Saturday, July 30, 2022

Fort Ord Dunes State Beach to Marina State Beach, California

 Waxing Crescent Moon

Continuing with my mini-goal of walking the shoreline of Monterey Bay, yesterday I added the piece of sand between Fort Ord State Beach (9th Street access in Marina) to Marina State Beach (Reservation Road access). Most of this beach was part of the military training facility at Fort Ord for many years. There are still a few relics of old facilities, but most of them have been removed. 

Possibly a former landing ramp or small wharf-like structure?

The dunes and sandstone cliffs are impressive and the coastline is prime real estate, absolutely beautiful and mostly quite clean. Low tide would be the preferred walking time, but I managed the out and back six mile hike pretty well in deeper sand. There were far fewer birds on hand this time and there was no visible sea mammal activity. One turkey vulture was picking clean an otter carcass. It didn't even bother to fly off as I passed by - perhaps it could sense my lack of appetite.

I did not see a single fisherman or fisherwoman on this walk, which is unusual compared to all my other beach hikes this summer. Normally when the tide is rising, there are people out there casting into the surf. They probably know something I don't know. Or maybe they had the good sense to stay home because it was so goldurn chilly. Come to think of it, I only saw a half dozen other humans the whole time. Whatever, I had a good time and I warmed up pretty fast after I got moving.

I have two more sections of beach to do and then I'll be finished with walking from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey to Seacliff Beach in Aptos. After that, there will be more populated areas with patchy access I think, but who knows maybe the Universe will surprise me. I mean, anything can happen in Santa Cruz, right?

Peace, Love, and Seacoast,

#2,022 in 2022

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Marina State Beach - Salinas River Wildlife Refuge

 Waning Crescent Moon

Yesterday's beach hike was a mirror image of Saturday's southbound out and back. I walked northbound from Marina in deep sand  to the Wildlife Refuge, greeted the massive pelican colony again, and returned to Marina. The chilly marine layer once again gave way to sunshine as the tide receded, making the return hike on the firm sand a little more forgiving on the old knee bones. Guess what - it was a beautiful day at the beach.

There were several dead, decaying jellies on the way. I didn't count, but there at least ten I am sure. Old age? Sharks? Some other predators? I don't know, but there was plenty of jelly demise going on this month.

As I neared the mouth of the Salinas River (right now it is blocked by sand bars), the number and variety of birds increased. I walked past lots of little skittering snowy plovers, too many seagulls to count, a smattering of curlews, and once again a festive pelican-alooza. Crowds of the big birds relaxed in the surf, flew in tight formation, and dive-bombed after food into the waves. I could watch these critters all day long.

I am  pleased to report that the beaches I have visited so far this summer have been quite clean - props to Save Our Shores, a non-profit organization that sponsors cleanups and promotes safe, clean water up and down the coast. I think I will keep doing these beach walks this year until I have covered all of the public access portions of Monterey Bay. I absolutely love it.

Peace, Love, and Pelicans,


#2,022 in 2022

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Cryptids, Shatner, and the UnXplained - Kid Stuff!

 Waning Crescent Moon

Thanks to good ole Netflix, I have recently been exposed to William Shatner's hilarious attempts to be cleverly scary. As a TV program, the show does not rank anywhere near Hitchcock or Serling or even The X Files, but Shatner's over-the-top renderings of oddball occurrences on, in, and around Earth are really funny. He really gives it all he's got, for whatever that is worth and regardless of whether he should.

Last night I watched a segment about cryptids (animals that have been claimed but never proven to exist), specifically the Mongolian Death Worm, a Thylacine (the Tasmanian Tiger), the Goatman, and the Mothman. I have to give props to the Mongolian Death Worm because it has such a cool name, but really, it only lives in the Gobi Desert, so who cares. All the others are pretty run-of-the-mill, although the Mothman does have his own statue in some little town in Pennsylvania or somewhere like that, which is impressive on a certain level. Plus he can fly over one hundred miles per hour. Wow!

