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Archive for the 'Random: Gear, Musings and Poetic Prose' Category


Where in the World is AO? Pura Vida en Costa Rica!

February 13th, 2013 by Amy diVittorio
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Dave and Jason, Playa Uvita, Costa Rica

Seems we may have a migratory pattern evolving with our AO staff.  Ever since Pam, former guide and manager of AO’s Merced operation, established a unique beach-side hostel in Playa Uvita, Costa Rica the AO migration has only increased. It’s no coincidence she calls it The Flutterby House. We’ve got AO guides migrating there like a bunch of Monarchs.

While many AO folks of past and present have visited, two of AO’s favorites are spending their winters “working” at Pam’s brain child. In the Spring Dave manages the North Stanislaus River and in the hot summer months he’ll guide you down Clavey Falls on the T or drive you up the narrow Middle Fork take-out road (beads of sweat dripping from his brow!). But today, my friends, he is on a much-deserved stay-cation. He is reported to be as  giddy as a carefree 12 year old whose biggest concern is fitting in surf sessions in between fresh ceviche, karaoke en español, and a little “work”.  Seems Dave has really taken to heart the local saying in Costa Rica, “Pura vida” (pure life).

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Dave and Jason donning AO threads!

Also roughing it the tropics is Jason, one of our favorite South Fork/Middle Fork  guides. Armed with some Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons and a smile  Jason is learning about toros, purrujas, and surfing(ocean-style).

We miss them both and can’t wait to see them in April for early season rafting.

It’s a Happy New Year — Snowpack Update

January 10th, 2013 by Amy diVittorio

by Sarah diVittorio, Dec 2012, Sierra at Tahoe

Well, (knock on wood) 2013 is off to a fabulous start thanks to a remarkable hand-off in the final stretches from 2012. The six weeks of wet, cold storms in December covered the Sierra Nevadas with a brilliant blanket of snow. We water sport enthusiasts are delighted to be skiing on that snow today and, before you know it, we’ll be rafting on it.

Now my mother says not to count your chickens before they hatch but, a wee winter storm update couldn’t hurt, right? According to blogger Bryan Allegretto of The Tahoe Daily Snow we have already received 55% of the seasonal average and we have a lot of winter ahead (not to mention we got several inches last night). Below average temperatures and intermittent snow are keeping conditions ideal in the mountains. The California Department of Water Resources reports that the Folsom, New Melones, and Don Pedro reservoirs are at or above 100% of historical averages. This means that upstream reservoirs on rivers like the South and Middle Forks of the American, the Tuolumne, and the North Stanislaus are likely to be full and ready to spill in the Spring. At this point we are looking at similar conditions to 2010 (yes, my fingers are crossed).

So, if you were wondering if you should take advantage of our Pre-Season Sale, I think the answer is clear. But, wait! Maybe you don’t know when you want to raft. Maybe you don’t know where you want to raft. Eh, no worries… with the Pre-Season Sale you can purchase a certificate in January, get 25% more for money and use it like a credit toward the AO trip you choose. This is the best promotion we do all year because it allows you to save some of those hard-earned dollars and raft on your own schedule. Remember, the sale ends at 5pm on January 31st. After that, new 2013 rates go into effect. Carpe Diem or forever hold your peace.

 

