Monday, December 1, 2008

Beginning of the Kayaking Adventure (Dec. 2008)

Just found this page on my old website, a site I have discontinued and so thought I would upload it here to give my back story.  In 2006, I could barely walk and had bilateral knee replacements.

December 2008

Kayaking the waterways of Central California is my way of celebrating the holidays... not exactly Midwest style but I am loving it! My sons are still in Washington State and I'm hoping they will contribute something to this holiday update. My sister, Judy, is now living back in Indiana and has given me a two car garage with overhead loft for Christmas and is trying to get me to move back there to be near her. My brother, Jim, is still in Las Vegas and still enjoying his life there. My father’s second family (my eight half-siblings) are scattered all over the country.

As for me, I have lost 60 lbs. since leaving Washington State in August 2007. I spend my days biking, kayaking, and walking and running. I am most proud of "running" since I have not been able to do so in over 30 years. Below is my most recent outing of any length... although I take many shorter trips in the Monterey area.

December 2008 Beach Combing

Dec. 4(Thurs):   Drove to Morro Bay Harbor and Estuary State Park and got a campsite for the night.
Dec. 5(Fri): Feeling great today.  Put kayak in near campground at Morro Bay State Park Marina and paddled 7 miles (out to mouth of Bay and back). That is a seal headed toward me. This is the location of the Morro Bay Blue Heron Rookery.  Standing four feet tall with a wingspan of about six feet, the great blue heron is the largest of all the long-legged birds seen on the central coast of California.  At low tide, the peak feeding time, herons can be seen standing motionless in shallow water watching for small fish. During non-breeding seasons, the Morro Bay estuary may support as many as fifty blue herons.  Other species commonly seen in the rookery are the white egret and the cormorant. DSCF0027


Forgot why I wanted to paddle here – to see the Indian shell middens and beach comb for sand dollars seaside of the Dunes.  So decided I’d have to stay overnight and go out again tomorrow.  This area offers magnificent views of Morro Rock and has some of the best kayak surfing in the state.  DSCF0008

Morro Rock is one of the “Seven Sisters,” a linear series of volcanic peaks extending from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo.  The volcanic intrusions occurred about 22-24 million years ago and probably never reached the surface to form true volcanoes.  The soft sediment and ash that once covered the intrusion at Morro Rock have eroded leaving the 581-foot high rock we see today.  The rock was named “El Moro” by a Spanish explorer.

Dec. 6 (Sat):


The hike across the dunes to seaside was strenuous but well worth it.  I put in at Tidewater Park and had a short paddle straight across and beached the boat (or mudded it) and hiked.  Hard work but worth it the second I found the shell middens left by the Chumash Indians and soon reached the beach and began finding sand dollars.


It is a beautiful wide beach. No one was out there… but me.  You can’t walk there.  Some surfers had surfed across and hiked in (3) but left when I arrived.  I had miles of pristine beach just to myself.  Made a couple mistakes though… not clearly marking my trail through the dunes and not sitting down to rest and eat before heading back to kayak.  I was very exhausted before reaching the boat, sat, drank the rest of my water and ate a couple bites of a snack bar. 


After resting, I pushed off, had an easy paddle back only to find someone had parked so close to my van, I couldn't load up.  I pulled the boat out, moved the van – pulled the kayak along side and then had to rest before loading up.  The Estuary is amazing and is 2300 acres of mud flats, eelgrass, tidal wetlands and open water channels.  Over two dozen threatened and endangered species live in the watershed, including: peregrine falcon, brown pelican, sea otters, black rail, snowy plover, steelhead trout, etc.

Decided to drive to Morro Rock – surfers abound there and that beach is heavily visited – surfers, walkers, runners, pooping dogs, etc.  I took a long nap only to awake to one of the most amazing sunsets I’d ever seen.  dscf0030

Decided on a hot meal and walked through town and along the docks and noticed crowds of people lining the shoreline and docks with blankets and chairs, etc.  I asked an elderly lady if this many people was normal or what?  Well it was the annual Christmas flotilla of decorated boats.  Took some pics with my phone, but have yet to figure out how to download them to my computer.  There was a live band playing at the end of one dock. I watched part of the parade, then found a Thai place and got hot food.  What a treat.  I slept really well.

Dec. 7 (Sun.): Drove to Spooners Cove


Did some beach combing and was finding what looked like Jade, Jasper, agates, etc.  A man stopped to chat and said he grew up there and had been gone 20 years but nothing had changed a bit.  He was a diver and going out into the Cove and so I took my kayak out.  Bad idea… not a spot for a rookie.  We joked about saving each other and turns out he probably saved me. 


This was taken from the mouth of the bay, looking back towards the beach... and swells were lifting me up about 12-15'. Exciting to say the least. I had a rough surf landing, boat got caught in an undertow and the next wave flipped it over on top of me, pinning me down.  The diver grabbed the boat as I struggled to get up on my feet again, the whole while the undertow trying to suck me down.  Everything turned out all right… no injuries, but lost a bottle of water… and my waterproof camera case IS waterproof.   (11/2013 - This is a very dangerous location for boating or swimming.  People have died here.)

Decided to stay at this campground Sunday and Monday night – and get in my fill of beach combing the next day. 

Dec. 8(Mon): So quiet last night – the only sound was that of my digestive juices.  Not even the surf sounds made it back to the campground area. Slept until 11am.  I spent the entire day beach combing.  Lots of others doing the same and taught me what to look for.  There was even a wedding there in the afternoon.

rocks 003

Dec. 9(Tues) High Tide was at 6:25am. I was there at 6:45am… I was alone. Had the place to myself for hours.  About 10:30am cars began to arrive.  Low tide will be at 1:42pm.  I’m going to check out of the campground and come spend a little more time on the beach and checking out the tidal pools. Found abalone shells, other seashells, lots of Jade, amber, jasper, and even an arrowhead (believed to be 12,000 years old). 


I’m hooked on this place.  Gorgeous.    Drove back through town and got Thai spring rolls for lunch and Salt water taffy for xmas gifts.

This place is awesome.  I didn’t see ½ of Morro Bay.  It’s good there for kayaking all winter.  The Beach is a dream… this Spooners Cove is a beachcombers dream and the campground here is only lightly used.  In the late 1800s, coastal steamers stopped in Spooner's Cove to load and unload supplies for the Spooner family, early ranchers in the area. On the south bluff overlooking the cove, a warehouse was built with a long wooden chute to deliver goods to the waiting ships. The ranch house is now an interpretive center for the park.

I think I’ll be spending a lot of time here in the future.  (11/2013 - I wrote that five years ago and am still drawn back to that area whenever I get to the West Coast.  This trip, this year, I kept thinking… this is where I would like to retire-retire.)


(11/2013 – I’ll be back! Smile)  Update:  Aug. 20, 2013, I kayaked the Holgate Glacier in Alaska... only amazing considering it was the 49th state I have kayaked in four years and that in 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. I now have new knees, better health and a kayak. Thank you for following along and won't you join me in May 2014 to kayak Hawaii, my 50th state, and celebrate my 70th Birthday, the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in 2015.


  1. Well, I did kayak Hawaii on my 70th birthday. And am now studying the Arizona Trail for the thru hike in Fall of 2016.. had to postpone things a year. I can do this.

    1. That got pushed to Fall of 2017 due to medical issues and financial considerations, BUT, I AM doing it.


Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.