Hello folks who wonder if giraffes don't have to worry about wearing masks since their mouths are always 6 feet from the closest human,

Being in nature is always exciting, but it can turn into downright terrifying if you have no clue how to deal with changing conditions. I found out the hard way in a kayaking trip I made in February.
Below is the story about that trip.
----

On the 17th of February 2020, I decided to go kayaking in the Alviso slough. So I pack my 32 oz water bottle, a sandwich and head towards Alviso carrying my kayak on my capable shoulders while riding my bike. Now you might be thinking, wait a min! You are carrying a kayak while riding a bike? Yes, I have one of those kayaks that can be folded and carried in a backpack. Ok moving on, I reach the place at 8:15 am. It takes me 15 mins to assemble my kayak and then I hit the water on my kayak.

I am not planning on spending more than 4 hours kayaking, so I decide to go where Alviso slough meets Coyote Creek, which should take 2 hours one way, plan to have my lunch over there and return back in another couple of hours.
Find below the route I had initially planned.


After reaching the mouth of Alviso slough in 1 hour 45 mins(15 mins less than what it usually takes), I decide to head a little further. It is a peaceful place to kayak with birds on either side of the slough and you pass by some interesting historic relics like this boat graveyard.


The Don Edwards national wildlife refuge which is what all the green areas on the map in the first image are part of, allows hunters to hunt waterfowl during November through January. Having shared the same waterways with these people riding their motorboats in the past, it's better to keep a safe distance since they don't slow down in the presence of kayaks because a minute lost is equivalent to one duck lost, and that swell of waves can make the kayakers having to pull all their strings to stabilize their kayaks. So as a precaution, I always keep my distance from them and stick closer to the land whenever possible in the fear that one of these will race from behind.

I stick to the right side, since I see a fishing boat in the middle of the bay. Suddenly, I see big boulders moving on the land through the corner of my eye. Turns out I scared a group of harbor seals who were resting on the land and they start jumping in the water to avoid the predator(read me). I see them popping their heads 30 feet from my kayak trying to get a glimpse of someone who wandered too close. Below are the Harbor seals after several jumped in the water.


Since I do not want to stress them out even further, I start heading towards the middle of the bay. Now I am far away from a place where I can dock my kayak and have my lunch in peace. The sight of seeing these seals up close just pumps up the adrenaline and gives me the boost to venture a little further in the bay before heading back. Now a thought crosses my mind, I always wanted to do the Alviso-Palo Alto Baylands sailing station route on my kayak, but it is not for the faint of heart. Since the round trip is about 18 miles and one would have to battle the wind and waves during this trip. But then I think, the winds are not that strong at the moment and when will I get another chance to come back to kayak this same route. So I decided to head towards Palo Alto as much as I can with a plan to return if I can sense fatigue kicking in.

Takes me another 90 mins before I get close(0.5 miles away) to Palo Alto Baylands Sailing station, but sensing the water was not deep enough and my paddle stirring up mud, I knew it would be risky to venture further but I can still move and am not stuck. At this point, it might be 12 pm, and the low tide is at 3:30 pm. So even though I was feeling hungry, bear in mind I just had oatmeal in the morning(and paddled almost 9+ miles on my kayak, also biked about 9 miles while carrying my kayak) I decided to head back into deeper waters before I can stop and have my lunch. So I start paddling towards the East bay.
This is the path I took shown in the animation below:


And this is what the Palo Alto Baylands Sailing Station looked like before I start heading back. Things will just go downhill from there.


So I started paddling away, but after 15 minutes, I did not seem to move a lot. So being the paranoid person I am, I use a boating app to track my nautical miles (Google can't track anything that is not on land) to see if I am even moving, even though it did look like I am. After 25 minutes, I have managed to move a paltry 0.1 miles and then.... I see the waders(think dunlins, willets) landing besides my kayak about 50 ft from me and I start to notice their feet. And then it hits me, the tide is receding much faster than I thought it would. In less than 10 mins, the water disappears around me and I can see the sea snails walking around. Now it's 1 pm and I am starting to think, if only I can reach the deep waters before 3:30 (peak time for the low tide) I can start heading back, but I am a little tired since I spent so much effort in not moving a lot.
I start to wonder if I can drag my kayak towards the east bay, where I can reach the deep channel and head home unscathed albeit a bit mucky.

