View of Yosemite Valley


California 2010

Last updated July 10, 2010



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Pre-arrival | Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six | Day Seven | Day Eight

Every other year, my parents visit me and on the years they don't visit me, I visit them. 2010 was my turn to visit them in California. What made this trip different from others was that we decided to bring Hazel, Norma's mother. She had never been to California so we wanted to be sure to show her some of the nicer parts and make her trip a memorable one.

Pre-arrival, May 19-21, 2010

Norma and Hazel flew out on May 19, 2010. I wouldn't arrive until later.

First, Norma, Hazel, and my parents visited a farm near Sacramento. This was of special interest to Hazel being as she has lived on a farm for most of her life. California farms are quite a bit different than Maryland farms, largely due to the climate. Lots of sun and little rain mean regular watering is necessary but this disadvantage is offset by the long growing season.

Then, Norma, being the good daughter that she is, took her mother to Monterey. They saw the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. They also drove in and walked some of the short trails at Point Lobos State Reserve.

While they were in the area, they saw some signs posted on telephone poles. Most seemed pretty typical: concert announcements, new restaurant ads, and some missing pet flyers. The latter were of particular interest being as both have pets that they love very much. But one was very intriguing. It was a lost sea lion. Sea lion?! Who keeps a sea lion as a pet? The description said it likes sardines and knows circus tricks. Walking away, they didn't think anything more about it. Then, about an hour later, they saw a group of sea lions near a beach. Wouldn't it be interesting if one of them was the lost pet? They found an abandoned beach ball then threw it to the sea lions. All scurried away in fear...except one. This misfit propped the ball on its nose (see photo at left) then walked around on its front legs, balancing it perfectly. Then it passed the ball back, wanting to play a game of catch. While Hazel tossed the ball back and forth to the sea lion (whose name is "Leo"), Norma went to a store down the street to buy several cans of sardines. She returned to find Hazel and Leo right where she left them. Then Norma started feeding the sea lion while Hazel went and got their rental car. Hazel backed up the car as close as she could to the beach while Norma lured Leo into the back. Got him! They returned to the place where they first saw the lost pet ad. Hazel called the owner and told him they would be right over. Within minutes, Leo and his owner, Ron, were reunited. Leo had been born in captivity and never learned to hunt on his own. Out in the wild, it is likely he would not have lasted long. But it was mating season and Leo was in heat so he snuck out. Ron wanted to give Norma and Hazel a $200 reward but they declined. Instead, they asked that Ron donate it to charity. Ron promised he would. Norma and Hazel left the Monterey area with smiles, knowing they made someone happy. O.k., so maybe I made up everything in this paragraph. But since I wasn't there, I don't really know what all went on so maybe it did.

Day One, Saturday, May 22, 2010

I flew in on Southwest Airlines. My first flight was delayed because there was a stowaway on board. Their passenger count turned up one extra so they had to check everyone's identification. Southwest is different from the other airlines because they don't have assigned seating. If they did, this would not have been a problem. Of course, it wouldn't have been a problem if their ticket scanner verified that passengers were boarding for the correct flight. The delay caused me to miss my transfer so I had to take a later flight.

Norma and Hazel picked me up at the Sacramento Airport then drove me to my parents' home. It was good to be back.

We went to "Umeko" for dinner. This place is about 2 miles from the house. Here we met with lots of relatives: Uncle Pete, Cousin Alex (see first photo), Aunt Kay, Uncle Ed, Cousin Scott, his wife Lydia (who we met for the first time), Cousin David, his wife Nancy, their kids Timothy and Alyssa, Aunt Trudy, Cousin Steve, Cousin Cindy, and Cousin Jodi with her husband Lee (see second photo). My old friend Ken was also there.

After dinner, we went back to the house and socialized there for awhile. It was great seeing so many familiar faces.

