San Carpoforo

Week 33 and the last beach of the challenge.

Steve made the movie. I love it. It’s perfect. If a picture is worth 1000 words, a video is worth an entire blog post.

The beautiful, vast beach at San Carpoforo
San Carpoforo. Some consider it the southern-most tip of Big Sur. Vast. Wide. Big. Gorgeous waves. Gorgeous beach. Driftwood city. Sea anemone paradise. I love this beach. I love this beach. I love this beach.

Hike entrance at San Carpoforo
You park on Highway 1, a few miles north of Piedras Blancas. The beach itself is at the end of San Carpoforo canyon and creek. It’s a medium walk through chaparral, then along the creekside that peters out before it reaches the ocean.

Plover posted: yield to the plover
Snowy Plovers, little miniature birds just six-inches tall, lay their eggs on the sand and, consequently, rule Central Coast beaches.

driftwood along San Carpoforo creek
The beach is a great one for driftwood. And driftwood architecture.

Driftwood hut
Driftwood and sea rocks. Rocks. Big rocks. A cove of them.

Big rocks in a cove, cyprus on an outcrop

from the rock cove, looking north this time

Rocks on the beach

rocks out to sea
Maybe you can’t tell from this photo, but it was a super low-tide. These rocks? Probably not exposed often.

location of the hanging anemones
Case in point: the underside of these rocks was lined with hanging sea anemones.

hanging anemone
Hanging sea anemones… like something from a science fiction marine biology field trip.

beach creation
While I explored the intertidal zone, Steve made a driftwood/kelp beach installment.

beach, looking south again

long, tall beach shadow

walking back to the car
Walking back to the car, the sunsetting behind us cast a pretty glow on the hills to the east.

cyprus, part green, part dead, colored by sunset
As well as on this cyprus tree. I liked the play of brown, dead limbs, green living limbs and the orange cast from the sunset.

sunset over the pacific
A beautiful sunset was the perfect ending to the day and a perfect ending to my Beach a Week venture.
Me, Week 33 at the beach

Jade Cove, Big Sur

looking out over jade cove
Week 32 (beaches). Trip 8 (Big Sur). With only two beach weeks left to complete my beach-a-week goal (running March through the first weekend of November) and needing to hit the monthly Big Sur goal as well, we set out to visit Jade Cove. It lies toward the southern end of Big Sur between Willow and Sand Dollar. While it boasts a name that sounds like you might hit a sweet bounty, the easy-to-find jade was gathered decades ago (or so it seems to me.). Still, it’s worth a visit if only to boast of the rope-required descent or to test your semi-precious stone-finding capabilities.

At Jade Cove, looking south
First of all, the hike. It starts out on a marine terrace, a dusty flat trail densely bordered by chaparral. This, to me, is the quintessential Central Coast hiking experience.

Top of the trail
But the hike to Jade changes quickly at the cliff’s edge.

Trail, cliff edge
Stairs help you navigate what could have been a tricky steep bit.

stairs down
From here on out it is a narrow-ish trail along the hillside, leading you down to the beach in a series of long switchbacks.

trail down hillside
It’s not too steep, not too precarious (until you get to the rope).

switch back
The very end of the trail is very steep and you will need to use a series of ropes to reach the beach. This looks difficult, but it really isn’t. In fact, the rope makes it much easier. (I wish more trails had them.)

rope down
Bonus: it makes for a dramatic photograph. Your friends will be impressed and you might have a nice feeling of adventure and accomplishment.

rope bottom
It was near high tide when we got there, so the beach that was available was small and rocky. I perched on an outcropping for most of the afternoon and just watched the waves lap the coast line as the ocean came in.

rocks out to sea
Steve, meanwhile was on the hunt for something interesting: an interestingly shaped rock, little piece of jade, maybe some moonstone.

Below you can see how little beach was available to us, and how rocky it was as well.

the rocky beach
Back up at the top of the trail, looking southwest across the marine terrace.

across the marine terrace
Jade Cove’s name may conjure grand plans in your rock-hunting mind. Maybe you will be a better rock hunter than me, and make the find of your life. If not, no worries. You’ll have a remote beach adventure and a sense of the rugged California that once was, and still is, in little pockets like this.

