Protecting the Planet

Protecting our planet is not a partisan issue. Almost everyone wants

  • clean air,
  • clean water,
  • wholesome, delicious, and nutritious foods,
  • healthy natural surroundings,
  • cheap clean renewable energy, generated locally.

There is plenty of scientific evidence that we need to make changes if future generations are to have these things. But so far scientists have not been particularly effective in the public discourse on these matters.

There is a minority among us who don’t want these things. Among that minority is a very influential few who are getting richer and richer under the regime we currently have. They spend a lot of money to persuade others among us not to make the changes that must be made to save the web of life for the generations to come.

The following video talks about why the changes we need in public opinion have not been coming as quickly as they should. It suggests how we might become more effective in protecting our earth for future generations.

 

Dining on Heart’s Desire Beach

Sonoma County is in the midst of a record-setting heat wave for early May. It’s always cooler at the coast—a good place to escape the hottest weather.

Trimaran sailing past Heart’s Desire Beach

Because my favorite estuary, the Estero Americano, has so little water in it, I decided to try to paddle on Tomales Bay, my second-favorite estuary. In the spring, though, it’s often unpleasantly windy on Tomales. Heat spells sometimes attenuate the winds and I hoped that would happen yesterday.

When I arrived in the morning the wind was already up enough to keep me ashore.

Heart’s Desire, though, is about as nice a beach as one might wish for. A dozen families, most with preschool children, set up for a midday sojourn along the shore near the parking lot and bathrooms.

I ventured a short way south the better to see what wild animals might be up to.

Soon a turkey vulture flew over head.

The ebbing tide revealed a dead leopard shark.

The vulture had become aware of the carcass before me. Turkey Vultures can detect ethyl mercaptan, a gas emitted by decaying flesh, from the air.

Soon it landed on the beach and began to disembowel the leopard shark.

It concentrated on a slit in the underside of the (female?) shark.

The turkey vulture stayed for some time and was eventually joined by other TVs. Taking turns, they worked for about an hour on the carcass, but didn’t get a whole lot of entrails out of the body cavity. Their efforts were interrupted from time to time by humans walking by. They finally flew away leaving the carcass pretty much as they had found it.

Later a seagull flew in for a look at what the vultures had abandoned. It went right to work.

I didn’t expect the seagull, who worked alone, to pull much out of the shark. It was surprisingly successful.

The seagull managed to pull a great deal of food from the leopard shark’s belly.

Such was the show on Heart’s Desire Beach on May 2, 2017.

 

Estero Drained

Yesterday I went out to the Estero to check on the level of the water.

The four inches of rain that have fallen in the area recently were enough to fill it up so much that it broke though the sandbar at the beach. The Estero’s waters have drained into Bodega Bay.

It’s tidal for now. Its waters are low. The snag under the bridge again blocks the channel.

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Snag under bridge 23 April 2017

Launching at the usual spot would be difficult.

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Low water at launch spot

My next outing will be in another estuary.

 

Estero Tour: Landmarks to the Beach

Many people at the launch area at the Estero Americano tell me they’ve never paddled all the way to the ocean. That is understandable. It’s five and a half miles to the beach and that first mile is nothing special.

Most of the journey to Bodega Bay, however, is a lovely paddle.

With that in mind, permit me to show you just how grest it is.

Let’s start with a map showing the names of the landmarks along the way. Click to enlarge.

Black text for features on Land. White text for water features. Each feature will be discussed in the following narrative. Click to enlarge.

The public launch is at the intersection of Marsh Road and Valley Ford Estero Road in northwest Marin County.

Looking back towards Valley Ford.

A gravel driveway, often rough with potholes, runs along the south side of the road out to the narrow Estero channel. Parking is limited, but not many people come here. Leave room for others to park.

Launch site. Paddle under bridge to get to ocean

From this site, paddle north under the bridge and begin winding up the channel. You’re likely to pass dairy cattle who often show interest in paddlers passing by.

Dairy heifer

The dairy buildings on the Marin side have a pleasing geometric appeal. They mark the beginning of the wilder reaches of the Estero. You have come about a mile at this point. It gets better from here.

Dairy buildings in Marin County

Wild animals begin to appear beyond this dairy. On the most recent trip, Willets worked the Marin shoreline.

