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Our Karma RG’s arrived just in time for our annual Spring Run-Off Trip.  We loaded them up with our Zen’s and camping gear and ran-off in search of whitewater and wilderness.

It has been a record-setting dry year in California so we didn’t have many options.  We opted to journey north to the clear serpentine waters of the Smith River.  We had not paddled the Smith and were looking forward to checking out the whitewater as well as hiking and camping in the redwoods of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Jeff and I were amazed by the crystal clear waters of the Smith.  Both the Main and South Fork were running and offered lots of fun rapids and surf waves.  We did several runs on each.  I really enjoyed paddling my pink Zen 55.  It has just the right balance of speed, playfulness, and comfort for river running.

The South Fork of the Smith was especially scenic with an explosion of spring colors.  Bright green buds and new leaves on the trees dabbled with a Crayola spectrum of wildflowers wowed us as we journeyed down river.  Of course, we were intrigued by the carnivorous pitcher plants that grew along the banks of river.

On our final morning on the Smith, I choose my Karma RG for a Class III stretch on the Main.  I was blown away by how much fun it was.  I don’t have much experience boating long boats in whitewater and tend to like smaller river runners that I can move around easily.  When I paddled the RG, I felt like I was riding a thoroughbred that wanted to gallop down the river.  Once I figured out the speed of the boat, I started harnessing that speed to catch eddies up and down the river.  I was amazed at the nimbleness of the RG and at some of the ferries that I was making.  I began challenging myself to see how many eddy turns and ferries I could make on each rapid.  Fortunately my paddling companions were patient as I carved my way up and down each rapid.

Our spring run-off trip isn’t all about whitewater.  Part of the goal is to enjoy some quiet time in the wilderness before our busy summer season begins.  As we camped and hiked in the redwoods along the Smith River, we decided the next leg of our spring run-off trip would be a kayak camping trip near home on the Eel River.

From the clear serpentine waters of the Smith, we journeyed to the emerald green waters of the Eel.  Our goal was to load up our Karma RG’s for a mellow kayak camping trip in the redwoods along the Eel.

We knew that the Karma RG was going to have considerably more storage capacity than our usual overnight creek boats; however, we were surprised at how easily things packed into the boat.  Particularly, we were pleased with how easy it was to pack items in the bow of the boat in front of the bulkhead (one could fit everything in the stern but boats are easier to paddle if you distribute the weight evenly).

Our trip was plush as we got to take items that we often wish for on a kayak camping trip but have to leave behind.  We found ourselves packing luxury items like hiking boots, binoculars, books, and tasty beverages.

The speed and comfort of the Karma RG was nice as we paddled down the Eel.  The boat tracked well both with and without the skeg down.

At one point, I wished that I had my binoculars to check out a bird.  While floating down the river, Jeff was able to open the rear hatch of my boat and get them out for me.  We were continually in awe of the giant redwood trees and stopped frequently to take photos and admire the scenery and wildlife.  The river otters did not cooperate with our photography, but this Pacific pond turtle was undisturbed by our passing.

After 3 days of kayaking and camping on the Eel, it was time to head back to home on the Mendocino Coast.  We enjoyed a spectacular trip and are really excited about our new Karma RG’s but are a bit melancholy about the conclusion of our vacation and the end of our river season.

However, this is not the end of whitewater.  Now it is time for WHITEWATER of the SEA!!!