Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” January 2008.
In 2006 I traveled to Africa; Kenya and Tanzania. It was a “trip of a lifetime” and the impressions sunk in deep. The landscape was beautiful, raw and serene. Upon returning, my head was full of the sights and wonder of where I’d been. But what really took hold is the realization of how the Earth over there is the same Earth over here! I know, “Duh!” But what I’m getting at is that whether in Africa or the Napa Valley, I’ve become aware of the importance of traveling responsibly, which is becoming well known as “eco travel”. For me this means that no matter where I venture out into the world I can be aware of how I tread upon the Earth and the impact I have on my environment.
Now, I’m not going to be climbing Mt. Everest, or probably even Mt. St. Helena for that matter. Nor, will I be white-water rafting in Costa Rica or Truckee any time soon. I’m pretty much a softie and seek out milder forms of adventure. But along with an easy hike or bike ride there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in Napa Valley and I’m sure there are other “eco travelers” who would like to know they are traveling responsibly while enjoying our famous countryside. One such activity we can recommend is Napa River Adventures.
On a chilly morning in December I invited my friend Isabelle to join me on a leisurely cruise up the Napa River. Isabelle is quite outdoorsy and you’ll normally find her in a kayak on the river. But, as I said, this was December and chilly, so my softie-style seemed more appealing. I made our reservation by phone and we boarded the boat at the Kennedy Park boat launch.
Captain Kevin Trzcinski is the owner of Napa River Adventures and the adventure is on a charming New England-style dory, with a blue canvas canopy. The dory is a twenty one foot electric boat with a fiberglass hull designed by Electracraft and manufactured in California by Catalina Yachts. Twelve deep-cycle marine batteries compose the power plant with a charge time of fourteen hours and a run time of eight to nine hours. An electric vessel is an eco-friendly vessel as there are no toxic emissions in the water or air. As Captain Trzcinski stated, “Electric boats have been around for over one hundred years, but only within the last 20 years have they been gaining in popularity. As fuel prices continue to rise, these boats are becoming even more attractive”. There is also comfortable, cushioned seating all around inside and a table to accommodate your picnic snacks and beverages. It’s all quite stylish; real softie-style indeed! We were accompanied by a young couple from Iowa, sporting a top-notch digital camera with an impressive zoom lens. The Captain kept his eyes open for unique wildlife and maneuvered the boat closer to the shoreline to help our photographer capture several photos of a wide variety of birds along the river.
I too had my simple “point & shoot” camera with me and for awhile I was twisting and turning in my seat to capture photos of Snowy Egrets, Cormorants and a King Fisher. One of the best parts of the cruise was Captain Trzcinski’s knowledge of the river and wetland wildlife, another his notable command of Napa’s history along the river. I decided to settle in and observe how our Napa River winds around the downtown. As the boat hummed along I listened to the Captain’s narrative, and enjoyed imagining the scenes of the 1800’s; the burgeoning business of trade and transportation. The Captain also pointed out that Napa played an active role in the Gold Rush. Miners stayed in Napa on their way to seeking fortune and returned to spend their hard-earned riches when Lady Luck had been a willing paramour. I found a good resource for Napa’s history at http://www.cityofnapa.org under the “Visitors” section. You could impress your visiting friends and family with the valley’s colorful history and take them along on a Napa River Adventure. For booking information go to http://www.napariveradventures.com
There’s always a tug-of-war inside me: country or city? I love the rural landscapes we still have throughout the Napa Valley. I think of Africa and the vast, untouched valleys and I fear that we may finally cover up all that we have. But I also love cities and the beauty in the architecture of buildings, the genius of design and engineering. Now I see both striving to fit in along the Napa River. I mourn the loss of historic bridges and marvel at how cool it’s going to be to walk along the promenade from the Hatt Building to Veteran’s Park. I hear of a proposed wildlife refuge in the oxbow of the river and fantastic hotels along its banks. Country or city? I can never decide. For now I will take my cue from my friend Isabelle. As we puttered back toward Kennedy Park she spoke, perhaps mostly to herself, “I’m just happy to be on the river”.