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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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