Loc: Imperial Beach
Acc: tent inside YMCA surf camp
Dist: 44,1 km
Start: 08:00 End: 18:00
We both slept pretty all right in the shop, me on the bench close to the open window with earplugs, Lisa in the last dark calm corner on the floor.
Gary was keen to paddle for a while with us this morning. He came this time with his truck which was very helpful to haul all the gear down to the beach, and took one kayak loosely in the second pair of cradles, with me standing on the truck bed holding my baby. The other kayak Lisa wheeled again down on the trolley, easy done.
I was helping Lisa to get afloat through the low surf, and Gary helped me to get the most heavy of the three kayaks pushed in the shallow soup zone. Gary’s boat was empty, so no big deal launching for him.
I was curious to sea the famous sea caves, which Jen’s shop (and a bunch of others…) were selling as a small tour on sit-on-tops. I hugged the coast to see them all, Gary and Lisa strange enough went offshore straight past them, without giving the even a closer look…hey, guys, other people pay lot of money to see the caves what we can have now here for free! Ok, I understand Gary has seen them already, but Lisa…? Weird…
As highlights, I paddled inside an amazing solo-standing pillar which connected two caves, and spotted a few meters later a tunnel with a beach on the other end. It looked a bit choppy to go through from this side, so I decided to find the other side with the little beach. Easy job, a small wide bay opened up with that beach at the end. No rough water going here, so I paddled up to the beach to look around the corner to find the other exit of the tunnel. That was actually a very impressive large cave with the narrow tunnel as an exit! Wonderful! But none of my paddling partners here to play with…your loss, guys! Keep on going straight…
Another cave had a small wooden platform inside, to enter somehow from the top. Nothing for me now, but also an impressive cave! That was it, all other caves coming up were on the surfy side. I stayed close to the coast anyway to enjoy the different views of the city. Amazingly, Gary and Lisa preferred to paddle almost outside the USA, offshore in the three-miles-zone…at least for me it looked like it. I thought Gary wanted to paddle with ME?
We came to the pier where Gary obviously liked to turn around, and I paddled that mile out to them to say good bye. Maybe next time we should paddle *together*? Thanks for giving us the lifts, Gary!
Lisa and I finally cut across the small bay leading to the harbor breakwaters, and past another T-shape pier. We got our first breaker offshore from us, and I shouted at Lisa to point out to the sea immediately! Quick, girl, quicker…we could just about nicely paddle straight through the just broken foamy water the unexpected breaker left upfront. I explained Lisa how to deal best with those boomers…
Soon, we reached the headland leading to the main harbor, paddled through a kelp bed before we rounded the long jutting out breaker zone. The tide was just running out the harbor and the adjacent inlet area and created quite some choppy seas and current.
We were not quite sure where to cross to and where to camp – we had made some contact with the “Wild Coast” at Imperial Beach and were hoping to hear back from them, but no result yet…as an alternative, we thought we might find a remote beach area around Silver Strand to camp wild, or we knew of a RV-park we could sneak in, or as the last resort, my old 3-days paddling partner to San Francisco, Scott Dahlquist, was volunteering to pick us from the beach and to drive us some long way back to Jen’s house. Thanks for that, Scott!
We checked the beach camp options first, and landed through low surf on some remote stretch where we only saw a bunch of jetskis playing around. Perfect stretch of coast here! But what was the meaning of those strange colored large signs? A tiny sign attached to the large sign said something about military training area…fuck…we identified the playing jetskis as Navy Seals on training (Scott told us eventually…), and headed quickly out again through the moderate surf before they would take notice of us…
On the paddle in, I did not get a drop in my face, but Lisa hesitated too long to paddle strong in after the one and only breaker, and got finally thrown. On the paddle out, both of us got some nasty face wash and showers, but we stayed upright.
We found the RV park, and landed again through low surf, this time both just fine. We were hoping to blend in like on the last RV park, where Dorlene let us stay on her site. But this one was a State Park RV park, and for RV’s ONLY. In capital letters. We asked politely the ranger in his office for a campsite, but his answer was as impolite “no” as it could be. And we would be brought up by a cop if we tried to camp on the beach upfront. He said he could call them…we got it as he would be happy to ask them for an exception…the beach patrol arrived while Lisa rather went back to the beach to secure our kayaks.
I made a polite request for an exception for us to let us camp either on the State Park RV site or just down at the beach, tried to pass on my card and to tell who we were and what were were up to, but that officer said NO, also in capital letters. The conclusion once more was: NEVER EVER ask an US-officer of the lower 48th, especially California, (Alaska is different..), regardless if cop, sheriff, ranger, beach patrol, military, city council, coast guard or what not for HELP for our case of traveling with kayaks, the answer was and will always be NO, more or less polite spoken. And any officer ALWAYS keeps his or her sunglasses on, as if they are scared to look into your eyes on saying this…
We are very much looking forward to be in a Latin-American country tomorrow, Like in South America, there will always a way to be flexible for “special cases”…! and people are not only friendly on the surface.
We went back to the beach to discuss what to do, and decided to call Scott for help. He was almost on his way, when we got an email from David from the YMCA surf camp we would be welcome to camp there. Thanks so much! I mailed back we would be there in 1,5 hrs…it would be dark by then…sorry Scott that we changed our minds, this is easier, but THANKS SO MUCH for your help offer! Hope to see you again another time!
A second time launching through the surf, this time both ok, and I told Lisa she should paddle ahead while I was still getting on the water to save time for the threatening sunset. We paddled as hard as we could those 6 km to the surf camp, but I had a not perfect way point and we went a bit too far in the darkness. We could not see anything anymore on the beach, besides a well-lit hotel before the pier of Imperial Beach. We decided to land here, we could at least see where we go…but what I could NOT see was the nasty big breaker rolling in from the dark sea – it almost caught me on my approach…just abut not… and we both paddled in through this this time ugly surf in darkness all right. Good job, Lisa!
I tried several times in vain to get in touch with our host David from the YMCA to tell hime we had landed, but just a bit too far and if he could help us to get to the camp? No answer, neither e-mail nor phone…strange…ok, unloading, carrying our heavy bags and kayaks to the street past the fancy well-lit hotel. A bunch of wild looking youngsters were playing basketball in a public street court nearby, and I dared to ask them if they had a truck available to please help us to get to the YMCA?
They said yes! No truck, but a Jeep…Cory volunteered to help us! Thanks so much, Cory! We loaded all our bags and one kayak on the roof, and I was sitting once more on the roof to hold my baby without straps. THIS seems to be more accepted than camping on the beaches…? Cory didn’t care…cool guy! He drove me carefully to the nearby YMCA – where we found a HUGE gate – closed…but lucky enough, some car was just coming out, we talked to the driver and he had the right phone number to reach David, the camp manager!
We got guided to the beach site, he showed us a spot to put up our tents – AND hot showers…PERFECT! Thanks to David and The YMCA to host us on our last night in the US! Cory had to drive one more time to get Lisa and her kayak, and he forgot the gate code…Lisa had to look around, found some guys who knew it, and finally was also there. All good now! But dead-tired…