Day Two, Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mayhew Church
Hazel is a devout church-going lady. So we thought it was be good to show her where I went to church, Mayhew Community Baptist Church. The place has changed a lot since I last went there...probably around 1983. New buildings, a paved parking lot, new faces, and a new minister.

Like yesterday, we saw lots of old faces. I saw Uncle Bill, Aunt Betty, Uncle Ted, Aunt Joylene, Cousin Erin, Aunt Yasuko, Aunt Kay, Cousin Jodi, and Uncle Oscar. In the photo at left shown from left to right are Uncle Oscar, Norma, me, Aunt Kay, and Hazel. Uncle Oscar was one of my Sunday School teachers. He also ran the opening Sunday School service and was the youth group advisor. I always saw him as being a positive role model in the church. But even on the other days of the week, he was this way. He was the Hubert Bancroft Elementary School principal (my alma mater). All the teachers and students looked up to him there.

Old Sacramento
Our next stop was the Pacific Rim Street Festival in Old Sacramento. Old Sacramento is a popular tourist location for folks visiting the capital of the most populated state. The architecture is set up to look like it did back in the 1800s, when Sacramento was a booming gold rush city. Today, it is still booming...but without the gold.

Our first goal was to find food. There were plenty of Asian food vendor stands set up with long lines for most. Norma got Indian food and the rest of us got Thai. The food was least mine was. Too sweet. Obviously it was not authentic, but rather modified for tourists.

Mom told me that the city now offers tours to the old part of Old Sacramento. What we now see as Old Sacramento is actually comprised of buildings built on top of much older buildings. The older buildings still exist underground. I heard about this back in 1986. My friend Tim A. told me that he and his friends was crawl down into this underworld and explore these rat-infested ruins. I had never seen it myself or heard about this from anyone else. But now I know it is indeed true. Maybe next time I will take such a tour.

Hazel and my mom went off on their own while Norma and I walked around. While there was a theme to the whole event, it didn't really seem all that interesting. They could have had much more interesting displays and events. But I suppose just the size of the large crowds made things a little less enjoyable and maybe we just weren't there at the right time either. We didn't stick around long.

University Walk
After leaving Old Sacramento, we stopped by my old college, California State University Sacramento. I saw a fellow with a nice sea kayak so I started up a conversation. His name is Kim and he has a fast Necky kayak with dimensions about the same as a surf ski. See photo at left. We talked about kayaking for awhile and he mentioned paddling with a meetup group. I asked if he knew Ken and he said, "Yes." He also mentioned what a great guy Ken is. Small world.

Norma, Hazel, Mom, and I walked on a small section of the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. We walked on the Guy West Bridge then to Alumni Grove.

Aunt Kiyo
Later that afternoon, my Aunt Kiyo came for a visit. See photo at left. She is the author of Kiyo's Story, a book about her memories of growing up in California and being sent to relocation camp during WWII. Hazel read her book and wanted to meet her. Kiyo was getting over pneumonia but she also wanted to meet one of her far away fans so she came out to the house.

Day Three, Monday, May 24, 2010

Like I said earlier, Norma and I wanted to show Hazel some of the nicest parts of California. So what better place to go than Yosemite National Park?

Our first stop was a produce stand. After driving past so many farms, it was nice to finally be able to buy what we were seeing.

Next, we stopped for lunch at Priest Station Cafe and Store where we ate with a mountaintop view of the valley below.

Continuing onward, we passed through a tunnel and upon emerging, saw the trademark views of the Yosemite Valley. Unfortunately, it was quite overcast with some rain. Still, it was impressive. See first and second photos.

Our first stop in the park was the 617 foot tall Bridalveil Fall. See third photo. Hazel walked part of the trail near the base of the fall while Norma and I walked the whole way there. Getting close to it is like standing in a shower. See fourth photo. Water sprays everywhere and the sound of the falls is quite loud.

We also saw Yosemite Falls (fifth photo), the highest measured waterfall in North America. They say spring is the best time of year to see Yosemite for the waterfalls. With all the snow and rain over the last few months in California, I think we hit it just right.

