Pasture Paddle

Estero Americano remains full to the brim. Rather than paddle out the Pacific as I usually do, I turned upstream towards Valley Ford. I went as far south as I could,

and then as far east as I could before the shrubby trees and bushes made further progress difficult.

The low lying pasturelands on either side of Valley Ford Estero Road were inundated, looking more like lakes than pastures.

I passed countless dairy cows and steers along the way. There are many dairies in the area. I was downwind of dairies pretty much the whole time.

The inland reaches of Estero Americano are certainly no wilderness. But paddling in the pastures does have some charms. The grassy hillsides, green in February, are dotted with attractive outcroppings of rocks.

I passed a pair of Gulls. I’m not sure exactly what sort of gull this is.

A pair of kites flew about the eastern reach. One of them perched briefly on a tree long enough to have its photo taken.

Meadowlarks and song sparrows added their music to the air.

Here’s a ten-second video clip of a Meadowlark so you can hear its song.

A map of my journey might make it appear that I was paddling overland. The Estero is well above its banks, though, so it’s more like a lake right now.

The launch and take out site. No trouble finding a parking spot! I was the only one out there today.

Thanks for visiting!


Big River, Again

I decided to paddle on Big River both days of my two-day visit to the Mendocino coast. It is a beautiful river and I hadn’t paddled all the way to the end on the first day. Mostly I wanted to watch the otters again.

I got out ahead of the 11:00 AM high tide Thursday morning. Unlike the day before, there were several other paddlers near the launch area under the bridge. I didn’t want human company, so I quickly paddled upstream far enough to have the company of only wild creatures.

In an hour I was further upstream than I had managed to get the day before, carried by the moon’s magic carpet ride—the flood tide.

The river narrowed quite quickly between steep and heavily wooded banks. There is practically no place to easily or safely exit a kayak to take a lunch or bathroom break. But it is very quiet and peaceful. A lovely Madrone tree leaned out over the river channel in search of sunlight.

I continued about three miles farther. I had to turn around where a tree had fallen across the river (more of a stream at this point) making further progress in a kayak complicated.

I saw pretty much the same cast of wild animal characters who had entertained me the day before. Many of them, like these Western Grebes, were in almost exactly the same place on the river that they had been the day before.

The otter family, though, had swum upstream more than a mile. They were not skittish in the least. I wondered if they recognized me from the day before and knew I would mind my manners, not approach them too closely, and just observe them.

They let me get within about ten meters. I watched their mutual grooming and snuggling.

Otters appeal to humans, I think, because they seem to enjoy communal full-body snuggling, like we may have enjoyed as young children, if lucky enough to grow up in a large, snuggly family.

This fellow, after crawling up on top of his buddy turned his head upside down and snoozed for a short while.

Note the upside down head of the fellow on top

I watched the otter family of six for a good half hour before leaving them to their antics. In a little more than three hours I paddled 12 miles, assisted each mile, both ways, by a current running in my direction.

If you plan a paddle here, check the tide charts so that you’re having lunch at high tide!

Here is a map of my journey on Big River.