I get off my kayak and my feet immediately sink till my knees in the ground, but the sinking slows down after that, so I start dragging my kayak, and it takes more effort to move around because each step is sinking. Then there are a few spots where there is a little water, sensing a lot of effort to get around it, I walk through it. Turns out it was a much deeper hole and it sucks me till my chest, but since I have the floatation device and held on to the kayak, I can stop completely sinking in and climb back up in my kayak.
Now I am super exhausted and super mucky, so I jump back into the kayak. When I board the kayak back, I bring all the muck with me. Trying to catch my breath back, I think eating a sandwich will give me a boost of energy so I can think clearly on my next steps. Turns out the muck has engulfed the sandwich, when I open the aluminum foil. Getting super frustrated at this but also utterly helpless, I try to see if there is any part of the sandwich that is not covered in muck. Keep in mind this is not a fancy sandwich, just 2 slices of multigrain bread and a hash brown in between. I am able to consume about a quarter of the sandwich before I start tasting the mud in my mouth. I have about 16 oz of water left at this part.

The struggle continues and I get back off my kayak, sometimes keeping one foot inside the kayak and pushing with another to get around those deep spots. After almost a mile of walking south, I can walk no more. Watching the waders just moving further away towards the east bay by every passing minute is disheartening(meaning more and more areas are now receding). And so I decide to tell someone in case I don't make it back in time. I get back on my kayak, and take out my cell phone, but since my hands are filled with mud, I can't use the fingerprint sensor. Even the pattern unlock is hitting all the wrong points, so my phone locks after consecutive wrong attempts(for a min). I wipe the muck on the part of the clothing that is still clean and try again. Phone unlocked! I call my friend but it goes to his voicemail, so I leave a message. In addition, I also make a call to Alviso marina county park, but no one is picking up. I call Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge and am greeted by an automated message talking about the history about the refuge. Now, not only I am devoid of any energy but also without any viable options. So I wait in my kayak, that's when the afternoon winds pick up.

You see the bay has winds that pick up around 11 am, with them intensifying around 1 pm and slowing down as evening approaches. I get a call from my friend and it turns out he did not listen to the voicemail. So I explain my situation and ask him to drive to Alviso marina county park and check with the rangers if there is something I should be doing. And now soaking wet and shivering from the winds, I play the waiting game. I put my phone into power saving mode because I have about 50% of the battery left and I don't know what's ahead. I get a call back from my friend in 15 mins who was able to contact the ranger and says that I should expect a call from the ranger any time now. As I put that call down, I get the call from the ranger who asks me to give my gps coordinates.
This is where I was stuck, the time is around 1:55pm.


Realizing these coordinates were outside his jurisdiction, he agrees to let the US Coast Guard about my situation but tells me the bad news upfront. I just need to wait for the tides to come back in and he estimates I should start floating around 5:30 pm. Soon I get a call from the US coast guard officer Addison, who asks me if my life is in any danger and reiterates that they have no way of helping me out till the high tides come back. Only in the case if I feel my life is in severe danger, can he send a helicopter to rescue me. I assure him I am doing fine and am willing to wait it out for another 2 1/2 hours ahead of me before paddling back. He tells me he will call me every 30 mins to check if I am still doing ok and asks me to pick up the call at any cost else he will assume I fell off the boat. Also he asks me to stop checking Kim Kardashian's Instagram feed and save my battery for these calls. That's a bummer, but hopefully this officer is talking sense, so I comply.

At this point, I just want to close my eyes and fall asleep because there is not much I can do, except shiver from the cold. I set an alarm 2 mins before the call, so I don't end up missing the call. It works, he calls me every 30 mins and I tell him the status and in each call he asks a little bit more about me, like my age, how much water I have left, how fatigued do I feel, the color of my kayak and the clothing I am wearing. If you look at the gps coordinates I showed, it looks like just a mile to reach land in Mountain View, but the ranger has warned me no matter how tempting it is to walk on mud, bad things happen when the water starts coming back and covering deep holes and is a quicksand just waiting to swallow me up, so I stay put.

This is what it looked like when I was playing the waiting game.


I now have 8oz of water and it's about 5 pm, I start seeing a channel besides me filling up with water, and despite the temptations to just scoot 20 feet towards the channel, my kayak has sunken too much and has a lot of muck to push it around. The kayak which normally weighs 28 lbs without me i.e. now should be weighing around 60 lbs because of the muck. I don't think much about it, since once my kayak starts to float, the weight would not be such a deal breaker. At about 5:30 I get a call from the US coast guard and I tell them my kayak is starting to float although my paddles are still stirring up mud but I will start to paddle back, so I tell them I will give them the update about my progress in another 30 mins when they call.

