paperwork and know your way around.
Which is a good reason to find an outfitter who can handle the logistics. Some top adventure companies offer trips on the Mekong, but these are mostly cruises. For journeys by kayak, Bangkok-based river explorer Steve Van Beek brings something extra: 40 years of residence in Southeast Asia and almost as many years exploring the region’s rivers. Continue reading »
It was a hot summer day and I had promised my youngest son I would take him and his best friend, one of my best friend’s daughters, canoeing on the Russian River. We left early and drove up to Guerneville, a small town along the river in Sonoma County. I wasn’t sure what two almost six year olds would make of the adventure, but I was excited. I have fond memories of canoeing on the East Coast from my childhood and did it a few times on the Russian River in the early nineties. Visions of swimming and frolicking in the river, picnicking on a sandbar and most of all enjoying the day with my husband and the two kidlets got me revved for the escapade. We did some research and found a company named Burke’s Canoe Trips that does half day adventures. This sounded great, but not with the wee ones; maybe with my ten year old and a buddy though. We found Johnson’s Beach, a really quaint spot, where you could rent canoes by the hour; perfect for our questionable passengers. When we arrived we found a sweet little beach spot which reminded me of spots in NY I visited as a kid in the 70’s; really low tech, really friendly and family run. It wasn’t fancy but I liked it like that. You could rent an umbrella and a buff dude would come over and pound it into the sand for you. The snack bar served soft serve for a dollar and you could rent inner tubes to float along if you didn’t want to paddle. The changing room was a wooden structure with hand-made curtains; loved it! Continue reading »
I’ve never been to Texas, unless you count changing planes. Austin interests me, the music scene and the reputation for hip and eco friendly folks; sounds like a great city. I know a few people who have moved there and say it’s affordable and very livable. I also have an old friend from Dallas who moved back there and swears it’s an amazing place. I am a coastal person, can’t be too far from an ocean and Texas, deep in Red America, I must admit, scares me a bit. But, I heard an amazing tale on the radio the other day about a renaissance of outdoor activities on the notorious Rio Grande River. The natural boundary between the U.S. and Mexico and the final resting place for so many who try to cross it illegally, has an ominous image. I guess I never thought about the wonders of the famed big river. The natural habitat, the birds, kayaking; the report was so uplifting. Continue reading »
Last week I was invited to a friend’s rental house in Inverness in Marin County, on Tomales Bay, surrounded by Point Reyes National Seashore, with my five-year-old. We left the house at 7 a.m. to maximize our visit, stopped at House of Bagels (the best bagels in SF) and bought loads of yummy stuff and headed over the bridge. The sun was shining and I was so looking forward to spending quality time with my friend and her family.
Inverness is a small village named after the Scottish town and there is so much to recommend it. Continue reading »
I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.
I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.
Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »
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The water below barely rippled, a sheet of blue reflecting star sapphire or lapis lazuli, brilliant in the morning sun. From my spot on the bowspirt it looked impossibly distant. For more than two years I’d dreamed of being in this place, high above the Aegean Sea with the sun on my shoulders and that deep blue bleeding into indigo like a memory long forgotten.
I took a deep breath, gazed at the horizon, looked down once more, then dove toward that memory. Down, down, arms reaching, chin tucked, feet pointed, down to the sea, slicing without impact into that lapis pool, cool silk caressing my skin. Down, down, into that radiant mystical sapphire that dazzles like a sunrise, like a shooting star, like a full moon glimpsed through autumn trees. Down into that blue that is so blue it feels like it’s reaching into the cosmos. Continue reading »
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the best board sailing destinations on earth (for example, watch this video and this one too). In spring and summer, when it’s hot inland and cold on the coast, the low inland pressure sucks coastal air up the gorge. As the gorge narrows, it acts like a wind tunnel, creating winds of phenomenal speeds. But some days the wind just doesn’t blow. And that’s when you just paddle around with your dog.