Looking south across Estero Bay in Central California, Hollister Peak on the left and Morro Rock on the right
It is a pleasant and windy March day. The sun is bright and warm. As we start our walk, we must chose north or south along the bluffs. With close to 7 miles of trails, we won’t cover it all today. We start in the middle and chose to walk north, into the breeze, so that on our return trip, the wind will be comfortably at our backs.
Estero Bluffs is a state park, set aside from development to protect the natural area. Sea stacks, tidal pools, wetlands along the bluffs, native grasses and wildflowers will accompany us.
Before we get to the edge of the bluffs, we walk through the grassy wetlands along a level dirt trail. The wind disguises the over-bearing roar of the ocean, but the water is less than a quarter mile away, and I know there is a steep drop-off to the shallow beaches with their glorious low-tide pools. We pass by a few wildflowers – I think the violet-colored ones are blue-eyed grass, and there are also tidy tips (yellow), and thistle. A California golden poppy is just opening up.
The trail follows inches from the cliffs, and the sheer drop catches my attention because with all the beauty around, I am not paying attention where my feet land, and I really hope they don’t land over the edge. It’s a possibility, though, and I snap a picture of the place where the trail disintegrates, having crumbled with the last rainfall, but the photo turns out blurry due to my hyper-ventilation and shaking hands. I am not brave in the face of vertigo.
Curious about yesterday afternoon’s migration north of the sea gulls from my neighborhood, I scan the beach and water. There are hundreds sitting on the rocks and flying overhead. I wonder if these are their breeding grounds. There are also cormorants – dark black birds that are very clever fishers – , and coots floating in the surf.
I watch as a vulture scares up the flock of gulls, a hundred graceful flashes of white fleeing to the sky in one motion. I wonder if I should take a picture, but the joy of the moment is for me to simply watch. Some things are for the experience, and fumbling with a camera for me is still more a responsibility than a pleasure.
I see furry scrambling under the scruffy brush, and know there are ground squirrels close by. I doubt that any will pose long enough for me to grab a picture, then one does.
I reach the point where the bay meets the ocean. The water becomes more insistent, energetic. The powerful ocean aroma replaces the mild bay spray, and you can’t help but breathe deep that elixir that clears the head and lungs. I look north, where a stretch of sandy beach curves, continuing alongside the Pacific Coast Highway. But, this is my turn-about spot, and I am eager to have the wind at my back.
On my return, I notice several gorges, easy places to walk down to the beaches. Next visit, I will plan a low-tide adventure to explore some tide pools. There are no seals or sea otters in sight today, but later in the spring, there will be newborns on the rocks near shore.
Just as I reach the trail head, the wind dies down a bit, and I regret having left so early. By the time I am at the car, I have pulled off my scarf and ear muffs, and am unzipping my fleece jacket. The sun is warm, and it is only a 6 minute drive home. Perhaps I’ll be back tomorrow, unless those pesky gulls take me another direction. Happy walking to all.