Kayaking Lake Sonoma
Launching out from Yorty Creek on a warm spring day.
Taking me under their fiberglass wings are longtime Sonoma Valley residents and veteran kayakers Mike and Jane Wotkowski, Dawn and Bret Mcintyre, and Lisa Gallagher. They are willing, able, and encouraging kayak instructors. They also provide all the equipment. Besides adults, four children ranging from ages five to thirteen comprise the rest of the armada. The two oldest speed across the water easily while the two youngest are towed by adults.
The kayaks make for a colorful, ragtag flotilla of bright red, blue and yellow as we zigzag through dead, gray tree trunks. Branches above the water look like bleached bones. I wonder whether or not I'll get snagged by the boughs below the surface, but the shallow draft of our small crafts allows for unimpeded passage.
On this beautiful spring day we're not the only ones enjoying the lake. Speed boats race across the water. Though most give our fleet a wide berth, others seem to pay little attention to their surroundings. Luckily we're ashore eating lunch when the two most reckless boats brazenly race through the calm waters.
Past our picnic area at Logger Camp, we find a stream. Tumbling down the hillside, the water over time has created a small canyon that we can explore. Able to get out and stretch our legs, young and old alike delight in clambering around on the fallen rocks and tree trunks that are strewn about the canyon floor. In a small pool we see young trout and a fire-bellied newt before they swim underneath a large, moss-covered log.
Silhouetted by the clear blue sky, an osprey dives down into the water in search of fish. It leaves the water without any prey in its talons. On a dead oak tree an acorn woodpecker, red crest bright in the sunshine, hammers into the wood in search of its meal.
Kayaking for a few hours in placid waters on a mild 70 degree is good exercise and not even that exhausting. However, my arms start to tire as we paddle back towards the shore—mostly from the extra weight of my five-year-old daughter I'm towing. Not only is my energy lagging, but I start feeling some pain on my thumbs.
Two blisters had formed and popped on the identical spot on each thumb, but my commiserating is interrupted by a splash and scream behind me. Turning around, I see my daughter thrashing about in the water floating face up in her life jacket. As I awkwardly turn my kayak around to retrieve her, her screams become a death wail when she notices her hat is floating away. The other, more experienced kayakers reach her quickly, and soon she and her hat are out of the water and sitting in my lap where she quickly calms down.
Back at the launch site the grownups pack up gear while the kids swim in the lake. A dozen or so others in both kayaks and canoes are returning from their own excursions trip as we get ready to go. Finally we wrap up the kids in dry towels and head home. Exhausted from the exercise and the sun, I'm asleep within minutes of merging onto the 101. (Fortunately I'm not the driver.) Not even the noise of the four children chattering about the day's adventures keep me awake.
Just up the road from Cloverdale is Yorty Creek. One of the many inlets that make up the man-made Lake Sonoma, it's a great place to spend a day outdoors on the water. Besides boating, there are hiking trails, a small playground and a beach. Whatever activity you choose, it's a perfect place to spend a warm day with friends and family.
Stephen Cosgrove is a Valley native who has a passion for enjoying the local terrain by foot, bike, tent and most recently—longboard. Join him here as he journeys forth into the Wine Country wilds and embarks on greater Bay Area excursions. You can read more at his blog