Me, Week 32

Back Bay, Baywood

Ysa walking the path
Week 31. 2nd Street, Baywood Park. It started at a soccer game. It morphed into lunch, strolling, beaching, and labrynthing.

looking back towards third street
The weather went from overcast and nippy to sunshiney to windy. The adults, we all kept our sweatshirts on. The kids would have none of that.

playing in the little dune
Nathan and Ysabel. These two pics sum up the Baywood Kid Life.

up this hill
Mom and Bec, up by the labyrinth.

Mom and Becca
I’m all for contemplative walking, but some days call out for silly running instead. Nathan ran the whole thing at least five times. Ysabel was right behind him.

Running the labyrinth

Labyrinth victory!

Ice plant and boats

Water way

Me, week 31

Moonstone Beach

Such sweetness
Week 30. Of all the beaches, Moonstone Beach is amongst my favorites.

Steve and I had driven up to Cambria to see the Scarecrows and topped off the trip with a late afternoon stroll at Moonstones.
beach scene
There is a little inlet that runs along Shamel park and empties out on the beach on this day it was full of birdsong and crow squawking. If I was a bird I might also choose to sing and squawk here.
the inlet
There’s a nice little park at this beach. All that separates the beach from the park is this little fence.
Driving home, we pulled over on Highway 1 to snap the sunset. The view to the south, tho lacking the bright colors of the setting sun, was still pretty, showing the march of the morros down to the rock.
line of morros including holister and morro rock

Hazard Canyon

watching the surfers
Week 29. September 28. Hazard Canyon was the quintessential secret surf spot on the Central Coast for decades. It was fiercely defended, protected, and monitored by local surfers. There was a time that if you were not a local and parked your car at the secret entrance, chances were you’d return to a custom “no tresspassing sign” opaquely displayed as a thick covering of surf wax over every window of your car. You could expect a fist in the water or someone paddling over your feet in the line up. Name calling and stink eye were the least of your worries.

I don’t know when the spot was officially outed but I’ve seen it mentioned in Surfer Magazine and in at least one surf movie. A quick google search comes up with pages of links. An official parking spot was added by the MdO park (tho down the road from the traditional entrance), making it an easy place to get to for a day on the beach or in the water.

walking the canyon
No matter where you park or your local/non-local status, it still requires a long walk in through a eucalyptus stand and thick sand.

So many people on the beach
All that said, I was surprised none-the-less by how many people were on the beach.

Growing up here, this was always a special place for me because it was a secret, special beach that not that many people knew about or went to.

going over the lip
My friends and I would come down for long walks with our families or for impromptu bonfires (can’t get away with that anymore) or just to sit and watch the surfers.

surfer walking in
Steve and I sat on rock outcroppings for a while, people watching, bird watching. We took a walk looking at rocks, shells, feathers, birds. Getting our feet wet. It was blazing hot, a beautiful day. Quintessential Indian Summer Central Coast perfection.

surfer walking towards friends
(Surfer coming in, walking towards his friends)

the sandy cliff
(The huge sand dune cliffs. I think they are beautiful.)

(So much kelp! Nice view to the rock.)

snowy plovers are cute
(The little guys are snowy plovers. Because they build their nests right on top of the sand and because the state of California staunchly protects them, the snowy plovers dictate when people can go through the dunes and what parts of the beach are open.)

(Long-billed curlews, my favorite shore bird.)

heerman's gulls flying away
(I don’t know that much about gulls. They seem to be ubiquitous, but when you start paying attention you begin to realize they are different types of gulls. You begin to wonder if certain gulls show up during certain seasons. You begin to wonder if juveniles look different from adults. You vow to check the bird book when you get home. You invariably forget.)

(That said, I think these are Heermans.)

looking toward morro rock
(Getting into the water lets you get the best to-the-rock perspective.)

running down the enormous dune
(Running down these dunes. I loved doing this when I was a teen.)

