January 25 Antigua

Blues Day 4 Antigua (6)

Today we port in St John’s, Antigua, largest of the British Leeward Islands, where Lord Horatio Nelson headquartered for his forays into the Caribbean to do battle with the French and pirates in the late 18th century.  Appropriately, the theme for the night is “Pirate Night”, with the highlight of the evening to be the Pirates Parade at 10:00 PM on the aft deck. 

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In the mean time, we have a beautiful sunny day to explore the island and soak up the sunshine.  With a mostly sunny forecast and a temperature of 77 degrees F, it couldn’t be any better.  I am excited about seeing this island, since I haven’t been here before, and it’s Deborah’s first landfall anywhere in the Caribbean.  There’s something really special about being around for a “first” like this with Deborah.  Her eyes light up and she gets excited in the way that a jaded traveler might not.  It’s like having the experience for the first time myself all over again. For some unknown reason,  Antigua was on one of Deb’s long time lists of places to see, and today we were going to be there.

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We had planned a room service breakfast the night before, so we could be on deck for the sail in.  Each day we ordered coffee and tea in our room and it was always delivered right on time.  The breakfast we had only once, and it was terribly bland and boring compared to the offerings upstairs, so we didn’t do that again. On this morning, however, the small sweet rolls and coffee were just enough. 

I love the morning arrivals, and we found our way to the 11th deck to watch the ship sail into the harbor, watching the landscape appear as we approached the dock.  The island looked green and beautiful in the warm morning light and before long, the captain announced that the ship was cleared and we could go onshore. 

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I thought that Antigua was small and simple enough to explore on our own, without being tied to the timing of a group tour from the ship.  Sometimes it makes things easier, but it really is a lot more fun to amble off the ship when we want to, and walk through town at our own pace, to see what we want and leave when we want.  It worked perfectly for us this morning, as a sweet woman met us coming off the dock with offers of hair braiding.  I know, I know, but it did sound like fun, and she really was a sweet lady.  In a moment, she led us to her outdoor salon and had Deb in her chair.  Deb has very curly hair and often wears hair bands, so the braids and beads looked perfect on her.  I somehow got pulled into the fun, and while braids and beads looked rather stupid on me, I was still glad I did it.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (12)Blues Day 4 Antigua (76) Jenny, our braid lady, was originally from Montserrat, but was run off the island a few years ago when the volcanic eruptions caused 80 percent of the islands population to leave.  I hadn’t realized that this famous volcanic island was so near to where we were traveling.  Jenny’s story was fascinating, as she discussed her 11 aunts who had to leave Montserrat and their home forever.  Living is expensive on Antigua, more so than it had been on Montserrat.  Jenny laughed with us throughout the morning and her sweet warm nature was a delight.  I was glad to pay to have my hair braided even if it looked a bit silly on me.  It was great for swimming at least, and Deborah looked gorgeous.  She might have to try to find a hair braider back in Portland!

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After our little island culture experience, we ambled up the streets of the town, outside the slick confines of the port area, the town was a bit shabby, and felt very real.  We found a shoe store where Deb bought a great pair of sandals cheaper than they would have been back in the US, and then perused the standard linen shop with all the embroidered tablecloths and runners, where we found a great runner for Deb.  ( I have plenty of such linens from my previous Caribbean voyage, so didn’t need more).  We talked to Jenny about getting around the island and she pointed out some of the tours offered up the street.  We found one that looked good, and for 20 bucks each, joined 4 other folks in an enclosed van that promised a trip over the island and commentary on island history with some stops along the way.

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The island is actually quite nondescript, not particularly scenic as Caribbean islands go in my opinion, but it was green and the air was spectacularly fresh.  Our guide Nathanial offered stories of the history of the island as we wound through the streets and neighborhoods and traveled to the central part to St Barnabus Anglican Church, established more than 250 years ago and is the oldest church on Antigua.  Continuing to the southern side of the island, we saw a lovely view of English Harbor and Eric Clapton’s big rehab house on the hill above the bay.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (56) Once on the south side of the island we had a misty view of the island of Montserrat on the horizon.  A low cloud obscured the top of the volcano, and it looked mystical and dangerous.The Soufrière Hills volcano on the island began erupting in 1995 after a long period of dormancy, and has been active ever since.  It destroyed the capital city of Plymouth and more than half the island is completely uninhabitable now.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (62) We had time to wander a bit on the beach before arriving back in St John’s and the ship.  We were a bit worn out from the day, and we needed some cash after spending most of what we had, so needed to return to the ship.  Once there, however, we found it too hard to get back off the ship and just decided to stay onboard and relax a bit before supper and another night of music an parties. 

