For months I have been trying to organize a trip through the coves and caves north of where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The weather has not co-operated this year with unusually strong wind and waves. I wanted to do this trip to take Maryly through the beautiful coastline in my “back yard” and also to share it with other BASK paddlers. Finally the predictions were for the waves to calm down this weekend, and I announced the trip on the BASK mail server. One other paddler, Colin Rogers, was able to come on short notice and we met at Russian Gulch Beach.
I also wanted to go abalone diving while the weather was calm and asked Maryly to bring her diving equipment. She drove up directly from work on the Friday evening beforehand and was unable to bring her own boat. I loaned here my Scupper boat and put myself in the old beat-up Scrambler kayak. We discussed two ways to do the trip: We could launch into the river at the Jenner boat ramp, paddle down the river and surf-launch over the spit into the ocean. Goat Rock would have been an ideal launch place, but it is still closed waiting for the road to be repaired. Or we could carry the kayaks down the long trail to Russian Gulch Beach. The launch at the mouth of the Russian River sounded rougher, so we carried our boats to the water at Russian Gulch. There the launch turned out to be rougher than expected and Maryly had trouble getting my long Scupper boat past the waves.
Later at one of our stops she asked to try out the Frenzy instead and we switched boats. I had been making appreciative noises about the Frenzy on this trip. Because it is short and wide, like Maryly’s Scrambler, it is too slow for most BASK trips. But on a trip like this one we were going slow and dodging behind and between rocks. The Frenzy felt responsive and adequate for a rock gardening trip and I’m going to have to reconsider it for future paddles like this. Maryly was happier in it and I was still happy in my long Scupper so we stayed in these boats the rest of the way and back.
The waves continued to be rougher than the buoy reports led me to believe and we didn’t do as much rock gardening as I would have liked. When we came to the first arch south of Russian Gulch, Maryly and Colin turned out to sea and didn’t want to even paddle close to it. The tide was very low and this exposed shelves of rock that could have caught a kayak and flipped it over. I probably would have avoided the arch myself even if everyone else hadn’t zoomed out to sea away from it.
We paddled into every one of the coves and landed for breaks on several of the beaches. I pointed out rocks that I had made up names for and asked if anyone had other ideas. Roger Lamb once convinced me that the rock I named the Grizzly Bear looked more like a giant sea otter. There is the jagged pile of rocks I call the Stegosaurs and the rock with the “cave of doom” I went through once and barely missed getting hit by a wave that closed the cave out. When we got to the Cathedral Rock in site of Jenner Beach, the other two kayakers did join me in going through the largest arch in this rock riddled with arches and caves.
We paddled in for a landing on Jenner Beach to look at some driftwood houses built by beach- goers. These were quite impressive with several rooms, two floors, and decks. Evidence from the litter suggested that these were popular “party houses”. Maryly was interested in the “arranged art” of pieces of ocean flotsam and trash arranged in many places on and in these structures.
We walked the rest of the way up the beach until we came to the place where the Russian River emptied into the ocean. The waves were in fact as calm or calmer than the ones we launched through at Russian Gulch, so our long carry was unnecessary. Next time I’ll launch at Jenner. Here we found one of the Seal Watch volunteers standing by with a spotting scope so people could get a close look at the harbor seals hauled up in the mouth of the river. We had a pleasant talk with him before we returned to our boats.
On the return trip we went through the biggest arch in Cathedral Rock again, then went straight across the coves from point to point. Maryly and I had a dinner appointment later in the evening and there never was time to go abalone diving. Cutting across the coves shaved off a little more time and got us back in time to clean up equipment before we had to leave.