Hiking with boats at low water levels

9:33 p.m. on May 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Well, this is very exciting to see a new topic of such great general and specific interest. May I propose a discussion of hiking with a boat such as at low water in low-gradient streams. Don't know a good short label for it, sort of combination of boating and hiking and in fact it may require some of both which is of course part of the attraction. Go into remote wilderness in summer when the big-water rafters and hotshot kayakers have gone away with the spring snowmelt. Enjoy solitude while having more carrying capacity in the boat than one would normally want to carry in an ultralight backpack. Stack it in a dry bag on the back of a river kayak, in the hull of a sea kayak, or of course strap it into a small light raft or inflatable kayak. For conversational example...the Wild and Scenice Middle Fork Eel River in northern California has a generally moderate gradient and traverses a corner of the Yuki Wilderness in a 35-mile course from Elk Creek to Dos Rios. After Memorial Day in most years, the water is considered too low for a weekend boating trip but it makes a very nice hike-and-boat excursion of 3 or 4 days. Alternate between paddling long quiet pools and using the lead rope to snake it between rocks in the next small rapid....or, let's face it, occasionally drag it across a wet gravel or sand bar while wading in the clear water. No paved roads nearby for miles. Scenery alternates between open blue oak savannah, steep brush, black oak woodland, dramatic landslides. But mostly communing with the turtles which tend to get underfoot if you are not too careful. Must be more rivers like that out there: too high and wild for the amateur in the popular season, but quiet and almost walkable the rest of the year. Hmmmm?

10:40 p.m. on May 5, 2010 (EDT)
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The advent of Packrafts is addressing this very issue.

Right now a company called Alpacka is the only one making packrafts of any consequence. Ryan Jordan of BackpackingLight fame has been promoting the heck out of them.



Also saw a video of somebody taking one cross country skiing.

6:58 p.m. on May 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Just dont try this on the georgia coast. I have had to pull people out of mud pits that were waist deep. Low tide can be a pain around here, especially when the nearest tidal creek is 1/2 a mile through thick mud

12:53 a.m. on May 7, 2010 (EDT)
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Makes me want to get the real boats out of the garage when I see wide water like on the Jefferson River where they took that packraft trip. Light and strong-looking boats. Alpackas are far and away beyond the vinyl versions I used before I discovered hypalon as a river guide. For whitewater you will need a bigger boat or just portage a lot, as in some steep creeks where we just push the 10' rafts off the tops of the waterfalls and catch up to them below. Inflatables are nice a quiet compared to hardshell kayaks and canoes, no loud bumping on the rocks as you weave through. On my Grand Canyon raft trip my 16-foot raft had lots of room for 10 days for one person but I think an inflatable kayak is fine for walk-boat low-water rivers. Still a challenge in spring runoff in small boat. Montana has great rivers all over. Short list of easy seasonal scenic rivers to try: CA Forks of the Eel and valley creeks, OR Owyhee and John Day, NV Carson and Walker, AZ Gila and Verde; WY Powder and Platte. Then there is always Alaska...

11:26 p.m. on May 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Up stream travel is called tracking or frogging. You can also add poling into the mix. Pack rafts work great if you are going to hike in and raft out. Bear in mind two things about pack rafts. If the water is shallow, it will be a painful ride. As well, because they have little directional stability, they do not track well upstream, or line easily down stream. As with anything find a route that is appropriate for the craft you have, or find the right boat for the place you want to explore.

September 15, 2014
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