Mongolian Death Worm

Tasmanian Tiger

The Goatman

The Mothman

All this goes to say that The UnXplained pales in comparison to the real deal and by that I mean, of course, Tremors, the series of movies starring the late, great Ed Ward. Kevin Bacon, Reba McIntyre, and Michael Gross had bit parts, too, but it was Ed Ward who provided the gravitas, the glue, and the beer that held these four cryptology classics together. Well, Ed and the Graboids, possibly the best cryptids ever. Like the original movie, Graboids had spin-offs, cryptids like the Ass-Blasters that starred in some of the sequels. But the Graboids were superior. They were Mongolian Death Worms on steroids. Nothing, not one thing, in the UnXplained segment that I watched even came close to the greatness of Tremors. I yawned and smirked all the way through, except when Shatner spoke, then I LOLed like crazy. 

The late, great Ed Ward and his sidekick.

Ed Ward in action.

This guy is so screwed.

Nowhere to run, Nowhere to hide.

If you have nothing else to do, watch The UnXplained just to laugh at Bill. But trust me, Tremors is the discerning cryptologists' choice. 

Peace, Love, and Xplain That,

#2,022 in 2022

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Salinas River State Beach & Wildlife Refuge, California - Pelicans Galore

 Waning Crescent Moon

Yesterday was another socked in morning at the beach, but who cares about that. The pelicans were having a convention and there were too many to count. I love these animals, so I was in beach walk heaven.

I'm not sure whether it was the weather or season or time of day or an abundant fish hatch or what, but I was lucky to be there to see them assembled near the mouth of the Salinas River and filling the sky just offshore. 

There were seagulls there too, of course, there are always seagulls, and the curlews were doing there thing, but the pelicans stole the show this Saturday morning. All the rest of us were just spectators.

On a normal day, this old barge might have garnered most of my attention as I approached from a distance. I am sure it has some interesting tales to tell, but yesterday I didn't pay it that must attention. Yesterday was all about the pelicans.

Peace, Love, and Thanks for the Show,

#2,022 in 2022

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Manresa State Beach and Seacliff State Beach, California

 Third Quarter Moon

This post is two for the price of one. Yesterday I walked from Manresa State Beach to Sunset State Beach and back. And today I walked from Seacliff State Beach to Manresa State Beach and back. I've been gobbling up sand and spitting it out, parking for free with my Library Day Use Pass, eyeballing the California melting pot surf monkeys, and watching the Sun burn off the fog at three miles per hour. It is way fun and pretty durn good exercise. 

Of the three parks, I think Sunset is the best. The campground there is sandwiched between the strawberry fields and the dunes and the Day Use lot is shady and a quick 'n easy walk to the spacious beach. Manresa's tent campground is okay, but relatively small and the parking lot is a half-mile dune walk to a nice beach that has become a little overdeveloped. There are boo-coo bungalows and condos staring at you from the dune-tops as you walk and that gets pretty annoying after a while. 

However, Manresa is more relaxing than Seacliff. Seacliff is busy. It has an RV campground slash parking lot right on the beach, making it feel kind of SoCal-ish. The beach is crowded and cramped, and the condos, etc. encroach a little too close to the whole scene, again like SoCal. The Day Use lot is huge, like a Walmart parking lot dotted with EV charging stations. From there you descend several flights of wooden steps down to a paved path that leads to a row of ramadas with non-social-distanced picnic tables and multiple fancy restrooms. 

It's really too busy. Seacliff's saving grace is its old wharf that used to lead to a historical docked cement ship. Now the cement ship is cracked in half and mostly sunk, so the end of the wharf is fenced off to keep the stoners from harming themselves. A mish mash of seabirds has taken over the fenced-off section, making it into their very own ammonia-smelly open air condo. Frankly, I think it's the coolest thing there is at Seacliff State Beach. I love it.

Once you walk past all the people and their amazingly complicated beach gear, the sand opens up toward Manresa and the cliffs show their true colors. It's a longer walk between these two places than it is between Manresa and Sunset, but it's fun to wander and the surf sound never gets old.

Who knows exactly what this is, but I like it anyway.

