Steve's Paddling Page

Pictures from the Big Sur-Carmel trip

Paddling buddies Jim and Steve did their summer kayak and camping trip to Big Sur this year. We talked about various places, including a tour of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, but needed to stay closer to home. We actually penciled out a trip that began on lakes around Redding, CA and moved over to Humboldt Bay. That plan was scrapped when we couldn't find any open camping reservations in the Humboldt area. We checked out the Big Sur area and got lucky with a campground opening at Ventana Campgrounds . The campground worked perfectly for us; it was shady with decent shower/bathroom facilities. Not exactly wilderness camping, but perfect for our stay. This would be a fine family site. Ironically, the campground shares the Ventana property with a fancy restaurant, Inn, spa, art gallery. Jim and I took a quick look at the fancy facilities up the hill (which were very nice) and retreated back to campfireville, where we could probably stay all summer for the price of one night's stay on the fancy end of things.

At any rate, unless the weather is horrible, visitors to Big Sur have already enjoyed themselves by the time they reach their destinations. I've been to lots of scenic places, but we named Big Sur "scenicer". Breath-taking vistas are around every bend in the road (and there are plenty of those).

We spent the first day driving up, scouting for ocean access for the kayaks, setting up camp, and then driving north to Carmel and Monterey to look for paddling put ins. Along the way, we did the famous 17 mile drive. We could barely afford to drive the route, much less ever live in any of the homes along the way. We stopped at Monterey Bay Kayaks where folks were super nice and knowledgable. Since we planned to paddle Elkhorn Slough the next day, they gave us all the info we needed about routes, parking, where to put in, etc. They carried lots of cool stuff too.

Back at camp, Jim made oriental teriyaki noodles, to which we added some pre-barbequed chicken, etc. Awesome. We ate well (and cheaply) the entire trip. Camp was always a good place to be; nice fire pit, good food, cards, guitars, banjoes, backgammon, friendly co-campers.

The following day, we drove up to Moss Landing for our paddle into the Elkhorn Slough. We timed the paddle to coincide with high tide, so we wouldn't be battling the current on the return trip. We knew that the winds came up in the afternoon, and boy, were we right. We got a great workout against the wind on the way back. In total, we did about 11 miles in and back. If we ever return, we will drive in to the parking lot at 4 mile, and explore from there. The slough is a cool place, but the features were not unique to us, having spent so much time paddling the estuary back in Morro Bay.

The drive back to camp- scenicer of course.

We wanted an ocean paddle the next time out, and, having scoped out the access points, narrowed it down to two locations. We chose to paddle from the Ocean Avenue public beach access in Carmel, because it would allow us to paddle into the coves along the Pebble Beach Golf Course, which is just beautiful. The Ocean Avenue access is a sun-bather, swim and hang-out-at-the-beach place, with a nice, steep walk down the white sand to the beach. It wasn't too hard carrying/dragging the kayaks and gear the couple of hundred yards from the truck to the surf. The swell got bigger every second we were there, and the waves were packed pretty closely, so you know what that means: WET ENTRY. It's always good to start your paddle fully soaked with a boat full of water. I paddled out to the kelp beds and started pumping water. I rarely have to use my pump, but when I do...... it's so worth it. Jim, whose boat is a sit-on-top touring boat, is almost always wet when he gets out, but has only to pull some plugs to drain the water out of the cockpit of his boat. After one sideways trip (doesn't work), he joined me in the kelp beds, where we planned our next stop. We paddled around some nice rock formations into Stillwater Cove, poked around for awhile, watched the golfers and sea otters, and eventually beached in a tiny cove beneath someone's megamillion$ house, and had some lunch. We finished the perimeter of the cove and were heading out to journey toward the next one when we decided that the fog was coming in too far, and, being old by virtue of a lifetime of informed decisions (OK, and plenty of luck), thought it best to head back toward the Ocean Beach area while we could still see it. We cut across the outside, and made good time. Of course the swell was bigger, the waves tighter, etc. I went in first, timing my strokes just behind a good swell, and making sure I didn't get surfing. I managed to stay straight through the foam and to the beach. Just as I hit sand, as I was doing quick exit, the next wave hit my tail and rolled me and mine several times. I came up laughing, and eventually grabbed my boat and pulled it up the beach. Behind me, Jim had endured a similar trip. I ran down to "high five" him, elated that we were both on terra firma with no noticable injuries. I saw the next wave (much larger) at about the same time Jim yelled for me to look out. It sent his boat to take me down, but somehow I managed to skip across the top of it without having my ankles removed. The same wave went high up the beach and brought my boat back down at us. Somehow, we avoided any more hurt. Not one of my shining moments- next time, there will be no congratulations until we are back in the truck! It took some time to get the water and sand out of the boats, mine especially, since it is a sit inside. There was so much sand in my boat; I even had a sand crab. Four weeks later, I am still getting sand out of places I didn't know existed (in the boat). The hardest thing we did was to get the boats back up the hill to the truck.................. nasty. Soaked, tired, publicly humiliated, cold... a great afternoon in the ocean off Carmel! My only regret is that there are few pictures. It was a gray day, and of course, it's hard to stop and snap a shot when you're being tossed on to the beach.

Camp, with it's hot showers, dry clothes and cracklin' fire, was better than ever. Our singing and playing brought compliments, but we were careful to quit by dinner time.

We packed up and drove off late the next morning, and treated ourselves to breakfast at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn , a really cool old place with doorways to duck through. We stopped and scouted several possible future paddle locations on the way south toward home.

Another great trip. As our Governor once said, "I'll be back.".

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Pictures from the Big Sur-Carmel trip

view pictures from anywhere on the California Coast (awesome) at the
California Coastal Records Project