So Many Reasons To Be Thankful

November 16th, 2012 by Amy diVittorio

Mark Dubois and George Armstrong at the CRA

As it is the month of Thanksgiving I’d say it’s time to count some of our blessings here at AO. Last month AO’s founding father, George Armstrong, was honored at the C.R.A. Gala. George received the Mark Dubois Award for his leading role in furthering river conservation. In the 60′s George pioneered an outdoor education program at Mount Diablo High School where he was a teacher. It was called Summit Seekers. At the Gala I met Terry, a student of his who became a leader in the program. She says that nothing remotely similar existed at the time in the area and that what George had started was groundbreaking.  He was leading groups of teens into the backwoods, down remote rivers, and up rock cliffs.  His students learned life skills, survival skills, an appreciation for nature and an appreciation for the swift hand of discipline.  Oh yes, if you hang with George’s former students long enough you’ll hear some fun stories. Like the time George took the Summit Seekers on a snow camping trip and found some students drinking alcohol in a tent. You’d think he would have confiscated the liquor, returned to his tent, and poured himself a stiff drink, right? Like any other adult leading teens on a snow camping trip would be tempted to do, right? Wrong. George ended the excursion then and there. They got out of bed, they packed up, they hiked back the to cars, and left for home… at 2 in the morning… in a snow storm. (Yes, I know it sounds crazy and, I think you are getting the point.) I could go on and on, as can George’s students and children. He has created a rich and spirited tradition of adventure in the outdoors coupled with a deep understanding of the need to respect and protect the land we love.  I am fortunate to work for a company with roots as deep and pure as these. It is a rare and blessed thing.

Goodwin Canyon 2012

I mean, if it weren’t for George (and our dedicated, hardcore, bad-to-the-bone guests) we wouldn’t have been on  Goodwin Canyon just three weeks ago having a BALL! And, I had better not leave out a big thank you to Mother Nature. We have already had two great storms, the Sierras are snow-capped, AND we have 5-6 days of rain ahead.  I repeat…there are so many reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

After Rafting Hang Out in Lotus-Coloma

August 29th, 2012 by cameron

The bus rattles to a stop back at the All-Outdoors parking lot along the South Fork American River. Taking a deep yawn you stretch your limbs and climb out of the bus into the bright sunlight. You say a last goodbye to your guide. It’s sunny. The day seems like it’s only half over, like you could re-up your energy and have a whole other adventure on the day. And why should the trip be over? In my opinion a rafting trip starts when you wake up in the morning to drive to the river and ends when you fall asleep at home at the end of the day.

Here’s my route for extending a rafting day:

1. Take a shower at the All-Outdoors facilities. I actually don’t do this first step myself, as I like the feeling of being sun-kissed and a bit dirty. But for many, washing off the rafting grit feels absolutely refreshing. Our showers are nice too.

2. Drive left out of All-Outdoors and go until you hit a dead end. Turn left again and you’ll drive over the river. Hotshot Imaging is on your left, but we’ll get to that later. Drive straight on by and you’ll come to your first destination…drumroll…the Shell gas station (Tada!!!) This might seem to you like an unlikely first stop, but in through the door and to the left are a couple of big freezer boxes full of frozen, ice creamy treats.

3. Turn left out of the Shell station and backtrack down to Hotshot Imaging. They took your photos on the big rapids of the day. It’s a great place to check out your pics and finish your frozen treat. Don’t forget to gaze over Hotshot’s “Rafting Wall of Shame.”

4. Now turn left yet again to go back towards the Shell station. Pull into the parking lot just before the station and get yourself some dinner at Marco’s Pizza. The place has a great vibe, and on weekends there is often live music.

Now that you’ve made the most out of your full-day rafting extravaganza, you can brave the drive home and drift blissfully to sleep in the comfort of your own bed.

Got to the South Fork Too Early? Not a Problem

August 20th, 2012 by cameron

You’ve done all the planning just right. You booked your rafting trip on the South Fork American River. You printed directions and packed up the car the night before. You even left yourself an extra 45 minutes of drive time just in case there is traffic…and there was no traffic. So now your 45 minutes of buffer time has made you exactly 45 minutes early. You sheepishly pull into the All-Outdoors parking lot and find a group of guides busy preparing the rafts for the trip.

“Hey,” they say, “It’s great to see you, but we were expecting you in like 45 minutes.”

I’ve found myself, as a guide, in this predicament as well. It’s better to be early than late, but 45 minutes is a long time to kill, especially in the morning when all your energy is focused on this whitewater rafting trip.

