This off-grid wilderness lodge in California’s north-west corner is not your typical kayaking school. The family-owned Otter Bar Lodge, based in the town of Forks of Salmon, is a fully immersive white-water kayaking camp that offers cozy bed-and-breakfast-style cabins, gourmet meals and outdoor hot tubs for up to 14 guests. All camps are a week long and run from May to the end of August.
Otter Bar is secluded and a long way from civilization, located deep in the Klamath National Forest, between the Trinity Alps and the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area. 'It’s such an amazing area,' says co-owner Kristy Sturges, who has operated Otter Bar with her husband, Peter, since 1981. 'It’s very stunningly beautiful.'
After spending a full day on the scenic river, you can recover with a massage or relax in the sauna or hot tub, before joining the group for a farm-to-table meal, which will include handmade cakes and produce from the property’s organic garden.
Camp prices include equipment, meals, accommodation and a week of instruction for all levels of kayakers with professional guides (who teach with a low one-to-three instructor-to-student ratio). 'When you’re kayaking for seven days with someone who really knows their profession, they can tell from day to day what you’ve learned and what you need to work on,' Sturges says. 'There’s a continuity that you don’t normally get at other schools.'
Because of water levels, the start of the season (May) is for advanced paddlers, while the June and July sessions cater to beginner and intermediate guests. (Check the calendar to find the right session for your ability level.) First-timers, have no fear: you’ll learn the ropes—and the Eskimo roll—in a calm pond before venturing out onto the white water, and you’ll be paired with kayakers of a similar ability level.
California’s northeast corner is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with safe-to-explore volcanoes, hushed forests, and trout-filled rivers. This is the place for blue-ribbon fishing, houseboats anchored in cool lakes, countless campgrounds, and inviting trails for hiking and mountain biking.
"When I first caught sight of it I was weary and 50 miles away and afoot. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” --Author John Muir, upon seeing Mount Shasta in 1874.
All this, plus friendly towns like Chico and Chester, and inviting rural farms in fertile lands near the Upper Sacramento River. Redding, the region’s largest city, makes a good base, with riverfront trails, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, and elegant Sundial Bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
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