An adventure is born: 7 days, 3 kayaks, one great adventure

bmilne@thetribunenews.comFebruary 21, 2008 

The intrepid three: from left Beau Clyborn, Tribune reporter Brian Milne and Tribune photographer Joe Johnston minutes before launching at San Carpoforo Creek beach.

LAURA DICKINSON — ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

When Tribune photographer Joe Johnston first suggested kayaking the San Luis Obispo County coast, I thought to myself, "Somebody's been spending too much time in the darkroom."

Joe's Big Blue Adventure sounded more like a get-outta-work-quick scheme than a story pitch. Ditch the daily newspaper grind, hop on a kayak and spend the next week camping and paddling about our gorgeous coastline.

As much as the outdoors-man in me wanted to do it, I figured the idea probably wouldn't fly with our editors, let alone my wife and newborn daughter.

But the more we talked about it, the more realistic the weeklong adventure became.

The Tribune signed off on the project in early May, and before I could think twice about it, the two of us were researching ocean currents, interviewing local kayak experts and jumping in the water two to three times a week to prepare for the seven-day, 86-mile trek. Today at sunrise, we find out justhow prepared we are when we set off on the most challenging outdoor adventure of our lives.

Johnston, my longtime friend and Kayak Horizons guide Beau Clyburn and I begin our quest at Ragged Point, just south of the Monterey County line.

From the mouth of San Carpoforo Creek, the northernmost beach launch location in San Luis Obispo County, we start our journey south toward our final destination, the mouth of the Santa Maria River.

Along the way we'll use our cameras and journals to capture stretches of the coast our county's shore-bound residents rarely get to see. You can follow along online at The Tribune's Web site, sanluisobispo.com, as we post regular blogs and photos. And while we won't be checking out every coastal nook and cranny, we estimate we'll be paddling between 85 and 90 miles.

By tonight we hope to make the 19-mile paddle to San Simeon State Park, where we'll set up camp before embarking on a 20-mile paddle to Morro Strand State Beach on Monday morning.

After that, no leg should exceed 15 miles, so if we make it to Morro Bay, we'll be in pretty good shape for the rest of the trip.

That is, unless Mother Nature intervenes.

The ol' gal will surely be the biggest obstacle in our journey. We learned that much during our training sessions, running face first into 30-knot winds, stomach-churning swells and small-craft advisories that sent us hightailing back to the friendly confines of Morro Bay.

It was at those times when the magnitude of a trip like this sinks in.

Though the three of us are avid surfers and paddlers who spent four months preparing for this trip, we are far from experts when it comes to open ocean kayaking. We might have the winds and currents at our backs, but we understand we will always be at the mercy of the sea. So as we launch our journey, we caution those who follow it that this is not a trip for weak stomachs or untested shoulders.

In fact, aside from a group of Navy SEALs who paddled from Santa Barbara to Monterey a few years ago, officers at the U.S. Coast Guard Morro Bay Station couldn't remember the last time someone attempted to paddle the entire county coast in a seven-day stretch.

We aim to change that this week, when Joe Johnston's Big Blue Adventure finally becomes a reality.

Wish us luck. I think we're going to need it.

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