It has been unusually cool in California so there was still some snow on the ground in Yosemite. At the higher elevations, there was considerably more...enough to close off some trails. While temperatures were around 90 degrees in much of Maryland, we were wearing light jackets.

Our accommodations were at Curry Village. Here the three of us had a medium sized tent/cabin with a wooden frame, lockable door, and tarp walls. Our cabin number 8 supposedly did not have heat but there was indeed a heat source...they just didn't charge us for it. With nighttime temperatures around freezing, we would make good use of it. Our cabin had a small bed and a double. It came complete with blankets, pillows, and a nightstand. We shared communal bathrooms which were nearby. Signs warned us to keep food out of cabins and cars. Instead, we were to lock them up in the bear boxes just outside the cabins. Our quarters were humble and basic but by camping standards, we were at the Hilton.

We ate dinner in the Village then took a bus out to the big store. I bought myself a Fidel Castro-like hat. It was squared off on top, green, and surprisingly, adjustable enough to easily fit my big head. Except for the inconspicuous 'Y' on the front, one would not guess it was bought at a Yosemite store.

Tom Bopp
That night, we took a bus to see a little show. It was called Vintage Camping Songs. Tom Bopp ran the show. He is a musician who has been performing at the Wawona Hotel since 1983. He showed several old films and spoke about various traditions at Yosemite such as the firefall. Most of the audience was over 50 and many of them were regulars at Yosemite. Hence, many had memories of much of the history of the area. Tom answered questions and sang many of the old camping songs. He's quite the entertainer and historian.

Day Four, Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cabin 8
I was a little concerned about the noise from all the other people during the night and the un-soundproofness of the tarp walls. But despite the hundreds of other people, everyone seemed quite well mannered. Yosemite is a rather out-of-the-way place for most people and it isn't exactly cheap to get there or stay in the cabins so I'm guessing almost all the guests were really wanting to be there and hence, were mindful of the other campers. It also helps that the park staff seem to make appropriate behavior expectations a priority.

Upon emerging from our cabin (see photo), we saw that unlike yesterday, the skies were mostly clear and sunny. It was cool, but not cold. The steep rocky walls near our site were now crystal clear. A great day to be in Yosemite!

Yosemite Tour
The three of us signed up for a bus tour of the Yosemite Valley. This is definitely the way to go if you have some people in your group who can't walk too far. The driver took us to the various scenic sections while he told us about the area and answered questions.

The most prominent features in the valley were the huge rock walls that lined it. See first, second, third photo (El Capitan). What formed these steep walls that attract adventurous rock climbers from around the world?
...a series of glaciers shaped this canyon. When the glaciers melted, they left behind piles of rocks that had been plucked from the cliff walls and carried along in the river of ice. These piles are called moraines. The moraine left behind following the most recent glacial activity dammed the Merced River near Bridalveil Fall. As the glacier melted, a shallow lake formed which eventually filled in with small rocks and sediment. This accounts for the flat valley floor we see today.
- from park sign

The next most noticeable feature (especially at this time of year) were the numerous waterfalls. See Bridalveil Fall and Cathedral Rocks with Norma and Hazel in the fourth photo.

Norma and I pose in front of the famous "Tunnel View" in the fifth photo. We hope to return in the near future to hike above the valley and actually stand upon some of these prominent features.

Our tour guide showed us a sugar pine cone. These cones are the longest of any pine. See sixth photo.

We made a stop at Yosemite Valley Chapel. See seventh photo.
Yosemite Chapel, the only building remaining from the Old Village, is the oldest structure in Yosemite Valley. Built in 1879 near the foot of the Four Mile Trail, it was moved to its current location in 1901.
- from park sign

Across from this church stood Yosemite Falls, eighth photo.

Yosemite Falls
After the tour, we did a little walk on a trail to Yosemite Falls, first photo. Unlike Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Falls is comprised of multiple drops. I assume that is why it is called Yosemite Falls instead of Yosemite Fall. See second photo.

