Punta Alta to Isla San Jose and Isla Santa Cruz, April 11th 2009.

Kate and I are fast packers and usually sit around waiting for everyone else to get ready. On this morning we decided not to wait and started out early. A gentile breeze came up from the west and blew from our backs. The other three kayakers all had sails and took advantage of this. Even though they launched late, the wind pushed them past us and they beat us across the channel. I should have launched even earlier! It was a short and pleasant crossing and we all actually made good time.

My plan was to paddle across to the nearest point on Isla San Jose, then north as far as possible. Getting near the north tip of this island would put me in a good position to cross the next day to several smaller islands. Everyone else would take a layover day while I did this. Herb Howe and Doug Hamilton approached me and suggested that we stop only part way up the island where some large arroyos on the map looked worth exploring. This plan should have made for a short day of paddling.

We turned north before even finishing the crossing started hugging the shore only a mile or so from the first arroyo as far as I could tell on my map. But as we passed one arroyo after another, Herb told me this wasnít the right one yet, and the correct one was just around the next point. Doug and I pulled ahead around the point but found no more big arroyos and no good looking campsites. Herb claims we went past the right spot. I followed Doug all the way to the north tip of the island and Herb followed us. It wasnít my plan, I didnít know where we were going, I wasnít navigating but somehow it was my fault that we were too far north with no good place to camp.

We ended up having a late lunch on one of the farthest north beaches on Isla San Jose. This is where I would have headed but it wasnít a very good camping beach. It had large cobble and cliffs on all sides with no escape if the weather turned bad. So we continued down the east side of the island even thought this short day was turning into a long one.

The map showed little detail about this section of the island but it turned out to be spectacular with caves and arches everywhere. The beach we chose had caves above the water that lead to the next beach north and south. However, I did not hang around to enjoy it. I hid half my gear and food in a cave out of the sun and packed for a side trip.

The wind was unusually calm for the afternoon, it was only 1:00 PM, and I was boiling with frustration. Even though I had to retrace a few miles to the north end of Isla San Jose I left early for my solo trip. I paddled 12 miles that afternoon past a small island, Isla San Diego, all the way to Isla Santa Cruz. I stopped at a fish camp at the southwest corner of this island to look around, but didnít like the look of it. So I continued up the west shore a little farther and landed for the evening in a little arroyo.

Despite the long day, I still had time to hike up the arroyo while there was still light. I had left my tent behind with Kate DesLauriers and planned to sleep out under the stars. I had also planned to bring the stove, but discovered I left half of it with Kate as well. So I had to cook my dinner over a campfire and get the pot all sooty. I had a tarp to put over my sleeping gear if the weather became windy or damp but didnít feel the need. There was some gusty playful wind in my arroyo but not enough to disturb my sleep. What disturbed my sleep was a very bright moon that came up later in the night. I had to roll over and try to hide from the light.

All text and images Copyright © 2009 by Mike Higgins / contact