Thursday, May 12, 2022

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

The ancestral tribal lands of the Ohlone Kalentaruk people.

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is a Central Coast jewel located near Moss Landing, CA. As the name implies, the reserve protects and studies the tidal wetlands adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Considering that 90% of California's wetlands have been destroyed by development in the past 250 years, the reserve's importance cannot be overstated. To learn about its history and its modern mission, click the link above and explore their ever-improving website.

For my purposes, the Slough is home to a network of trails, most of which I have hiked multiple times. Yesterday I visited with the notion of walking the ones that were still new to me. It was sunny but the sea breeze was chilly, so I layered up and adjusted accordingly. The last time I was there I surprised a napping bobcat concealed by some tall grass - I had the pleasure of seeing it up close as it sprang up and fled into the trees. Sorry, Bob, but thanks! 

Would I have the chance to see something that cool again? There was only one way to find out, one foot in front of the other. I checked in with the staff at the nicely landscaped Visitor Center and headed down to the trailhead. My modest goal was to walk the Long Valley Loop, the Murphy Trail, the Parson Slough Trail, and the Five Fingers Loop before returning on the main trail from the barns to the Visitor Center. This is an easy walk for most able, healthy individuals with just a little bit of up and down.

There were wildflowers and grasses and tree tunnels everywhere lining the trails plus several sitting benches along the way at strategic viewing places. One bench was dedicated to Sam Farr, a former Congressman for our area and from everything that I can tell, a great human being. Sam stood up for the beauty and environmental importance of the Central Coast and its inhabitants at every opportunity. A bench with a view is the least we can do to show him the respect he has earned.

I didn't see a bobcat this trip, but I did see a curious little vole (meadow mouse). It scurried out from beneath some newly mown grass on the trail and headed straight for my Vasque Breeze low cut trail runner. I stopped to see what it would do and it burrowed back into the grass a few inches short of my foot. Was I walking on top of its den? Was it protecting its babies? Did its buddy vole dare him/her to do it? I'll never know, but it seemed a little reckless to me. Not every Vasque Breeze trail runner is attached to a gentle soul-sole like me-mine.

The tide was about in the middle between low and high from what I could tell. The views of the slough were interesting and colorful, although the trails stayed well away from the water most of the time. I didn't see any sea otters or pelicans (my two favorite local animals), but I did catch a few fleeting glimpses of what I think was a soaring golden eagle. I wondered if it would bother to swoop down after something as little as a vole.

On the way back I passed a couple of old barns that add some charm to the scene. The staff person in the Visitor Center had asked me to stay out of the barns for safety reasons - otherwise I would have poked around in there for a bit. I love old barns.

Peace, Love, and Meadow Mice,

#2,022 in 2022

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