Saturday, December 02, 2006

November 26, 2006

An early start, as I sensed my luck was running out weather wise, and I intended to kayak the bay today. Out of camp before 8. Drove to the south end of the park and hit a pull out for breakfast, then back to schooner bay for a quick look around. Climbed the rock that centers the bay for a great view. On the way out of the park, I stopped for a couple of caches that gave me a fantastic view of the bay, harbor and rock, and one that was in the middle of the impressive stand of eucalyptus.
To Morro Bay SP and a launch. I barely made it into the mouth of the estuary when I met a group of kayaks coming out. A quick discussion of the harbor seals, cormorants and other birds in the area, and then the group leader pulled beside and invited me to join them for their paddle :). They are a local paddling club, specializing in bay paddles. They come out nearly every w/e, and were headed over to the sand spit which seperates the bay from ocean. I gladly joined for this reason... The Bay is subdivided into segments of management and uses. Smack dab in the middle of it is duck hunting! I had intended ot keep to the estuary to avoid wandering within the hunting range, and now I was invited to go outward with a guide. Cool! As we ventured across the 1 mile wide bay, we could see the hunters and their blinds. This is when Mike tells us that a few weeks back they had stumbled into some hunters decoys. The hunters called fish & game, who motored out and admonished them for their careless mistake. They gave them an hours lecture and training on safely navigating the bay.
Well, there goes theory one... Now lets see, bird shot range is less than 300 yards. Just stay the heck away fom any birds on the water, ducks, decoys or otherwise. Steer clear of any vessels, period. There were some derelict looking barges and whatnot scattered around, and my thought was that hunters would try anything as cammoflage. Just then, a barrage of gunfire. I know they are waaayyy over there, so we are out of range, right????? This is definitely a different experience.
We all made it alive to the sand spit. After lunch on the bayside and some very interesting conversation, we wandered through the dunes to the oceanside. It was an interesting walk, as very few landlubbers hike the several miles te reach this location. The dunes were loaded with prints, and we were stopping and guessing what type of animal, bird or varmit made what. A very interesting and astute observation was made in regards to my question on a unique set of prints. Some small varmit or lizard, perhaps. It was noted that the tracks resembled that of a mountain bike tire imprint. There was no spacing in between prints, which led me to believe a lizard. Someone noted that an abrupt end to the tracks and a divit in the dune appeared to show the demise of the track maker to a bird. I would concur. Sorry, but no camera with me for this trip. The oceanside was beautiful, even as the wind was picking up, the sea starting to build and the feel of weather occuring in the air. Without anyone mentioning it, we all seemed to be on the same page that it was a good idea to shove off and head back across. It was amazing how quickly the bay had changed. A stiff wind abreast had us correcting port as we headed across. This was tricky, as that was the direction of the hunters. I decided early on the crossing that I would rather do a nose to wind northerly paddle up, on the other side than to venture into their range.
I was the only paddler w/o an ocean style kayak, so I quickly fell behind. No problem, as I planned to drop back and do a kayak up cache on the other side anyways. One paddler had set out ahead of everyone and was doubletiming it across. He had struck me as a novice from the get go, and now seemed almost in a panic about the crossing. His big problem was that he had way over-corrected and was almost into the decoy group! Mike had hollered at him a number of times that he was too close, but he was at least 200 yards ahead and I would guess out of earshot with the wind. All of a sudden, a volley rang out. Man, did that guy steer right in a hurry. The hunting boat motored out and around the decoy, as they must have made a kill to retrieve. As they were stopped and retrieving, a single shot rang out?! I strongly suspect that this was a warning shot to the group to stay clear, or to further expedite the errant paddlers rapid departure! when I did make my landing, the group was still scattered around in the parking lot. I asked for others opinion, and just got shrugs of the shoulders. I don't know...
I did paddle up and retrieve the sought after cache.
After a stealth shower at the campgrounds, and a mid-afternoon meal, I headed to the Elfin forest. I have been to a couple of these before, up on the north coast and in the sierra. They are "forests" where there is not enough nutrients in the soil to support typical growth rates. Only the hardiest of species survive in them, and they are only a portion of what height they should be for their age. This forest was made up mainly of 100 + year old oak, yet the tallest trees were only meaured at 12 feet! There was manzanita and other scrub mixed in, and the thought came to mind that this was a perfect compliment to Itsyville :'). The trail was very nicely done, made up almost entirely of boardwalk. The family that was responsible for the preservation had been killed in an auto wreck some years back, and the community rallied to finish the preserve and support it in their memory. A very worthwhile stop.
By the time I was back at Montana, it was long after dark. I had collected an impressive amount of firewood, and decided to pick out a different sight for tonight, and sit fireside for dinner. The forceast had rain coming in late in the night, so I should be good.
Just to be consistent, another yahoo experience at a SP tonight. I was in a site checking for levelness and whatnot. I had climbed into the cab, had the door open, lost in my own thing, when I hear a voice, or I think I did... Makes me come back to the moment and look around. There is a guy standing at the side of the van, no headlamp or other lighting. He says, gonna try to have a fire?

Do what?! "Why" I ask.

Are you alone.

Whoa, what the hey! "why do you ask" I say.

No, are you gonna try a fire, he goes on.

Now, I am majorly irratated. Quit flippin answering my questions with added questions, and get to your purpose man! is what is going through my mind. What comes out is another "why do you ask" ,

which gets another Are you alone...

Man! I say, in a really testy manner, "LOOK, I am just checking out the site, alright!!!!!!!!!!!."

To this, I get an ok, sorry to have bothered you man response.

You know, all of this may have been innocent and he may have just been looking to share a campfire. I do not know. I know that his approach (literal) really needed work, if that was the case. Just to top things off, I tried to make a quick escape and go to the back of the campgrounds to pick out a site. As I was trying to back out, this guy stands in the middle of the road, no light, pretty much in my way. I have to do a 3 point turn to be sure and avoid him, and off I go. He just stands there the whole time, kind of dumbfounded. Another half uncomfortable night, as I await his possible venture into my new campsite (never happened).
So, I get camp set, and build a fire and dinner. Just as the monsterous log I had added is going full bore.... a passing rain shower. Sheesh. I go in the van, but rain stops in 5 minutes. Back to the fire. 10 minutes go by, another passing shower and another visit to the van. Hey, wait a minute, I think. When I return, I am armed with an umbrella. Sure enough, not long before the next shower. I am sure that I looked funny sitting fireside with an umbrella going : ). After an hour of this, a real rain set in, and I finally called it a night.

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