Classical Glass

Sometimes it’s difficult to find on the beach. Sometimes, it nearly jumps out at you in a blur as you walk by.

Sometimes you get fooled.

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bright green seaweed, not glass

Other times, the ocean hasn’t worked its magic yet, and you see sharp edges and too-clear colors. IMG_2349

But always, the sea glass takes you by surprise. It’s a beach, with rock and shells and sand. Not these pieces of man-made substance that are re-made by the ocean.

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Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk 

 

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Just for the shell of it

IMG_1496It’s a beach walk, for heaven’s sake. There should be shells, right? On my almost-daily walks on the beach, I watch the waves, I look at the birds, I notice the changes in the hillsides, I always admire the rocks along the way. I rarely pay attention to the shells. Today, though, just for the shell of it, it’s going to be a different walk from my usual.

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Shy shell, trying to hide

I have always comforted myself when I mistakenly step on a seashell by reminding myself “I am helping the beach make sand.”

Especially the sand dollars, whose crisp crunch I try to avoid, but it is inevitable that they turn into sand. We get hermit crab shells, or parts of them, clam shells, sea snail shells, shells from abalone and oyster. I love the shells that have urchins making a home on top.

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And curls in shells next to the smooth surface of a rock.

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shell

Hope you have a shell of a day. Happy Walking.

walking logolinked to Jo’s Monday Walk

 

Hawks 5

IMG_0859My new prowess as a hawk-eye didn’t last long. The next morning, our walk took us along the same path, and even though we saw the nest, we saw no birds.

That is, until we reached the clearing by the sand dunes and Stanley said,  “So, do you see your hawk?”

“Where? In the trees? Is it perching?”

“The tall tree. It’s the male.”

“The eucalyptus? The cedar?”

“Right there. Right ahead.”

We are what I estimate to be 1/4 mile away and I do not understand Stanley’s ability to spy out a 20-inch long bird hidden in a 50-foot tall tree from that distance. He continues to point and I continue to peer.

 

When we are directly below the tree, I see the hawk moments before it flies away. But he goes over to his hunting post closer to the dunes, and I hurry closer to get some photos.

IMG_1956Sadie is occupied with digging today, and I use the time to study this hawk. He does look like the one that is usually here, scanning the dunes for food. We have seen him swoop and pull out something – maybe a mouse or a frog – twice. On a couple previous visits, the second hawk, possibly the female, sits on a nearby tree and waits for food, sounding out if she becomes impatient. Today, we see only the one hawk, the hunter.

IMG_1943Soon, Sadie is panting with exertion and ready to go. As we approach the highway crosswalk, I pause to take a picture of the nest. One day, I hope to see a hawk there.

When I get home, I look at my nest photos, and this is what I see:IMG_1629

 

I think maybe mama hawk thinks the nest is ready!

Rock Walk 2

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We walk today on Morro Strand beach. Again, you ask? Yes. Yesterday the wind blew hard and furious all day. That means new sand will be turned-over, new rocks exposed. Let’s go see.

It’s fun to look for rocks that have a specific shape. A broken heart?…

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The sandstone is always a favorite, maybe because it is a challenge to get it to smile at the camera.

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There’s always a poser or two or three.

My favorites are the colorful groupings

and the shiny, shiny smooth black stones.

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But just about any rock will do. Happy walking.

walking logoLinked to Jo’s Monday Walk

Hawks 4

IMG_0859I beg Stanley’s help, because I am desperate to find their nest. I feel time slipping away as early spring passes with each day. I know that if these two are a pair, the breeding cycle is in full swing, and the nesting is under way. But where?

Stanley, of course, has witnessed some of this hanky-panky in the air. About a month ago, he saw two hawks twirling way up in the clouds. Another time, one of the hawks swooped in a spiral down and down, only to fly up to join the second in the sky. He tells me his stories, and I read about the significance in my reference books and on-line sources. It bothers me a bit that he knows instinctively what these raptors are doing, and I believe him only if I can read it in a book. He is always right – not an overly attractive thing in a spouse – even so, I beg his help in finding the hawk home.

IMG_2152I point at a bird flying up high. “Hawk?”

