As I sat sipping my hot tea and watching the brightening sky over the water, Kenny sidled up to me, “Check this out.”
He dangled a realistic-looking toy rattlesnake before my eyes and playfully shook its rubber body at me.
I asked, “What is that for?”
Kenny held his finger to his lips, and then snuck over to where the Captain was cocooned in his sleeping bag on a tarp, and placed the toy snake on the ground next to him. Then he tiptoed away and the rest of us laughed quietly to ourselves.
Ten minutes later, while the rest of us looked on in anticipation, the Captain started shifting in his bag. He opened his eyes and looked directly at the snake staring back at him. He grinned halfway, and put his head back in his sleeping bag. Kenny looked disappointed, having likely had better success with this little prank on his brothers.
Schling and I grabbed our boards and paddled off looking for a sea cave we had played in a few years before. We found it in no time, just a 100 yards or so west of the westernmost part of the beach. The cave is hard to see from the water, and appears as only a sliver above the tidemark. But when you get close, and look into the sliver underneath the rock wall, you will see a dark cave shaft that goes back about 20 yards. In the back of the cave, the ceiling opens up and there is a rocky beach that you can sit on and relax (if you like to hang out in dark scary sea caves). One cannot help but imagine, that at some point, a treasure chest of booty was secreted away in this cave.
Schling and I reported to the guys that we found the pirate cave. The guys were packing up their gear, each in his own way and in his own time. Within an hour or so, we were all fueled up, packed, and ready to launch back into the water, this time the very calm water. We took some pictures and hit the water.
The plan for the day was to paddle back the way we came, about five or six miles back to Two Harbors/Isthmus, have an early lunch at a restaurant on the Isthmus beach, and then paddle toward Avalon about five or six more miles. Our final destination was a primitive campsite half way between Two Harbors and Avalon called Cabrillo Beach.
About 9am, the five of us pushed off the shore with our inflatable SUPs (and one kayak) once again loaded down with dry bags stuffed with food and camping gear, the boardbags and pumps, and water jugs. But this time, the weather was perfect and there was very little wind. We paddled slowly back toward Two Harbors, savoring the warm sun and the clear, quiet water. We were in no hurry to cover the miles back to Two Harbors.
We were in Two Harbors by 11 and we lined up our boards on the beach, fifteen feet from our restaurant table. Some idiot among us ordered buffalo milks (which are the official cocktails of the island – basically vodka milkshakes) and we chased them down with beers. Perfect way to fuel up midway through your workout right? As Anchorman Ron Burgundy astutely pointed observed, “Milk was a bad choice.” But the food was very good, and the view could not be beat.
With booze in our bellies, we got back on the water and headed east from Two Harbors toward Avalon. Almost immediately out of the Isthmus, we found some incredible sea caves and gorgeous craggy coastline. One of the caves had a pathway through to another cave, so that you could paddle from one to the other, with a low hanging ceiling that caused you to lay down on your board. As I laid down to go through, with Schling behind me, the tide rose and my hat scraped the cave ceiling as we slid through to the other side.
We cruised along slowly, looking into the water, marveling at the sheer rock cliffs, peering into the sky hopefully for a bald eagle sighting. An occasional curious sea lion huffed at us, splashing off into the kelp beds.
We made our destination within a few hours of easy paddling and easily landed onto the beach at Cabrillo. With almost no waves in this tiny protected cove, we found an empty beach without a single camper on it. The entire beach would be ours. We settled on what we figured was the cleanest and best spot and started setting up camp.
Our dining table was Kenny’s paddleboard flipped upside down, balanced by a firepit on one side, and three SUP’s on the other side. We set up our chairs around the table and watched the sky turn colors and the water darken.
Kenny, the youngest in the group, decided he had not had enough exercise for the day, and he scrambled up a sheer cliff looking for a trail run. We were used to this. The rest of us settled into our tiny camp chairs and passed the snacks around.
After Kenny returned, we fired up our Jetboil stoves and ate dehydrated camp meals out of bags, while Amir and I told a long story of how we were stranded after a car breakdown in Texas when were high school seniors. We filled up each other’s camp mugs with boxed wine and liquor from a bag, and laughed about old times.
Above us, the international space station presented as a mysterious white dot, moving a little too quickly to mix in to the rest of the tiny white dots, and in a perfect arc across the sky.
Not too long after dark, we turned in, being careful to hide the trash and food from the critters as best we could. The following day promised a gorgeous day of paddling.