[PHOTOSET] A Part of the Sunset: Kayaking California’s Channel Islands
The arrival of fall has had us here at Trekalong looking a lot to our forests, as leaves change and landscapes go dormant. So, as a change of pace, how about some musings from another sort of landscape, one that’s constantly changing and flourshing, no matter the season: California’s Pacific coast.
Here is a guest post from kayaking expert and author Robert Mohle, from his book Adventure Kayaking: Trips from Big Sur to San Diego (Wilderness Press). If the following short story and photos don’t convince you to add this to your bucket list, nothing will.
Clear skies and calm sea stretched as far as the eye could see. The hills were velvety green and the air was cool and crisp. We meandered through thick beds of kelp, stopping occasionally to peer through the transparent water. The rays of the early morning sun illuminated the shallow reef beneath us that was alive with plants and animals of all shapes, sizes, and colors. A curious harbor seal surfaced beneath the thick canopy of kelp.
I used to sit on the bluff and watch the sun set over the ocean. Now, in my kayak, I’m part of the sunset.
Soon we reached a rocky headland. The waves had eroded a small cave in the rock, which we entered. Inside the cave the air was cool and moist. The gurgling water echoed off the damp walls of the chamber, which were covered with a lavender lichen that seemed to glow in the dim light. A second opening to the cave appeared ahead which we paddled through and found ourselves in a small protected cove with a white sand beach.
The sun was higher now, and the air warm and still. A group of brown pelicans silently glided past, their wing tips barely skimming the smooth, glassy water. We stopped for a while and closed our eyes to capture the moment. All of a sudden we heard a loud swooshing sound as two gray whales passed us, leaving a cloud of spray as they disappeared beneath the surface of the water. Moments later they reappeared only a few feet from where we sat, breathless. A young calf, perhaps 20 feet long, raised its head from the water to get a closer look at us while its mother patiently waited.
By the time we reached the landing site, the sun was low in the sky. We were tired but felt relaxed as we loaded our boats onto the car. A man and his son were parked next to us. The man surveyed our kayaks, and asked what we liked the most about kayaking. We looked at each other, and after a few moments of deep reflection my friend responded, “Being in the moment. That’s what I like most about kayaking.” The man paused to think this over, and then said, “Being in the moment? I like that. If that’s what kayaking is about, I think I’d like to try it.”
Kayaking is about being in the moment; about listening to the wind, watching the waves, and feeling the movement of the sea. On the water there are no roads or fences or signs. You don’t need a license and you don’t need any gas. You are free, like the birds soaring above the fish swimming below. The sport of kayaking has opened a whole new world for me: new friendships, new perspectives, good health, and an awareness of my surroundings that I have been able to incorporate into other aspects of my life.
I used to sit on the bluff and watch the sun set over the ocean. Now, in my kayak, I’m part of the sunset. Happy paddling.
About the author
Robert Mohle‘s life has evolved around the ocean. His first nautical experiences began at a young age when his family moved to Norway and they sailed the fiords. In 1960 he returned to California and spent many summers on a boat at Catalina Island. In 1961 Rob got his first surfboard and over the next 15 years surfed the beaches of central and southern California. In 1976 he moved to San Luis Obispo County where he raised a family and worked for 30 years as a professional Geologist. Rob has two sons and two stepsons.
Love for the ocean continues to be a central theme of Rob’s life. He has been kayaking for over 20 years and has explored most of the California coastline. He still surfs regularly, writes about his adventures, paints seascapes, and volunteers for childrens educational programs at the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach.