Deb Turner led four of us on an all-day, socially-distanced paddle to Drake’s Estero in Marin. Liam briefly enjoyed sailing, but the day was calm. We even had a sprinkle of rain as we had lunch on the sandbar separating the estero from the Pacific.
Anet Paddling Toward Ocean
Liam Rocks His Aussie Hat
As we paddled back from our lunch stop at the beach, we got a little too close to the seals sunning themselves on a sandbar. A naturalist saw this, put down his sandwich and paddled furiously to intercept us before we got too close. I was surprised because I had been concentrating on following the group and avoiding the shallow water and did not notice that I was on track to overrun them.
The Seals Can Be Hard To See
Bob Gray brought his wooden boat and enjoyed the beautiful day.
On the way back, we tarried at Home Bay, one of the fingers of the Estero, because it is home to some leopard sharks, bat rays, and jellyfish. The heavy silt makes it shallow, so the water is warm. Bill and I enjoyed chatting as we hung out.
Anet and Bill Crowe near Home Bay
Beginning Boater Brian Carroll did well, even though we all got in a bit of trouble for getting too near the seals that were lounging near the beach sandbar.
Brian was accompanied by his friend Bill Crowe who invited us all to Rancho Nicasio afterwards where we enjoyed a socially-distanced beer and food with a view of a beautiful garden.
I think this is going to be my “vacation” for socially-distanced 2020. A cut on my left hand prevented me from camping earlier in the summer, and the fires started on August 19. I wish I had taken a dip in the ocean while we were stopped for lunch, but it was cool and rainy and I didn’t think of it.
I spent two nights on the Conception with a Sierra Club trip to the channel islands in October 2017. It has a main stairway from the passenger bunks below deck to the kitchen on the main deck and also a secondary escape hatch which they made sure we knew about in the Emergency Procedure Drill they held. The hatch opened to the main deck cabin, which we all saw was engulfed in flames. I am also a diver and have slept on other boats and you are right, they are similar. Typically, the crew sleeps close to the wheel house, far from the passengers. I am stunned by this tragedy.
The Conception at Daybreak
The Secondary Escape Hatch Was Under The “N”
I have not yet written about the Sierra Club trip because it was shortly after the October 2017 fires in Santa Rosa. I had planned the Channel Islands trip months earlier, and paid for it in advance, as required, so I had to go. Frankly, I was grateful to get out of Santa Rosa even though I was coming down with a massive cold contracted in the shelters. But more on that later.
It has been over 100° in Santa Rosa for a couple of days. To avoid cooking, I am enjoying my favorite camp fare: previously grilled chicken thigh, quinoa, and caponata (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, capers, olives, vinegar).
The sky would be as dark as possible after 2 a.m. on Sunday August 11 because that’s when the bright, three-quarters moon set. I rose from my tent and walked to the end of the pier (see below). Walking in the dark in the pre-dawn hours in an unfamiliar place, using red cellophane rubber-banded over my flashlight to retain my night vision, was a challenge. The lake pier was only about half a mile from my tent, but it required several turns. Distances seem so much longer in the dark. There were audio cues, like the water rushing over the dam, and roadway cues, like the bridge just below the dam. When I reached the cow catcher by the park entrance, I realized I had made a wrong turn and had to retrace my steps in the dark.
The meteor shower was beautiful. I saw about four in 30 minutes, sitting in my little green fold-up chair on the pier. While the vast sky was great, next time I will find a meadow to lie in with my sleeping bag. Our camp (site 60 in the RV area on the south side of the lake) was in the trees that ringed a meadow. Sites 61 and 62 were in the meadow in the center, just across the narrow paved road. Earlier in the day, we hiked toward Rockbound trailhead and Dark Lake and found this beautiful meadow. Trey took this photo using my cellphone.
The Rockbound trailhead is the gateway to many stunning vistas and is very near the tent campground on the west side of the lake. I would love to someday set foot in Desolation Wilderness.
Here is the map with notes for tent camping and kayaking. Note the rocky tent sites near the Rockbound Trailhead. These sites are have comfortable privacy but they are a long carry from the lake. Sites 1-3 are close to the small beach adjacent to the pier which is a good put-in, and they are well removed from the day use area which can get noisy. The RV area is called Meadow Loop on the south side of the lake. Trees rim the meadow, so the sites on the outer edges have more shade. The RVs use bright motion lights at night and the generators can be noisy in the afternoons as they provide air conditioning, so it is not ideal for tent camping. There are clean pit toilets and good-tasting cold water from the spigots. A very enjoyable campground when you choose your site wisely.
