Kern County, with its own lengthy list of fun getaways, is also the spoke in the California adventure wheel. Fan out a hundred miles or so and several hours’ drive in any direction and you’ve hit the excursion jackpot.
Looking for a trip that won’t break the bank but will transport you to another world? Consider gliding across the pristine waters of Morro Bay with a kayak tour guide at sunset.
It was our answer to the perfect romantic weekend getaway while discovering treasures in our own backyard. The bay, protected and cradled by a 4-mile-long sandspit, the iconic rock and a state park, has a certain allure at day’s end.
There is a number of outfitters along the Central Coast. We chose Central Coast Outdoors in Morro Bay. They offer three reasonably priced packages with varying windows of time. We opted for the “sunset paddle.”
On our visit, we arrived at A Kayak Shack at the State Park Marina where we were greeted by chamber of commerce weather and our expert nature guide Jen Henderson. She was warm, engaging and assured us and another kayaker that we were in good hands – with paddles.
We were then equipped with life jackets and schooled on the proper way to propel with our oars. We were also given the option of enclosing our valuables – like cellphones (to send up an SOS perhaps, or better yet, grab Instagram-worthy photos) and our identification should it be man (or woman) overboard – inside a sealed rubber waterproof bag to tuck underneath our legs in the hull.
Getting into the kayak from the dock was cumbersome and inelegant, but we had already checked our vanity at the shack. Besides, we were finally on the water with lap blankets to shield our legs from a possible chill. Lucky for us on this trip, the tide was going out, making our migration toward the historic rock easier to navigate.
Along the way, we skirted the shoreline of the state park and the bird-rich marsh. Our guide pointed out pelicans grazing for their next meal or holding court on boats abandoned long ago, as well as herons and egrets. Morro Bay and estuary is home to diverse wildlife, including sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions. But its birdlife is extraordinary.
Henderson was a veritable paddling environmental encyclopedia who had reduced the three of us to curious youngsters, eager to touch and feel the flora and fauna that she pointed out. As we made our way over to the sandspit, the sun had begun its descent. I had spent all the summers of my youth here, and many hours on this stretch of sand, yet I had never seen it doused in the splendor of the setting sun. Disembarking was awkward, and some of us needed assistance, but we were encouraged to walk the strand while Jen set up a makeshift happy hour table complete with a tablecloth, wine, glasses and hors d’oeuvres.
Imagine standing on the shore as the sun slipped below the dunes into the technicolor horizon, sipping a crisp chardonnay and toasting each other – complete strangers a few hours earlier. As dusk gave way to nightfall, a stillness washed over us as we soaked in the environmental beauty of the estuary. But we were also on borrowed time with limited light to guide us back.
The return trip took more muscle and hustle to keep up, but the feeling of skating on glass under a star-filled sky made the experience incomparable.
“This is the most incredible thing I have ever done,” said our fellow kayaker Maria Allred, who had driven up for the day from Burbank. “This was so worth the three-hour-plus drive up the coast.”
The entire excursion takes about three hours, with two hours spent in the water. Once the sun has set, it turns chilly on the water so wear layers and don’t forget a hat and sunscreen. Prepare to watch in awe the living wonders of the wondrous national estuary.
And if you go, tell them the magazine writer and her husband from Bakersfield sent you! ￼
Opinions expressed are those of Lisa Kimble