Tomales Bay Kayak Camping: August 15-17, 2014

Objective: A weekend of kayaking and boat-in camping

Date: August 16-17, 2014

Location: Tomales Bay, CA

Crew: Sara & Connor, plus four other bay area former Seattlites

This weekend we decided to mix it up a bit with some kayaking and boat-in only camping… Something about camping that is only accessible by boat has always intrigued me. In Washington, I always intended on doing some epic overnight kayaking trips in the San Juan Islands (and one day I certainly will), but for now, Tomales Bay will do.

A short drive from the bay area, this trip is a must (stopping at the Paper Mill Creek Saloon is also a must). On Saturday morning we drove up to the Point Reyes Ranger Station (~1 hr drive from our place in the East Bay) to pick up our backcountry camping permit and a fire permit. We then met the rest of our crew at Blue Waters Kayaking in Marshall, CA at 10am (~15 min drive from Pt Reyes station). Here was our set up: we had two people in a canoe (which was borrowed from a friend), two in an open double kayak (rented), and two in individual open kayaks (also rented). The dudes at Blue Waters were pretty cool about their whole operation (they clearly have a monopoly on the market…), but it was chaotic on Saturday morning since they were dealing with multiple groups. They also made it clear that we were not supposed to launch the canoe from their beach since we didn’t rent it from them (liability blah blah blah), but they made an exception for us which was much appreciated. The canoe allowed for a lot of storage space so that we could bring the essential stash of beer, firewood, and gear. The single kayaks had a decent amount of storage space as well, so we were able to put water, backpacks, and sleeping bags in these. Overall we had more than enough room since we had packed pretty light.

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We were in the water and off shore around 11am. The sun was out and the water was sublimely smooth. As usual in California, copious amounts of sunscreen were required. We were hoping to find a more private beach north of the two main camping areas (the ones that have restrooms), so we paddles past both of those. We stopped at a nice beach after about 1.5 hrs for some food and a beverage, and then continued on up the coast.

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Around 2pm, after we rounded a large sand bar, and the wind picked up. This proved to be too challenging for our canoe team (and was quite challenging for all), so we stopped at the next beach. A few of us kayakers continued on up to scout out the rest of the bay, and while there was still some awesome beaches to be found, the wind would have been too much to manage, so we turned around. We were just south of Hog Island. We were surprisingly beat from the paddle (and some of us, not going to name names, were a tad hungover). So we endulged in more beverages, played frisbee, and sunbathed, casually setting up camp. There were two other parties camping on the same beach, but they were far enough from our camp to not be a bother. We went for a quick hike up the hillside to see what we could see, and were pleased with awesome views of the bay. Despite being close to the elk reserve, we didn’t see any elk, although there was a lot of elk evidence.

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We returned to camp and had a great beach campfire. We shucked and ate raw and fire grilled oysters purchased ahead of time from the Hog Island Oyster Company (highly recommend!), roasted some weenies, and drank down some good whiskey and wine. It really didn’t get very cold and the wind died down making for great weather at night. If you ventured out to the water you could even see the bioluminescent plankton (or maybe we had too much whiskey).

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Foggy haze would describe both the weather and the group mentality on Sunday morning. It reminded me of growing up on the Puget Sound… Sigh.. We were packed and back in the water around 10:am, and returned to Marshall around 11:30am. The water was relatively calm in the morning but there was some wind making us work.

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On our way home, we hit up Hog Island Oyster Company for some more beverages and oysters (now addicted) which boasts a fun outdoor beachside eating area. To keep the weekend rolling, we decided to go home through Petaluma and stop at the Lagunitas Brewery since we’d never been. It was a solid Sunday Funday, and Lagunitas did not dissapoint with delicious beer, great live music, good food, and a fantastic crowd. All in all, an incredible weekend!

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Nay: We could have tried to start a bit earlier Saturday morning to enjoy more of the smooth water and avoid the afternoon wind… But that was not realistic for our crew and we were all ready to be done kayaking by 2pmish anyway.

Yay: Everything else.

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