Not kayaking Lopez Lake

I recently read that Lopez Lake is a great place for kayaking with lots of wildlife and I’ve been wanting to explore it. The tides have been wrong for a paddle trip to explore the sand bar and part of the back bay that are also on our list, so when I woke up on Wednesday to a sunny morning, it was a good time to head to Lopez. Got the yak loaded up early–well, New Leaf early which is before noon–and headed to the lake with a quick stop in SLO to drop off Harold’s tennis racket for restringing. A drive through the brown and crispy hills had us wondering what the water level would be like at the lake.

White area showing low water levels

White area showing low water levels

Our first glimpse revealed significantly lowered water levels but certainly enough for good paddling. We wound around the lake and crossed a small bridge where we had to slow for construction and below the bridge and to the right we saw a marshy area that in normal years would have been full of water. There were a great many deer grazing, egrets and other birds we couldn’t identify from the distance. We proceeded slowly through the construction area to the county park and campground on the back side of the lake.

It was a pretty park and quiet and peaceful on this mid-week day and we were both excited and anxious to put in as we stopped at the ranger station to pay up. We were shocked to find that day use fees were $10 in the off-season and that we had to pay an additional fee for the kayak. We were told  the kayak must be completely clean and dry due to the threat of Quagga and Zebra mussels. We were told they are tiny invasive mussels that breed rapidly and clog pipes and valves creating a threat to municipal water systems and aquatic food chains in the lakes and reservoirs. The park staff must inspect every boat and if not completely clean and dry, the boats may not be launched, nor may boats that have been in certain infected waters. And there’s yet another charge if the boat must be decontaminated.

We walked around the campground which has spacious and private camping spots, the sort of place we’d like to come and camp, and walked down to the lake. We didn’t see the wild turkeys which are common in the park but on our walk we did see a few of the over 150 species of birds that can be found there.

Young acorn woodpecker (?) seen while we were registering.

Young Acorn Woodpecker (?)
Seen while we were registering

Red-shouldered Hawk

Harold is still stalking herons.

Harold is still stalking herons.

We were told there are cougars in the park.

We were told there are cougars in the park.

So we talked it over, and with the day getting on and not having the appropriate towels and such to clean and dry the kayak completely, we decided that we’d save our money and kayak Lopez Lake another time when the yak was prepared and we had enough paddling time to make it worthwhile. Perhaps we’ll take our RV and camp and kayak for a few days.

Insert pause to rant: I know California, like many states, has serious budget issues, but to raise park fees so high that families can’t afford an afternoon or a day out deeply disturbs me. Often for a family on a tight budget, a picnic in the park or a day at the lake is the only entertainment they can afford. Tax cigarettes, booze or whatever, but the countryside and the outdoors should be available for everyone to enjoy. It’s not–or should not be–a luxury. Often those who can’t afford it are the ones who most need it. We chose not to pay that day, but for some it’s not a choice. We had the luxury of choosing.

So what did we do instead after we left the park? Eat. Something we seem to do often–almost as often as we don’t eat because our chosen restaurant is closed. We’d tried to go to Mama’s Meatball once before (sound like the Tom kha story?) and never made it for some reason I can’t recall. But, this time we found a parking place for the monster truck (and I salute Harold who parallel-parked it in an amazingly tiny space), fed the maw of the meter, and walked a couple blocks to the restaurant.  And right in front of the restaurant was a free parking lot for customers with a big, empty space, big enough for a big diesel truck. That figures.

Being it was Mama’s Meatball, Harold had to have meatballs and chose a meatball sandwich on the bread they bake themselves. I opted for a delicious grilled veggie sandwich with fresh mozzarella. We both managed some salad and half of our sandwich and had the rest for dinner that night.

Sandwiches at Mama's Meatball

Sandwiches at Mama’s Meatball

Over the past year or so, our eating habits have really changed. Harold was a big eater, pun intended. He is 50 lbs smaller than he once was and he no longer eats the growing-teenage-boy sized portions that he did not too long ago. When we’d go out, he’d finish all of his meal and whatever I couldn’t eat of mine, usually about half, sometimes more. Now, we skip the bread, share a salad, and still have enough of our main courses left for another meal each. Sometimes we just share an entrée, as we did at Jocko’s BBQ (where we still had leftovers. At home, I cook smaller and smaller quantities and still have leftovers, 2 meals from one even when I didn’t plan it that way as I sometimes do. Is this just part of aging?


2 thoughts on “Not kayaking Lopez Lake

  1. Glad you saw some birds. The park fees caused quite a controversy here, although now people seem used to it and there is no longer a spate of letters to the editor. It seems sad that federal funding is so low that parks are not making it financially even with the Discover Pass being required. Hey, you got your desired restaurant meal for once!


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