Crescent City Solo Kayak Adventure

by Nancy Soares on July 4, 2016

Editor’s note: This is my second solo kayak trip ever. It was way cool. I decided to write it in the third person. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Hey, I found a sea cave!

I found a sea cave! There are seals on the rocks through the mist on the other side.

She started out on a hot, sunny morning. The drive to the coast was lovely. Cloudless blue sky and tall green forests, a winding road. Missing her companion, no music, quiet, reflective, open. Letting the energy pass through and watching the ten thousand things stream toward her.

She arrived at the beach and found a place to put in. The low tide was just turning. The beach was flat, the waves were as flat as they ever are on the Northern California coast, and the fog was in, caressing the land’s edge and hanging densely offshore. It was hot inland and that means fog on the coast. She couldn’t see the stacks and rocks she wanted to explore offshore, but she could hear the voices of many seals and sea lions through the fog.

The north end

The north end

She strolled along the beach, wondering if the fog would lift. The sun burned through the marine layer but couldn’t actually be seen except for a spot in the sky where the fog resolved into an orb brighter than the surrounding grayness. Two guys in fishing kayaks took off over the small surf and disappeared into the mist. Well, she decided, I might as well go out. She walked back to the truck, donned her wetsuit, and pulled the X-15 off the rack and down to the beach.

Woman of the Sea

Woman of the Sea

She paddled toward the north end of the bay since that was nearest. Bluffs, a little rock garden, a bit of surf rolling in and a flat cove nestled under the headland. Some nice rock formations. She turned south and west and paddled toward a sea stack that caught her interest as a result of its shape. It looked like a woman rising out of the sea, looking west, her right shoulder out of the water and her long thick hair pulled back. She named the rock Woman of the Sea. She continued to paddle toward a giant sea stack, actually a small island, where all the ruckus was coming from.

One of the many rocks surrounding the island

One of the many rocks surrounding the island

Sea stacks, reefs, and rock formations surrounded the island, making for a cool labyrinth to paddle through. It turned out the area was an operating rookery. Seals and sea lions draped all over the rocks. They were everywhere, lounging, playing, rolling, diving, and swimming and it seemed like every one of them was vocalizing. They looked at her curiously. Many slid off their perches as she passed and some followed her. They blew through their nostrils like little whales off her stern as she wound through the rocks. It’s all very well to stay 100 yards (or whatever it is) away from marine mammals but they will follow you.

In the labyrinth

In the labyrinth

She thought how much her partner would have loved this. Why had he, as he said, gone into “self-destruct mode”? Why did she have to keep someone she loved at arm’s length? Healthy boundaries, but it was rough. She really did love him, and they’d had some wonderful times together. She let it go, opened her heart, and paddled on. Weaving through the rocks, wishing she knew the names of all the sea birds.

Hundreds of small black and white sea birds surrounded this rock. Cormorants as well.

Hundreds of small black and white sea birds surrounded this rock. Cormorants as well.

Of course there were cormorants, oystercatchers, and gulls (who knows all those gulls?) but there were many, many others as well. Their voices filled the air with a crackling sound, like fat frying. As she approached the north end of the island she saw what looked like caves, but when she got closer she realized there was a seal or sea lion on every rock. It wouldn’t do to get too close. Another time.

Approaching the island from the north

Approaching the island from the north

She paddled around the inside of the island, avoiding wildlife as best she could. Several enormous big daddy sea lions roared with great booming voices, but it seemed as though they were just establishing presence rather than threatening. Still, she was careful to point her bow away from them and find the most open path.

Big Daddy Sea Lion

Big Daddy Sea Lion, right in the middle of the photo. Let’s not get too close!

There were hundreds, maybe thousands of furry animals, large and small, and nearly every available rocky space was occupied. Leaving the rookery she approached some interesting formations to the south that loomed out of the fog.

More caves

More caves to the south

But looking back toward the rookery she saw what looked like more sea caves. Leaving the exploration of the southern end of the bay for another time, she paddled toward them. The entrances were guarded by posses of marine life, but she was able to get close enough to see they were worth investigating when their guardians had departed later in the year.

