Field Notes: California’s Klamath River Part III

When we got to the campsite, we found Josh already had a fire going.  Which was great because it was dark and we were still wet.  Josh had decided to meet back up with us to ask if he could join us on the 20 mile paddle to the Klamath River mouth as part of the Tahoe SUP EXPLORE Project.  We were ecstatic!  We had the extra board and although Josh also had never SUP’d before, he couldn’t shake the desire to try it after watching us having so much fun.

   Now it really felt like the plan had come together.  Bartering a little standup paddling instruction for two days with Josh and the chance to pick his brain about his family’s history and his work with the Mid Klamath River Watershed Council, didn’t feel like we were bringing much to the table. And of course, it would turn out that he didn’t need much instruction either.

  Clouds were low, but spirits were high around the campfire as it felt to me that the group was hoping for news like this.  Josh already had an impact on us in such a solemn and understated way, to know that now he was in it for the next 48 hours was exciting. There was something about Josh and I felt deeply fortunate that he was joining us.  

  Dave’s guitar was out and music was lifting into the night like sparks from the fire. A lyric from one of the Pearl Jam songs resonated ironic for me.
     All these changes taking place
     I wish I’d seen the place
    But no one’s ever taken me

   

     The misty morning was giving way to sunshine as we packed our gear and prepared to have “no service” for the majority of the next 48 hours.  Putting in at a spot called Johnson’s, offered a wide, mellow section of the river for Josh to take his first few strokes on a SUP.  As we lazily stroked upstream and Josh steadied his 6-foot-4-inch frame over the board I looked over to see a seal checking us out.  Twenty miles from the ocean.  Pretty cool.

     The whole day was a blessing.  Bald Eagles launching from atop vertical river bank Redwoods to investigate us.  Drifting down on Black Bears curiously surveying our approach from the shoreline. Ospreys making off with lunch in their clutches.  And the boldest of all, the Great Blue Herons, would always seem to swoop much closer to eyeball and give us a squawk.

    We came to the Blue Creek confluence and Josh explained this was part of the Yurok Tribe’s ancestral territory.  I would not describe this spot as anything less than sacred.  The first thing I noticed was the decidedly more blue looking water than the Klamath and the visible line of the two waters mixing.  As I paddled my board upstream into the flow of Blue Creek, slightly obsessed with staying on that line of the two waters, I was mildly aware that Dave was swimming.  He had bypassed the confluence, jogged up the Blue Creek bank and was immersing himself in a magical shallow pool.  I was very glad he did.  It bought me more time to spend on top of  the babbling mix of these two mesmerizing waters.

   Just as the rain returned we found a sandy river bank that looked like the spot to sleep for the night.  As soon as the fire was going, the rain let up and we feasted on Chinook Salmon steaks that Josh had brought and cooked on Redwood sticks.

Click here for Part II

Click here for Part IV