Days 3 & 4: Landmark in the mist

Editor’s Note: On July 29, Tribune reporter Brian Milne, Tribune 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 account of the third and fourth days of the trip, from Morro Strand State Beach to Morro Bay harbor and on to Montaña de Oro.

By the third day, the three of us were sunburned, blistered and plenty salty after another wet and wild launch at Morro Strand State Beach.

We had been paddling toward Morro Rock for three days and were excited to be looking up at the 581-foot volcanic plug again.

Boaters have been using San Luis Obispo County’s most recognizable landmark as a navigational aid since Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo made note of “El Moro” during his 1542 expedition of the Pacific coast.

The dome-shaped rock is a popular sight because of its sheer size as well as its position marking the entrance to Morro Bay’s harbor.

We couldn’t wait to reach the port because it meant a much-needed break from the open ocean, bone-chilling beach breaks and the unspoken predators that patrol the seal-populated waters to the north.

It also meant fresh supplies and a new paddle for Joe, who snapped his feather-light model during a disastrous beach landing a day earlier.

As we rounded the breakwater, the three of us met the “Welcome to Morro Bay” sign with smiles and cheers.

From there we picked up fresh bait from Virg’s Landing and stopped by Kayak Horizons, where owner Dennis Krueger was kind enough to lend Joe a new paddle for the final three days of our journey.

The rest of the day was dedicated to fishing, setting up camp at Morro Bay State Park and resting up for the second half of our trip. By the time we reached the marina, the three of us had paddled 50 miles and were halfway to our final destination, the southern county line at the Guadalupe Dunes.

Off to Montaña de Oro

Our fourth day on the water was a perfect day for a paddle.

The winds were calm, the swells were down and the fishing was good, which helped bolster our spirits heading into the final two days of the trip.

“This is how it should be every day,” Joe said during our smooth paddle from Morro Bay State Park to Montaña de Oro State Park.

Aside from the incoming tide, which worked against us as we paddled toward the harbor mouth, the 10-mile cruise to Spooner’s Cove was kind to our tired shoulders.

We reached the cove in less than four hours, giving us plenty of time to sightsee and fish the kelp beds off the point. After struggling to catch anything during the first few days of the trip, I finally landed a trio of blue rockfishes that made my day.

We considered keeping a fish or two for the barbecue but released everything we caught after hearing that Beau’s dad, Frank, was grilling hamburgers for us at the campsite.

The three of us reconvened at Spooner’s Cove, where we enjoyed a dry, disaster-free landing.

For the first time all week, we had dry sleeping bags and tents to sleep in—not to mention another hot dinner to look forward to. We were lucky enough to have friends cook meals the first three nights of the trip.

After two rough 22-mile days of open-ocean kayaking, our two “rest days” couldn’t have come at a better time. The three of us were rejuvenated and feeling upbeat about the final two days of our journey.

Coming Wednesday — Day 5: Paddling 16 miles past Diablo Canyon to Port San Luis.

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