We got up early and drove to Bolinas to start my first kayak camping trip. I got in the water in the bay, just outside the Bolinas Lagoon. In the bay there were mild waves (NOAA said 3 foot swells today) and there was little wind. I headed out, traveling a little south of west to get around the large reef off of Duxbury Point. As I approached the reef, a wind came up out of the northwest and started whipping up whitecaps. Since I would have to travel northwest the rest of the day, this was a more than little worrysome. I tried to recall why I had decided to do this trip from South to North. One silly reason is I always prefer to go north so that if prevailing northwest winds come up, they will blow me back to where my car is parked. But Marty had already left in the car to drive north, hike into Wildcat Beach, and meet me there at 1:00pm. I had no choice but to keep fighting my way into the wind all day. Another reason for going north was to get the longest leg of this trip over with on the first day. I had 15 kilometers to go this day, then only 12 on the following day when I might be tired and sore. The wind driven waves between Duxbury Point and the next point, Bolinas Point, made for slow going with lots of spray blowing up on me off the prow of the kayak. I left the wetsuit jacket on, even though all the hard paddling was chafing my skin on the inside of the elbows and armpits.
Paddling slowly into the wind was discouraging. Because I had gone southwest to get around the Duxbury reef, I could see the place I launched from for almost two hours. When I got to Bolinas Point, I finally lost sight of the town of Bolinas. This made me start to believe that I could actually finish the trip. Also, I could see the rocks off shore from Double Point, which was 7 more kilometers away, but near my destination. I though that the next leg of the trip would be easier because I would be going almost across the wind. But I kept having to turn into the wind to ride over larger waves. Also, the drysack on the prow caught the wind when I turned north, and pulled the kayak too far to the right.
I watched the parallax with features on the shore, and knew that I was making slow progress. But if I stopped paddling for any reason, the parallax showed me that I instantly started drifting backwards faster than I had been going forwards. I calculated my speed at around 2 kilometers per hour, less than my usual slow sightseeing rate. But I was working a lot harder, not getting as far, and the shore was not all that scenic. A lot of this area is crumbling clay cliffs with steep bars of soft gravel at the waterline. There was a large oriental looking building north of Bolinas Point, perhaps a monastery. And just north of that was an antenna farm that Belongs to the Coast Guard. A little past the antenna farm, I decided to land and rest for a few minutes. There was a gully with a creek coming down the cliff and disappearing behind a higher than normal gravel bar. Walking behind this, I found a little "shrine". The water had once pooled here and created a flat area with fine sand. But someone had arranged a ring of rocks around the waterfall, creating a smaller deeper pool and allowing the old pool bottom to dry out. On this sandy floor, there was a little table and a bench made out of driftwood, with a piece of canvas and some shells arranged on the table. I added a piece of fishing float that I found. Inside the pool, someone had added a second tier of stones, which looked like they had recently been chinked with kelp. This created a second pool of water a little above the first. The center stone in this ring had a pile of flat stones piled up, in decreasing order of size, to create a little tower a half a meter tall. I stood in this pool and, since I had forgotten to bring my canteen, risked drinking the water coming down the waterfall. After taking off my jacket, I sat on the bench by the table and applied some sunscreen and ate a Power Bar (TM).
I got back in the water and headed northwest into the wind and whitecaps, hoping that the wind would lessen up around the next point. Without the jacket on, I would be able to paddle harder. I was working so hard, that I didn't notice when the wind did let up a little. I finally did notice that there were no whitecaps all the way to the horizon. What had happened was, as the wind died down, my hard paddling made me move faster, and the speed of the wind in my face didn't seem to decrease. Finally, I made it around Abalone Point and headed towards Double Point. One rock off-shore from these points has a name on the map: Stormy Stack. Of all the rocks on the coast, this is the one that really should have been named Bird Rock, but it wasn't. From the South, this rock looks like the skull of a gigantic bird half out of the water. The eye-socket is a huge piece of darker rock in the lighter softer rock around it, and up close I could see a cave formed underneath the darker rock, with stalactites hanging down in it. I didn't go close enough to get a good look inside this cave, because I didn't want to disturb all the cormorants and pelicans on the rock. Also, I was in a hurry to get to Wildcat Beach before Marty started worrying too much. With all the slow paddling into the wind, I was going to be almost 2 hours late. So I kept paddling hard to try to make up time.
