On Saturday evening July 21, with the sun setting and the fog moving in I was a bit concerned about finding the campsite I’d reserved. I had printed off instructions on how to find the site. The instructions were two pages long, including such instructions as “veer LEFT on what we lovingly call “Wong Way.” There is a sign on the road that reads “Wrong Way,” and then further along “take a left at the gargoyle and proceed toward the ocean…”
This was following a day on the water learning how to teach kayaking techniques for an upcoming kayaking skills clinic being offered through the Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK). The kayaking was happening in Half Moon Bay, but the closest camping I could find was a site called Park N Surf #1 located on a property called Wild Tender Sanctuary near Pigeon Point Light House. I found the site through Hipcamp.com, a website that’s useful for locating camping alternatives to the better known campgrounds. It’s a bit like Airbnb for camping. Actually I should credit my wife for finding the site. I trust her to conjure up a camping when everything seems to be booked.
I was secure in my camper at twilight, just as the sky was going dark. The next morning I broke camp, and headed back to Half Moon Bay for the second day of kayak exercises. On Sunday it was all about the forward stroke; learning how to make the boat move efficiently without tiring your arms. While the kayaking was fun, the real adventure for the weekend was finding my campsite.
#1 Park N Surf Oceanview.. Wild Tender Sanctuary.
Skills Clinic Volunteers Weekend. Half Moon Bay.
Tunitas Creek Beach
We’re spending the night at Diamond Campground, near Springville, Utah. Our destination is Santa Fe. We have a week to get there. So we’ll be wandering the South West for the next few days. No WiFi here so I’m writing a short post on my iPhone. More to follow when I can sit still long enough to edit photos on the laptop. Our travels so far have brought us over the Sierra Nevada Mountains via highway 120 through Yosemite and down the east side of the Sierra to Big Pine, where our son and daughter-in-law are expecting in July. Our first grandchild. From there it was on to Great Basin National Park, and then on to Salt Lake City where we celebrated the anticipated birth of our second grandchild, due in August.
Redwoods at Memorial County Park in San Mateo County
I had a client send me out to photograph a project in San Mateo County. Given how the traffic works (or doesn’t work), I decided to drive down the peninsula the night before and camp so that I could be close to the photo location in the morning. I wanted to take advantage of the morning light for the photo shoot. The place I picked to camp was Memorial County Park, not far from the town of La Honda. This turned out to be a lovely spot in a lush grove of redwood trees. It was close to dusk when I parked my rig. The fog was starting to roll in off the ocean, giving a quiet, peaceful feeling. The park encompasses 675 acres with 156 camp sites. I was one of three campers in the park on a Tuesday night, May 1. I imagine in the summer this is a busy camp ground. The fee was $25 and showers were available. No dogs are allowed, and I’m usually looking for dog friendly camps. In the morning I spent a few minutes wandering around camp before heading to the La Honda Creek Open space which was the location for the photo shoot. It was a real treat finding such a lovely place to camp in the off season.
Willows shoing fall color in December at Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA)
Our camp at Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA)
Kern River at Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA)
Alive – a painted stone found in our campsite.
Our return trip from the Eastern Sierra took us South down the Owens Valley and then west over Walker Pass on Highway 178. We opted for this route rather than retrace the route we had taken earlier on our trip, coming over Echo Summit on Highway 50. At 5,246 feet, Walker Pass is lower than the northern passes and less likely to have snow, although for this trip snow was not an issue on either route. One of our favorite stops on this route is the Onyx Store, in the little town of Onyx. It was closed when we passed by, not surprising since it was Christmas day. Some years ago I set my panoramic camera up in the store and captured a panorama. A framed print was hanging in the store the last time I looked.
We were tempted to camp at the BLM campsite near the pass, which is in the Joshua Trees. Fascinating subjects for photography. We pressed on though, hoping to find a spot at the Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA). As we set up camp we were surprised to find some fall color remaining on the willow trees along the Kern River. From this point home in the San Francisco Bay area there is not much available for camping, at least not the kind of camping we like. We found plenty of campsites available with a few campers scattered here and there. In the summertime this is a popular place for mountain bikers and off road recreational vehicles. Fortunately we had a quiet camp.
