I drove out to Point Reyes last week and had to abort the kayak trip, so I still haven't taken the pictures I wanted of this area. So the next time I was driving north from Berkeley I tried again. This time the weather in Berkeley was warmer, and the fog burned off earlier. I still found more fog when I got to the point, but it was not as thick as last week and the wind was not blowing. I recalled that the first time I paddled around Point Reyes Point, it had been an overcast day, so this was a comparable day to take the rest of the pictures. When I got to the Chimney Rock Trailhead, the gate down to the fishing pier was open. There is a fleet of private fishing boats that work out of here, and this is their road. If they didn't have a locking gate, their parking lot would be full of bird watchers, hikers, swimmers, and kayakers. Even when open, the gate is a deterrent, because visitors don't want to get their cars locked in. I figured that I could dash down the road, unload my kayak, then dash back up and park at the trailhead. This would save me carrying the kayak down the cliff to the water.
While I was untying the kayak from the van, a guy who had been working on the pier drove up and got out to talk to me. I assured him that I was not planning on parking, and then apologized for making him wait when he said he was on his way out and would be locking the gate. He then proceeded to be much friendlier than I had a right to expect and asked questions about the kayak. I told him how light it was and how I carried it down and up the zigzag trails all along the coast. I expected to have to carry it back up the road, but I appreciated not having to carry it down this time.
I paddled out to Chimney Rock off the east point of Point Reyes. The swells were around 6 feet this morning, and the tide was fairly low. There was a row of rocks between Chimney Rock and the point, and the waves were breaking over these rocks. I had to go the long way around Chimney Rock but I was able to paddle close to it and behind the next large offshore rock. It was pretty rough in there, and I wondered what I looked like to the hikers looking down from the end of the trail above me.
Heading west around the point, the waves suddenly got very large. The swells tried to bend around the west point and break parallel to the cliffs, but could not make the 135 degree turn to do this. So the waves hit the cliffs at an angle, rising up ahead of me to break noisily against the shore while the same wave was still going under me. It made me nervous. The breakers wrapped around the rocks and I had to stay pretty far from sore anyway.
Fortunately these large waves turned out to be a local function of the topology and after a while I was able to get close to shore again. I found an area with rows of rock with channels of water between them that I could paddle through. Gaps in the rocks allowed me to get from one channel to the next. I kept my eyes on the shore looking for calmer beaches I could land on if I got into trouble.
Sooner than I expected, I found an outcropping that had an arch I could paddle through. I'm pretty sure this is the arch I saw about the time I ran out of film last time past here. There was also a smaller cave closer to shore, but I never managed to convince myself it was safe to go through it. I went around to the back side of it and almost got shoved ashore by a large set of waves. These large waves almost closed the opening of the bigger arch. I waited for the water to calm back down a little and went out through that arch anyway.
I wasn't sure if this was really the place I planned to turn around, so I stared to go towards the next outcropping of rock. If I could see the lighthouse I would know that I had gone too far. But as I approached this area, I saw that there were hundreds of cormorants on the rocks. Rather than disturb them by paddling between their rocks, I decided that I had gone far enough and turned back.
I paddled back a little way offshore and soon returned to the Chimney Rock area, although the weather radio told me I had been out for over two hours. Even though the tide had been rising the whole time I was out, the waves were still breaking over a row of rocks between Chimney Rock and the cliffs of the point. I went around the far side of the rock again, and found that the waves were rougher there than I remembered. They were breaking over a couple of submerged rocks, but I went between the rocks and surfed the waves for a free ride into the calmer water of Drakes Bay.
Because I was paddling in a remote area with rough waves, I had worn the full wetsuit, farmer john and jacket. (Dress for the water!) It had stayed overcast the whole time I was out but I had worked reasonably hard and been hot for most of the trip. A few times I had pulled open the neck of the wetsuit and splashed water in under my chin to let it run cold down my chest inside the suit. Now that I was back in the safe harbor, I landed on the first little inaccessible sandy beach. I pulled off the hot jacket and went for a swim to cool down a little faster. I stowed the jacket in the kayak and then relaxed and enjoyed exploring the shoreline back to the fishing pier as the sun started to break through the overcast.
I carried everything but the kayak up the road for the first trip. My plan was to come back in more comfortable clothes to carry the kayak up the cliff. But walking up the road, I discovered that the gate was open again, and the same truck the friendly fisherman had been driving was back on the pier. I quickly changed into dry clothes and drove down to retrieve the kayak. This time I was in and out without getting in any body's way, and pleased that I didn't end up carrying the kayak in either direction!