On the trail, we saw a bird with some brilliant blue markings called a Steller's Jay. See third and fourth photos.

Mariposa Grove
Our final destination for the day was the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. In my opinion, one of the most impressive things in California are the giant sequoias. We could not let Hazel leave this great state without seeing these magnificient wonders.
Now only inhabiting a narrow belt along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) were once found across much of the northern hemisphere. A member of the cypress family (Cupressaceae), sequoias now survive in about 75 isolated groves in California. The prevailing climate at 6000 feet (1800 m) in elevation-heavy snows, sunny days, mildly cold nights, frequent fire, and sufficient moisture-enable giant sequoias to flourish.
- from park sign

Norma, Hazel, and I walked in the Lower Grove to admire these monstrosities. These giants require a tremendous amount of resources to support their structure.
The success of these ancient forest dwellers depends on an adequate water supply, making hydrology key to survival. A sequoia's shallow, impressive root system extends to many water sources. Two to six feet beneath..., these roots stretch outward in all directions reaching for over 100 feet in order to capture this vital resource.
- from park sign

One of our first stops on our little ~2.5 mile hike was the Fallen Monarch. See first photo.
This giant sequoia fell centuries ago. The tannin-rich wood makes it resistant to rot and unpalatable to many insects, thus the tree remains part of the scene. Deep-red tannin also gives sequoias their characteristic color
- from park sign

Near the Fallen Monarch were several small pants called Equisetum or more commonly called horsetails. I've seen this plant many times before including in Pennsylvania. But until now, I never knew what it was.
One of the oldest land plants, Equisetum (also called horsetail) has hollow stems that arise from a series of underground branches. Part of a primeval forest, these plants and the giant sequoias have co-existed since the age of dinosaurs.
- from park sign

We passed some fallen trees including one that was about 8 feet wide! See second photo.

Interestingly, these huge trees have humble beginnings.
Their pine cones are egg shaped and only 1.6-2.8 inches long. Sealed tightly within, tiny seeds need help in getting their start. Sequoias rely on the natural process of fire to provide a birthplace for the next big tree. Preparing a nutrient-rich seedbed, frequent fire also opens the canopy to sunlight and reduces competition from nearby trees. Rising heat from fire also helps to dry out cones, allowing the seeds to scatter. This is a key element to the sequoia's success.
- from park sign

The next stop on our walk were four trees called the Bachelor and Three Graces (third photo).

Near one fallen tree, we found several pieces of bark. Some were about 6 inches thick. See fourth photo. Unfortunately, this is the last I saw of my beloved Benchmade knife.

Walking a little further brought us to the Grizzly Giant. See fifth and sixth photos.
Standing relatively short at 209 feet, the Grizzly Giant measures 96 feet in circumference and 28 feet in diameter at the base.
Estimated at 1800 years old, think of how many fires this tree has experienced with an average fire frequency of 5-20 years.
Look halfway up the tree on the right and you'll see a large branch bent upward to the sky. At nearly 7 feet in diameter, it is larger than the trunk of any other tree around you--except for a sequoia!

- from park sign

Our last tree was the California Tunnel Tree, carved in 1895. See seventh photo.
Thought to have served as a lower elevation winter replacement for the more famous Wawona Tunnel Tree, this tree became the second to be tunneled in this grove. The Wawona Tunnel Tree fell in 1969 after serving as a portal to the past for over 75 years. Although weakened, the California Tunnel Tree survives today and offers us a glimpse into early tourism promotion and transportation. Both trees were helpful in publicizing the Mariposa Grove and promoting its inclusion into Yosemite National Park in 1906.
- from park sign

The sun began to set during our long drive home. Seeing the giant sequoia was a good way to end the day.

If you're thinking to going to Yosemite, I suggest checking out Live Once Live Wild - Yosemite.