Blues Day 4 Antigua (72)Pirate Night on the ship was great, with amazing, detailed pirate costumes paraded around the ship by a majority of the cruisers.  People who have done this cruise in the past are known for bringing a complete extra suitcase of simply costumes, although it isn’t as easy any more with all the baggage restrictions on the airline.

evening sail away from Antigua Eurodam flying the Jolly Roger for pirate night

 

 

Can you see the Jolly Roger flying on the aft deck as we sail away from Antigua?

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A quiet day in Fort Bragg

Pomo RV Park (18) It rained hard all night, pounding on the MoHo roof and making me really happy that I wasn’t in a tent!  Someone said that there are two kinds of slides, ones that leak and ones that will.  So far, there are no signs of any leaking anywhere in the MoHo, even in the hardest rains and wind.  I guess the Dynamax reputation for solid coaches is holding up for us.

I took my time cooking breakfast this morning while we watched the Sunday news shows.  Mo and I both love Fareed Zakaria, he brings such a different perspective to the world view. Then Mo balances all that out with a good hit of Fox News while I retreat into the computer.  Ha!  Guess you can tell who is ex-military and who used to be a tree hugger! The rain let up after breakfast and we took Abby for a walk around the park.  Fort Bragg day (4)On the way  we met a couple from Victoria, just out on the beginning of a five month journey through the western US.  Wayne and Lynn were very conversational, and we had a great time comparing notes on campgrounds, RV’s, and destinations.  It’s amazing how easy it is to talk with strangers in this RVing world, no such thing as a stranger, really.

I love my new kayak, but there were a couple of little problems with it when it finally arrived.  Somehow the bubble wrap used to protect it caused the paint to discolor on the side exposed to the sunlight and it has a small area of bubble wrap design along one side.  In addition, the rim around the cockpit has a small split that shouldn’t be there.  I called the company as soon as I unwrapped the boat and they called me back to make sure everything is taken care of properly.  Bill Swift is the owner of Swift Canoe and Kayak in Ontario, Canada, and I am so impressed with his customer service.  He is building a new boat for me and paying for the shipping to my home in Oregon.  My boat was a sale boat, with a few minor flaws, so he asked if I wanted to pay a bit more to get a new boat, or if I wanted to send this one back for repairs.  Either way he would pay the shipping, so I decided to opt for the new boat and the chance to pick my own colors.  In the mean time, he said I should use the boat I have now as much as I want to until the new one arrives some time next January.  Great customer service, great product, and great company!  I highly recommend them.

Fort Bragg day (12) We spent the morning walking through the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, senior discount fee was 7.50 each, and well worth it.  The gardens have several areas, with more formal perennial gardens close to the entrance, and then about a half mile of wilder gardens that lead to a great ocean bluff overlook.  At this time of year, the flowers weren’t that exciting, but the plants and foliage were lovely.  The trails were nice too, and we took our time enjoying them even more than the gardens.

 

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After our walk, we drove to the main part of town, but it didn’t seem to have much to offer, not enough to actually get out of the car to explore.  Nothing caught my eye and Mo isn’t a shopper anyway.  I think we got our fill of browsing back in Ferndale, anyway.  At the northern edge of town is Elm Street, leading down to the hidden Glass Beach.  Once the town dump, it is now covered with beautiful tiny smooth pieces of sea glass.  Somewhere we read that you aren’t supposed to pick up the glass, but once at the beach, it was filled with beachcombers looking for that perfect piece of glass and filling hands and pockets with the tiny treasures.  We took a few as well.  My favorite is the pale light turquoise pieces.  We didn’t find anything particularly fabulous, but had fun looking and enjoying the beach and the surf.

