Paddling on the Laguna de Santa Rosa on Feb. 9 — the first since Dec. 24, 2013. With only an hour and a quarter to spare and driven by my son’s burst of enthusiasm, we threw the kayaks our truck and headed out. We put in at Occidental Road and paddled under the bridge northward, then made our way northeast and over the top of Sanford Road. My son noticed the SUV stranded on Sanford and wanted to check it out. When we arrived, a high school kid was inside, wrestling with something near the gear shift, and a group of his friends and their trucks congregated on the road where it emerged from the floodwaters. We paddled on, over the Stone Farm fields, meeting a colorful garter snake perched on the top of some weeds along the way. We heard cheering from the party and watched as a winch on the front of a jacked-up pickup slowly pulled the SUV out of the water.
Turning west, we paddled toward the main channel again through increasing rain and circled around a large valley oak. When we entered the canopy, we spotted another garter snake draped over a spur of bark on the trunk and a meadow vole clinging to a horizontal branch emerging from the water. The vole watched us approach, then scurried up the branch to a hiding place behind a side branch.
All too soon, even with rain, we had to return to our truck. The water was so wide that we almost couldn’t see the current (though we did start to drift north whenever we stopped for more than a few minutes). The narrower channel under the bridge gave us a bit more challenge as we paddled upstream, but even there, the waters were fairly calm. My son had one last wildlife encounter — a great egret allowed him to drift within a dozen yards before slowly flapping away — and we arrived back at our truck, having made the most of our brief time on what may be the biggest flood of the current drought.