Day Five, Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We drove Hazel to the airport and bid her farewell. I think she will have many fond memories of her time here in California.

Most of the rest of the day was easy-going. I worked with my dad on his computer. I answered his questions and set up some software. Nothing too difficult...just a little time consuming.

That night, Ken came over. He, Norma, and I went to visit our old Karate sensei, Arnie. I called a couple of days earlier to let Arnie know I was in town and to see if I could come by on Wednesday, during the class he taught. As always, he said yes. What he didn't count on, however, was Ken coming along with me. In the first photo, you can see the look on Arnie's face when Ken walked into the garage where Arnie teaches. Cameron, one of the black belts, is standing next to Arnie. I remember Cameron when he was a little kid. Then Steve N. asked me about my stick fighting training in Modern Arnis and Escrima. So I gave a little demo and talked about my non-Kenpo martial arts training and how much I value what I've learned from studying Kenpo. Norma took a group photo of us (second photo). Later, Arnie, Ken, Norma, and Terry (Arnie's wife) went in and talked for the rest of the evening inside.

It was good to chill and talk to old friends.

Day Six, Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today and tomorrow would be spent with Ken in the Monterey area. Ken recently did a meetup group kayak trip out there. He showed me the photos he took which impressed me greatly. I asked if he could take us there and he said yes. So I made motel and kayak rental reservations. The plan was to paddle "Elkhorn Slough" on the first day and Monterey Bay the second day.

Waiting for the weather
Ken drove us down to Elkhorn Slough in his Toyota Prius loaded with his Pygmy kayak. It was raining quite a bit and was also rather cold. Not exactly ideal kayaking conditions. We arrived at Monterey Bay Kayaks at Moss Landing Harbor. This is the outfitter from whom we reserved our boats. The weather was still bad and it was a little early so we decided to go to Monterey for lunch and see if the weather might change once we return.

Hence, Ken drove us to Old Fisherman's Wharf on Monterey Harbor. We walked down a main street and decided to eat lunch with a waterfront view at Old Fisherman's Grotto. The view of the water was excellent. Several sea lions were seen in the harbor. Unfortunately, the food left much to be desired.

Walking around the area, I noticed how the vegetation seemed so much more exotic than in Maryland. See ice plant in the first photo and something else in the second photo.

After awhile, the rain let up and the sun even started to come out. See third photo. Unfortunately, this was not the case at Moss Landing. By the time we returned, it was cloudy and raining again. I spoke to the manager of the store and he said that since we were renting boats tomorrow (and tomorrow's forecast was better), he would refund our money if we didn't want to paddle today. I took him up on his offer.

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
The question now was what to do for the rest of the day. We paid a visit to Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve which was nearby. See first, second, and third photos.
Elkhorn Slough is one of the few relatively undisturbed coastal wetlands remaining in California. The main channel of the slough winds inland nearly seven miles and encompasses over 2500 acres of marsh and tidal flats. Over 400 species of invertebrates, 80 species of fish, and 200 species of birds have been identified in Elkhorn Slough.
- from Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Trail Map

I was a little concerned that we might be hiking in mud but this California dirt drained quickly so there was no mud or puddles. Shortly after we began walking, the rain stopped and we couldn't even tell it had been raining just by looking at the land.

On my grandfather's farm, I would see lots of big, fast jackrabbits. But this reserve was home to the smaller cottontail rabbit. I have never seen as many as at this place. Apparently, they must have few predators. Or, it could be the thick vegetation provides them excellent escape paths. See fourth photo.

Norma, Ken, and I walked on the South Marsh Loop Trail down to an old barn where barn owls were supposedly nesting, but we didn't see them.

Next, we headed down to a wetlands area. We walked across some wooden bridges (fifth and sixth photo). From one of the bridges, I saw a 3 foot long leopard shark swimming by.

We saw some interesting vegetation, but much different than at Fisherman's Wharf or Moss Landing. One interesting orange plant we saw was called salt marsh dodder. At first we thought it might be packing material.

