Train Spotting on Elkhorn Slough

With a high tide of 6.2 feet much of the marsh on Elkhorn Slough is underwater. We found ourselves paddling over fences and right up to the railroad tracks. I wonder if the train engineers pay attention to the tide tables.

We launched from Moss Landing, assembling on the beach near Monterey Bay Kayaks. We were on the water at 9:30 a.m. Being a large group, about two dozen people, we formed several pods of kayakers. We paddled along mid-channel watching the sea otters. There were more sea otters than I recall from previous trips, and they seemed quite playful. Then we paddled over the marsh and up an inlet, passing through a fence.

Having explored the north side, we made our way to the south side of the slough where the water was lapping at the rails of the train tracks. Paddling on along the tracks we waited for an approaching freight train. The train was moving quite slowly, out of caution for the high water I would imagine.

It was 11:30 a.m. when we landed at Kirby Park, with the boat ramp completely under water. The current was just starting to ebb, which was a disincentive to paddling the remaining 1.5 miles to the railroad bridge.

After lunch we gathered for a group photo and then made our way back down the estuary, riding a growing ebb current. We were back at our launch site at 1:45 p.m. having logged 9 miles round trip. Along the way we saw plenty of bird life including terns, seagulls, herons, egrets, and a variety of other shorebirds, as well as sea otters and a few harbor seals.

We did have one kayaker capsize under the highway bridge on the return. The current apparently pushed her boat up against the bridge pylons and she flipped over. Fortunately, a couple of experienced kayakers were close at hand and managed to get her back in her boat.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Winter Paddling

People seem to be amazed that we go kayaking in the middle of winter. While much of the country is gripped by cold temperatures the San Francisco Bay Area is often mild. Even this January with the constant parade of atmospheric rivers and their deluge of rain and wind we’ve had some fine weather for paddling. In the spring the wind comes up and that can be a challenge for kayaking.

Yesterday we had rain. Tomorrow we’ll have more rain. Today we have a break in the weather. Seven of us launched from Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. There was some discussion about water quality, given the reports of raw sewage spilling into the bay, as well as debris and who knows what else coming down the river. Even so, we decided the risk was low.

We were on the water at 10:00, paddled out around Point San Pablo and over to The Brothers.

After passing between The Brothers, we picked up the ebb current and headed south towards an island near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Those of you that know the bay will know the location, otherwise you can check the map with the track of the trip on the map below. The island is privately owned and landing on the island is not advised. It was 11:00 AM when we rounded the island. We made good time with a 2-knot current giving us an assist.

After lunch we made our way back. After passing back through The Brothers two of our party split off and headed over to The Sisters in order to add a few miles to the day. The remaining five of us headed back to our launch site. The current prediction had slack water at 12:13 at Point San Pablo, although the additional water coming down the river may have had an effect on the currents. We had no current at 1:00 PM when we passed back through the islands.

Coming back around Point San Pablo we stopped to look at a sailboat that was on the beach, presumably a casualty of the recent storm activity. We did see a fair amount of debris in the water; driftwood, bottles, and plastic bags. Our paddle covered 6.9 miles, with a maximum speed of 7 mph when we had the ebb current with us. We were back on the beach at 1:25 PM.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Roof Rack Failure & Windsurfer

Sometimes it seems the hardest part about kayaking is getting the boat to the water. Getting the boat on the car and getting it off the car and to the water at the launch site can be a challenge. Today I had an added challenge. As I tugged on one of the straps to cinch the boat into the saddles on the car top carrier the cross bar came loose. On inspection I discovered that the support tower that secures the crossbar to the roof was broken. It would be easy enough to just pack it in, but a little voice in my head was saying, “Treve, if you really want to go paddling you have another vehicle you can use.” The racks for the truck were sitting in the driveway, so I accepted the challenge of seeing if I could get the kayak on the truck in time to make it to the launch site. Our intended launch time was 10:00. Google Maps was telling me that it was a 21-minute drive which meant I might just make it. Sure enough, I was able to get the kayak on the camper and on the road in a timely fashion. It was 10:03 when the six of us pushed off from the beach.

