The local news reported that there was a greater number of Bald Eagles in the area so I decided to return to the park where I saw my first. The dogs and I used to hike at the Santa Margarita Lake county park weekly. We would walk 5 miles then I would paddle my kayak for some extra exercise. Once the water levels dropped because of the drought, we stopped going regularly. In fact, I haven’t been there in over a year.
I hiked in from the east side at sunrise hoping to get a good workout and photograph the birds at the quiet end of the lake. There would be no motor boats at the shallow end where the beginnings of the Salinas River run like a small creek into the reservoir. Oh, it was quiet all right. Silent! There were no boats, birds or lake. The places where I kayaked for exercise, where we paddled in to canoe camp, I was now walking. With the ravages of El Nino supposedly inundating us, I found no water. There was no evidence of the Salinas River except a bed of moist white sand. I have seen many of the California lakes at extremely low levels but this time it seemed different. I had paddled here and was now standing at least 10′ below the surface where I would have been historically. Seeing “the narrows” from the trail conjured visions in my head of the before and after effects of the drought. I stood where I once took a photo of a group of canoes paddling into the backcountry camp and was unable to fathom the view as I saw it now. Unreal.
I never found the eagles but was not disappointed. The effects of the drought in the lake levels, the number of dead and fallen trees, and lack of birds species and numbers was devastating.