Fort Bragg day (69) We traveled up the Noyo River to check out Liquid Fusion Kayak Company, only to find an open lot with some kayaks and a sign that said to call them if you wanted to rent one.  I had hoped for an actual shop with information, so we later stopped at the dive shop along the highway.  The young man there was really helpful and told us that Big River ten miles south at Mendocino was the best paddle around, with easy access and fewer people.  Big River is listed in the Sea Kayaking Northern California book I bought recently, so after looking it up and reading we decided that for sure this will be tomorrow’s destination.

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It was just a napping kind of day, so instead of doing anything else we went back to camp, had a late lunch snack and I took a great nap, snuggled back in the comforters watching the trees outside the window as I fell asleep.  I love the chance that we have had on this trip to actually slow down and relax.  An afternoon nap is just about as decadent as I can imagine!   When I woke up a bit later, it was starting to darken and we took Abby for a walk around the nearly empty park before coming back home to make supper.  I’m really looking forward to getting out in the kayaks tomorrow, it should be a sunny day, and again the tides are with us perfectly.

Photos for our day at the ocean are linked here.

We are staying at a park in Fort Bragg that had many reviews: Pomo RV Park and Campground. It seems it is the best place to stay around here, since most others are merely parking lots. Some of the reviews complained about the rules and policies, but we had no problem with anything. It is a cash only park, and doesn’t honor anything but Good Sam ten percent discount, so at 40 bucks a night it’s not a cheap place to stay. The sites are huge, however, and as private as a good state park. We wonder if maybe at one time it was a state park. I haven’t seen a private RV park anywhere laid out with this kind of luxury of space. CeiPui asked for some photos of the park, so I linked a separate album here. 

 

Northern California Coast

Eureka to Fort Bragg (15) We have been here in the fog, but even so, the town of Eureka seems rather drab.  There are a lot of interesting people walking around, people who look like they have been in the same mode since the 60’s. Last night we decided to take an evening tour of the local co-op.  North Coast Co-op has a huge mural on the street side facade, and is bigger than most major grocery stores.  I love natural food stores, and while it wasn’t Trader Joe’s, it was bigger than some and filled with amazing stuff.  Mo is at a loss in this environment, so I walked around explaining some of the lingo to her and some of the reasons for buying this or that instead of the everyday brands you get in a regular grocery store. 

The produce was fantastic, and if our refrigerator wasn’t full I would have hauled tons of colorful stuff home.  We can’t eat enough to support all the temptations so gorgeously displayed. We managed to get out of the store with some great looking green tea from China and two bottles of “Our Daily Red”, an organic red table wine with no sulfites.  Keeps the migraines away for me.  I love a good red wine, but will certainly settle for a daily red glass of this good stuff full of antioxidants and other good things.  It was a fun way to spend a dark rainy evening in Eureka.

Eureka to Fort BraggToday we are going to try out the Samoa Cookhouse, the last surviving lumber camp style cookhouse in the west, built in 1893.  The meals are all served family style and breakfast today will be French toast, sausage, and who knows what else.  There is a lumberjack museum with the cookhouse that should be entertaining.  Another treat will be breakfast company, with some soil scientist friends of mine located at the Arcata Soil Survey Office who have agreed to meet us there this morning.  Looking forward to it.

Later:

Eureka to Fort Bragg (6) Our breakfast was wonderful, and visiting with Sue Azman made it even more so.  I’m not sure if Mo enjoyed all the soil survey talk as much as I did, but we all had a good time talking about kayaking the coast.  Sue is an avid sea kayaker and we had fun talking kayaks and possible trips.  Back to camp in plenty of time to button up and we actually left the park at 12:01.  Gas in Eureka was a whopping 3.35 per gallon, and we knew that in Fort Bragg it was only 2.99, so we only put 50 bucks in the MoHo to get us on down the road.  Again, our travel day was a short 130 miles or so.  BUT!  What a trip it was!!

