Head two hours from the California's Eureka-Arcata Airport on nail-biting, one-lane roads through the Salmon River Gorge, over hundred-foot-high cliff edges and steep mountain passes and you'll find yourself at the Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School. The remote lodge sits between the Trinity Alps and the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area in the northwestern corner of California, more than an hour's drive to the nearest gas station and completely out of cell phone range. Once you arrive, the real adventure begins.
"Getting there feels like entering a less-spoiled dimension," says Outside's Grayson Schaffer, a Class V kayaker with 12 years of boating experience.
For the last 25 years, Otter Bar has been the premiere destination for learning to kayak. Its seven-day, all-inclusive beginner program takes learners from the flat water of their backyard pondwhere veteran instructors teach roll and paddle techniquesto the surf waves of Class III rapids. With an intimate teacher-student ratio and impeccable safety standards, holding your breath under water never felt easier.
"We're not here to scare anyone off from the sport," says Kristy Sturges, who owns the lodge with her husband Peter. "We want our guests to be comfortable."
Comfortable indeed. The luxury accommodations include a wood-fired sauna, post-river massages and chef-prepared meals of blackened salmon with mango salsa and homemade mint chocolate mousse for dessert. Guests can also relax in a seven-room lodge just steps from the river.
"There's enough to worry about on the water," Sturges says. "Here, once you're off the river, you don't have to worry about a thing."