Petaluma River

On several recent solo paddles I have reflected on the pleasures of solo paddling. Being outdoors in natural settings can restore my sense of balance and perspective.

But I do not always prefer solo paddling. In fact, I often go out paddling or hiking with others, usually my wife. Today I went out with a couple of folks, Bill and Kathy, from the paddling group I sometimes join, the Petaluma Paddlers, an Internet meet-up group.

Appropriately, we went out on the Petaluma River from the Petaluma Marina upstream on a rising tide past the turning basin and as far north as we could easily go. We passed beneath the Smart Train bridge,

the concrete US 101 over crossing,

the Hunt and Behrens buildings,

some stately oaks,

until we reached the railroad bridge just south of the outlet mall.

Along the way we saw Western Grebes, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cormorants.



The New York Times recently ran an opinion piece on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of social engagement. Here is a link:

Happiness Is Other People

Mid Tomales Bay Tour Two

Serene memories of a kayak tour of Tomales Bay I took five days earlier have reverberated in my mind all week long.

By Saturday a compelling impulse to return became irresistible. The opportunity arose this morning—so I went.

Marconi Cove in fog

When I arrived the bay was smooth as glass. All was quiet. Fog limited visibility to about 1/8 mile.

I made my way up the eastern shore of the bay.

As I passed alongside a 29’ sailboat moored in the cove south of Marshall Boat Works, I came, unknowingly, within ten feet of large, probably male, sea lion who had been resting at the surface on the other side of the sailboat. He became aware of me before I knew of him. He startled, let out a surprised sea lion bark, and hurriedly dove underwater with a splash. Half a minute later he resurfaced and watched me as I paddled away.

I made my way along the eastern shore past the little hamlet of Marshall to Audubon Canyon Ranch before heading west into the fog to cross the bay.

For about ten minutes I could see nothing but fog. With no compass to point the way, I kept an eye out for Laird’s Landing on the National Seahore side of the bay. Soon it appeared. I veered over to Marshall Beach and stopped for a break.

Marshall Beach

As I enjoyed my tea on the beach I had a moment to consider: Paddling solo is so pleasant. The solo paddler can fully immerse in the natural world. No effort to engage socially with companions is required. The natural world is sufficient company. Pelicans, gulls, cormorants, loons, grebes, harbor seals, bat rays, and even startled sea lions are welcome companions on a Saturday morning like this.

After tea on Marshall Beach, I paddled a mile further north to Tomales Beach before turning around and going several miles south. The fog began to melt away.

With the sun, Saturday morning paddlers began to appear everywhere on the bay. I passed Tomales Bay State Park’s popular Heart’s Desire Beach and continued along just a bit further to Pebble Beach where I stopped once again to stretch my legs.

On weekdays Pebble Beach—accessible only by foot or boat—usually offers solitude, but even there midday Saturday can be busy. A group of hikers and two groups of kayakers were enjoying the beach with me.

Pebble Beach

I didn’t pack much of a lunch—just a can of kippered herring. Somehow canned fish seems appropriate food on a saltwater beach.

The fog had burned off completely by the time I finished the fillet. A pleasant northwesterly breeze sprang up, just enough to put some texture on the water. Sailboats, a reefed O’Day Daysailer and a Laser with Power Head Radial sail (new to me), appeared on the bay. Somehow sailboats make the bay prettier.

I had promised to be home by early afternoon, so it was time for me to venture back across the bay to Marconi Cove where my days adventure had begun.

A map of my journey:

Mid-Tomales Bay Tour

My wife had scheduled a full day of meetings today, so I loaded my kayak on the roof rack and headed out to Tomales Bay. The weather forecast called for warm sunshine and light winds, exactly what I found when I got out there. Rather than drive around the end of the bay to Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness as planned, I put in at Marconi Cove, to save time driving out and back. Paddling across the bay would be easy enough today.

Leaving Marconi Cove

Conditions for paddling stayed perfect all day long. I paddled north towards Marshall, then across the bay at Marshall Boat Works. I stopped for lunch In Tomales Bay State Park on Pebble Beach, the beach south of Heart’s Desire Beach. It was so warm, I took refuge from the sun under the trees growing on the cliff behind the narrow beach.

Lunch Spot


After a leisurely lunch I paddled down the bay to just north of Inverness. I crossed the bay at Shell Beach where the bay narrows. I visited the quiet little lagoon sheltered by Tommasini Point.

There were other kayakers and canoeists out today as well as several sailboats. I saw the usual wildlife: ospreys, gulls, pelicans, harbor seals, cormorants, and a magnificent group of more than sixty geese flying south in a vee formation.

As I loaded my kayak back onto the car, a youthful couple stopped at Marconi Cove for a nude swim. Sorry, no photos of that!

Here is a map of today’s nearly eight mile journey.

Russian River Estuary Opened

The Sonoma County Water Agency breached the mouth of the Russian River early this afternoon.

I had paddled the upper Russian River estuary the past couple of days, once on my SUP up to Bohemian Grove…

….and again yesterday with my wife in the canoe. On this second outing we made it all the way to the upper limit of the estuarine waters at the Summer Crossing between Guerneville and Monte Rio.

Summer Crossing near Guerneville where the first discernible downstream current is felt when the estuary is full

Here’s a map of some of the second paddle up to the Summer Crossing.

When the estuary gets so full that it is basically a lake from Jenner to Guerneville it begins to flood summer homes along the Jenner shoreline and the Sonoma County Water Agency steps in to breach the levee of sand pushed up into the mouth of the river by the Pacific surf.

We arrived to witness the breaching, but CalTrans work on Highway 1 delayed the delivery of the excavator to Goat Rock Beach where the breaching was to take place. There was no excavator, just an empty beach and a full lagoon.

To pass the time waiting for the excavator to arrive my wife and I took a walk along the coast on the Kortum Trail from Shell Beach to Wright’s Beach. Wright’s Beach has nice pebbly stretches mixed in with ordinary sandy sand.

Fine pebbles on Wright’s Beach

When we returned to the Jenner overlook in the misty mid afternoon, the breaching of the estuary had just been completed and the water began flowing out the the Pacific Ocean.


Harbor Seals were swimming in the lagoon and in the Pacific surf just where the fresh water was running out to the ocean. We could see a few making their way back and forth between the two.


California Fires

Wildfires have devastated this part of Northern California, hitting neighboring towns of Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen especially hard. Choking smoke has blanketed my hometown, Sebastopol, making it hard to breathe.

To get some relief, I went out to the ocean for a short outing on my stand up paddle board. I went to Jenner at the mouth of the Russian River.

The mouth of the river has closed again, so the estuary is again a lagoon. On my way to the mouth, I saw a river otter, several harbor seals, more than a dozen brown pelicans,and hundreds of terns and gulls.

Here is a map of my short paddle.