Walking around camp the next morning I found a reminder that it is good to be “Alive,” a stone somebody had painted and left in camp. I had to stop and smile. Not that I needed a reminder, being in the outdoors and admiring God’s creation is reminder enough.
Moving a kayak loaded with gear. Four people with two webbing straps.
A perfect day on Tomales Bay
Boats loaded with camping gear. Ready to launch.
Waiting for the sun.
Our camp on Marshall Beach.
Our final exercise in the 2017 BASK Skills Clinic was an overnight kayak camping trip on Tomales Bay. We gathered a Miller Boat Launch on the East side of Tomales Bay, loaded our camping gear into our boats and paddled to Marshall Beach where we set up camp; a distance of three miles.
Part of the exercise was to learn what it takes to plan and execute a kayak expedition. Once we had set up camp we were off on a treasure hunt, using our navigational skills to locate clues that led us on a four mile treasure around the bay, were we finally found our treasure; patches to sew on our PFDs indicating we had graduated and chocolate.
I the evening the students hosted a feast for all the BASK campers; coordinators, volunteers and students, with tamales, tacos, Spanish Rice and following a campfire, we launched our boats again, in the pitch dark to to look for bioluminescence. Quite an experience to dip your paddle into the inky black water and see sparkles and ripples of light. Here’s a link to some additional photos.
Several people have asked me about our venture into four-wheel camping, so here’s the story in a nutshell. On Monday, September 11, we drove our truck to the Four Wheel Camper plant in Woodland and returned with our new camper. We’ll be taking it on the road for a two week road trip later this month. The story behind this purchase started on our road trip to Utah in May. (Well in all actuality, it probably starts much earlier that that with many camping and backpacking trips.)
While our Subaru Forester was a capable vehicle for taking us on camping adventures, we started looking at other rigs on the road and thinking about what the ideal vehicle might be for us. We like to get off the beaten track, so a four wheel drive with a small footprint was a priority. We looked at Sportmobile, and with a year-long wait and a price tag that was a bit intimidating we decided to look at pop-up campers. The Four Wheel Camper facility is basically in our back yard, an hour’s drive. Everything we read seemed to give Four Wheel a top rating. We determined that a visit to the Four Wheel Camper plant was in order, so on Saturday morning, May 20th, we planned a visit.
A visit to the facility and a look at the features available and we were sold. Having decided on a camper, we would also need a truck. The sales staff at Four Wheel suggested a Toyota Tacoma. Following our morning visit to Woodland we stopped in Davis for lunch, and I suggested we stop at a Toyota dealer on the way home so we could look at a Tacoma. Long story short; we ended up driving a Tacoma TRD 4×4 Off-Road long bed, double cab off the lot. And now three months later we are ready to roll.
Quiet day on Tomales Bay
Boat on the beach. Avila Beach.
Time to pack up and head for home.
Paddling Tomales Bay in the fog.
On Friday, December 9, four of us, Brett, Mark, Nick and I, launched our kayaks from Nick’s Cove and paddled to Avila beach near the entrance to Tomales Bay where we set up camp for the night. Calm water and occasional rain prevailed over the course of the trip. We were careful to set up camp high on the beach with a high tide of 6 ft predicted for 7:40 in the morning. After setting up camp we explored the beach and tide pools. A hearty pot of soup was a welcome dinner in the cool damp environment of the Point Reyes peninsula. Over the night the rain came in and dumped on us, letting up in the morning. The biggest challenge of the morning was getting started without a pot of hot coffee. Seems somebody left the coffee in the car; which was motivation to break camp and head for the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station.
Back on the water we found ourselves working hard to paddle up the bay against the ebbing current and with the fog down on the deck our visibility was about a half-mile. We paddled close to shore for the sake of visibility, and once we were within sight of Hog Island we make our break to cross the Bay and head back to our launch point. Not quite lost in the fog, but cautious about our navigation. We did prove that with the right equipment to stay warm and dry you can even have fun kayak camping in the fog and rain in the middle of December on Tomales Bay. Next time it’s every man for himself when it comes to the coffee. You can see additional photos from the trip here and an approximation of our route here.