I see many egrets in Maryland but these are typically small. The Elkhorn Slough area had several Great Egrets which stand about one meter tall. See seventh photo.

We walked on Hummingbird Island where we got a view of the area we would paddle tomorrow on the slough. Here, we saw some artsy structures, including a mosaic design next to a spring (eighth photo). There were also numerous eucalyptus trees.

The three of us made our way back to the visitor center where we checked out their displays and asked numerous questions to the woman working there.

Point Lobos
Our next stop was Point Lobos State Reserve. Norma had actually been here a few days earlier with her mother but she felt it was a place worth returning to.

At Weston Beach (first photo), we spent some time tidepooling. See second and third photos. This is something I would sometimes do as a kid on my own at Martin's Beach when my parents went fishing. It was always exciting to see what I might find climbing on the rocks.

Well, the excitement never left. We saw numerous sea anemone (fourth photo) and sea urchins. Some of the anemones were 6 inches in diameter and green (fifth photo). The urchins were more of a dark purple. I saw a couple of very small (one inch in diameter) starfish. Both of these were white and had 6 legs (sixth photo), unlike the typical colorful 5-legged ones I've seen. We also saw black oystercatcher birds (seventh photo).

It was humbling to be near the ocean and hear it crashing on the rocks. The loud noise and spray as the waves hit the rocks are a constant reminder to watch one's step or risk a cold, wet, unpleasant (and maybe bloody) fall. But this risk is small for an able-bodied person and the rewards are great in terms of what one might find. See Ken exploring in the eighth photo.

While we were exploring, firemen were practicing their drills for putting out California wildfires. As many as they've had in past years, I'm sure their training will come in handy sometime in the future.

After leaving the beach, we took a walk on Cypress Grove Trail as the sun started to set.

In Maryland, there are plenty of white-tailed deer. They are a little curious but for the most part, they won't let a person get too close. Sika deer on the eastern shore of Maryland are another story. They will let a person get much closer. But I have never seen a non-Sika deer get as close to anyone as at Point Lobos. See ninth photo.

In Allan Memorial Grove, we saw an island covered with sea lions. There were also two seals resting on a nearby rock down below. See tenth photo.

It seems we were visiting at the right time of the year to see the colorful oceanfront flowers (eleventh photo).

We left the reserve around dusk then ate dinner at Denny's, near our Motel 6 in the town of Marina. By staying in Marina, we were right between Monterey and Elkhorn Slough. We also managed to avoid the expensive lodging rates in Monterey. For the 3 of us, it only cost $49 for one night, after taxes. The place smelled a little damp but the price was right and it was otherwise clean.

Day Seven, Friday, May 28, 2010

We awoke to sunny skies.

After a hearty breakfast at Denny's we headed back to Moss Landing.

I had high expectations for the day.

Kayaking Elkhorn Slough
We arrived back at Monterey Bay Kayaks at Moss Landing.

With the sun shining just right and the sea lions (first photo), seals (second photo), and brown pelicans (third photo) all in close proximity, I couldn't resist but take a plethora of snapshots. While we were told to remain far from any marine wildlife, it was impossible when they were right next to the boat ramp. So many of them rested on the pier that it sat low in the water (fourth photo).

Ken unloaded and set up his boat while Norma and I checked in with the outfitter. They got us properly dressed with splash pants, splash jackets, and personal floatation devices. I believe they even had wetsuits if we wanted them. Next, they gave us a quick on-land lesson. I was hoping to opt out of this but it was required since they don't know our skill level. I turned out to be pretty impressed with their crash course instruction. They went over the basics of forward stroke, turning, and how to work as a team on the tandem kayaks. Then they showed us how to adjust the foot pedals, fasten the sprayskirt, and launch. Our instructor also went over the map and likely weather conditions. Lastly, we went over wet exit drills. After all this, we were on the water at about 1000.