“Vulture.”

We continue to scan the cedar trees in the clearing, the tall eucalyptus and the scrub bush that grows tall enough that hawks might venture there. Usually, we find at least one hawk in this clearing by the dunes, but other times, we see them both in the row of tall eucalyptus by the highway.

“There are two, flying together. Over the dunes,” I point, and aim my camera.

“Vultures,” Stanley says with confidence.

 

IMG_2169I am about to acknowledge that I am drawn to vultures the way Stanley is drawn to hawks. I see them in the sky all the time. They pose for me. My camera loves they way they float in the wind and spread their long wings. I think they are beautiful and ferocious-looking. But I am not wiling to give up the pursuit of our neighborhood red-shouldered hawks.

Finally, Stanley sees one raptor fly into the tall cedar across the street from the clearing and pull out a twig. He – Stanley says it is the male – flies out to his post near the dunes. I try to catch the hawk in a photo, but he is gone before I can focus.

That night just before dark, as I stand on our front porch at the bungalow, I hear their screaming chatter. I can’t see them. They are about two blocks away, just past Hwy 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway). Their distinctive call, though, has become easy to recognize.

On our walk the next morning, I remind Stanley that today, we are looking for the nest. I remember hearing them in the eucalyptus just beyond the highway the night before, and scan in the tall trees for a jumble of sticks, bark, leaves and bramble. I stay, looking up, until my neck is sore and Sadie is impatient. Stanley says the nest will be high in the trees, and big. I see nothing but leaves and limbs and branches. We continue on.

Half-way through the empty lot where the eucalyptus grow, I look back. There it is. Protected by the outer branches, I see a tangle of green woven into the crook of two inner branches.

“There it is,” I say.

Stanley looks back, smiles. “Oh, yeah,” he says, grinning.

We don’t see the hawks nearby, and wonder why they have chosen a spot so close to the highway. But today’s discovery has me hoping that these two are settling in this close to us in the bungalow. Maybe I have some promise as a hawk-watcher after all.

 

 

Estero Bluffs Walk

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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.

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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.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk 

 

Black Hill of Morro Bay

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Black Hill from the dunes near our house

 

She rises 663 feet from the sea-level town of Morro Bay and is the second to the last of the Nine Sisters, a series of volcanic plugs in the Santa Lucia Range of Central California. The last of the Nine Sisters is Morro Rock, which is a scenic photo shoot from the crest of Black Hill. The rock on this easy climb is 20 million years old, making the hike for this 62 year old a seemingly very small matter.

She is an unimposing piece of rock, compared to others that are within eyesight. Morro Rock, the iconic photo op for residents and tourists, and Hollister Peak, the gorgeous ragged outcropping just south of us, are both much more eye-catching. But you can walk up neither of those landmarks. Morro Rock is off-limits to all, Hollister Peak is a hike, not a walk. Black Hill invites everyone to scale its easier heights.

We start from a small parking lot about half-way up the hill. You can walk from the nearby campground or the golf course at the bottom of the hill, but there are controlled burns today, and so we end up at the parking stop. It’s the official trail-head, so why not?

This urban, small town climb is not a crowded trail, but we pass several groups and three or four single walkers on our way up and down the hill. It is a really unimpressive beginning, starting at the end of a golf course and looking like a child’s climb up a tiny hillside. It is an easy climb on a well-tended trail, but the scenes along the way

are only the first course to the main dish: the peak, and a peek into the area around. On clear days, people climb Black Hill to spot whales in the distance, but today we have a lovely cloud layer, so we get cool weather but short views.

West, we see the Pacific Ocean and south, the near-by town of Los Osos. We also see the cage of the oyster company in the bay – looking like they are on their lunch break – , and the road to San Luis Obispo winding through the salt marsh.

North, we see the town of Morro Bay, Morro Rock, farmlands and Highway 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway.

IMG_1326It takes us less than an hour for the entire trip, even with the leisurely pace. Thank goodness for urban parks that seem rustic and bring the natural world up close. One last view to that 20 million year-old hill side that makes me contemplate how young I should feel.

