Collecting Trash on Red Rock, September 12th, 2009.

Fourteen years ago I climbed to the top of Red Rock Island ( to look at views of The Bay from a unique perspective.

A month or so ago, the Eco Terrorist organization Earth First had some sort of protest at the gates of the Chevron refinery in Richmond. Chevron has a pier there where the super tankers dock just across the water from Red Rock Island. So a couple of eco terrorists roared out to this island in a gas guzzling polluting Zodiac, climbed to the top and strung up a forty foot banner with an incomprehensible phrase on it. After their protest ended, the eco terrorists left their banner to be torn up by the wind and lie about as trash on one of my favorite places on The Bay.

Danny Forer used to be a regular on the Thurseve Paddles but decided he would rather paddle during the daylight hours. He has scheduled a long series of Saturday paddles and this Saturday he was going to have lunch on Red Rock. I decided to come along, bring my good hiking boots, and see if I could haul out the trash left by the eco terrorists.

Danny says that usually a half a dozen people show up for his Saturday paddles, sometimes only one (counting himself) and once eighteen people. (Which is too many!) As I drove down to the Bay Area I considered turning back. Why go so far out of my way for a silly gesture? But I kept going and showed up at Danny’s Secret Launch to see who else was coming. It turned out I was the only one besides Danny who showed up! There had been thunderstorms across the greater bay area that night and it was raining when I left home. So only us two intrepid kayakers braved the conditions. But the sky cleared as we got in out kayaks and we had calm and beautiful weather for a short paddle across the bay.

We paddled around Red Rock and scouted out the possibilities. Bill Vonnegut had discovered a rope hanging down on the west side of the island on a recent Thurseve Paddle and tried to climb that. But the rope only went half way up where it was tied to a tree. Who had put it there? How had they gotten it as high as it was? Danny and I both liked the looks of the east side of the island better and decided to try there. But first we finished circumnavigating the island and landed at Toilet Bowl Beach to eat our lunch.

I took off my paddling clothes and put on boots and blue jeans. I figured Danny would stay down on the beach and call for a rescue if I fell off a cliff. But he turned out to be interested in seeing the top of the island and came along for the climb. I went up some loose gravel washes and got above the brush. This kept me out of the poison oak, but the soil was crumbly and I was in danger of slipping down. Danny “swam through the poison oak” and bushwhacked up some trails a little farther north than my route. We met on a ridge near the northeast corner of the island. From there it was an easy walk the rest of the way up.

We walked around to the north end of the island where the Earth First banner used to face the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. It was made out of canvas and was easy to cut and tear into several pieces to haul out. Using the parachute cord that it had been mounted with, I tied the canvas into tight bundles so we could toss them down the steeper areas. I could not imagine carrying a heavy load on the loose rock I had climbed up, so I followed Danny down his route. When we got to the thick poison oak, we tossed the bundles the rest of the way down. I turned back and scrambled across the crumbling cliffs rather than risk the poison oak. I am actually immune to the stuff, but bringing it home on my skin and clothing has worse consequences than catching it myself.

We lashed the bundles of canvas onto our kayaks and paddled back to civilization. Danny said that he was going to ship his pieces back to Earth First, COD on the postage. I’m not sure what to do with mine, but I’ll probably bring a few pieces of it as souvenirs to the next Bay Area Sea Kayakers meeting.

All text and images Copyright © 2009 by Mike Higgins / contact