Another tantalizing cave

Another tantalizing cave

Happy with the discovery of caves, she meandered back toward the put in. She’d been out for about 2 1/2 hours and although the fog had stayed pretty dense for most of the paddle, from time to time it would lift and she could see the shore and the many rock formations that surrounded the little bay on the outside. She surfed a tiny, smoothly rolling wave onto the sand and got the boat back on the truck. It was warm, so she wrapped her towel around her waist and wore her bathing suit home. It was a great little paddle – mild but really interesting. Slowly her knowledge of the Crescent City kayaking environs was growing.

But she still missed her buddy.

Do you have a favorite paddle spot around Crescent City? Please tell us about it by clicking below!

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim July 4, 2016 at 9:28 am

Islands of all shapes and sizes draw the imagination. Out of the fog they appear as a fortress, they are castles in the sea and their inhabitants are the keepers.

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Nancy Soares July 6, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Yes, I am drawn to islands as well. This one was really worth the visit, although keeping well away from the wildlife was a challenge. I’m looking forward to going back and checking that area out when I can actually see some distance 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

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Steve July 5, 2016 at 11:20 am

Very cool landscape, wonderful post and thank you for sharing at all levels!

Reminded me a bit of Straits of Juan de Fuca (sp) in Washington State, that we all paddled several years ago. Paddling alone also heightens the senses.

I would like to paddle there!!!!

Don Diego liked that one!

Mahalo

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Nancy Soares July 6, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Hey, Steve, good to hear from you! If you’re ever up this way with your boat I’d be happy to take you there. Jim said the name of that place is Bird Island (imaginative, huh?) I plan to explore all around that area next time I go and I hope it’ll be sunny 🙂 However, it was still a great trip.

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Tony Moore July 7, 2016 at 7:49 am

Thanks for sharing, Nancy. As someone who does a lot of solo paddling, I know how contemplative it can be, and this sometimes calls to memory sad thoughts of happier times, but this is how we deal with and work through things…and what better place to accomplish this than out in the natural beauty of the sea.
Loved the “Lady of the Sea” …I saw it instantly before I even read the text. We have a rock formation out here called “Horsehead”, but you really have to use your imagination, even viewing it from the correct angle.

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Nancy Soares July 7, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Hi Tony! I’ve done so little solo paddling it’s still a weird experience for me but I am finding it as you say very contemplative, very Zen. And I’m finding that being alone on the ocean is really helpful for working through things, even more so I think than going for a big hike which is the one activity I’ve done solo a lot. Glad you enjoyed the “Lady” – she was a fun find.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment.

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Michael Kelly July 9, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Dear Nancy,
I loved the story of your paddle. It made me want to be in a sea kayak again. Its been many years. I write you from The Sea Ranch where I am staying with my family. Looking out from the bluffs this morning on the sea stacks and crashing waves, my mind turned to Eric, so I searched for him to find out what he was up to after all these years. I was for a brief and indelible time a friend of Eric’s and the Rangers’ while Eric was living at Moss Beach in the early nineties. Your post brings back the joy of those days and memories of the generous, hyper-focused dynamo that was Eric. All seemed possible when I was with him. I am far more moved right now than I will let my words reveal. Of course you missed your buddy. Of course you felt his presence on your paddle. The coastal Pacific ocean is so much like Eric– enchanting, powerful, ever-calling. Thank you for your blog. I hope one day we get a chance to meet you. all the best, Michael Kelly (kellym_010@yahoo.com)

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Nancy Soares July 10, 2016 at 8:45 am

Hi Michael,
Really good to hear from you! Sea Ranch…what a beautiful place. The Rangers spend a good deal of time there, kayaking and hunting abalone. The team is still going strong; although much has changed, much has stayed the same, as you can probably tell if you check out our posts. I don’t know if you read Eric’s obit on this website, but here’s the link http://tsunamirangers.com/2012/02/15/eric-soares-obituary-1953-2012/ His brother John wrote it and did a great job. I know what you mean about how all seemed possible when you were with Eric. I try to keep that legacy alive, along with his generosity and enthusiasm. He was the greatest person for saying, “Yes!” that I have ever known. I would love to meet you and your family. I am in Ashland, Oregon, now and keep open house for any and all travelers that were or are Eric’s and my friends, so drop by if you’re passing this way. And I have extra boats! Here’s my email (bmcsfp@hotmail.com) If you send me your address, I’ll send you Eric’s autobiography, the Confessions of a Wave Warrior. It’s a great read and may bring back memories for you 🙂 Thanks for looking us up and thanks for your comment!

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