 

Rock Walk

IMG_1004.JPGSearching for rocks along this Central California beach has become my afternoon pleasure. I walk for a peaceful hour along the wave line, searching for rocks that the tide has brought in from the ocean or pulled out from the dunes. If I am lucky, it will be low tide, and the beach will supply an abundance and variety that sparkle in the retreating waves.

We are lucky today. Walking through the dunes from the street to the sand, I notice it is low tide. I reach the water, tuck my hat close against the wind, aim my eyes downward, and search for the eye-catching rock, the one that glimmers in the sun, or sparkles with foam from the ocean. People passing by may wonder why my attention is pulled to my feet when the surroundings are so glorious, and at times I feel guilty that I am not honoring this haven with my full attention. But the rocks and their beauty are also insistent. I let the sound of the waves envelope me as I focus feet-ward.

Sedimentary, volcanic, igneous. I have heard all these definitions before. Perhaps I could name a few, but the pristine color and smooth surface is what I really want to admire. I do spend a moment wondering where these specimens of the earth came from, and what adventure caused them to look the way they do.

Today, I get lost in the search until the rumble of a strong engine comes alongside. The beach is seldom crowded, and cars are not allowed, so I look up at the unexpected noise. A harbour patrol truck slows and the driver points to the ocean, then speeds down the beach. Looking into the waves, I see the partner harbour patrol boat racing parallel to the beach. I want to think they are saving a sea lion or errant pelican, but right away I think another shark has probably been sighted and the patrol is on the way to warn surfers to get out of the water.

A jet-ski joins in. I have only seen one jet-ski on the water, so I assume the harbour patrol has the only one allowed. It flits in and out of the waves, circling around the boat. Shark sightings are fairly common here in Central California. I have seen the patrol boat come to warn surfers once before. The surfers had seemed to linger that time, not overly-excited about retreating in the face of deadly sea creatures, but most heeded the warning eventually. I scan the ocean, which is rough today, and even though it is sunny and warm, I don’t see anyone in the surf.

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Look close, he’s in there somewhere

Until I walk farther down the beach, and see one brave/foolhardy soul entering the water. I think maybe the patrol truck had passed by before he arrived, and he doesn’t know about the shark. But maybe it’s me who has got things wrong and the commotion isn’t about sharks at all.

I look up and down the sand. A platoon of horses and riders enter the beach and start their slow walk, in and out of the surf. Horses on the beach are more common than sharks in the water. A young horse accompanies this group, maybe its first trip to the beach, and they lead it into the water.

I cross the rubble of a rock pile, the ocean having pulled apart a large dune and its rocky contents. It’s my last chance to hunt for smooth or colorful pieces of the earth and I get momentarily diverted.

IMG_1017Ahead, just beyond the surf, the patrol boat is waiting, then speeds back my direction. The truck does not return, but I hear its loud motor in the road alongside the beach. The lone surfer is still battling the surf for a chance at dominating a wave. The boat approaches, but I lose sight of both as I reach the yellow flags that signal the walkway back to the road. The dunes close in and I can only hope the surfer stays safe.

I look for the signs that are posted after a shark sighting, but there is nothing. Then I wonder what the patrol could have been monitoring out there. I remember the patrolman pointing out past the waves. Whales. I bet it was a whale coming too close to shore. This place has so many curiosities and wonders. And to think that all I was looking for were a couple shiny rocks.

 

California Coastal Walk

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Morro Rock in the background

Though I take this walk nearly every day when I am at home, I rarely take photographs, and hardly ever reflect on the beauty of this part of the earth. I use this glorious walk as a little bit of silent stepping out, a relaxation built into my already relaxing retirement. Today, I’d like to share Morro Strand State Beach with you.

It’s exactly in the center of the long state of California, a couple miles of beach that slowly curves just like the coastline of my home state. We have a mild winter, and today is typical of that time between winter and spring. Really, the only difference between the seasons is a couple degrees of warmth and an hour or so of sunshine. Today, we are recovering from welcomed rain, so the world will be washed and clean for our walk. Sadie knows the way, so she leads.

In and around the natural setting of the coastline, we wind into the rustic dunes from a man-made grassland that hopes to bring nature back to the area after  a housing development took its toll. The fences keep us away from the sensitive areas, but still gives us a view into the dunes.

