Editor’s Note: On July 29, Tribune reporter Brian Milne, photographer Joe Johnston and Kayak Horizons guide Beau Clyburn set off on a six-day, 98-mile kayak trip down the coast of San Luis Obispo County. Here is Milne’s diary of the fifth day, from Montaña de Oro to Port San Luis.
As we paddled south from Spooner’s Cove, it was as if the three of us were leaving the civilized world behind.
A handful of early morning hikers were sprinkled about the Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail, but once we paddled around Point Buchon, it was just me, Joe and Beau.
From Corallina Cove, at the southern end of Montaña de Oro State Park, to Diablo Canyon we enjoyed more than four miles of unspoiled coastline. No houses. No cars. No signs of human development at all.
Beau and I had never seen this stretch of coast before, so when the fog finally lifted its gloomy curtain over Point Buchon, we had to do some exploring.
First on our list was the 20-foot-high archway off the point, followed by a careful pass through a nearby sea cave that was wide enough for two of us to paddle through simultaneously. An opening carved out of the side of the cave offered a picturesque view of the Diablo Canyon coast, where
Chumash villages dotted the landscape thousands of years ago.
“That’s a pretty magical stretch of coastline,” Joe said.
We continued paddling parallel to the ancient Chumash hunting grounds, and I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the native people had paddled the same stretch in their wooden canoes, or “tomols.” The plank canoes were constructed of driftwood and pine tar and were used for both cultural and commercial purposes.
Our $1,000 kayaks, fully equipped with holders for cups and fishing rods, were slightly more advanced than the indigenous models and were examples of just how different our world is today.
Then there was the massive nuclear power plant just around the corner.
We knew we were getting close to Diablo Canyon when we spotted a sphinx-shaped outcropping known as Lion Rock. It was a popular resting place for a gang of sea lions and was also a useful landmark that identified the beginning of the nautical mile security zone around the power plant.
The three of us had never seen the Diablo Canyon plant from the ocean, so when we made it around Lion Rock, we were taken aback by the enormous, dome-shaped buildings containing the two 1,100- megawatt reactors.
“That was kind of eerie,” Beau said, “leaving the arches and caves and all of a sudden seeing this giant power plant through the fog.”
Diablo Canyon marked the midpoint of our Day 5 paddle, but the second half of the trip flew right by, thanks to favorable winds and a generous current. Before we knew it, we were passing the old Victorian Port San Luis Lighthouse and pulling into Avila Beach, which was flooded with RVers and beach-goers from Harford Pier to the Avila Beach Pier.
In other words, it was back to the real world.
During the first five days, we had already covered 76 miles and were now only 22 miles from our final destination at the Guadalupe Dunes.