Exploration of Home: An Ode to the Mini-Adventure
Salt cakes our skin and crusts our hair. Another splash of sea spray, soon to evaporate, adds a new layer of salt on top of those already existing. The wind is at our backs; the sun is out.
Life is good.
The water is a deep, electric blue. Clear and inviting, but not in a tropical sense. The heavier blue suggests the depth and power of the open ocean.
My kayak handles sluggishly under the weight of creature comforts. A two-burner stove and a cooler full of beverages lashed to the stern make her reluctant to plane through any swells we encounter. A Pacifico sits in the cup holder between my legs.
There will be no speed records, first-ascents, or notable feats of athleticism performed today. We steadily paddle southwest, tracing the coastline 1/4 mile off the lee side of an island off the coast of Los Angeles.
Our home for the night will be a rocky beach set in a sheltered cove in the middle of the Island. I’ve previously noted a few natural landmarks to identify our cove, but the island seems different when viewed the water. Our kayak vantage point makes the ridge-lines seem steeper, the cliffs taller. The shoreline feels rugged and imposing. A few hours later, we coast our kayaks into the rocky beach and drag them beyond the high tide line.
The campsite comes with a rotting picnic table and a small fire pit. A few of these sites sit nestled along this side of the Island. For $12 a person a night, one can be yours.
In the height of summer, hoards of boaters will invade these small coves, using them as protected anchorages. Rented jet skis and fishing charters will make waters perilous for a kayaker. But today, during the shoulder season, we don’t see another soul.
The 2pm sun beats down mercilessly on our shade-less beach. Soon everyone is bobbing around in the water. We’re an eclectic crew to say the least. Eleven in total, the group is comprised of everyone from my recently acquired spear-fishing buddies to old college pals and everything in between.
Most of the guys work 9-5 office jobs. They are bankers, analysts, & real-estate brokers. I had to conceal the fact that we’d be kayaking a dozen or so miles from a few of them until it was too late for them to back out.
I’ve selected this particular cove as our home for two important reasons: First, it looks to have a nice 25 ft cliff jump out front. (I’m pleased to find that, yes, it goes.) And second, our cove is just outside a Marine Protected Area on this part of the Island, meaning we can dive and fish at will.
Though only a few of us are but only budding Spearos, we aim to feed our whole crew of eleven fresh fish tacos. Thankfully, conditions are in our favor.
Viz hovers around a crisp 30ft, and nutrient rich reefs crawl with fish below us. The less fished waters of the Island prove to plentiful. We haul in California Sheepshead, Calico Bass, & Surf Perch.
Later, while cleaning fish in camp in the waning daylight, I’m struck by the moment of it all. There is a stickball game going on; a few guys are jumping the rock out front. Someone broke out the whiskey. Phones have all been shoved somewhere out of the way.
A few weeks earlier I was in Sri Lanka, a world away. But tonight, less than two hours from my house on a quick weekend trip, I feel just as far removed.
We scramble up the closest ridge to watch the sun dip behind the backside of the Island. Stories and laughs are shared over a few too many celebratory sunset drinks. From our perch on the ridge you can see our little cove perfectly.
Eleven kayaks sit just past the high tide line. A tee-pee of wood waits for a spark in the fire pit. Fish filets, panko crust, & corn tortillas call our names from the old picnic table.
Our cove is just a forgotten nook in a long stretch of mostly desolate island. Our little slice of paradise, just a stone’s throw from home.