Don’t Trust the Map

This adventure takes place on July 16 as part of our three-day trip to Point Reyes while camping at the Olema Campground. We spent one day kayaking and one day hiking. We based our hiking plan on a map that turned out to be out of date.

Perhaps we are a bit old-fashioned, but there is something comforting about being able to spread out a printed map and get a sense of a place larger than what you can see on a smart phone or GPS unit, not to mention that you don’t need to recharge batteries. So having consulted the map in the morning, we decided on a hike that would originate at Muddy Hollow, follow the Muddy Hollow Road the the White Gate Trail, then on to the Estero Trail, looping back to our origin. This is a lovely hike that meanders through oaks and pines, crossing several streams lined with lush green ferns and alders, and out onto the more open coastal savannah.

We had a very quiet hike, seeing only a half-dozen people over the course of the day. We did see a few elk, at a distance, a few wildflowers and a few birds. When we got to the halfway point, we were looking for a trail junction that never appeared. It showed on our printed map, but not on the GAIA GPS map I was using to track our hike on my iPhone. We had to surmise that the trail on the map no longer existed, which led us to walk a few more miles than we had planned. When we returned to the car we had logged 10.6 miles. We were happy to know that we can still hike that distance over easy terrain. You can view more photos here and look at the track of our hike in more detail here.

Paddle & Party

April 1. Our adventure today includes a paddle on Tomales Bay followed by a party at Heidrun Meadery to celebrate David’s birthday. Seven of us were on the beach at Marconi Cove ready to get on the water at 10:00. We launched on a low tide and paddled across the bay to the Point Reyes Peninsula and then north paddling in flat calm without a breath of air. Temperatures were predicted for mid-70s so I opted to leave my dry suit behind. The calm water gave us a view of thousands of jellyfish just below the surface.

I stuck my waterproof Olympus TG-5 under the surface of the water and snapped a bunch of photos hoping my might capture some of the moon jellies. Low and behold, I actually captured a few images that were worth saving.

Once across the bay we paddled north along the peninsula landing at Tomales Beach for an early lunch. Then it was back to our launch site. Our paddle was just shy of eight miles. You can view the track of our paddle below or click here to see more details. We were in no hurry, but anxious to go taste some wine.

We packed up or kayaking gear and drove the short distance to the Heidrun Meadery for a wine tasting with wines made from honey. These are sparking wines made with the Champagne method. Who knew there could be so many flavors of mead, with the flavors based on the source of the honey. Buckwheat, sage and wildflowers were among the flavors we tasted. Once we were lubricated with bubbly we broke out the cake.

Since we were all sufficiently vaccinated we opted to enjoy the camaraderie sans masks. The last time I was without a mask in this large a group was March 14, 2020, when we had a party to celebrate my birthday. Plenty more photos to share. Go here to see them.

A Tale of Two Boats

On November 30 we put our two wooden boats on the water at Drakes Estero. It’s a 50 mile, 75 minute drive from our house to the launch point. We opted to drive out to the Point Reyes peninsula the day before and spend a couple of nights at a lovely little Airbnb rental so that we could enjoy the paddle without having to get up early. High tide was predicted for 10 a.m., and my plan was to be off the water by 2:30 when the sandbars would likely be exposed.

I’m paddling a Pygmy Coho, a kit boat from Pygmy Boats. The Coho was built in 1999, so it’s marking 21 years of use. At 17.5 feet long it’s a full size sea kayak. Joann is paddling the Ronan, built in 2017. I have to confess that if I have my choice I’ll choose the Ronan. The Ronan is 14.25 feet long. The Coho has very little rocker, so it’s fine for passage making when you want a boat that tracks straight. It’s also great for camping since it will hold quite a bit of gear. Sad to say, Pygmy Boats is not producing kits at the moment, and it remains to be seen if they will be back in business. The Ronan is a bit livelier with more rocker and a hard chine, and I find it a more playful boat especially if there is some wind, waves, or dynamic water. Today we anticipated flat water and little wind, so the Coho seemed like the boat for me.

I decided to capture some video with my GoPro camera. Here’s a link:

I alternated camera positions between my helmet and the deck, experimenting with different camera vantage points. I’m never content with just one point of view.

