I’m discovering that there is a downside to this whole “40 before 40″ concept — namely, the more new things I try, the more I want to go back and do them again and again. While that’s fine for something free like 108 sun salutations on the solstice, it’s another story when the activity requires a plane ticket and expensive gear. Ah well… it’s a downside that I’m willing to live with.
I spent this past week in San Diego — I was at a conference that was held in a hotel about 100 yards from the ocean, which was extremely cruel of the organizers. The good thing was that lots of breaks were built into the schedule, and for the most part, my nights were free. Everything wrapped up yesterday after lunch, so I found myself with an entire afternoon to myself.
Anticipating this possibility, I had poked around online to find something to do that I could put on the 40 before 40 list. Google “things to do in San Diego” and you will discover that there is no shortage of exciting adventures to be had — it’s actually pretty incredible. Eventually, I stumbled upon a mention of ocean kayaking, and the possibility of kayaking through the “Seven Caves of La Jolla.” I had no idea what that entailed, so naturally, I signed myself up.
My first adventure yesterday afternoon was finding a place to put my car in La Jolla. In fact, finding a parking space in La Jolla at all should be on my bucket list. That is one crazy, curvy, no public parking lot town. At one point, out of desperation, I asked Siri for help. She told me the closest garage was 18 miles away.
Siri… always there for you in your time of need.
I had left myself an extra hour, and thank goodness I did, because by the time I finally found a spot, walked more than a mile back to beach, and signed 14 different waivers, my tour was ready to depart.
When I signed up for the tour, I had the choice of a one- or two-person kayak. Obviously, as a loner on this excursion, I picked the one-person kayak. I assumed — WRONGLY, it turned out — that there would be other singles. By that, I mean: even if Scott had been there, I think we both would have wanted our own boats. Two person kayaking requires a lot more patience and coordination and synchronicity than either one of us possess.
But alas, I was the sole individual kayaker. There was one family of three (the 4-year-old son sat between mom and dad), and 8 couples, four of whom were on their honeymoons.
Have you ever felt like a third wheel? Well, this was like being the 19th paddle.
As we kayaked over the first set of crashing waves, a fear suddenly washed over me — two people paddling produces two times the power as one person paddling (I did math!). I wondered if I was about to be left in the dust… er, in the wake, as the case may be.
I was silly to worry. It turns out, like almost every tour in America, the vast majority of participants have no idea what the heck is happening. I was clearly the only person with kayak experience, evident by the fact that the nine other boats kept crashing into one another, despite the fact that we had the entire Pacific Ocean in which to spread out. I quickly understood why we were required to wear helmets — it was not because of the rocks, but because inexperienced kayakers routinely bash each other in the skulls.
We kayaked about a mile and half to the 7 Caves of La Jolla, a journey that took an excruciating amount of time because every time I started to get into a paddling groove, the guide would stop to wait for the others. I don’t want to paint myself as some obnoxious know-it-all who was held back by ineptitude, but well… I did have to practice a lot of patience, and remind myself to stay in the moment and just enjoy the warm sun, cool ocean waters, and amazing scenery.
We finally made it to the caves, which are pretty cool. They’ve been carved in 75-million-year-old sandstone by ocean waves, and most can’t be seen from land. Only one is accessible to walkers — and that’s because a crazy man dug a hole through the floor of his house to gain access, and now it’s a tourist attraction. That crazy guy’s name? Frank Baum. The author of the Wizard of Oz.
The highlight of the trip is kayaking through the 7th cave, the “Clam’s Cave.” There are all kinds of amazing photos on-line – here are a few kinda crappy ones that I took:
Now, obviously, that second photo was taken when I was inside the cave — which might sound creepy or romantic, depending on your point of view. Well, what a photo can’t show is how incredibly LOUD it was — there were sea lions perched on every possible surface, all screaming at us to leave their home (or so I imagined). That many mammals living together in an enclosed area also makes for a rather hideous smell.
After exploring the caves a bit, we headed (slowly) back to shore.
There is something magical about being out in the ocean… just you, a kayak and a paddle. It’s exhilarating, and a totally different type of experience than lake kayaking, which I also love. It’s perhaps a good thing that we don’t live closer to a beach, because we might be the proud owners of new ocean kayaks before the weekend is over.