We began paddling south to get out of Moss Landing Harbor (fifth photo). On our right, we saw numerous sea otters...probably about 25. Almost all were floating on their backs. We were told they were a group of males. The females and juveniles would be further east.
Sea otters are classified as 'threatened' by the Endangered Species Act and have been slowly recovering from near extinction since the 1930s. Otters only established in Elkhorn Slough as recently as 1995.
Otters must east 25% of their body weight per day to survive - that is like an average person eating 160 burgers per day! Although, otters mainly feed on clams, mussels, worms and crabs!
Elkhorn Slough is home to up to 7% of the California sea otter population.
Otters group together to form 'rafts', which provide safer areas to socialize and rest. There is a large raft opposite Moss Landing Harbor launch ramps. Here you can see young males play fighting, honing skills used later in life to maintain territories.
Adult males defend territories hosting up to 16 females. Male territories can be viewed near Seal Bend in Elkhorn Slough. Here females give birth to and raise a single pup.

- from "The Otters of Elkhorn Slough" by Okeanis

As we began to exit Moss Landing Harbor and head east on Elkhorn Slough, we saw a multitude of sea lions resting on the rocks. See sixth and seventh photos.

In the area that I believe is Seal Bend, maybe a half a mile east of Route 1 on the north side of Elkhorn Slough, we saw numerous seals. See eighth photo. As we saw near Moss Landing, the brown pelicans seemed to like being around the seals (ninth photo) but not the sea lions. In this same area, we saw several more sea otters (tenth photo). I assume these were the females with the juveniles.

Ken handles his Pygmy quite well. I think he would make a fine Chesapeake Bay paddler. See eleventh photo.

The tide was pushing us upstream. In the kevlar tandem Amaruk sea kayak that Norma and I paddled, we moved along at about 5.8 mph.

After about 3.5 miles, we came to Hummingbird Island, where we hiked the day before. But we couldn't land. In fact, we're not supposed to land anywhere on the slough except at the upstream take-out, Kirby Park, mile 4.25. It wasn't long before we were there. We used the porta-john, then continued upstream another half mile or so. The further upstream we got, the less marine wildlife we saw. But we did see white pelicans (twelfth photo).

We explored some small tributaries that extended eastward towards the railroad tracks at about mile 4.75. These meandered for quite a ways and got very shallow. High tide was at about 1245 and I think we were fortunate enough to be exploring this section at around this time. We saw several dozen crabs that would scurry off into their holes once we got close (thirteenth photo). It is hard to say exactly how far these little offshoots of the slough extend. I just know I wouldn't want to be stuck on one of them as the tide lowered.

The three of us started heading back. The folks at the outfitter said that the winds pick up and blow pretty hard from the west. They weren't kidding. I'm guessing the winds were moving at probably 10-12 mph. One couple in a tandem just did a one way trip to Kirby Park. Then Monterey Bay Kayaks picked them up and drove them back. For an inexperienced or weaker paddler, I would recommend that.

We explored a creek on the northwest side of the slough. I think it was Rubis Creek. See fourteenth photo. Rubis Creek branched off into several other twisty tributaries. It was difficult to tell which was the main one. According to the map we had, the creek should have looped back around to the slough but we never got that far. It seems every turn we made ended up at a shallow, muddy area. We gave up and returned the way we came. A curious sea otter watched us (fifteenth photo).

Back in Elkhorn Slough, the winds were even stronger and we were now paddling right into it. I'm guessing it was 16-18 mph. But Norma and I managed to keep moving at about 3.8 mph. We saw a couple of kayaks ahead that weren't making much progress. The first was a man and young girl on a plastic, sit-on-top tandem. I asked if they were alright and he said yes...but not very confidently. We then paddled to another plastic sit-on-top kayaker that was with them. I inquired if she was o.k. and I mentioned that the two people behind her weren't doing so well against the wind. I asked if they rented their boats from Monterey Bay Kayaks and she said yes. She said they were fine and that she had a cell phone and could call the outfitters if she needed. That made me feel a little better. They weren't in any danger. The three of them were properly dressed for the water temperature and they wore personal floatation devices (PFDs). I figured I'd let the outfitter know that some of their paddlers were having trouble as soon as we got back.

