RUSSIAN RIVERBy: Tim Mena • timgmena.com
The Russian river makes for a nice leisurely summer float trip.
With two good friends and their hound we set off from Healdsburg and head down river to Guerneville.
The first leg of the river is a lush stretch that gently meanders along sand bars, downed Alders, and small riffles. High above, Ospreys hunt for lunch as Barn Swallows buzz just overhead. In the distance we spot a bald eagle in an ariel squabble with a few unruly crows.
The river is empty. Just our two canoes. Day tripper seldom paddle this stretch because of the lack of take-out access. We find a nice gravel bar to call home for the night. After a perimeter sniff from a trusted hound, we make camp. Dinner always tastes better cooked over a campfire while basking in the last puddle of summer sun.
In the morning we take down camp quickly and watch the fog break as we enter the redwoods groves and steeper rocky terrain. Finally we meet our first river companions - two fishermen in float tubes and fly rods. They were probably just as surprised to see us. As the Redwood corridor thins out we approach a small dam. An easy portage with a little mud slip n' slide adds some fun to the simple task. This is where the solitude of the trips ends.
Soon we enter the land of day trippers. We float past a canoe outfitter and notice that two canoes are already stuck in the deadheads on the river bank while a third canoe struggles to stay righted. Suddenly we are surrounded by an armada of rented (and heavily dented) aluminum canoes. It becomes a game of bumper boats, so we paddle swiftly and try to keep our distance.
As the summer sun beats down on our backs we spot the beach where we left a car. Although far from it, we looked like frontiersmen/women emerging from the river in contrast to the bronzed skinned, cooler toting sunbathers. As always the take-out seems to come sooner than desired.