With the constant parade of storms coming our way we found a weather window with perfect conditions for paddling. Our course took us past San Quentin State Prison, then under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and on to Loch Lomond Marina. Just for fun we tried squeezing our boats through a narrow gap in the pilings at the end of the breakwater at the Yacht Harbor.

Time for lunch, but in my haste to get on the road after the roof top debacle I did not have time to make a lunch. Andy’s Market has a fine selection of deli foods and a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup, and a loaf of Judy’s bread hit the spot. And don’t forget the chocolate that seems to be ubiquitous on our paddles.

On our return paddle we had calm water and building clouds. We paddled out around the Marin Islands and then back to our launch site, and of course ferry traffic since Windsurfer Beach is close to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

My story starts with car top racks, so it’s only appropriate to end with a photo of my boat on top of my camper after the paddle. We covered 8.5 miles over the course of our paddle. Here’s a map that shows our track.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Starting the New Year with a Splash

Once again, we started the new year by going kayaking. This year it was a paddle sponsored by California Canoe and Kayak (CCK). They offered to provide boats for any of us that wanted to invite friends, so we invited two friends. You can see Kristina here on the dock getting help adjusting the foot pegs.

You can also see Kathryn getting outfitted with a sit-on-top kayak. Not having any experience in a kayak, a sit-on-top seemed to be appropriate given its stability. Now it’s time to get on the water. A couple of us enthusiastic paddlers thought it would be appropriate to assist Kristina in a “seal launch,” guiding her boat as we pushed it off the low dock. Not a good idea; she went bottom side up as soon as her boat hit the water. To stay right side up for this kind of launch you need to be able to use the paddle as a brace, not a technique a novice paddler would know.

Kristina, being dressed in a wetsuit and a good sport, was back in her boat and on the water with a smile. Kathryn found her boat a bit slow compared to the more experienced paddlers in touring boats. When some more energetic BASK members offered to give her a tow, she was happy to accept.

Our destination was the Tidewater Boating Center about 2-1/2 miles from our launch site at Brooklyn Basin. Once we reached the boating center, we got out of our boats for snacks and a break. A couple of experienced paddlers were eager to give some instruction on technique for an efficient forward stroke, something that’s quite valuable for covering distances in a kayak.

After the break we climbed in our boats and headed back to our launch site. Our route took us under three bridges, and we had the opportunity to watch the Park Street Bridge open to let a few sailboats through. You can see Kathryn under the bridge. If you look closely, you can see that she is being towed by another paddler. We returned to our launch site where we enjoyed an extravagant potluck meal. A great way to start the new year. Our paddle covered 4.7 miles.

More photos are available in an on-line gallery.

Point Reyes Retreat

Christmas was an opportunity to gather together as family. We had our two kids, their spouses, two grandkids and two dogs. On Christmas day we opened gifts and feasted on turkey and roast beef. After spending a day exploring local attractions including the Oakland Zoo, we piled into two cars and drove to Inverness, a 45-mile drive, where we had reserved a vacation rental for the better part of the week.

One morning I got up early to go photograph the tree tunnel. This is a feature that has been on my list to explore for some time. Not your typical tourist attraction, it’s simply a road lined with Monterey cypress trees planted in the 1930s. It caught my attention after seeing photos posted on Instagram.

It was a foggy morning, and I was hoping that the fog would create a sense of mystery. My plan was to arrive during the blue hour and to be done when the sun came up. The foggy mood I was anticipating didn’t happen but getting an early start did pay off. When the sun came up the light added drama that I was not anticipating. It turns out the tunnel is oriented almost east-west, so the morning sun creates an interesting effect. This image is available as a fine art photo in my art store at store.treve.com.

No visit to Tomales Bay is complete without a visit to the Bovine Bakery, a favorite haunt for pastries and coffee. Then we had a day with a break in the rainy weather and we headed to Limatour Beach, one of the few beaches in the Point Reyes National Recreation Area that is dog friendly.