Willet

A luxuriant grove of Bay Laurel trees overhang the Estero. It’s a pleasant place to sit in shade on a warm afternoon.

Beyond Bay Laurel Grove you’ll  pass beyond the dairy and out to the rangeland of True Grass Farms. The cattle on this ranch aren’t making milk; they’re for meat. As cattle go, they enjoy some prime real estate. As a rancher I know says, “My cows have only one bad day.”

It is here that the Estero stretches out in a more or less straight mile running west northwest and gradually widening as it approaches Buckeye Bend.

Along this stretch of the Estero I often see Turkey Vultures, Ravens, and Hawks.

To the north is California Highway One.

Zooming in

And zooming in more

Highway One is far enough away so that the only vehicles you’re likely to hear are the unmuffled Harleys. If you know where to look, you can catch a glimpse of the traffic passing by. If you look north as you pass by Coyote Point, you should be able to see the traffic going by on the highway.

Coyote Point, so named for this coyote photographed here.

You’re just shy of halfway to the ocean when you reach Buckeye Bend.

Buckeye Bend. Another person went out that day in a motorized canoe. He is visible if you click on the photo to enlarge it. 

Whale’s Tail marks the halfway point of the trip out to the coast. It’s a landmark that requires no explanation.

Just beyond Whale’s Tail the landscape opens up.

Sonoma Reach

Sonoma Reach opens to the north of the main channel. Sadly there is barbed wire fencing blocking easy passage into this Reach.

Crossing the Reach and passing a Point on the Marin shore you arrive at the Hanging Gardens. A pair of Barn Owls had made their home in a cave near the top of the cliffs here.

Hanging Gardens

Beyond the Hanging Gardens the Estero narrows briefly before opening to Marin Reach.

Marin Reach

As you exit the broader waters of Marin Reach you enter the fiord-like Straits that pass by the Sonoma Land Trust site and lead to the beach. There is Inner Strait

Inner Strait

Middle Strait,

Middle Strait

and Outer Strait.

Outer Strait

Each of these straits requires less than ten minutes of moderate paddling. As you paddle into Outer Strait the sound of surf will become more and more prominent.

Almost there 😎

Get out at the end. You’ve made it to the beach!

Lots of footprints on this trip

If you go on a weekday, you may find the beach entirely empty of other people, and, if you’re lucky, even empty of other human footprints. Of course you will see the flotsam and jetsam of humans. It’s everywhere.

I always bring a trash bag to pick up whatever trash I find.

Here is a link to a video panorama of the beach out there.

A Beach Without Footprints

Estero Americano is, again, a lovely place to paddle. On my last visit on February 13 the mouth had been open and the Estero’s tidally-influenced waters were too low to paddle to the coast.

But when I arrived at the launch this morning the calm water was nearly to the top of the channel.

The paddle out to the dairy in the warm morning sun was invigorating.

I caught up with and paddled past a couple in a canoe who had arrived ahead of me and were motoring halfway out to the coast. They told me that the mouth was open and the Estero was influenced by tides; I was almost certain that the mouth was closed.

Above us was a large variety of birds: hawks, vultures, ravens, crows, geese, ducks among others. This hawk, which was kiting, defies my ability to identify it. Maybe Larry will know.

 

Canada Geese are migrating north and stopping here to rest along their journey.

It took less than two hours to paddle the five and a half miles out to the ocean beach which was shrouded in a coastal peasouper.

Not many people find their way to this part of he Pacific Coast. The only human footprints on the beach today were the ones my feet made.

The sandbar at the mouth has indeed sealed the Estero up in all but the highest tides.

And the Estero should slowly fill up with the water running into it from its tributaries. This makes for a pretty place to paddle indeed.

On the return trip I saw

Great Blue Heron

A solitary Western Grebe, who kept well away from me.

Ravens gathered in a group of a dozen birds and put on a show of amazing aerobics. The ravens harassed any hawks and vultures who flew too nearby. It’s usually crows, not Ravens who gather in flocks, but these birds were definitely Ravens.

A breeding pair of Mergansers

And lots of cows from the dairy, including these  heifers.

Gotta love them!

Paddling in the Estero Americano is a great way to enjoy some animal-enriched solitude.

A map of the journey: