Having never tied kayaks to a roof rack before, I enquired of the clerk at the rental store if he thought transporting three at a time would be a good idea.

"No way!" was the reply, "It just wouldn't be safe!"

Fortunately, since Andre managed to borrow two boats from work, it was easy enough to put up the appearance of being responsible customers.

After picking up the rental, we drove back across the street to where Sarah stood guard over the two kayaks we'd hidden in a parking lot and made a B-line to the Point Reyes Ranger Station to pick up our camping permit.

(Confession: Though expertly lashed by two seasoned sailors, the kayaks were pretty lopsided by the time we got to the boat launch...)

A Gore-Tex capped Dad grapples with the Iron Ranger.

Along the southwestern shore of Tomales Bay, there are about a dozen beaches fit for camping. Of those, only two have toilets. And we'd heard tell that on a busy weekend, the Point Reyes rangers were prone to squeeze upwards of sixty people into these more luxurious sites.

Everywhere else, campers are expected to "bag it."

Sarah and Tim were a little squeamish about Plan B, but bravely offered to give it a try to avoid the crowds. Fortunately for them, the threat of inclement weather seemed to have scared off the crowds completely!

Here, Andre and Sarah dance in celebration of securing one of the commode-equipped campsites, Tomales Beach, all for themselves.(All for their own until Tuesday morning...)

Keen-eyed surfers may have noticed the reeling left pointbreak in the background of the last picture. Here's a close-up of those same glassy barrels.

O to be a six-inch surfer!

Alright, I'll level with ya. We didn't have the beach entirely to ourselves. In addition to this little guy...

...there was a crazed crow that kept flying around and making all sorts of ridiculous noises,...

...a handful of bush-dwelling quail (click the pic to view it at full resolution and see if you can find one!),...

...and evidence suggesting a group of much larger animals as well. (More on this later.)

Aside from Mr. Heckes' pill bottle, Tomales Beach was remarkably clean. This made it difficult to "leave the campsite cleaner than you found it." Even the shitter was immaculate. (I felt bad about tracking mud in on my flip-flops the next morning.)

After a day of paddling—not to mention a three-hour jetlag—Ol' Dad was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. This despite the loud colors of his Henri Lloyd avalanche jacket!

Not wanting to feel left out, Sarah joins the sleeping-while-sitting crew. (Actually, she just has an uncanny knack for almost always blinking or inadvertently making some kind of goofy face as soon as the shutter opens.)

Day 2!

Tim's jetlag woke him early the next morning so he climbed the neighboring hills for a view of the ocean. Andre got up shortly thereafter and seized the opportunity to take some photos. Sarah slept.

We'd been advised to carry in all the water we'd need for the trip since there were no sources at the campsites. We did, but figured we'd probably come across a creek somewhere in case we needed to refill (and didn't feel like doing the quick paddle back across the Bay to civilization).

I did manage to find one source, but despite having heard stories that my Katadyn filter could produce potable water from a puddle of cow piss in the desert, I decided to not try putting it to the test.

The southern tip of the cove at Tomales Beach.

Once we started paddling, after breakfast, we saw lots of jellyfish undulating contentedly along the rocky shore. This poor chap, however, seemed to have been left behind at the last high tide.

Otherwise, as I mentioned before, the campsite was remarkably clean.

And they're off!

Our original plan had been to set up camp at one of the southern beaches for the first night and to then move closer to the mouth of the Bay for the second. That way, based on the weather predictions we'd read about on the Internet, we'd've had the wind at our backs for the leg back to the car.

But seeing as how the spot we chose was so money, we decided to stay there another night and do a big day trip (sans excess gear) instead.

(Turns out that there wasn't any wind on Day 3 anyway, thus further proving Andre's claim that the field of meteorology is a hocus-pocus load of shit.)

Prior to going on the trip, our intrepid paddlers carefully studied a series of REI YouTube videos. (Andre and Sarah even went down to the Berkeley Marina a couple times to try the various maneuvers for themselves!) Here, Sarah flawlessly executes a solo beach launch.

It wasn't long after this that a small shark was spotted gliding stealthily under Sarah's boat. Good thing she got that hand outta the drink!

I was a little nervous about bringing the camera out on the kayak. (Particularly since Dad's "dry" bag wasn't very water tight!) But the urge to obsessively document the entire trip proved overwhelming.

After a lovely lunch in which tuna sandwiches and black bean salad were distributed evenly among the three campers and the sandy beach below them, the weather cooperated and provided calm enough conditions to pull the camera out at sea!

Tim thought the oysters had been in bed long enough and set about waking them.

Shortly thereafter, we turned north around Preston Point to investigate Walker Creek. Either because of the incoming tide or the southwest wind, the water flowed upriver.

Realizing that our fuel supply had run too low to heat water for Dad's requisite fifteen cups of coffee the next morning, the team decided to break down and make contact with the civilized world.

