Fish & Wildlife personnel, with the able assistance of The Sea Ranch Security, other agencies and private citizens, successfully busted an organized Abalone Poaching operation! The illegal taking of this prized mollusk can be very profitable as the ‘Sea Snail’ is in short supply due to habitat degradation and loss.

The bust resulted in jail time, a stiff fine and a lifetime ban for at least one. Thanks, I am told, to the strong handling by the Mendocino County Judicial System, the venue of the trial. Many involved with protecting the Abalone feel that Sonoma County should use Mendocino as an example; be tougher on Poachers, especially as our near-shore fisheries are in a state of collapse.

Kayaking in the Russian River Estuary…

is always a rewarding experience, no matter the weather. We headed down there on a recent Sunday afternoon with our Hobie 2-seater strapped to the old pickup truck. As we passed the newly-opened Jenner Headland Preserve, we noticed the entire parking lot was full with all available highway-side pull-outs also packed to capacity. This has to be very satisfying to those who worked so hard to make this Coastal Hiking Gem a reality.

Now open, free to the public. Hike from the ocean to the top of Pole Mountain; to say there are World-Class Vistas is putting it mildly.

Through the coastal meadows, up into the Redwoods and Firs & the headwaters of Sheephouse Creek (being healed and restored from its “logging days”), on overlooking Russian gulch as you hike to one of the highest locations on this part of the NorCal Coast. Truly magical with views down into the Bay Area on a clear day.

We lucked out and got a parking space in the lot near the boat launch ramp on the Estuary. I say we were lucky, because this little town at the mouth of the Russian River was bustling and busy. Parked cars lined the highway far to the south. Jenner has definitely been discovered by many seeking an easy, pleasant day trip from SF.

Music wafted through the air emanating from one of the ocean/river view decks behind Café Aquatica and the new Wine Tasting By The Sea & Gift Shop. Live music in this intimate setting set the mood for an enjoyable afternoon and evening.

Across the highway, Jenner Inn’s (jennerinn.com) recently opened restaurant and bar were doing a brisk business. At WaterTrek’s Eco Tours and Kayak Rentals (www.watertreks.com) Suki Waters was busy outfitting guests with SUP’s and Kayaks. WaterTrek’s central enthusiast, Suki is a local Native American descendant, guide and kayak instructor who has been working with the public in outdoor recreation, interpretation and safety since 1979. More than just a kayak rental, you learn local history and information found nowhere else.

As we unloaded the kayak at the terrific new boat launch, we ran into a gentleman packing up his binoculars. It was Larry Broderick, Raptor Expert, returning from a very successful day of bird counting at the Jenner Headlands Preserve. Larry was happy to report on the amazing hawks and other birds that are traveling through the area on their Fall migration South. He gave a very informative overview of his day’s activities. We spoke of the Bald Eagles that now live nearby and the best times to catch a view of them on the beach at the mouth of the river (mornings, before the crowds!)

A late afternoon kayak trip, we were fortunate that the daytime breezes that are typical on the Coast were non-existent today. We cruised around Penny Island with the distant live music accompanying the rhythm of our paddles. Then it was on to our destination, the beach on the North side of the river mouth.

Pelicans silently glided in overhead in their elegant formations, lightly putting down in the river close by. Seals and Pelicans lined the river’s outflow channel to the ocean. By then the crowds of weekenders were pretty much non-existent.

We pulled out on the sandy beach by Haystack Rock and walked over the dunes to the ocean beach. It was deserted except for some curious seagulls. The pounding of the surf and sun on our faces brought a sense of peace and tranquility to our Sonoma Coastal experience.

After an hour or so of meditative beach-time, the sun slowly set into the sea. The perfect remedy for life’s stresses and demands, right here, minutes from civilization.

In the glow of the sunset and the emerging dusk, we headed back. The Estuary was as smooth as glass as we eased our kayak into the River. We stopped for a moment to soak it all in. The sky was darkening a bit. Three planets showed themselves as the brightest objects in the sky. They were magically lined up in an arc across the sky that lined up with the setting sun. Cool, I thought. Then I noticed a near-full Moon rising over the Cypress trees at River’s End Restaurant. It fell into the magical arc in our night sky right on cue.

We paddled back to our truck with the Moon and planets reflecting on the glassy river, lighting our way. What an afternoon.

We truly live in a natural paradise. It is so rewarding to see the Eagles and other rare birds once again making their home here.

Jenner Jottings by Tim McKusick