The North Coast Series
North Coast Kayaking Series
A 400-mile, sea kayak voyage along California’s shore. A remarkable sequence of stories published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on S.F. Gate
400 miles in 40 days
For an expedition of this type, a team must be small enough to stay nimble, flexible and easy to supply.
So for our last supper – in the embrace of civilization – we tucked into Thai food at a Crescent City restaurant on Monday evening.
Prince Island, just north of the Smith River, was a final refuge for the Tolowa as they sought to survive massacres inflicted by settlers eager to seize the land.
On our first day, we first touched shore in California in the sumptuous Smith River estuary, after a peaceful five-mile paddle down from Oregon’s Winchuck River on Tuesday.
Surrounded by fog and wary of the rough waters near shore, the three kayakers head farther out to sea — and encounter birds, dolphins and big swells before Crescent City
After our long, cold paddle to Crescent City on Wednesday, we beached our kayaks on Whaler Islander at the breakwater.
She was a fancy side-wheel steamer, a hybrid assisted by a square-rigged sails on two masts.
The gale blew itself out by midnight Friday, though we could still hear rain spatter on the roof of the steel building on Whaler Island where we’d taken refuge.
When we came in from the sea Saturday afternoon, after a seven-hour paddle from Crescent City, we aimed for a beach by a tall rock near the Klamath River bar.
As we paddled out over the Klamath River bar, and turned our course south to head away from the Yurok village at Requa we saw hillsides swathed in Sitka spruce
Our launch off Hidden Beach was a study in patience.
A half-day spent performing any sport is a bit much.
If your goal is performing coastal exploration, a classic square-rigged sailing ship constitutes rather a blunt instrument.
Unlike original adventurers and explorers on the North Coast, I arrived bolstered by the aid of a few excellent electronic devices, which I’m not embarrassed to admit.
When you go to a place and want to truly understand, it’s good to speak with folks who’ve been living there for quite a while.
A notion of the “will of heaven” is extremely useful.
My original plan, after rounding the rhino horn of Cape Mendocino, called for making landfall at the mouth of the Mattole River.
Let’s stipulate that predicting weather on the North Coast during autumn can be a thankless task, even for highly trained meteorologists.
A mesa pokes out from the west side of the Coast Range like an end table shoved up against the rumpled heap of all those steep coastal ridges.
Heard enough stuff about nasty wind and thundering surf? We certainly had heard about – as well as endured – a bit much of those forces, ourselves. Then, good ol’ Mom Nature pitched us a change-up.
California boasts far more than one Lost Coast.
Navigation does not deal in absolutes. It always must include some accommodation, a bit of adjustment.
Like a DUI driver jugged in the tank, we always appreciate getting some small chance to dry out.
When three major timber companies all yanked up stakes and fled Northern California, they left behind the sprawling, scrofulous fuzz of logged-over timber land, debris-clogged streams, idle lumber mills, idle loggers and idle mill-workers.
Dark and early at 6 a.m., John Weed and I rolled from our sleeping bags in the waterfront shack of the Lost Coast Rowing Club that had provided us with a welcome refuge.
It’s been said that behind every successful man is a great woman.
Napoleon opined, “An army travels on its stomach.”
Poseidon had now blessed us with two sweet, easy days.
Some people wander into the magnificent landscape of the North Coast as trust-fund vagabonds, some purposefully drive up as leisure-seekers fueled by bulging retirement accounts, a few are billionaires who choose to slum in the countryside.
The date of our scheduled arrival in San Francisco was drawing ever nearer – and there was simply no way to get there without paddling the intervening miles.
We rolled out from our sleeping bags and unzipped the tents to gaze upon a new day, yet encountered a scene that closely resembled what we’d seen on the two previous mornings.
Most folks first encounter Fort Ross after they drive past a set of hairpin turns on Coast Highway 1 in central Sonoma County.
Lucky me! Dawn drove up from just south of San Francisco to share part of a day and evening with me on another gorgeous stretch of California’s North Coast.
Amid the course of human events, warring parties often do battle via dueling narratives long before they get around to exchanging blows.
We felt warmly welcomed by many folks at each port-of-call along our voyage
After a modicum, of good-natured grousing we gobbled some breakfast, packed up, and launched. Then something interesting happened: we lost Bo Barnes.
After many weeks of wrestling Pacific storms, ripping up our navigation plans then taping them back together, we’d touched the bay’s golden threshold.
400-mile reflection on respect for our coast.