That is, Dad sat and watched the kayaks with a cup of coffee and a glass of wine while Andre and Sarah drove the four miles up the 1 to the hamlet of Tomales to buy something combustible. (They also bought a bottle of wine.)

Holy moly, the sun!

Back at camp it was too early to go to bed, so it was decided that a jaunt up the hill was in order.

...affording Andre an opportunity to crawl around and get creative.

(L to R: Sarah's legs, Dad's legs)

I don't know what was wrong with the old dirt road, but you can see the start of the new dirt road right next to the immaculate terlits.

A little further up the road, we encountered the culprits that had littered the campsite with fragrant brown piles of half-digested grass. Once they spotted us, the booked it off the road for the safety of the hills.It's amazing how quickly these gals are able to get so much meat moving uphill!

(They're not always graceful though. Roll over the picture so see that one cow eat it on the ledge.)

The top of the hill was completely socked in. No ocean views for the gang this time! Instead we pondered the various exciting things that could have been predicted on this sign. Was it a "Thistle Crossing" warning or a "Leaping Cows Ahead" sign?


We didn't actually try it, but we did talk about how you can make some kind of tea out of these things. And that's good enough!

On the way back down, most of the herd had wandered out of sight. Two stragglers remained. They paused at the crest of this grassy hillock. One sneezed, the other farted. They were beautiful, these "Cows in the Mist."

(Sarah thinks the cow on the right has a mace instead of a tail.)

Despite not obtaining a permit, we tried to get a campfire going the night before when we found a pile of perfectly good logs on the beach. The wet conditions, however, made this task impossible. It had nothing to do with our admittedly impeccable woods(wo)man skills!

We had a little more luck the next night when Dad discovered that his paddle float made a nifty bagpipe-esque bellows. And soon a raging inferno did warm the weary travelers. (The nearby bottle of lamp oil may have had a hand in this success.)

Regardless, Andre and Sarah were pleased.

Morning! Day 3! Sun shining!

Pictured here: the dewy remnants of the previous night's feast and festivities, a pair of not-so-drying socks, and a big yellow salt lick.

Andre and Sarah were roused by a distinct mooing sound that had clearly come from a source closer than the dairy across the bay that had been audible the night before.

Poking their heads out the tent, they saw that the beach had become significantly more crowded than they'd left it the night before.

By the time they'd gotten dressed and de-tented, the herd had doubled in size...

...and it wasn't long before they were spotted.

The cows kept their distance for a while. They'd seen us, but it wasn't until 509 led a solo recon mission that they all ventured down the beach.

509 looked to Sarah first, but on realizing that the young lady had nothing to offer...

...quickly set about slobbering all over our tent.

This was unacceptable (particularly since said slobber left a sandy slime all over our rainfly) and Sarah shooed the girls outta there.

But they came back.

Several times.

Funnily, it happened the same way each round. The herd would hang out on the southern end of the beach pretending we didn't exist. Then, 509 would get bored and would head over to lick our tents or kayaks. The rest of the herd would follow only to get terrorized again by Sarah.

Yes. Those cows are drinking saltwater.

The day before, we'd seen clams (presumably) squirting water six feet up in the air out of the mud at low tide. Andre tried to capture this on film, but ended up setting for a stingray scuttling away in shallow water.

The cows eventually dissolved into the scenery and Tim, Sarah, and Andre packed up their gear to head back to the car. After hauling out through the low-tide muck and fighting back a contingent of rabid foaming rock crabs, a leisurely lunch was taken at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company. Anchor Steam was drunk! Chippies were devoured!! Clams and oysters were placed upon a hot grill and subsequently slurped in a salty slurry of lemon juice and Tapatío!!!

After fattening up, the gang decided they'd have enough time for a quick visit to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

The Light Station had an eclectic mix of old, historical buildings and newer, functioning structures. This water tank could've belonged to either category.

This strange scene looked right out of Myst.

Dad was mostly interested in visiting the light because of a picture he has on his desk at home of his two sons playing near this epic staircase when they were still a couple of bowl-cutted little rascals.

Our timing could've been better though. They close the gate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to give the staff a break.

Actually, it was probably for the better. This way we could see the stairs and the dramatic scenery without having to haul our lazy asses down and up this thing.

I couldn't find an informational plaque to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure the ramps next to the steps are to allow the keeper to quickly rollerblade down to the lighthouse to re-light the candle when it goes out.

And with three kayaks dangling precariously atop Fat Terry the Subaru, the gang headed home.

Elaho everybody!

Trip stats:

seals spotted by kayakers: dozens
kayakers spotted by seals: 3
miles paddled: 14.25
cows frightened: 1 herd (several times)
amazing scrambled egg discoveries made: 1
peer pressure to eat oysters raw: 0%
kayaks returned safely: 3