When I came around Double Point, I could see the long stretch of beach that has the campground in the center of it. At the south end of this beach was a waterfall, with a bunch of people playing and climbing around it. The Coast Trail goes by here, and people had hiked in from all the campgrounds to enjoy the waterfall and the beach. I paddled close to shore, and soon spied Marty and a few other friends hiking up the beach from Wildcat Camp. Louis Valentino was there, who I used to work with and had to lay off once. Brian Wilson is the sysop of the system (among many other things) my mail and Web page live on. His wife Julie was with them. We exchanged hand-signs over the noise of the surf, and I got the impression I was to continue on to the camp, while they went to check out the waterfall. Now that I knew that Marty was not worrying about me any more, I relaxed and paddled at a more reasonable rate the last kilometer or two to the camp. The waves along much of this beach looked a little rough, but survivable. I could not tell for sure where the campsite was. From the south end, the whole beach looked like it had an unbroken wall of cliff above it with no low spots. I recalled that the campsite was a little above the beach, but I didn't recall climbing down a cliff to walk on the shore. Two people on horseback galloped past me, and after a while I saw them turn and disapear into the cliff. That must be where the camp is. Sure enough, there was a little valley there, with a gully that allowed an easy walk down from the camp. And in front of the camp, the waves were milder than they had been the last two kilometers. I surfed into the breakers, and rode sideways up the beach on two breakers until my keel scraped on the sand.
I had been paddling hard for 6 and a half hours. Most of that time I told myself this was stupid, and I was never going to do it again. But the memory quickly faded, the last few kilometers had been scenic, and I was jazzed to have actually made it despite all the hardship. I unpacked my drysacks and found that a little water had leaked in. It was only 3:00 PM, so the wind and bright sun started drying out my sleeping bag, and I dried out my clothes by wearing them for a few minutes.
Marty had been having second thoughts about this camping trip, and thinking about not hiking in. In fact, she was furious with me the day before when she learned that she was going to have to carry in her own sleeping pad and bag. She thought I had promised to carry all her equipment on the kayak, and all she would have to hike in with would be water to drink on the way. I think that I had once said: "Wouldn't it be nice if the kevlar canoe has it's new skeg installed in time (it wasn't until the day before the trip), and if I find that this makes it more seaworthy (it hasn't seen the ocean since), and if I have time to make a spray skirt for it (there wasn't time), and if I have time to practice using it in the ocean, THEN I would be able to carry almost two hundred pounds of equipment". I think after all these qualifying statements, I said: "Then I could carry all your equipment, and you would only have to carry water in to drink on the way". This was the only part that Marty remembers.
Marty went to the Bear Valley Visitors Center and met Louis, Brian and Julie. With them coming along, Marty agreed to try hiking in with a pack, but didn't promise to go the whole distance. Brian rode his bike down to Five Brooks trail-head, where there is a bike trail that goes to Wildcat Beach, then rode a steep trail up over the hills and back down to the beach. Marty, Julie, and Louis hiked the direct route and traveled half the distance, and they all arrived at about the same time. If Marty had not had company on the trip, I'm sure she never would have bothered to come out. Marty did not know Julie very well (yet!), and probably would not have come if that was her only company. Louis was not staying the night, so Marty would probably not come out if she was going to have to walk back by herself in the morning. But the combination of all these good friends was just enough to convince her to try, and she admits that it was actually a reasonably easy walk. I'm grateful for all of them for coming out and making it possible.
I had tried to call Louis the night before, but he was out until late. Someone named Mike answered the phone (Louis' wife's first husband, --I think-- probably visiting his kids). I asked Mike if he knew if Louis would be back in time to do the hike the next morning. He didn't know anything about it, "But if Louis said he would do something, he WILL do it". There was a ring to his voice when he said that, as if he was in awe of Louis, and thought Louis was the most responsible person on earth. When I told this to Marty, she replied, "Of course. He is". Louis had to hike out right away, drive home, and cook dinner for his family. I thanked him then, and again now, for coming out and helping.
Louis packed in some cookies and left them behind for us. Marty and I had planed a big dinner for four the first night, bringing perishable food on ice. Brian and Julie had also packed in more than enough food for themselves. I thought there was enough food for us to eat continuously until sunset, and Brian said "That's exactly what I plan to do". I had tied two bottles of Gewurztraminer in a cloth sack (made from an old pant leg) and carried it inside the keel of the kayak. It got wet of course, then sat in a shadow in the wind all afternoon to chill it down some more. I brought in one cup of penne pasta, and 5 tablespoons of sun-dried tomato basal pesto. Marty had packed in over a pound of salmon and a small bag of briquettes. I cooked the pasta on the camp stove while the salmon cooked on the grill. After draining the water, I added the pesto and stirred it to coat the pasta. Half of the salmon was crumbled into the pasta and the other half divided up to eat as it was. Gourmet food in the middle of a national park! The wind died down around sunset, we went to bed and by all accounts, everyone slept well.