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    Pioneering Naturalist Kim Powell Leads Unforgettable Eco Tours and Other Outdoor Adventures

    Belize Women’s Adventure
    All Photos Courtesy of Blue Water Ventures

    “Kim Powell and her team are simply the best in enabling you to have an outdoor adventure on or near water. Having taken trips with Blue Water Ventures to Baja California, whale watching, Loon Lake and Mendocino, kayaking, I can testify that each trip provides a wonderful, safe, informative, and playful environment in which toget closer to nature. Kim’s knowledge as a naturalist combined with her ‘deep blue’ passion experience make for an exceptional combo.”

    —Adventurer Ruth Landy

    Naturalist Kim Powell of Blue Water Ventures is so attuned to California’s marine and forest ecosystems that she is able to blend effortlessly into them. When she surfs near the Santa Cruz home that she shares with her wife, Nellie Farstad, she rides the waves like a dolphin catching the crest of the water in the surf. It is challenging for any person to enter wilderness areas without leaving a disruptive footprint, but Powell is so respectful of nature that marine mammals have even come to know her over the years. Local lore has it that more than one has looked to her for protection when under threat from predators.

    Kim Powell with Olive Ridley sea turtles during the Baja Adventure for
    Women held annually in November

    Since the age of 5, Powell has led others on outdoor adventures. Those early trips were basic hikes into the woods, but they speak to her lifelong love of nature and desire to teach what she has learned about it. After earning a B.A. in environmental anthropology, she went on to earn a master’s in environmental interpretation at Clemson before becoming a full-time naturalist guide in 1985 in Georgia.

    Twenty-eight years ago, she “landed in Santa Cruz” and has not looked back. When Shoutout Socal asked her to describe a day in her chosen home town, here’s what she said:

    “I would begin the day with a stop for some dark roasted brew followed by a walk along West Cliff Drive. Over the years we have witnessed newborn sea otters wrapped up in kelp, pods of dolphins, humpback whales lunging upward as they feed just meters from shore, and sunsets exploding across the bay. One incredible evening I was swimming along West Cliff Drive when a baby gray whale and its mother joined me for over an hour. An unforgettable life moment, truly profound. Before leaving the cliffs, let’s have a quick stop at our surfing museum to review Santa Cruz’s most famous aquatic sport. Included is a display that commands a nod to ‘our landlord,’ the ‘man in the gray suit,’ also known as the great white shark. A map reveals just a handful of shark attacks over the decades.”

    An up close encounter during the Women’s Florida Springs
    and Manatee program

    “Midday,” she continued, “we could stroll along the historic Santa Cruz Wharf, grabbing some clam chowder and a locally brewed beer. From there we might kayak into the bay searching for whales and wildlife, mountain bike among wildflowers, or hike through a majestic grove of redwoods, all within Santa Cruz County. Our day might end at a local book store or wine bar as we watch the migration of two-legged characters found in our colorful downtown. A day well spent.”

    We agree, and that is one reason why Dr. Betty Sullivan of “Betty’s List,” and a Co-Publisher of the San Francisco Bay Times, has been collaborating with Powell for over two decades, creating outdoor adventures for women. Powell leads such trips, not just here in California, but also in other parts of the U.S. and internationally to places such as the South Pacific, the Sea of Cortez Island, the British Virgin Islands, and more.

    Kim Powell (right) with guide Amanda Ingle
    during the Women’s Belize Adventure

    Sullivan said, “San Francisco Bay Times readers and women throughout the Bay Area have for many years looked to naturalist and guide Kim Powell’s Blue Water Ventures for well-planned and conducted outdoor adventures. From tide-pooling on the beach, to kayaking, whale watching, hikes to elephant seal habitats, and many more, Kim has been the phenom behind hundreds of inspiring outings attended by thousands of LGBTQ women and allies.”

    She added, “The end result is that just the name of her company, Blue Water Ventures, conjures up memories of amazing experiences with her on beaches from Santa Cruz to Bodega Bay.”

    Kim Powell (front row, second from left) with Blue Water Ventures travelers
    during the Tonga adventure and cultural program for women

    Powell is truly one of the great naturalists of all time. Like John Muir and other well-known nature experts that preceded her, she both experiences the transcendental powers of the wilderness while allowing others to do the same in a safe, welcoming way. So many of us could use such an escape from urban life these days, reflecting that timeless need. As Muir wrote, “Wilderness is not only a haven for native plants and animals but it is also a refuge from society. It’s a place to go to hear the wind and little else, see the stars and the galaxies, smell the pine trees, feel the cold water, touch the sky and the ground at the same time, listen to coyotes, eat the fresh snow, walk across the desert sands, and realize why it’s good to go outside of the city and the suburbs. Fortunately, there is wilderness just outside the limits of the cities and the suburbs in most of the United States, especially in the West.”

    Beach Escapes
    Published on July 27, 2023