Sunday, June 1, 2008

2008-05-31 Tomalas Bay, CA Sea Kayaking

In a blur of activity we stuffed equipment into dry sacks, scurried about the house looking for and finding misc. odds and ends from the various closets and cubbies where we had stowed stuff, planned a simple menu, checked the internet for the cheapest fuel along the way, and we were off! Another great adventure in the making.

Car Camping options are somewhat limited near Point Reyes National Seashore for our first night, so we settled for a private campground on the edge of the park. It just so happens that the Santa Barbara Middle School had selected the same campground for their annual spring bike trip, so we shared the place with over 200 middle schoolers with the same number of bikes. Needless to say, it was a big boisterous, but there was no amplified music and everyone was quiet at a very reasonable hour. Actually we got a great campsite looking out over a wet land and hardly noticed anyone else at the campground.

The following morning, we met our friends Steve and Diane, and their good friends Olaf and his new wife and 1 year old son at a The Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station, where, over fresh scones and strong coffee we made final arrangements for provisioning. From there we set off to pick up and load the boats we were rentng from Bluewater Kayaking which is in Inverness, a sleepy, quirky, artsy quaint town tucked into the end of Tomalas Bay along the west shore. Inverness has a few restaurants, a library, a used book store and a collection of locals worthy of a Steinbeck novel.

Tomalas Bay lies directly above the San Andreas Fault, and is bounded on the west side by Point Reyes National Seashore and the Thule Elk Preserve, and on the east by very limited shore side residential development and the rolling agricultural lands of western Marin County. Here, the organic farming, and sustainable agriculture movement has taken a firm hold on the farming community, and the Nature Conservancy has been instrumental in assisting the local agricultural land trust organizations to
protect and reserve the areas scenic characteristics. A byproduct of this planning, is that Tomlas Bay flourishes with sea and bird life, and the water quality is exceptional supporting the local oyster farming outfits. Its somewhat constricted opening to the sea 10 miles westward permits the 4-5 food tide to flush the bay with fresh water twice per day.

We worked studiously to fit the weekend's worth of gear into three boats (two doubles and a single. (Olaf's wife and child hiked into the campsite after getting dropped off at the nearest trail head). Bags were reorganized, and refit, and then repacked again, but eventually, we pushed off the sand beach and paddled north in a dying ebb.

Immediately we were moving past pristine beaches and water side caves. Occasionally, there was a rickety, well aged dock protruding into the water, but there was no water level development on this side of the bay. We followed the shoreline northwest towards Marshall beach - our lunchtime and camping destination. Swallows darted overhead, and the large floats of grebes moved out just ahead of us. The water seemed almost warm as we dipped our paddles in getting the feel and balance of working together in the stable double boat like we do on the tandem bike.

We could see the wind building eastward against the ebb, and further out in the Bay, whitecaps were forming. Working the peddles in the rear compartment, I could adjust the thin rudder hanging off the stern to counter paddle strokes, wind, and waves which acted to push the boat off course.

Before I knew it, we had nudged our bow onto the smooth sand of Marshall Beach. There, above the high tide line,and waste high in the dune grass and ice plant was Olaf's wife and child patiently awaiting our arrival.

After a relaxing lunch sprawled out on the flake, we set up camp, unloaded the boats, then reloaded the food (since raccoons were known to be in the area) in our compartments and struck out for Hog Island, 4 miles further along the bay towards the ocean. The flood was building along with an on shore wind of 10-15 knots so paddling was becoming more difficult. We stuck to the shore, taking advantage of small eddies and the wind shadows from the shoreline fingers of sand but eventually there was nothing left to do but head out across open water to the island. Even though it seemed right within arms reach it took us 15 minutes of very continuous had work to reach the northern spit of the island. The southern (eastern) shore is a wildlife sanctuary with a seal rookery, so it is forbidden to land there.

Once we beached we were presented with unworldly view of a grove of mostly dead wispy eucalyptus trees covered with nesting cormorants. Seeing the trees covered with nests and fledgling birds was an amazing site. But to see a bird with webbed feet trying to stand on a tree branch is even more unusual. The parents looped overhead and took turns bring food the the nests. There was constant activity, like a bee hive overhead as we took our rest on the beach in preparation for the trip home.

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