Lake Margarita and Lake Nacimiento
Sunday February 18
By: Patrick Martin
 Pics by Patrick Martin

Trip Report: Paddling Lake Margarita and Lake Nacimiento Feb 17 & 18

Vicki, her little dog Tobey and I (Patrick Martin) went up to Lake Margarita and spent Saturday paddling around most of the lake. Actually Tobey did not do any of the paddling. Tobey spent his time acting cool and inspiring strangers to talk in high pitched voices about how cute, adorable, and fashionably dressed he was. For some reason we could not walk more than 50 feet before someone would stop us and treat us to the litany all over again.

I like Tobey. But I was tempted to put him in his cozy traveling bag so that we could avoid so much attention. There were times when Tobey looked at me as if he was getting tired of it too.

The paddle around Lake Margarita was quite enjoyable. The sun was out, the temperature was near 80 degrees, there was no wind, and the lake was peaceful and quiet because the fishermen were actually spending their time fishing rather than racing from one spot to the next. The only disappointments were that the water level was down about 10 feet and there was not much bird life around. We did see a flock of buffle head ducks, a few egrets, some cormorants, a pair of mallards, a couple of blue herons, four red tailed hawks, some turkey vultures, a grebe here and there, and dozens of coots. But this was the first time that I didn't get to see an osprey while paddling on the lake. Years ago I was spoiled by the sight of an osprey's mating flight, and I've been hoping to see another one ever since. The bird had me so mesmerized that it's a wonder I didn't fall out of my boat while watching his aerobatic maneuvers.

Vicki enjoyed paddling on the lake so much that I almost had to beg to get her to land as sunset approached. Although I wanted to obey the rules and leave the lake before sunset, I'll admit to having an ulterior motive. My stomach could hear a prime rib supper calling loudly from A J Spurs in Templeton. A J Spurs is my favorite restaurant, I could spend the rest of this trip report talking about the pot of beef stew (served right after being seated along with bowls of salsa and black beans), the armadillo eggs appetizers, the fancy salad, the quality and size of their steaks, the pot of potatoes, and the after dinner cordial. I ate as much as I could, skipped desert, and still carried away enough food for a big breakfast the next morning. There is a reason why the locals start lining up to get into the place when it opens at 4 in the afternoon. If you get there by 6 you will have to wait a while for a table.

After supper we drove back to the KOA at Santa Margarita Lake. We chose to spend the night in one of their Camper Kabins since there is a risk of rain this time of the year. Other nice things about a Camper Kabin are that is saves time over setting up and breaking down our tent, sleeping on a bed is more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, and the little cabins are equipped with heaters.

Sunday we drove up to Lake Nacimiento to go paddling. And for the first time we were treated to peace and quite on that lake. Normally Lake Nacimiento is a party lake with lots of speed boats, water skiers, jet skis, and motorized noise makers racing around like wild cowboys. Maybe it was the chill in the air and the overcast, but the lake was almost deserted and conditions were perfect for a paddle.

We paddled from Heritage Ranch to Dip Creek, a distance of about 3 miles. Along the way Vicki spotted a bird which she thought was an egret flying towards us. Then it appeared to be an osprey to her. But as it flew over us it turned into a sea gull. This bird was a master of imitations. I told Vicki to keep an eye on it to see if it changed into a humming bird.

And as we headed into the shallows at Dip Creek I spotted a bald eagle sitting in a tree about 40 yards from the shore. Although I got a few pictures of the bird, I wished that I had brought my camera with the telephoto lens. The eagle was far enough away that our presence was an amusement to it rather than an annoyance. Another reason for wanting my big telephoto was to see how the hummingbird managed to disguise itself as eagle.

The water level at Lake Nacimiento was down about 15 feet. If they don't get some serious rain up there, the lake is going to be in sad shape by the end of summer since its water is used for agricultural irrigation in Monterey County. If you want to paddle the lake while it is still large, I suggest that you do it soon.

When we got back to the dock, Vicki and Tobey wanted to keep paddling a bit, so they made a little trip up Snake Creek while I loaded my boat and gear onto my truck and talked to a local resident who was interested in forming a kayaking club at the lake. The people we met up there were friendly, courteous, and interesting. And, of course, Tobey attracted a crowd when Vicki landed her boat at the dock.

On the way back to our cabin we stopped at A J's. I got to eat in heaven twice in one week!

The next morning we packed up early and headed over to San Simeon. We had breakfast at the park overlooking the beach were a group of us had launched for our trip down to Cayucos back in 2003. It was difficult to keep my mind off of kayaking while watching the surf. The surf was only about 3' high, but due to the shallowness of the water, there were 4 sets of waves coming in at the same time.

We walked about a half-mile along the board walk at San Simeon and Tobey made about 100 new acquaintances. Little kids wanted to pet him. Women wanted to adore him. And one guy even wanted to share his breakfast with him. Tobey liked the guy with the food the best.

Traffic on the way home was very good. We made it from San Simeon to Moorpark in just a little over 3 hours. Perfect weather, great paddling, fantastic food, good company, easy traffic, and my old truck ran smoothly without breaking down. Life just doesn't get much better than that.

The sign of a good trip is the smile that Vicki has been wearing for the past few days. For that matter, my attitude has been a bit brighter too.

I'll post some of the pictures I took on the CKF photo gallery (see Captain Kayak's pictures).

All the best,
Patrick Martin

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