So here’s what you should do if you find yourself rolling into Lotus way before you’re supposed to get there. Drive straight past All-Outdoors on your left, and keep going until you hit a stop sign. You’ll be at a 3-way intersection. Make a left to drive over a bridge, and you’ll cross over the river (which you’ll be rafting on later). Make your first left into a parking, and right in front of you will be a great little, local bakery called Sierra Rizing. They make decent coffee, a really nice chai tea, and all of their pastries fresh that morning. They even serve breakfast most days. The seating is cozy, and if you sit there for a bit, it’s fun to watch all the rafting folks come through on their morning routine.

Planning too well doesn’t have to make the morning awkward if you’ve got the right backup plan.

   

Rafting Trip Lunch: Food the AO Way

August 17th, 2012 by cameron

When I was a kid, my family was always the one that brought food to the event. At baseball games I’d look enviously over at my friends’ hotdogs and nachos as I unwrapped my cold, soggy, mostly smushed ham sandwich. I tried to bargain with my parents, though I had nothing to bargain with. I begged and pleaded for sodas, cotton candy, and slices of gloriously greasy pizza, but to no avail. I think it scarred me. To this day I have an aversion to anything that comes in a plastic sandwich bag.

Fear not, though, children and adults alike. All-Outdoors has done away with the pre-made ham sandwich. We start you out with chips and salsa with a block of cream cheese sunk into it (an odd, but completely delicious combination). Next, some fresh chopped up fruit. Then check out this lunch spread!

And Here’s the breakdown. We have a variety from bread; sourdough, whole grain, rye and that delicious buttermilk white. Next we have your condiments. There’s the standard mayo and mustard is there. But we also have the spicy mustard, good hummus and the classic PB&J (my favorite for a dessert sandy). Now keep going and you see all those lovely vegetables? Well they are packed with nutrients, including fibers, vitamins, and antioxidants. Plus they’re freshly chopped and delicious. We’ve got everything from lettuce and tomato, to red onion, cucumber, red bell pepper, avocado, and even artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Finally we’ve got your meats and cheeses, a selection of both, and even some tunafish (if you’re into that sort of thing). So DIG IN!!!

Leaving lunch on an All-Outdoors trip never leaves an empty spot in your stomach. In fact people are usually so full and satisfied they risk falling into a food coma, a sweet siesta as we coast on down the river under the warm sun.

A River Guide’s Morning

July 4th, 2012 by cameron

It’s early in the morning. You wake up, somewhat begrudgingly, somewhat excitedly, and  go through your somewhat truncated morning routine. You wake your kids or your roommates and load up, bleary eyed, into the car yawning and wiping the sleep from your face. It’s still dark outside. Maybe the first bit of morning light is tinting the sky.

A couple hours later you are more awake. The sun is bright and hot as you pull up to the meeting place for your whitewater rafting summer vacation. Some paperwork, a PFD (Personal Floatation Device), a paddle, and a pre-river orientation later and you are down at the cool water of the river meeting your guide, who introduces his or her-self and assures you that you’re going to have an awesome day.

But what has this sun-branded, messy-haired reader of currents been doing while you’ve been yawning down the highway, telling your kids to stop hitting each other, and wishing to God you had a second cup of coffee?…

I’m not sure when or where I heard the phrase “hurry up and wait,” but it never made much sense to me until I started guiding rafting trips. It is the perfect cliche phrase to describe the average morning of a river guide. One moment you’re rushing, panicking, stressing that you have the right amount of safety gear. The next you’re all set for your trip laying in the bottom of a boat, looking at your feet masking the sky as the sun creeps up above the last of glorious morning shade.

A guide’s morning starts with breakfast and a guide meeting. Who’s on what trip, who’s in charge of food, gear, greeting people, what the logistical complications of the day are,  etc. It all gets hashed out in the morning meeting. There’s lot’s of joking, lots of laughing, lots of lounging.