And no family adventure is complete without grandma reading stories in front of a warm fire. On our last morning together, we piled into two cars to brave the fog and stormy weather to drive out to the lighthouse. You can see the car ahead with half of our crew is nearly lost in the fog. It was a blustery walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform. The lighthouse was lost in the fog, so we created our own Point Reyes Light with an iPhone. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Four Islands

There are 18 islands in San Francisco Bay. On December 15, we visited four of them, The Sisters and the Marin Islands, all off limits. Our adventure started at China Camp Village Beach. Four of us were on the water at 10 a.m. We paddled out to The Sisters where we “threaded the needle,” Grendel’s Needle, a narrow slot in the rock on the west side of the west Sister. With the ebb current, it was simply a matter of lining your boat up with the slot and letting the current woosh you through. From The Sisters it was an easy paddle with the current to reach the Marin Islands.

We adjusted our ferry angle to compensate for the current which would have caused us to overshoot our goal without correcting. Sometimes you have to paddle in what seems like the wrong direction to compensate for the current. The islands which constitute the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge are named after the Coast Miwok man known as Chief Marin. We recently learned that not only are the islands protected, but much of the water to the north of the islands is also protected.

Once around the islands we headed for Loch Lomond Yacht harbor where we took advantage of the new kayak dock to disembark from our kayaks. After lunch we made our way back to China Camp, taking the most direct route. We logged 8.5 miles over the course of the day, landing back on the beach shortly before 2 p.m. It was another very pleasant day on the water.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

de Young: Ramses

December 16 was another day to play tourists in our own backyard. This time our adventures took us to the de Young Museum. While the history of ancient Egypt is a fascinating subject, I have had little exposure to it. The exhibit we toured was “Ramses the Great,” a fascinating presentation. The exhibit runs through February 12, 2023. The pyramids were already ancient when Ramses ruled. The great pyramids were constructed between 2700 and 1700 BCE. Ramses was third king of the 19th dynasty (1292–1190 BCE) of ancient Egypt and reigned from 1279–13 BCE. His reign was the second longest in Egyptian history.

Ramses was known for his building campaigns and military exploits. Among his many building projects were the Abu Simbel temples and Per Ramessu, his family home on the Nile River. Ramses is said to have fathered 100 children. He reigned for 67 years and lived past the age of 90.

It’s also interesting to see how museum displays have evolved. Projected images make for some stunning and informative displays. I found myself reminiscing about the days when using multiple 35mm slide projectors was high tech. The digital age opens up whole new possibilities. There’s also a separate virtual reality exhibit where you can put on a VR headset, sit in a chair that simulates motion, and be whisked through the Abu Simbel temple.

After touring the exhibit, we had lunch at the museum cafe. We then drove the short distance to explore the Presidio Tunnel Tops, San Francisco’s newest park. We were impressed with the playground, a location we’ll return to with our grandkids when the opportunity arises.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

SFMOMA: Diego Rivera

November 22 was a day to play tourist in our own back yard. We had reservations to see the Diego Rivera exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We also included a visit to Salesforce Park, an amazing park situated 70 feet in the air and spanning four blocks.

Our outing started with a short drive to the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station. We were concerned about parking, but when we got to the station at 11 a.m., there was an abundance of empty parking slots. We rode the train into the city and got off at Montgomery Station. It was noon when we exited the BART station. Downtown San Francisco was like a ghost town. There were very few people and many of the restaurants were closed. We walked the short distance to SFMOMA and headed to Café 5 on the fifth floor.

We both ordered the Chicken and Cilantro soup and then found a table outside in the Jean and James Douglas Family Sculpture Garden. One of the gingko trees was in full fall display and the “Love” sculpture seemed to be calling me. I’m hearing “can’t buy me love,” by the Beatles.

The soup was delicious, although it was a bit tepid by the time it reached us. Our tickets for the Diego Rivera exhibit were for 2 p.m. so we had some time to explore the museum. The Oculus Tunnel by Olafur Eliasson was fun.