And off we go, paddling a few feet, I feel the kayak to be really unstable and it takes a lot of effort to stabilize it against the strong waves. Turns out the muck had now separated the mud which settled at the base of the kayak and the water which was floating and just sloshing around tilting my kayak side by side with every paddle. I make good progress but the tides are getting stronger as well, and I start losing daylight really fast.
At about 6:30pm, it gets dark and the ambient light is making it really hard to see how far is the land. Even though I do use Google maps to see if I am paddling in the right direction, I don't seem to be making any progress. The waves are so strong, that the moment I take my hands off the paddle to answer the call or check google maps, it changes my the orientation of kayak and pushes me towards the shore. So I put my right hand outside my kayak and touch the mud AGAIN! Below is where I got stuck, so close yet so far.


During the next phone call the person from the US Coast guard asks me if I am chugging along, I tell them that I am getting really tired and getting stuck is not helping. So she offers me to let the fire department know to see if they can rescue from there. I tell her let's see if I make any progress in the next 30 mins before I waive the white flag. In the following 30 mins, I push as hard as I can and try to reach the trail which is where Alviso slough meets Coyote creek. Even though my hands barely have any more strength to push forward, my legs are the restless substitute players waiting to come on the field since they haven't seen any action, so I figure if I can reach any land, I can walk myself out of this situation.

Finally after those intense 30 mins, I reach the trail and get on land but am having trouble pulling the kayak on the land because of the weight. Falling on my knees and pulling with all my body weight, I manage to bring it on land. Draining several gallons of waters, I start walking towards the trail, carrying my kayak with me. I let the US Coast guard know to forgo contacting the Fire department, since I can walk back. It is almost 4 miles back to the Alviso marina county park and even though I thought I had enough energy to get back, I catch myself occasionally closing my eyes while walking to conserve energy.

This is the spot where I crashed my kayak and got on to the trail for the walk ahead. (photo not taken on the same day)



After 90 minutes, I reach the gate, let the US coast guard to leave me alone and call my friend to pick me up and ask him to bring water and food.
In short, a 4 hour kayaking adventure turned into a 13 hour ordeal with a story to tell.

After that day, water has never tasted sweeter, food tastier and traveling by bike faster.
A few blisters on my fingers, a sore back and shoulder muscles but taking a sick day let me recover fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Did you learn something new in this post? Let us know in the comments below

Tags

acorns adventures american crow ants aphids aquatic snails arachnids argentine ants bananas bark beetles barklice barnacles bats beaver bees beetle beetles bird lice birds black-tailed deer bloodworms bristletail bugs bumblebee butterflies canada goose carpenter bees carrots centipede cockroaches coot corvids court case crawfish crayfish crow crustaceans damselflies deer diatoms dock dragonflies earwigs eggs egrets european starlings eyes ferns fishes flea flies flowers freshwater snail frogs fundraiser fungus fungus-eating lady beetles galls geese goats goldfinch gophers grasshopper green dock beetle green heron green lacewing guest post gull harvestmen hawks herons history honeybees house sparrows india insects isopods jumping bristletails jumping spiders juncos katydid kayak lacewing lady beetles land snails leaf miners leafhopper lice lichens lizards lynx spider maggots Magpie mallow marsh megabats midges mildew millipede mites moles mosquito moths mouse spider nematodes nettles newt newts nuthatches oaks owl paper wasps parasite pavement ants pelicans pigeons pill bugs plants pocket gophers pollen pollination pollinators poppy praying mantis pseudopupil pupa quail rabbits roach roadkill rove beetles salamander salmon sandpiper scat Scorpions seals seeds shorebird silverfish skunk snails social media sparrows spiders springtails squirrels starlings stilts surf scoter swallows tarantula termites thrips ticks towhees trees turkey turkey vulture turtle venom vultures warblers wasps water boatmen webspinners whales wolf spider woodpeckers Wren wrens yellow jackets youtube

Featured Post

The case of the missing grasshopper

Hello folks who wonder if crime does not pay well at least the benefits are hard to dismiss, This case is about Gregory , a band-winged Gras...