 

Eureka to Fort Bragg (30) We traveled south on 101 for some distance before turning off on the alternate highway that travels 32 miles through the redwoods, called the Avenue of the Giants.  It was a leisurely, meandering drive through huge trees and narrow roads, but with no traffic at all.  Stopping at several of the auto tour sites for photos, and some short walks in the forest was refreshing.  Once more, Abby wasn’t welcome on the trails, even on a leash, so Mo stayed in the MoHo so I could walk through the forest a bit and take pictures.  I had been enjoying the subtle light on a pale yellow vine that seemed to be in many of the trees and wanted to photograph it.  Closer inspection revealed the bane of my California soil survey life, poison oak!  It was creeping at least 40 feet high into the trees, and covering the forest floor, mixed with the ferns and oxalis.  Poison oak is ubiquitous in the Mother Lode where I worked, but I had no idea it was so prevalent in this high precipitation redwood forest.  Ugh!  I am extremely allergic and had to do a couple of hospital visits while working in California.  It was one of the main reasons I was so glad to finally retire and get back home to Oregon.

Eureka to Fort Bragg (86) At the terminus of the Avenue of the Giants, it wasn’t far to our turn west from 101 to Fort Bragg. Although Highway 1 is famous as one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country, this part of “one” crossed the last of the coastal ranges via an incredibly curvy and steep road before arriving at the ocean cliffs a few miles north of Fort Bragg.  I think this may have been the curviest road we have driven in the MoHo, and I’m glad Mo was the one doing the driving.  Jeremy wasn’t too happy about the curves either, and he insisted on riding on the dash board, twisting and turning and trying to get comfortable.  I tend to get car sick when it’s bad like this, but on this trip I remembered to bring my “sea bands”, wrist bands with knobs that create pressure on meridian points on the wrist.  I was starting to get queasy when I put them on, and was afraid they wouldn’t work, but they did!  Amazing little tool, these wrist bands.  On the way down the hill we saw a flare and then a rolled over car with several people trying to turn it back upright.  It all seemed a bit strange because there must have been eight people there and only 2 cars, the rollover and another car.  Hmmm.  Which car had that many people in it?  They all looked a bit sheepish, and a bit strange.  We didn’t stop.

Eureka to Fort Bragg (94) At the bottom of the hill, a pickup in front of us pulled over and a poor girl jumped out and got sick right there.  I realized then that I wasn’t sick at all!  Not a bit.  Thank you wrist bands!  The last few miles of the route followed curving cliffs along the Pacific.  The fog had lifted, and the clouds were heavy but not raining.  On the horizon of the ocean, the light caught in a brilliant band among all the grays of sky and water.

We arrived at the Pomo RV Park and Campground around 4:30, and settled in to our very private, very quiet spot at the upper end of the campground.  Here again we have good TV, good Wi-Fi, and power and water.  All this excitement for a whopping 40. per night!  No discounts here except Good Sam, which we don’t have.  This park is also on the Camp Club USA list, but there are so many restrictions that we probably won’t manage a visit here when we could get a discount.  Camping sites on this part of the coast are few and far between, and most consist of a parking lot surrounded by ugly stuff.  Even the state parks are all 35 per night and don’t have the amenities.  Tomorrow we will drive around a bit and see what is here.  The prediction is for hard rain tonight and tomorrow but sun on Monday.  Perfect!  We can check everything out and plan for another kayak adventure Monday morning.  Again, we are staying 3 nights.  First night to settle in, then two days to explore before we move on to the next horizon. 

Of course I took a gazillion photos, and even managed to delete a good number of them.  You can see them linked here.

Foggy Days in Eureka

Eureka fog (4) Early this morning we woke to see the park lights muted by fog.  As the light came slowly, the fog didn’t lift at all.  Kayaking anywhere around Humboldt Bay requires working with the tides, and high tide was coming in today around 11am.  If we were to get out on the water and back without getting stranded on a mudflat, we needed to be out by 10 at the latest.  At ten, the fog was a thick as ever.  I know we could have gone anyway, but somehow boating unknown waters when you can’t see anything anyway isn’t very enticing.  On to Plan B.

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We got a great free publication from the RV manager called  “101 Things to Do Humboldt”. The best part for us was the centerfold map of Humboldt Bay with all the boat launching sites and descriptions of kayaking options.  Still, in the fog, the description of nearby Ferndale sounded much more inviting.  Visiting Ferndale is like visiting the past.  The entire Main Street has been designated a national Register Historic District due to the finely preserved commercial and residential buildings.  Rich bottom land and plentiful grass supports a still thriving dairy industry, which has sustained the community since the late 1800’s.  The ornate “Painted Ladies” were once called “Butterfat Palaces”. 

