It’s July 15, 2012 and we’re going back to Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing. I first heard about Elkhorn while visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium last year. I was homesick for the Chesapeake Bay and so asked a nearby guide where we could kayak and see animals? To that Mr. Guide said, “Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing and the good people at Monterey Bay Kayaks will set you up. “ Mr. Guide was right then and he’s right now. This is our second trip to Elkhorn Slough and it’s a must-see for naturalists looking to enjoy wild Cali animals in their native habitat, including sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, over 250 resident and migratory birds and seven endangered species but who’s counting…
When we arrive, we discover that Tommy, at 5’4+”, no longer needs to paddle Mom around but instead can have his own kayak. Measuring nearly 5’4” myself I’m tall enough for my own kayak too but Anna is not 5’ 4” so she rides with Daddy which is always nice because all she has to do is sit there if she wants; Eric can paddle for two. But before we are ready to go, we need to put on rental wet-suits because its 69 degrees today and the winds are blowing at 10 knots. (For the folks back at home dealing with 100+ degree heat indexes, 69 degrees is cold especially when sitting low on the water.) And now we’re ready to explore the shore.
Paddling ‘round the bend is easy because we have the tide working in our favor. The rule of thumb is to allow 1/3 of your time paddling out and 2/3 of your time paddling back. Another rule of thumb is to stay 75 feet away from the animals. Really? That may true for most people but it doesn’t apply to us. I mean right here, next to our boat, is Fisher Pac Man, the hungry Sea Otter. He floats around on his back munching on crustaceans all day. We’re so close; we can see his upper and lower teeth tear away fish bones and crabs. In fact, we can hear him!! “Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.” The best part is Fisher Pac Man don’t care! So we continue to follow him, three kayaks versus one sea otter. But where did he go? There he is! Look - now he has two nasty kelp crabs, one on his chest and one in his mouth. GO Fisher Pac Man GO!
Sorry, about that… I’m a huge fan of the Honey Badger and I got a little carried away. Anyway, after two hours of paddling against the wind, we’re ready to hang up our wetsuits and look for frogs at Pinnacles National Monument.
We’re excited to return to the reservoir at Bear Gulch but it’s 6 o’clock by the time we reach the top; the sun is low and the cold-blooded creatures have all gone to sleep for the night except for one little foggy that Anna pounced on, grabbed and put on her face for Eric. Last year when we were here, I packed a delicious lunch. This year I did not – I couldn’t be bothered. So with crummies in our tummies, we reluctantly left Bear Gulch after a short while and headed back down the trail. Once we pass the caves, Tommy dared Anna to keep up by sprinting down the path. I didn’t realize how fast Tommy is until I saw him fly across rocks and round bends like a natural born runner. But that shouldn’t surprise me, after all he is a Voit and all Voits run.
It turns out leaving Pinnacles is more difficult than I thought it would be because California Quails keep popping up on the side of the road, literally. We try at least three times to get a picture of it but the Quails are camera shy for some reason and keeping moving just as the shutter closes. Further down the road I see a pinecone on the side that I have to have but Eric says it’s not good enough and after stopping for this one, I discover he’s right. Eric says, “I’ll find you a better one.” And he actually does because for one thing his eyesight beyond 3 feet in front of my face is better than mine. When we see a coyote someone shouted, “Stop the car!” (Snap) Tommy takes the picture and gets a good one the first time. Hooray for Tommy! A few hundred feet further down the road we see another coyote. “Stop the car again!!” (Snap, Snap.) He was closer; maybe this will be a better picture than the first. When I see a third coyote Eric doesn’t bother with stopping the car because apparently he didn’t see it. Apparently no one saw it but me. Determined to get out of there, Eric makes a run for the switchbacks until we stop the car one more time to watch wild turkeys in the field and to warn them that Mr. Coyote is fast approaching. “Look out turkeys!” “Gobble, gobble, gobble” said the turkeys.
Now we’re really hungry and all I can think of is that earlier in the day we passed a bunch of tex-mex restaurants on Route 25. They all looked promising but the one we chose was the INN AT Tres Pinos because it had the most cars in the parking lot – a sure sign, says Eric, that the food is good. It also has good cars! Stepping out of our Escape rental I can’t believe my eyes - Porches, Alpha Romeos, Beamers, an Opal, oh my! We had hit a road rally!!! To be exact, we ran into the 2012 Faultline 500.
That’s it. But just think… we saw all that and more not on Mulberry Street but just South of San Jose.