Lost Beach Hot Tubing, September 1st to 3rd 2007.

Fred Cooper, Dörte Mann and Dave Littlejohn joined me to paddle out of Fort Ross and down to Lost Beach on the “Sonoma Lost Coast”. We had planned this trip months in advance to spend a weekend putting together and enjoying the driftwood fired hot tub.

As I had discovered a few weeks ago, the “creek” that we used the last few times to fill the hot tub had dried up. The nearby reliable creek had several problems. One was that it was not very nearby and a long walk from the good campsites. Another was that nobody had dug out the pit in the sand there recently, it was full of rocks and a lot of work to make a hole deep enough. Dave and Dörte almost rebelled, suggesting that the pit would never be deep enough in time and we should do something else, like set up a sauna near the campground instead. But Fred and I kept digging when they gave up and managed to finish the hole deep enough to line with the tarp and use as the pool for the hot tub.

Another problem with the old reliable creek was that the cliff there had suffered a landslide since we last used it. What was left was steep and unstable. I had to climb up and get the hose siphoning in the pool 15 or 20 feet up the slope. While I was up there, one of the rocks I was standing on slipped loose and tumbled down into the hole we were digging. I yelled my head off at everyone to get out of the way and the rock managed to miss them. I had trouble climbing back down the cliff until I cane down low enough for Fred to help me place my feet in solid areas. Then it was a simple matter of connecting the hose to the tubing and building a fire around the copper coil. It took a LOT of firewood and I think we really should find a way to enclose the fire next time and make it more efficient than an open campfire.

While we were waiting for the tarp/tub to fill up with hot water, we set up our tents, prepared dinner and waited for more guests to show up. My brother Ralph has recently purchased a Zodiac and wanted to come out and land it on Lost Beach. My brother Paul came out with him to join us for the night. Ralph launched his Zodiac in the Russian River, ran the gauntlet of the seals and seal-watch volunteers at the mouth of the river, braved the breaking waves there then traveled across the sea around rocks and through fog until he found us setting up camp on Lost Beach. We had worried that he might not be able to safely launch out the Russian river or land on Lost Beach or find the right place but he made it OK. The seals didn’t even look up as he went by, which is unfair since they panic and jump into the water when kayaks quietly go by.

Ralph stopped on the way and went diving to catch an abalone and bring that as his contribution to dinner. He cooked it in a way I have never done: Abalone in the Half Shell. He cleaned and gutted the abalone, pounded it whole and not as much as I usually tenderize it. He painted a little BBQ sauce on it, put it back in the clean shell and placed the shell directly on the coals. In 20 minutes the meat was cooked and tender enough to eat! I’ll try this technique out myself next time.

While eating dinner the fire warming up the tub on the other end of the beach burned down low and started passing cold water. I ran down and stoked the fire right after dinner and jumped in. Everyone else joined me as the sun set and we had a nice evening soak before stumbling back into our tents.

The next day we still had a chore to do: collect more firewood for the soak that evening. Ralph and Paul launched their boat and headed home late in the morning. On their way Ralph went diving again and caught a limit of abalone. Fred and I went on a day paddle and met Ralph after his dive. He gave us one of his abalone to cook for dinner on the campfire that evening. Fred and I wanted to get into the caves and arches of the Jenner Coves, but just as we made it to that area the wind came up very strong. So rather than get farther from camp we turned around. It turned out to be quite a slog against the wind to get back. On the way we saw someone hiking on the Sonoma Lost Coast and wondered if they would stop and talk to the rest of the kayakers on the beach.

The hiker on the beach turned out to be Kate DesLauriers, who hiked down in the middle of the day. She was parked at the side of the road and did not want to leave her car there overnight. So she jumped in the hot tub by herself about the time the rest of us started dinner and then left before it got too dark to find the trail back up the cliff. Don Barch, Donna Fabiano and her cousin Kate arrived from Fort Ross just in time for dinner. They stayed for the hot tub and camped with us on the second evening.

In the morning we still had lots of chores to do. The hot tub parts had to be disassembled and packed away in the hidden spot. We broke camp and packed all our gear back into our kayaks. By the time we were ready to launch a strong wind from the north had arrived and we had to beat our way into it for the whole trip back. One additional hassle added on top of this was the extensive bull kelp beds that cover the area late in the summer. A kayak slows down and is hard to force over the kelp, the paddles don’t get a good grip on the water when they stop half way through the kelp, finally the kelp grabs your paddle and makes it hard to extract for the next stroke. I found that paddling directly into the wind it was easier to stow my paddle and pull myself across the top of the kelp beds by grabbing and pulling on the kelp itself! But eventually we all made it into the calm water of Fort Ross Cove and made a safe landing.

All text and images Copyright © 2007 by Mike Higgins / contact