As we crossed under highway 1 then turned north on Moss Landing Harbor, we saw our old sea lion friends once more. A little further north we saw the male otters once again.

We finished our 13.65 mile trip. I've seen seals while paddling but I've never seen as many marine mammals as today. In fact, I don't know if I've seen this many marine mammals in my whole life as I did today! It was without a doubt, one of my favorite kayak trips.

I told the outfitters about the three kayakers that weren't getting anywhere. They said the woman already called them and they would send someone out to go get them.

Special thanks to Ken for providing the photos of Norma and I in the tandem kayak.

Lovers Point Park
Our plan for the day was to kayak Elkhorn Slough then drive over to the Monterey Bay Kayaks store in Monterey and rent a tandem out there, paddling for a couple of hours. But we would need to have the boats back by 1730. With the wind being what it is and being rushed for time, I decided that we should leave this for our next visit. Like they say in show business...always leave the audience wanting more.

We packed up and drove to Monterey. The Monterey Bay Kayaks store was along the way so we paid them a visit. See first photo. They had some nice boats including three skin-on-frame kayaks just for display. I thought Ken's boat would also look nice on display (second photo).

The problem with renting kayaks at Monterey Bay Kayaks in Monterey is that we would be pretty limited as to where we could paddle...not due to our lack of stamina but because they require all rental boats to remain in close proximity. I suppose it is a safety and liability concern for them but when I return, I want to put in a lot more miles than they would allow. When Ken paddled Monterey Bay, his group was out at Lovers Point Park. This was way outside of the area one could paddle a Monterey Bay Kayak rental boat. On my next visit, it is likely I will check into renting a kayak at Adventures by the Sea which has a building right at Lovers Point Park. This was our next destination.

Walking out on the structures that overlook the water at Lovers Point Park (third photo), we saw kelp forests in fairly clear water (by Chesapeake Bay standards). I would have loved to swim in it but the water temperature was only 50 degrees. The air temperature wasn't exactly warm either.

We found some rock outcroppings at the park to climb on and look for critters. Yesterday, we only saw a couple of very small starfish but today we saw some adults. Some were orange and some were purple (fourth photo). All were about 6 inches in diameter.

The rocks on which we climbed were pretty dramatic. Once again, it was neat looking down on the powerful waves crashing all around. See fifth and sixth photos.

Walking northwest, we headed towards Perkins Park (seventh photo). Along the way, we saw numerous flowers in bloom (eighth photo) and a big seal out on a small island (ninth photo).

Down at the water, we did some more exploring. Numerous hermit crabs were seen. We also saw a baby seal (tenth photo). I'm guessing it was only about 4 feet long.

All our paddling and walking built up quite an appetite. Hence, we went to Fishwife. There was a bit of a wait so Ken and I took a short walk at windy Asilomar State Beach while Norma stayed at the restaurant. The wait was well worth it as the food was excellent. We left fat and happy.

Day Eight, Saturday, May 29, 2010

On our final day, we took it easy and hung out with my folks. Then they drove us to the airport and bid us farewell. Our time went fast.

Reading my trip report, it may not seem like we spent much time with my family during our visit but we actually did. We just didn't go to many places with them. What I don't write about are the hours we spent just talking or the time they spent showing Norma and Hazel their garden, photos, and house. It is a time of bonding. Those things don't make for an exciting trip report...but they are no less meaningful. See photo.

I think Norma and I were successful in making Hazel's trip a memorable one. We showed her some of the most beautiful places in California. We also introduced her to many of my relatives. Norma got to spend time with some of my kin that she's met before along with some she hasn't.

I look forward to returning to California. I even look more forward to my folks coming out to see our house in Savage.

Time is short...don't waste it.