Monday, March 30, 2009

Places to Paddle: Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho


Harrison RV Park in the town of Harrison on the South East side of the lake, about an hour drive south from the town of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Harrison RV Park is on the waterfront, next to the town’s public marina. The Rails-to-Trails bike path called Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes borders the east side of the RV park. Lake Coeur d'Alene is 30 miles long and 1 to 3 miles wide.

RV Park info: The park isn’t big, so contact them regarding availability before making the drive. First come, first served “free” boat mooring for RV park campers. 208-689-3212 or 208-689-3393,

SUP-Harrison-BikeTrail.jpgBike trail info: Coeur d’Alene Tribe Trail Manager, 208-686-7045. The trail is 73 miles of 10 foot wide asphalt that is perfect for the cyclist, walker or in-line skater. Certified handicap wheelchairs are allowed.

Bike Rental and Repair: Pedal Pushers, 208-689-3436. Open in the summer and some Spring and Fall hours. Call first.

This place is great! The town of Harrison numbers 267 citizens. The Harrison Trading Co. general store rents DVD’s and Ruby’s ice cream shop sells bathing suits. Founded in 1891 and past its heyday by the 1930’s the tiny town is filled with historic buildings, many of them shuttered. The RV Park is a minute walk into town where you can get an espresso, a banana split or a pub dinner in a town filled with friendly people.

Rent a bike or bring your own and ride on the paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. It's part of the Rails to Trails cycling complex. Travel south towards Plummer and you’ll ride along the river before crossing the only bridge over the lake, a 3,100 foot long railroad steel trestle bridge built in 1921. From the RV park it’s about 8 miles to the end of the bridge to Heyburn State Park, the Northwest’s oldest state park.

The lake is surrounded with low mountains and a forested shoreline that ranges from steep to shallow and marshy. We launched in the marina and headed north into the shallow marshlands. We turned into the wide mouth of the south fork of the Coeur d’Alene river and paddled upriver for 20 minutes. Head high bamboo-like grasses and shorter aquatic plants thickly trim the rivers edge. We saw turtles, bald eagles, bear sign, deer, rabbits and fish. The lake water is clear, though because of past land use practices the lake has heavy metal contaminants. Placards in the marina advise showers after being immersed in the lake. This doesn't put a damper on the locals as they seem to swim and boat regularly.

Photos: Isabella Barna riding the bridge trestle on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene. The view of the town of Harrison and including the RV Park (on right) & the boat dock on left. (From the jetty.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fitness and Race Standup Paddle Boards

What's the difference between a race and a fitness standup paddleboard?

Most fitness paddling is done on boards that cross-over to surfing. Since the goal of the activity is "working out," it seems that any board will do the job. Well, not so! If you run for a workout do you wear hiking shoes! If you cycle on the road do you use a mountain bike? Of course not, you use the right tool for the job. For covering distance on flatwater what's important is glide. To get good glide on a board thats also designed to surf you simply go long, 11' to 12'6". For body weight over 170# consider 11'6"to 12'6". For under 170# consider 11' to 12'.

The ultimate standup paddleboards for glide are race boards. They are not good in surf, but if you don't surf, or if you are OK with a quiver (more than one board) then a race board is most pleasing for fitness paddling. The size of race board seems to be standardizing around the race classes, of 12'6"(and under), 14'(strictly 14'), and unlimited length (and design, including rudder steering).

Nate, editor of says, "14' is a race board class because they likely determined 14' to be the point where things start to get really FUN for full size or bigger riders on downwinders. It is a huge stoker to be getting longer, funner glides. So, if that is where the most fun is, and you are already riding that for max hoots, why not race that? It is not like a 14 foot board or even a 17 is much more $$$ than a race weight 12'6. At least from what I can tell, the difference in speed in going longer over a great 14' is pretty negligable, so deciding to go unlimited may be a tougher choice. But that is for downwind races. Things could be different for flatwater races."

Hard-core race boards use exotic materials like carbon fibers and hollow cores. They also can be narrow and tippy, sacrificing stability for speed. Citizen racers and fitness paddlers can consider less expensive constructions that still offer great performance. The board companies are labeling these boards with names like Distance, Expedition, or Touring.

For me, I can't wait to get a 14 footer. It will be a Joe Bark Expedition from Surftech and should be available in May '09. The other one I'm awaiting from Surftech is the Laird 14', available sometime this summer. Check for their arrival.

Along with design changes in the paddle boards are changes in stand up paddles. The SUP paddle blade trend is towards a smaller blade in distance conditions. In a down winder, the blade size can be larger because of board speed. Check out the Kialoa Methane paddle for distance paddling.

Note: In Oregon, two distance races (so far) are the Outrigger Canoe Race in the Gorge (formerly The Gorge Games) and the Odell Lake Pioneer Cup Canoe Race (6 mile race). 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Places to Paddle: Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Where: Wyoming. 25 miles north of the town of Jackson, WY and 12 miles south of Yellowstone National Park.

Where to launch: Many places on the lake are accessible. We launched at Colter Bay.
Contact Info: 307-543-2811. Colter Bay Visitor Center - 307-739-3594
Note: Purchase a boat permit at Bridge Bay. Price is $10.00 a week for each non-motorized craft. This permit is good for Yellowstone also (You’ll need an additional sticker (free) when you check in at the marinas on Yellowstone Lake.) Life jackets are required for all ages and all watercraft including windsurfers. Check with the Parks service for the most recent regulations.

On the west side of Jackson Lake the Grand Teton’s Mt. Moran juts straight out of the water and up 12,700 ft. The roughly 3 miles wide and 16 miles long expanse of water is garnished with small islands and many inlets teaming with wildlife. A mixed forest of pine and a few aspen with shrubs of willow and other plants edge the shoreline. The water is cold, clear and ranges from shallow shorelines to over 450 ft. deep. We saw bald eagles, many waterfowl and a family of otters. We paddled out of Colter Bay, though any of the marinas offer a great place to start. We like to paddle in mid-morning when the lake is glassy. We paddle towards the direction the wind will most likely originate from and adjust our course as needed. If the wind does pick up we surf the wind-chop back.

The weather can change very quickly. The glassy surface of a still morning can become whipped to white caps within 8 to 10 minutes. (This happened to us.) The wind-chop became swells within 30 minutes. High clouds on a sunny day can turn into a sudden mountain storm, complete with lightning and thunder. Jackson Lake supplies water for Idaho farm irrigation, so the water levels can vary year to year and within the season. Check with the marina staff for the weather report and current water levels.