11_04_20101 There is a fascinating mix of shops, including a real drugstore, the oldest continuously operating drugstore in California. We ambled through town, taking our time looking at “stuff”, some of it beautiful art, and some of it just a bunch of “stuff”.  The only temptation for me came with the yarn shop.  Knitters know that this hobby isn’t about knitting as much as it is about yarn!  I managed to get out of there without buying a gorgeous hank of hand dyed mohair that really called to me.  I have two bins of “stash” including some truly gorgeous wool, silk, mohair, and other amazing yarns, so I practiced self-control and didn’t buy any.

Ferndale (13) In another specialty shop, the owner spent some time laughing with us about how hard it is to decorate a very tall tree when you are very short, and then proceeded to give us the history of the store.  Almost every single shopkeeper asked us from where we hailed.  It was leisurely and fun and I only spent a small amount on a bottle of yummy orange blossom hand lotion. 

Ferndale (34) After wandering the downtown area, we ambled up the hill to the cemetery, one of the most amazing cemeteries I have seen since New Orleans.  It’s on a hill overlooking the town and some of the plots date back to the 1890’s.  The view toward the ocean overlooking the town was beautiful.

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By this time, Abby had been waiting in the car long enough so we decided to drive west to the Centerville beach area.  With the fog lifting a bit, we thought a bit about trying to put the boats in the slough, but the tide was already going out and our timing would be off.  The trip out to the beach meanders along a small road that passes dairies and farmhouses, even a very old abandoned Victorian is total disrepair, a perfect haunted house. 

The beach was open and empty, no other cars or people in sight, and the wind wasn’t blowing hard either, just a nice ocean breeze.  The sun lifted a bit and we got in a great beach walk, which Abby loved as well.  Back to the car, the narrow road led up the hill into nowhere, so of course we had to go check it out.  On the GPS I could see we were near the ocean, but the little car icon was cruising through no man’s land, no road supposedly there at all.  Google Maps on the phone could see some semblance of road, but of course reception was spotty or non existent. 

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We traveled on anyway, up and down and around, until we came upon a BLM parking area and a sign for the Guthrie Creek Trailhead.  Yay!  Abby could go with us, and there wasn’t a soul in sight, and no cars parked at the trailhead.  It seems now that with a couple of pricey kayaks on the top of the car we are a bit reluctant to leave it parked in the middle of nowhere.  We figured we were safe enough here, and headed down the trail.  Sure enough, as soon as we set out a man appeared coming up the trail.  We couldn’t figure out where he came from, but he was nice and we visited a bit while he told us he was “camping” on some property he had nearby.  Hmmm.  At least he didn’t have a car to carry off the boats!  We have a bolt cutter proof bike cable and plan to at least lock the two boats together on the racks so someone would have a heck of a time getting them down.

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The trail was perfect, not too steep, wide and mowed with beautiful views of the ocean and Guthrie Creek below us. The fog was coming in again and the wind was pretty stiff once beyond the protection of the hills at the view overlook area, so we turned back.  It would be good hike to go all the way down to the beach.  Again, with the high surf and sneaker waves around we thought it might not be a day to actually go down to the closed in beach.

Ferndale (78) We topped off the afternoon with a side trip to the Loleta Cheese Factory.  In Oregon, Tillamook cheese is quite famous, and they have tours of the factory and cheese tasting.  Oregon also has Bandon cheese, in my opinion, even better than Tillamook.  The Loleta Cheese Factory was a real treat, different in that much more of the cheese making process here is by hand.  It is a small, family run business that produces medal winning cheeses and 34 varieties made in small batches using traditional recipes to maintain the old flavors.  I didn’t know until today that the kind of cheese depends on the culture added when the cheese is first made.

Our side trip to taste cheese and watch it made seemed like a great thing to do in an area that owed it’s history and economy to the dairy industry. We arrived late in the afternoon and the cheese makers were just emptying the last vat of cheese, but the young woman at the counter explained the whole process to us while we snacked on tiny tidbits of the tastiest cheese I have tried yet.  Especially wonderful was the organic all natural white cheddar, aged about a year and a half so far, with no hormones or antibiotics fed to the cows.  It turned out to be a lovely day seeing new things and new places.

