At 8:20am on Easter morning, Alice and I simultaneously pulled into our favorite Park-N-Ride in San Rafael. We have a history of perfect timing - we're both 10 minutes early. We loaded White Lightning onto my car (next to Big Purple) and headed up the 101. Estero Americano flows into Bodega Bay, roughly 1.5 hrs north of the Bay Area. The launch site is at the end of a dirt road that spurs off the intersection of Marsh Road and Valley Ford Franklin School Road. Another kayaker arrived shortly after us, and spent 20 minutes urging Alice and I to join a kayak racing club in Berkeley.
Alice and I made reasonably spontaneous plans to paddle yesterday (no cancellations and only planned 2 days in advance - that's real progress). Since we were both tired of driving, we decided to meet in the middle, at San Quentin. Yes, San Quentin State Prison. There's an easy launch spot called Jailhouse Beach that's sheltered by the prison on one side and by the Richmond bridge on the other. There are only a few parking spots along the side of the road, but we had no trouble. It's 1-hour parking, but in Alice's last 3 visits she hasn't gotten a parking ticket. Shhhh!
Alice, Stijn, Johnny, and I met at the Berkeley Marina at 9am for a very "unplanned/casual" paddle. I use quotes because it took us a week of rapid-fire emails and changing plans to reach this point. Most of us (except Johnny) had abandoned our boats for far too long. For most of us, this was our first sea kayaking trip out of Berkeley. We launched from the docks near Cal Adventures on the south side of the marina. The parking is free and the launch works well at most tide levels.
[This post has been in draft form for 1.5 months, so I figured it was time to accept its imperfections and wrap it up. Lindsey, my fellow king-tide tour-guide also wrote a post, available here]
Choose inundation over inebriation** and celebrate King Tides because it's much more exciting than celebrating the New Year. Why? [Thanks to Lindsey for helping brainstorm this list]
So... what are King Tides...?
Today I'm digging into the archives to recount my first true overnight kayak camping trip in California (sad, I know). Beth, Sara, Eddie, Joel, Christina, Brian, Alice, and I camped overnight at Tomales Beach in Tomales Bay. Dane + 2 friends joined us for the Saturday paddle and lunch.
Chiddling = Chill paddling
Sponyaking = Spontaneous kayaking
Imprompaddling = Impromptu paddling
It's my favorite kind of day on the water. Never planned more than a day in advance. Simple logistics, slow pace, and good friends (none of this organized crowd-yaking with strangers nonsense). It's the kind of paddle when your PFD is the perfect beer holder. There is no purpose, destination, or expectation, so only pleasant surprises remain.
The day after Thanksgiving I made the trek from North Berkeley to the Kayak Hotel in Oakland...
Clear Lake, in Lake County, California, has been on my to-paddle list since I discovered it on a map and learned about its fascinating history a few months ago. More than a few friends responded with apathy at visiting the lake, alluding to its reputation for motorboats, rednecks, and water quality issues. While I certainly love a remote, undeveloped lake, I also enjoy exploring other flavors of paddling! Alice agreed to join the long day trip. We left the Bay at noon, drove about 2.5 hours (after accidentally "meeting up" at two different park-n-rides in Novato), and put our boats on the water around 4pm. Within 5 minutes we jumped out of our boats to refresh, ignoring the algal bloom that filled the water around us.
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
Email updates on new blog posts, about once per month.
Click the "Read More" link at the bottom of each summary for more photos, to see an interactive map of the route, and to read about the adventure.
Maps in each blog post: Click the icons to learn more about the launch site (amenities) and destinations. Click the square in the bottom-left corner to see an aerial photo behind the route.
Click the RSS Feed link, copy the URL, and paste it into your favorite feed reader.