By the time I got back to the wooden staircase, I was pretty tired, but I chugged some water and gamely, steadily began to ascend. I was only a little winded and making pretty good time, I thought, when this giant athletic woman bounded past me, taking two stairs at a time. She was at least 6'3" tall, thirty-something, with a lean, well-muscled build, obviously a competitive athlete of some sort. 

As she whooshed past, I said, "Okay, now you're making me feel bad." I was joking. I felt fine - I was just a little astonished that anyone could go that fast up all those stairs with seemingly such little effort. She didn't miss a beat, though, she just shrugged her shoulders and threw her hands in the air as if to say it must suck to be me. It was trash talk without the talking part. 

When I reached the top (it didn't take me that much longer than it took her, even though I was wearing a knee brace and using the handrail the whole time, haha), she was doing military pushups, like really really fast military pushups. I passed by without breaking stride and said " I feel great, I was joking." 

She replied, and I quote: "Ha Ha." To be clear, this was not a laugh. It was a recitation of the syllables "Ha" and "Ha." That was all. In between pushups. It was like military trash talk.

So I think I met my first beach cyborg today. A very interesting encounter. It was almost as personable as a sunken cement ship.

Peace, Love, and AI,


#2,022 in 2022

Fremont Peak State Park, San Juan Bautista, California

 Third Quarter Moon

Making the most of my San Juan Bautista Public Library State Park Day Use Pass, I drove up the winding San Juan Canyon Road last Friday (actually under the Waning Gibbous Moon) for a free loop hike around the park. The first time I hiked up there was after I had just moved to SJB (Summer of 2005). That day it cost me $56. That's right, $56. 

I missed seeing the small sign in the lower parking lot that read Pay Fees Here, parked up in the unsigned upper parking lot, did the easy climb to the peak, and returned to my truck to find on my windshield  a very expensive parking citation from a way-too-on-the-ball Ranger dude. Whoopsie daisy, rookie mistake. 

Subsequently, I appealed to the powers that be, proclaiming my innocence and protesting the itty-bitty signage, but I received zero mercy. These days there are much better signs, so maybe my mistake resulted in a cheaper hiking experience for others? The day use fee for Seniors is only $5 at this park. I figure if I hike with my Library pass ten or eleven more times, I will make up for my blunder. See? Everything always works out. 

The hike up to Fremont Peak is a good thing to do once in a while and it's especially fun the first time. But I much prefer the loop hike starting from the upper parking lot for its variety and elevation changes. Starting with the Valley View Trail, you pass through different families of madrones, oaks, pines, and manzanitas as the trail winds up and down and around to connect to the Cold Springs Trail.

Cold Springs is not a functioning spring any more but there is a spring house and some old hardware there to mark the spot. There is no posted information about its history either at the site or on the park's website, which is too bad for curious people like me. I wonder how long ago it was a working spring? Did the native people use it? Miners? Soldiers? It looks like an inviting place to camp, but to my knowledge that is not allowed. There are two nicely developed campgrounds in the park, but dispersed camping is taboo. Fires are not allowed anywhere in the park, for good reason.

After you huff and puff and climb up from the spring to the road at the park's entrance, Tony's Trail takes off up through a shady oak forest and leads you to the Fremont Peak Observatory. Then you lose the shade and contour around Carmen's Trail on an exposed hillside made of crumbly shale and serpentinite. Hiking poles help with traction if you happen to be of a certain age, ahem. You can work up a good sweat on these sunny slopes and practice your slipping and swearing skills. It doesn't take that long, though, and pretty soon you're rewarded with good views of the backcountry and the east side of Fremont Peak.

I have mentioned in these pages more than once that Tony's Trail and Carmen's Trail were named after the two children of Rick Morales, a long time Ranger at the park. Rick passed on last year, but I am sure he would be pleased at how well-maintained all the trails at the park are right now. I don't know if the work has been done by park staff or fire crews or the conservation corps, but whoever cleaned up the place (the poison oak is trimmed well away from the trails) did a great job. The loop hike around the park is a good little workout and a quiet, pleasant way to spend time in the woods.

Peace, Love, and No Citations,


#2,022 in 2022