In good company

Every time we’ve gone kayaking on the Russian River has offered a different adventure—always fun, but always its very own special kind of experience.

Sometimes the river is full of other happy vacationers splashing and floating around, and there are plenty of cheery waves and hellos to other folks paddling by, and we can hear the laughter and conversation of picnickers enjoying a leisurely lunch on a beach or a sandbar. Sometimes it’s a serene paddle on a stretch of river so quiet that the water’s surface almost looks like glass.

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Kayaking on the Russian River near Northwood Golf Course in Monte Rio.

But even during the area’s busiest times, there are peaceful moments at some quiet bend in the river where it seems like we have the whole place to ourselves.

Whether the river is bustling or calm, the scent of the surrounding redwoods always seems to drift down to the water, and the hotter the day, the more refreshing the light splashes from the paddles dipping into the water.

It was a quieter time at the end of last September when we went out for one last kayak trip of the summer, before Monte Rio Parks and Recreation’s beach rentals closed up shop for the season.

We rented a double kayak, left Monte Rio Beach and headed upriver towards Guerneville—the current isn’t very strong in the summers, especially the past couple years when the river has been so low.

Not long after we left, we realized we had some company on the river. We were so excited to see a beautiful blue heron just hanging out on a dock along the river, watching us in the kayak. It was a thrill to see this big, beautiful bird. We stopped paddling, and after a few minutes of observing the heron, and the heron observing us, we zoomed in the cameraphone as far as it would go—we didn’t want to disturb this beautiful bird (and so this shot is not as close to the heron as it might seem. We’d never want to get too close: it’s important to us to admire, but not to disrupt the local wildlife in any way).

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A very zoomed-in shot of a beautiful blue heron enjoying a moment on a dock.

We passed the heron and continued our trip upriver for a couple miles before we turned around and brought the kayak back to Monte Rio Beach. We were a little sore the next day (and a little sunburned—sunblock works better if you don’t just forget it in your bag!), but so glad we went for one last paddle of the season. It’s always worth it, and now we’re looking forward to another amazing summer of kayaking on the Russian River.

 

To plan your own kayak trip:

 

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Look for this sign at Monte Rio Beach to rent kayaks/canoes.

Monte Rio Parks & Rec’s rentals will reopen on Memorial Day weekend—simply head to the building at Monte Rio Beach to rent canoes, double or single kayaks, as well as inner-tubes and beach chairs.

 

There are also a number of other rental companies and kayak/canoe tour operators in the Russian River area, including King’s Sport & Tackle in Guerneville and Burke’s Canoes near Forestville.

 

 

 

 

Part of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge—Jubilant

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Seeing the forest for the trees

We love the redwood forests around the Russian River—and all around Northern California—but sometimes when we see something a lot, it can start to become part of the scenery. It’s scenery that we love, of course, but not something that we always notice as much as we used to, when we were first coming to the area. Or so we thought.

Sorting through some of our photos the other day, we realized how many shots we’ve taken over the past two years of the redwood trees around the house, Monte Rio, and just the Russian River area in general. So apparently we’re still enjoying the local landscape, even when we’re not consciously doing so.

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But our surprisingly large cache of redwood forest photos offered us a good reminder to just slow down more often and really think about the beauty of these trees all around us: the shaggy fibrousness of rust-colored bark, the almost primeval look of the simple, frond-like leaves, the gentle sway of the towering trunks as they flex, ever so slightly, with the wind, and the glow of the sunlight filtering through the leaves.

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So the next time we’re out on a walk, or even driving on the Bohemian Highway or Hwy 116, we’ll try to notice all that our cameras have seen, and really appreciate the forest—and the trees.

 

Part of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge—Earth

A drive through the seasons

This shot was taken on a day that ultimately turned out to be sunny, with temps in the high 70s. That day seemed like it went through all the seasons in 12 hours, from rainy winter in the morning, warming up to spring by noon, and hot, sunny summer in the afternoon. By evening, a little chill in the air returned and it felt like fall—which it actually was. Dressing in layers (or just bringing extra layers) is the best way to hedge all bets if you’re headed to the Sonoma Coast.

We were out for a drive north of Jenner on Highway 1, just to see the sights. It had rained most of the morning and a heavy mist settled on the coast, which made for quite an atmospheric drive, if not exactly the scenic one we were after. Fog swirled across the highway, which did limit visibility a little. It was the kind of weather that made us long to be back at the house, sitting  by the fireplace with a nice steaming mug of tea, but at the same time, we really enjoyed the beauty of the mist, and it was a fun drive, even if it wasn’t the one we had planned on.

An ongoing highway construction project has created a one-lane stretch of road for about a mile along Highway 1, not far from Fort Ross, with temporary traffic lights set up on either end of the construction zone. It’s usually about a five-minute wait at these traffic lights—and on a clear day, the view makes for a great distraction during the wait. We got this shot when we stopped at the southern end of the construction area.

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Stopped at a construction zone on Highway 1, looking northwest toward the ocean and enjoying the raindrops on the windshield.

 

The glow of the red light through the fog seemed a little dramatic, highlighting the starkness of the misty landscape, and making the warm car seem that much cozier. Visibility wasn’t great, but nowhere near as bad as this suggests—it’s just that the camera focused on the raindrops on the windshield, and we liked the way that looked.

When we stopped at this spot, we could have probably turned around, headed back to the fireplace and hot tea, but we decided to keep driving. And we’re glad we did. The rain cleared around noon and the day turned out sunny, clear and beautiful.

 

Part of WordPress’ weekly photo challenge—Abstract