Then it’s ready…set…break! and flurry of motion breaks out. Boats get blown up, gear is divided, water bottles are filled, paper work gets prepared in one big hustle. Each guide addresses his or her-self to a task, either rigging boats with food and gear or preparing for guests to arrive. And nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to be caught out jobless, doing nothing, looking like a lazy, slacker, newbie.

On the best days it feels and looks like a well-oiled machine. It’s fast, efficient, and, dare I say it, even fun. We get our laughs in and our work done all in good measure and order. On the worst days it is a mad, paranoid rush. Are we sure everything’s in order? Did we forget anything? Why are there four people filling up water bottles while nobody is on the truck blowing up our last two rafts?

But inevitably, with varying degrees of anxiety, the preparation work gets finished. Then the trip manager looks down at his or her watch and finds there is some incredible amount of time left before guests are even supposed to arrive.

So we fret a little more. We gather our personal rafting gear here. We make small adjustments to our rafts there. It takes a bit to get the edge off. Finally, we kick back, find a comfy spot and affectively relax, waiting for guests to arrive and the trip to start.

California Gold Rush History

September 16th, 2009 by Tessa Sibbet

It’s that time of year again when kids go back to school and California’s 4th graders arrive en masse each day to learn a little more about the Golden State. As a follow up to our previous entry about saving Marshall Gold Discovery Park, I thought I’d give you a very brief version of California’s Gold Rush History.

James Marshall’s discovery of gold in California was actually an accident (how lucky). He stumbled upon a gold nugget on January 24, 1948, while building a sawmill in Coloma for John Sutter. When the actual mill was completed, they diverted water out of the South Fork of the American into a ditch (called a tailrace), so that water would continually flow through the mill. The water brought minerals and sediments along with it, and the heaviest mineral (aka gold), was left in the tailrace.

When Marshall found the gold, he knew immediately what it was, but he and Sutter did a bunch of tests to confirm. They tried to keep quiet about it, however word spread quickly that there was gold in the American River. Local rumors turned into national newspaper articles and by 1949, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children had made their way to California to try their luck at prospecting.  The South Fork and Middle Fork Valleys were significantly more populated than they are today, with estimates of well over 10,000 people living in each area. A few folks struck it rich, but most, including James Marshall, were no wealthier in the end.

Numerous artifacts and remnants of the Gold Rush can be seen on all three forks of the American River. The most obvious is the Marshall Gold Discovery Park and the most fun is Tunnel Chute rapid on the Middle Fork of the American. From far above the river, viewers can make out a large horseshoe bend where the river once meandered. The miners very creatively diverted the water into a chute and chipped and blasted through a cliff where. Today, the water plunges through the chute and calms down in the tunnel. The rapid really should be named Chute Tunnel, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well.

Now when you come rafting on the South Fork or the Middle Fork of the American, you can show off to your raft mates and fill them in on a very important piece of California (and US) history.

cartoon wombat explains it all for you

March 16th, 2009 by Malina

This wee wombat video is the perfect diversion. Hilarious! Totally true! Breakin’ it down! Check it out:

www.global-mindshift.org

Hiking Along the Rubicon River – A Good Addition to a Rafting Trip on the American River

July 31st, 2007 by Robyn Suddeth

dsc_0016.jpgLast week, my family was in town for three days. Not that long of a time, right? And I love my family. But in a town like Coloma, (on the South Fork of the American River), you can’t really expect visitors to be self-entertained. So, I had to come up with activities for us to do for all three days. I had one day down, of course: a rafting trip on the Lower South Fork. That part was easy. But what to do for the other days?

I decided to take Scott A’s advice and drive about an hour north-east to the dsc_0050.jpgnext watershed north of the American: the Rubicon. We parked on Elicott Bridge on Eleven Pines Road, and hiked up the north side of the river. It was an awesome place to spend the day exploring. The trail takes you up on a ridge overlooking the river canyon for the first two miles, than drops back down into the canyon to some great swimming holes right where the South Fork of the Rubicon comes in. Time permitting, you can even cross the Rubicon at that point (more…)