Monday, November 28, 2011


THE LEADING EDGE of December turned out to be a sixty-degree day. Whether or not this was a weather mirage – the Tule fog common to the area never showed up this morning – I would take advantage and ride smack into the middle of autumn. It was the GSA’s turn for a run so I saddled up and went looking for fall.

BEFORE RETURNING to motorcycling, I built a kayak from a kit. My Pygmy “Golden Eye” is light, stable, and maneuverable; plus, the mahogany plywood makes her a real looker.

(c) Pygmy Boats

John Lockwood; (c) Pygmy Boats
The story goes that John Lockwood, the developer of Pygmy Kayaks, was an outdoorsy sort who endured a tragic construction accident – one which left him with limited mobility from the waist down. Resourceful gentleman that he is, Mr. Lockwood used his computer savvy to create a lightweight vessel that proved to be quite seaworthy. He could return to the wilderness – sometimes for months at a stretch(!) – and along the way, so could many of the rest of us. The maiden voyage of my Pygmy Kayak was on Lake Clementine.

A LUSCIOUS SINGLE-LANE STRIP of pavement leads to Lake Clementine from Foresthill Road, east of Auburn, California. This day, the damp, shaded curves are blanketed in slick, fallen leaves, the likes of which I’d hope to photograph while still on their trees. A break in the forest cover affords a nice view of the North Fork Dam, a debris dam built in 1939 to mitigate the unnatural flow of mining detritus from 90 years prior. There being no outlet at the bottom of the dam, water simply fills the basin and cascades over the top. The good news for kayakers is that never do they find a “bathtub ring.” The area foliage always grows right down to the water’s edge.

Ample parking greets the boater or skier or fisherperson. I find an inopportune place and hike down to the boat ramp. While a couple is loading a pair of kayaks onto the roof of a Honda Pilot, I think about how little attention my Pygmy has received since I re-entered the realm of motorcycling.

A view from the dock offers a find view of the top of the North Fork Dam. The still water has that mirror-like quality that paddlers long for. The reflection of the south facing canyon wall is picture perfect.

Looking eastward, a small seasonal marina is located a few yards away. Just around the bend from that, I recall from a paddle trip some ten years back, is a maple with flaming red leaves. Somewhere I have a slide of the tree and its mirror image. Somewhere. Can’t get to it now without a boat.

Wandering about the parking areas, I do find some fall colors still clinging to a Freemont Cottonwood.

In a drier micro-environ, a red-berried Toyon invites pause.

WITH A BIT OF LATE AFTERNOON sunlight remaining, I wind back up the canyon wall and find a spot beyond the pool to peer into the depths of the North Fork Canyon.

Along the crest of the ridge, black oak leaves still hold, but with the next cold storm, surely will cover the pavement; ancient trees again waiting for a spring thaw and the promise of renewed life.

All in all, a satisfying ride for a day when normally one would only dream about the road. I head home thinking that I must rescue that beautiful mahogany craft from its sad and dusty mooring in my garage and, again, venture to the far reaches of Clementine.


Pygmy Boats – beautiful kayak kits that draw little water but many, many appreciative glances. If I can build one, believe me, anyone can! More details at

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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