Fall Kayak on San Leandro Bay

Adult and juvenile brown pelicans gathered on docks and piers. (Calibas/Wikimedia)
A calm, clear October morning greeted our small group of paddlers. Plopping our colorful kayaks into the water, we made our way from the channel onto San Leandro Bay. The hush of the morning enveloped us, the dipping of our paddles punctuated by the occasional squawk and chatter of shorebirds, heron, and pelicans. As I paddled, the swirling water ahead mesmerized me, filling me with peace. I felt fully present in each passing moment, each paddle stroke slicing my boat along the surface of the salty water.

Wonders revealed themselves as we rounded bends along the shoreline. Pelicans and cormorants along with long-legged stilts clustered on small docks. A group of pier pilings were decorated with resting brown pelicans resting atop each pole. Groups of shorebirds skittered along the muddy waters edge as the receding tide exposed their breakfast. A group of birds in the distance looked like small penguins, but with binoculars focused into graceful pinstripe ducks perching at the edge of the shallows.

The water level changed as we paddled out of the deep channel and skimmed over mudflats only a foot or two below us. We kept a lookout for leopard sharks and bat rays that mght be cruising ther. A harbor seal in the channel beside us lounged in the morning sun, looking more like driftwood than marine mammal, the sun glinting off its rounded head and back.

We paddled under the Otis drawbridges, the muffled rumble of cars and trucks over our heads. A yellow lab, ears cocked and clearly trying to figure out what these strange half-human, half-boat beings might be, waked over the blue bike bridge with his owner. "Hey, pup!" I called out, for fun. I couldn't wait for my friends to see the view on the other side of the bridge. As we left the bridge behind, the two arms of Alameda opened to reveal the larger bay and San Francisco across the waters. "Imagine what it must've been like for the Spanish explorers to crest the hills in front of us and see the bay for the first time," I commented. Early explorers had traveled the outer coast for years before finally encountering the Bay as they hiked over San Bruno mountain. We rested and talked before turning to make our way back to the boathouse.

Near the end of our journey in the shoals along the water, small silversides began leaping out of the water. Each small fish launched out of the water to land with a small plop-splash. It sounded like a localized rainstorm, water show. I looked for hunting cormorants or larger fish that could have caused their escape to air, but couldn't find a cause for their behavior.

Our morning ended as we sidled to the dock and pulled our boats to dry land. The rejuvenating peace of our adventure stayed with me for days. I carried the images of our watery adventure and its enduring peace with me.


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