Dark Lake is just above the Rockbound Trailhead and has a nice, small, beach put-in right by the road. One would have to move the vehicle to the nearby parking. Notice the little squares on the map on the north side of Dark Lake. These are summer homes that have been grandfathered in by the Eldorade National Forest. There is a nice path around Dark Lake, pictured below.
The Wrights Lake campground did not open until after the Fourth of July because of the late May snow. About a week before it opened for camping, Trey and others camping at Ice House Reservoir had driven over to check it out. They were able to paddle the small lake and liked it so much we returned six weeks later. The campsites can be reserved through Recreation.gov until about mid-October, the Camp Host told us, and then it is walk-in (first come first served) until snow closes the camp.
My efforts to get to Utica Lake for the annual meteor display have failed for the last three years due to smoke from forest fires and insurmountable logistical difficulties. I was so happy to get a chance to join photographer Trey Steinhart and his wife Becky in this area named for the dairy farmer who worked the land until about 1950. The drive from Santa Rosa took four hours on a Sunday morning in mid-August. The tricky part is making a left turn on Highway 50 which is only a two-lane mountain road in this stretch just a little north of Kyburz. Thank the stars that a space opened up just as I needed to turn.
The sign above appears just about where the “31 min” indicator is on the map below. The six miles are to the turn onto Route 50, north of Kyburz.
About a year ago, Jane Richter reserved space in Silver Lakes for the four-night annual Old But Not Dead Yet (OBNDY) camp out. She kept following up with the Forest Service as the June 27 start date got closer, but on the morning of the 27th the Forest Service cancelled our reservations. Jane and others were already on the road, so we scrambled to find campsites on the weekend before the Fourth of July holiday.
Marin Canoe and Kayak club was camping at Ice House Reservoir and they found spots for Lori’s RV, Trey’s Trailer, and Jane. They captured the first-come sites on the main loop that were doubles and allowed the space to be shared. Deb Turner pitched her tent in next to Lori’s spiffy new Travato RV. Jane’s friends shared her double site.
The map at left shows the main loop with Units starting at 1. The yellow highlight marks where the car campers were. Liam and I found space in an adjacent loop on the other site of the Boat Ramp which is a tent-only area. These were not car camping sites like Jane’s in the first loop. We had to carry in our equipment about 1000 yards from Liam’s truck which was parked the boat-ramp parking lot, but we scored the beautiful site 39 right on the water which allowed us to tie up our kayaks near our picnic table.
The reservoir was beautiful and featured two dams, one of which seemed to drop off the edge of the earth.
Photographer Trey Steinhart was with us and captured this breathtaking image of dawn the next morning.
Just a few moment later, some Canada Geese swam into view, looking for breakfast.
The OBNDY paddlers joined the Marin Canoe and Kayak Club for a great, midday paddle. I am the third kayaker from the right, in the green boat.
Trey and the others paddled the next day at nearby Wright’s Lake. I plan to check it out soon because it looks great.
The King Tide (+7 feet) coincided with a spectacular full moon, flooding the salt water marsh just north of Monterey, CA. We were able to get much closer to wildlife than usual, and were surrounded by friendly sea otters and wary seals. Banks of kerlews lined the edges of the water and formations of pelicans punctuated the sky.
Liam, Anet, Jane, Becky
Photographer Trey Steinhart paddled with us both days. Because he takes the pictures, he rarely appears in them. I took this photo of him, but he took the next few following.
Liam sailing back – photo by Trey
Curlew Flock – photo by Trey
photo by Trey
We got an early start on our first day, Monday, and it was quite chilly. The Petaluma Paddle Pushers set out in two waves: some about 30 minutes before us, and the rest about 15 minutes before us.
The King Tide flooded areas that were normally dry. Here Jane hugs a “State Patrolled Hunting Area” sign.
Our Leader, Jane
This submerged bridge is not passable, even in dry weather.
We had a great lunch at nearby Phil’s Fish Market. Luckily, Trey knew how to get there.
Trey, Becky, Lori, Jane, Liam with the Inflatable Snowmen
We were lucky enough to get a table right on the beach, with an admiring audience of hungry sea gulls.
Liam, Lori, Becky, Trey, Jane
Had a great two-day paddle, enjoyed our stay at the Lone Oak Lodge and our hunt for a Thai restaurant one night, and an Italian restaurant another. So much fun!