We paddled out the Estero to Sunshine Beach, just opposite the entrance to the Estero. Here we found ourselves feeling just a bit of the swell from the ocean while paddling through the glistening fronds of a kelp forest. After a quick stop, we were back on the water hoping to get across the sandbars before the tide dropped and before the wind picked up. We meandered back through Home Bay. In Home Bay we found the propeller of a WWII P-39. Check out an earlier blog about the sunken treasure.

Over the course of the day we logged 10.5 miles. On the return trip we did find that we were paddling into the wind, with the wind blowing 12-15 miles per hour, not enough to cause concern. Over the course of the day we logged 10.5 miles, a very pleasant paddle, and we were back on the beach at 2:15, ahead of the falling tide. We did see a few birds, including white pelicans and numerous shorebirds, along with a few harbor seals.

Drakes Estero is one of my favorite places to paddle. It has the feeling of a pristine section of the California Coast. It’s within the boundary of the Phillip Burton Wilderness, so there are no motorized vehicles. The Estero is subject to closing for seal pupping; check with the park service if you plan to visit.

Check out an earlier post here. And an earlier Youtube video here.

Hunt for Sunken Treasure

The word was, that if we were lucky we might find the propeller of a World War II fighter plane that went down in Drakes Estero. The tide has to be just right. If the tide is high the propeller is underwater. If the tide is too low, there’s not enough water to float a kayak. As it turns out our timing was perfect. We launched from the location of the old Oyster Farm and paddled about 2 1/2 miles down the Estero and into Home Bay. The propeller is not far from the eastern shore of the bay.

During WWII Drakes Estero was used as a practice bombing range. It seems hard to imagine P-39 Airacobras flying dive bombing missions over the bay, given it’s current peaceful state.

The usual paddle on Drakes Estero is to launch from the beach at the parking area, the previous location of the oyster farm, and paddle down the bay to the sand spit at the entrance for lunch and return. Here’s a link to a Youtube video I put together a couple of years ago of a paddle on the estero. We were paddling as part of the 2018 BASK Skills Clinic. Our group decided on an alternative plan. We decided to poke into Home Bay and look for sunken treasure, the treasure being the propeller of the P-39. We were lucky enough to find the propeller and then, with a nice beach close by we landed and had lunch. With a rising tide, the propeller was just about all under water when we finished lunch and our boats were just about to float off the rapidly diminishing beach.

Back in our boats we were amazed to watch several schools of bat rays and a few leopard sharks gliding under our boats in the shallow water. With the hopes of capturing one in a photo I stuck my waterproof camera in the water, over the side of my kayak, and snapped away.

Amazingly enough, I actually captured one, although not something to brag about as far as quality of the photo is concerned. When we returned to our launch point the wind was picking up and the fog was moving in. Perfect timing for a pleasant day on the water.

 

Log of the Shearwater July 21, 2016

This past Thursday, July 21, found me once again, taking the day off of work and joining several BASK friends for the “Thursday Lunch Paddle.” We launched from Nick’s Cove. When I arrived at 10:45 the weather was looking grey, chilly and windy. I opted to wear my dry suit for a little added protection. Once we were on the water though, the wind seemed to let up a bit, and paddling across the bay put us in more protected waters. We paddled past Hog Island over to White Gulch,  where paddling along some of the cliffs felt like we were in an exotic garden. Plenty of white pelicans and cormorants on Hog Island, and plenty of harbor seals in the water. From White Gulch we headed to Pelican Point where we landed for lunch, enjoying some fleeting sun light. The return paddle found us battling the wind back up the bay Hog Island, with the skies darkening a bit. Finally returning to our launch point.  You can view additional photos here and a track of our paddle here.

Log of the Shearwater July 2, 2016

Kayaking on Tomales Bay
Kayaking on Tomales Bay

With the tides looking good and Drakes Estero open following the spring seal pupping season we thought we’d go for a paddle. When we arrived though, there was a stiff breeze and fog, and it just looked like slogging into the weather was not going to be much fun, so we headed for Hearts Desire beach, which while only a few miles away is more protected. We had sun and blue sky when we launched our boats, and we paddled  South East along the Point Reyes Peninsula, stopping on a small beach to eat lunch. It’s always a pleasure to paddle along the rugged coast. You can view additional photos here, and you can view a track of our paddle here.

Red rocks and roots
Red rocks and roots Point Reyes