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Lake Talawa and the coast at Crescent City

Lake Tawala-1 Today was the day!  We did a bit of internet searching last night to check local tides and possible put-in sites for a trip on an inland lake north of Crescent City.  On Google Maps, the two lakes looked accessible but sometimes it’s hard to find a launch site where there is a lot of private land surrounding the lake or where there are wildlife refuges.  Lake Talawa and Lake Earl have both. 

I found an old website for a kayaking group that is no longer active, but they decided to keep the site up so people could use the information.  I’m sure glad they did!  We drove north around Earl Lake wandering off towards the west until we came to an extensive area of old roads that weren’t maintained any longer.  According to the web site, there was a subdivision planned here that never made it.  The roads were cracked and full of potholes, and as we approached the lake it was apparent that we were the only people around for miles. 

Lake Tawala-4 Another possible deterrent could be that the lake was too low and too muddy to launch there.  Instead, we found tules and sedges, with ground underfoot that was firm enough to support not only us, but the Tracker.  We parked just feet from the water and launched effortlessly.

With a new boat it is always a bit thrilling to try it for the first time.  This boat is so stable and comfortable there wasn’t a moment of wobble or concern. It felt great.  Surprisingly, the cockpit is really quite big and the boat is about as wide as my old boat.  The keel seems smoother, but Mo didn’t think they tracked any better than our old less expensive boats.  However, lifting them to the racks is the deciding factor here, not speed or agility.  We aren’t racers at all, and just want to get around easily, have a boat that tracks well, and is roomy and comfortable, and we can lift overhead without groaning.  Check on all counts!

Lake Tawala-8I it was still quite foggy, with only filtered sun coming through so the landscape all around us looked surreal.  I knew the lake shape from the phone  and could see where we were on the lake, but the distances and the changes in water levels made for some interesting moments.  Accompanying our paddle was the incredible sound of huge crashing surf just beyond the dunes.  With the fog it was hard to discern just where we were, and thinking we were at the dunes I checked on the iPhone to find we were still in the middle of the lake with some islands that didn’t show up on Google Earth. 

Lake Tawala-15 We paddled on to the ever increasing crash of the surf, and I wondered if the lake was perhaps breaching the dunes as it sometimes does when the water is high.  Suddenly we were surrounded by white floating sea foam that looked for all the world like small icebergs.  As we approached the beach we could see really huge waves that were breaking over the dunes and felt the surges of the incoming water.  The tide was supposed to be receding and this definitely wasn’t feeling like receding at all!  I read something on the weather page last night about a huge ocean swell that was coming this direction, with high surf warnings and waves to 25 feet.  Sure made me nervous to see that water cresting over the dunes toward me!  I turned and ran and Mo laughed at me, but we felt the swell again and didn’t have to paddle much at all to go back inland fairly quickly.

On the way back to our launch site we saw some otters playing, and a huge flock of snow geese flew overhead.  We saw a lot of blue and white herons along the marshy shores.  In the fog, everything looked much bigger and yet farther away than it actually was.  There was no way to get a feel for where we were at all.  I was really glad for the IPhone GPS and map, believe me!

BigSwell-1 Once back to the car, we loaded up effortlessly, excited about how easy our maiden voyage was.  We decided to go back toward Crescent City and explore the other side of the lakes toward the ocean along Pebble Beach Road.  Once we got there, we could see a lot of viewing activity along the headlands, with cars parked and people hiking out to high places and watching the surf.  Once we did the same we discovered why.  The waves were HUGE.  It is impossible to take any kind of photos that actually show the scale of these waves coming into the shore.  There are headlands and sea stacks in this vicinity that are at least 100 feet high and the waves were breaking completely over them.  The waves were at least 30 feet tall, and breaking very far out from shore.  There were all kinds of warnings out about staying away from the breakwater and not turning your back on the ocean, se we paid attention to all that and stayed up high. 

It was truly exciting. The power of the ocean is so huge, and sometimes with just normal waves it is easy to forget how she can be in a storm.  The part that was even more amazing is that there was no storm going on here at all, in fact there wasn’t even any wind.  What an exciting thing to see.  Mo lived on the ocean near Half Moon Bay for more than 30 years and I spent a considerable amount of time at the ocean as well.  Neither of us have ever seen waves like those we saw today.

As always, there are many more photos on my Picasa website for this day linked here.