It was a real treat to meet Jane Richter who invited her O.B.N.D.Y. MeetUp group to her annual Black Friday camp-out at Wright’s Beach. It is halfway between Doran Beach and Jenner on the Kortum Trail, but I had never been before because it is part of Sonoma Coast State Park and reservations need to be made online six months in advance at www.parks.ca.gov. Lori P. and Jane were on the phone as they made the reservation for site 13 which is a pull-through at the end of the inside loop (about $10 cheaper than the oceanside sites) which was ideal for Jane’s cute fiberglass trailer. Lori’s van and Liam’s pickup all fit in the site behind Jane’s rig, and there was room for Liam’s tent, too.
I shared adjacent site 18 with Trey Steinhart and his wife Becky, also tent campers. I nestled my little green tent in the trees between the two campsites and decorated the gnarly trees with battery-operated string lights so that I would not clonk my head during the night. There was a campground-wide celebration of the wedding anniversary of someone in a family I surmise are regulars, but they were well-behaved and the night was quiet and dark. I slept well to the sound of pounding surf. Love it, and if I go back by myself, I will try to get campsite 11 which is slightly off the loop road in a little interior eddy and has the most cover. Jane pointed out the spot where she likes to stretch a hammock when her car has been relegated to overflow parking.
We enjoyed an informal dinner at the Tides restaurant in Bodega Bay.
Strong winds and high surf made kayak-crabbing inadvisable on Saturday morning, so we took a walk at the bird sanctuary with Nancy, one of Lori’s friends whom we met, along with body-surfer Kate, at the Doran Day Use area. Liam and I spent some time in the afternoon planning our Sicily trip in October 2018 while the others went to buy crab for Jane’s crab fest.
Beautiful hike on the Kortum Trail with the Saturday Saunterers led by Joe Tenn while Bob Martin is in Europe with Eva.
This hike follows the north section, from Blind Beach to Shell Beach. The trail starts from the cliffs above Blind Beach, overlooking Goat Rock just to the north. The trail heads south along the exposed coastal bluffs to Shell Beach, a sandy pocket beach surrounded by jagged offshore rocks. En route to the beach are southward views that span all the way to Point Reyes.
We visited the big rocks where Martha says that the smooth spots, high on the rocks, were rubbed to that glossy finish by mastodons with itchy backs. They were also festooned with chalk in the cracks from boulderers. The sky was clear and the Pacific very calm, the way it is in late September.
Sign at Shell Beach
We saw this tuft of pampas grass as we walked down to the black sand of Shell Beach. I suspect the black sand is not from shells, but from the black rocks that mark this sharp cliff. The walk back took a slightly different route which seemed even steeper. Kathy, hiking with us for the first time, got into some difficulty but old pals Rich and Richard made sure she got back to the cars safely.
I spent the walk back trying to find someone to go with me to Earlfest later that day. Jason and David already had tickets through Kaiser, and neither Marsha nor Frances wanted to go.
We drove down to Goat Rock beach and had a nice lunch on the logs and a chatty, fun ride back. Great day, until I got home and discovered my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket. Made some panicky calls to Rich and Richard and, whew! my phone was discovered and promptly returned. Completely blew Earlfest off my agenda. I sewed the pockets on those pants halfway closed before I went to bed that night. Hope I don’t make THAT mistake again!
I set a goal to boat at Lake Berryessa, and prepared for this on my way back from the Solar Eclipse by going to Winters on I-5 and learning the route past these two lakes to Calistoga. I got my chance on Labor Day, and boated with Cathey from Napa, and Brent Swinth. Because the temperatures had been wicked hot, we met at 8:30 a.m. which required leaving at 7 a.m. We were on the water by 9 and enjoyed several dips to cool off. We were off the water by 12:30 when the picnic grounds were filling up with music and fragrances of delicious food.
Sue Nelson and I signed up for the second week of Brazil Camp, but Sue had to move her participation to the first week and I could not join her because of the eclipse — can’t move an eclipse! Here are a few photos from the Saturday 26 August celebration that started at 11 a.m. and danced and drummed and paraded on until the 3 p.m. feast.
Dance Finale Brazil Camp 2017
The lady on the left joined us for lunch. She is a forensic architect who works on construction defects cases and had a fascinating story of how she got into that unusual line of work. Sue is dancing at the two o’clock position above.