Then it was time to explore the Diego Rivera exhibit. I was able to pull up the audio tour on my iPhone and listen to the discussion about Rivera’s work. My hearing aids act as wireless earbud, which makes for easy listening. While I was aware of some of Rivera’s work, I had forgotten about his involvement with communism and the influence he had on the art world. It is quite an extensive display and well worth a visit.

One of the pieces on display is the Pan American Unity mural which is huge. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could photograph it in sections and stitch the sections together. My effort worked better than I had imagined, although I ended up losing some of the top and bottom of the work.

From SFMOMA we walked to the Salesforce Transit Center where we found our way up to the park, home to 600 trees and 16,000 plants arranged in 13 different ecological zones. I was intrigued with the “Bus Fountain” that dances to the movement of the busses on the lower level.

Playing tourist in our own back yard was fun. Sometimes we forget how much there is to see and enjoy here. We’re making a list of more things to do locally so stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to view more photos online.

Oban

Following our stay in Edinburgh we took the train to Glasgow and transferred to a second train to Oban. You can see a photo here of me with my carry-on bag and daypack in the Glasgow train station. We wanted to avoid checking luggage for air travel, so we packed light, or at least light for our purposes. That roll-on bag has my travel tripod and laptop computer, spare batteries, chargers, as well as clothes. For travel photography I use a Sony RX100. I also had a GoPro and a waterproof Olympus TG-5 for kayaking.

Our itinerary had us in Oban for just a couple of days before joining Wilderness Scotland for a kayaking adventure. Check out my other Scotland blog posts for more about that. While we were in Oban, we hired a guide to take us around a few of the sights nearby. Martin, our tour guide, did an excellent job of showing us some of the sights despite a grey rainy day. And then on the evening of August 25 we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary with dinner at Ee Usk, an excellent sea food restaurant on the pier.

After our kayaking adventure and hunkering down a few days with COVID, we returned to Oban where we rented an apartment. This gave us the opportunity to rest. Once we were feeling better, we explored more of Oban taking in a tour of the Oban Distillery, visiting the island of Kerrera, and visiting Dunollie Castle.

While Oban has some very fine restaurants, one of our favorite places to eat was MacGillivray’s Seafood on the pier. They serve excellent fish and chips, scallops and langoustine.

You can view many more photos from around Oban onlne.

Edinburgh

We landed at the Edinburgh airport on August 22 after flying from San Francisco to New York and then transferring to a flight to Edinburgh.

Our flight from San Francisco was delayed an hour and a half. Fortunately our connecting flight from New York was delayed as well. Transferring planes in New York was a bit stressful since we had to hoof it from one terminal to another, then pass through TSA inspection again with our luggage in tow in fear that we’d miss our connecting flight.

We spent three nights in Edinburgh; hardly enough time to see the city, but our preference is to minimize our time in cities and to explore the countryside. We found a Bed and Breakfast just off The Meadows that was convenient for walking to many of the sights we wanted to see. We also found the public transit system worked well. I wrote about our walk to Aurthur’s Seat in an earlier post. Edinburgh has so much to offer that it demands at least a few more words.

Having checked into our accommodations we were anxious to explore the city. We didn’t get far before hunger took over and passing a pizza joint we opted for pizza and beer to celebrate. Pizza on our first night in Scotland seems a bit lame, but so it goes. Over the next three and a half weeks we had the opportunity to enjoy much of Scotland’s culinary offerings from seafood to black pudding and haggis.

On one of the evenings in the city we made our way up the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle where we found our reserved seats for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Wow! What an extravaganza; so many bagpipes. The performance included military bands from all around the world as well as a Mexican Dance troop, Banda Monumental De México. This was quite an entertaining event. Highly recommended.

And of course, as a photographer, one of the things I like to do is to explore the city at dusk. Another adventure took me to Victoria Street and to a viewpoint of Edinburgh Castle.

And no visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to Dean Village. We had a lovely walk across town to Dean Village, a beautiful village right by the Water of Leith. You can view more photos online and read more posts about our Scotland trip as well.

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