We pass through a shaded section, over a sweet bridge crossing a creek that is usually dry. As you can see, today it is full of murky rain water, and the ducks look happy to have more than the usual pond for swimming. I wonder if they venture out onto the beach when the water dries up, or if they pad over to the park wetlands. I think they have a nest here, as I’ve seen them in this same spot now for a month or so.

This area has sections dedicated to a tiny bird called the snowy plover. They are pretty little birds that run together in groups of hundreds. During the winter, they earn their name by turning a brilliant snow white, and look like popcorn popping on the beach as they bounce up and down in their huge bird groups. When they fly into the air en mass, a gorgeous white flash fills the sky. We are not to walk in their nesting areas, though, because if a human approaches, they will desert their nests. Or if a dog sniffs, they will desert their nests. Or if loud noises rouse them, they will leave their babies behind. I think they are better at being like popcorn than at parenting. We turn here, recross the bridge, and because dogs are not allowed on the Plovers’ beach, Stanley and Sadie return home and I continue alone.

To the beach, through the dunes. The distant roar of the waves has joined us on our walk, becoming loud and soft again as we strolled in and out of the grassland and dune trails. Now, it blasts my ears with its insistent call. I am the most powerful thing on earth it says, proving its point by reaching your mind whether or not you allow it.

I struggle through the soft dry sand before reaching the packed sand, easy to walk on. Even easy enough to ride a bike. The snowy plovers are the small birds, cute but not the best parents in the bird world. I turn my camera south toward Morro Rock, but decide to walk north.

In the distance to the north is the town of Cayucos. It’s a longer walk than I’ll be doing today – probably six miles to the restaurants – but it’s always tempting, since it is an easy straight-ahead beach walk.IMG_0140

Along the way, fishermen try their luck and beach-combers hunt. I reach the steps up the cliff, my turn-around point, and spend some time in my favorite beach activity: rock hunting. Or I should say rock-admiring, since I am trying to take photos rather than taking the rocks themselves.

Back toward Morro Rock, then home. I hope you’ve enjoyed Morro Strand State Beach. Wouldn’t you like to take this walk yourself? As a decades-long former resident of the California Central Valley, this walk now in my front yard fills me with gratitude.

 

Angela’s Herb Walk

in Montano de Oro
in Montano de Oro

I like walking. I love walking with a purpose. Today I am taking you along on Angela’s Herb Walk. We start at Coon’s Creek Trail in Montano de Oro State Park in Central California. We don’t even leave the parking lot before Angela, a wonderfully skilled herbalist, points out horehound growing from under a bench.

Parking lot horehound
Parking lot horehound

Angela describes the medicinal value of horehound and gives some caution about how to use it. Not even out of the parking lot, and we’re already stepping on nature’s bounty.

cool, dry beauty
cool, dry beauty

The area is dry from lack of rainfall, but the day is fresh and cool.

Coon Creek Trail
Coon Creek Trail

Every few feet along the path, we stop and touch-smell-even taste the herbs.

Wild, and flowering
Wild, and flowering

And admire the wildflowers.

even ladybugs like it
even ladybugs like it

I find out my favorite herb is Mugwort. Mugwort? Yes, it’s fresh and clean tasting. Angela says it would make a good tea. She says a lot more, but I am concentrating on the zest and the springtime aroma.

We see this

green goodness
green goodness

 

and Angela gives it a name – horse tail – and explains how its high mineral content helps keep hair, nails, skin healthy.

 

We see this. Nettles. Our guide tells us that if you can pick just one herbal remedy

best herb on the planet
best herb on the planet

 

 

 

 

for what ails you, use nettles. Just be careful of the powerful sting of its tiny prickles. Fold the top of the leaf over the stings and you can chow down on a vitamin factory.

And the good herb,

yerba buena
yerba buena

 

 

yerba buena, which tastes sweet and calming. A member of the mint family, it is a helpful pain reliever.

There are so many more plants she introduces. I am amazed at what is in my backyard, available for everyone, if we only walk with Angela and learn what is around us.