Secret or not, Hazards is still one of my favorite beaches and it still feels like a treat when I get to go. Sunny and hot, like it was on this day, or socked-in-fog, it doesn’t matter. It’s a long stretch of secluded beach. It’s California. It’s a great way to spend a day.

my foot prints in the sand


Cayucos Pier and David’s Memorial

The day
Week 28. September 22. My friends’ father died. He led a very full life accomplishing many things and touching many lives. That’s the type of life to have. His memorial was at the Cayucos Vets Hall which is at the base of the Cayucos Pier. Fitting, I think, because he was a man of the ocean: an avid surfer through his 70s and he even went to college in Hawaii.

View after, looking south
The memorial was very heartwarming: a real celebration of his life. And seeing his kids there — I grew up with most of them, best friends with his youngest daughter in my late teens and early 20s — my heart grew four sizes. There is something that hits me seeing all of us growing older. Maybe it’s a feeling of connection? I can’t quite tell you, but truly it moves me. We are all in the same boat.

The beach looking south, afterwards
After the memorial I walked out on the Cayucos pier and took in the just-happened sunset.

tree on the pier
And I thought about all the people in the world, just being people with their struggles and their joys and their experiences.

sunset, looking north
I do wish there was a way for us to understand when we are young just how fleeting it all is.

family on the beach, sunset style
Life goes by in a split second. Love the ones around you. Breathe in the salty sea air.

Me, Beach Week #28

Carmel Beach

Monterey Cyprus, large
Week 27. Visiting Carmel was a spur-of-the-moment decision while my mom and I were driving up the coast. We were in Big Sur… driving along, admiring scenery, having great talks. It’s like we didn’t want the drive to end, so we kept driving. Past this beach, past that, over the Bixby Bridge. I think it was her idea to stop in Carmel to get a bite to eat.

Monterey Cyprus, smaller
We didn’t find the right place to eat. Everything seemed either too touristy or too spendy; we went to the beach instead and were immediately charmed by the iconic Monterey Cyprus trees that have charmed thousands before us.

warning signs
I have an old friend whose parents own a house on 17 Mile Drive, so there was a short time in my life where I visited Carmel semi-frequently. Yet — I had never been to this beach which seems odd in hindsight. This is such a famous destination.

tons of people on the beach
The beach itself was packed despite the fog and chill.

a very busy beach (to me anyway)
The white, fine sand; the gorgeous view: the whole thing does live up to its reputation.

I wondered if there was one local on the beach or if it was strictly a tourist spot.

looking east
I wondered who lives in these houses and if they get annoyed by the traffic and constant commotion? Obviously, I would not be the right person to live in one of them. (And now, weeks later, writing this post I wonder if they are vacation rentals for wealthy foreign tourists.)

beach people
We walked the length of the beach, chatting and taking photos.

the colorful (coordinated?) women
These two women were my favorites that day. Maybe they purposefully dressed alike. Maybe it was happy coincidence? Even their dogs matched. Where did they come from?

Mom and I left Carmel still hungry. We got back on the 1, heading south, looking for the perfect place to eat. And we found it: Big Sur Bakery. Couldn’t have been better and I all-caps HIGHLY recommend it. That post is to come.

Beach #27

Whale Watching in Morro Bay

Where the tour starts

Week 26. September 5. My birthday. I took the day off and Steve and I went to Morro Bay to do some whale watching via the Dos Osos whale watching tour boat. The tour takes a couple hours and you go a couple miles outside the Morro Bay harbor mouth. I’d been hearing great reports all summer including blue whales and breaching humpback whales. It was late in the season, so I wasn’t sure we would see any, but I had my fingers crossed.

from the bay, looking at the stacks and a raft of sea lions

I’d been spending a lot of time in Morro Bay, especially at the embarcadero and noticed it had been filled with the sound of constant seal barking. Sea Lion barking, to be more precise. The Sea Lions had claimed squatter rights on a boat landing in the middle of the harbor as well as docks along the embarcadero itself. It was great to cruise right up next to them. Sea lions? They’re big. And loud.

sea lions, closer

And they like to sun themselves.

Morro Rock and the harbor mouth

It was a beautiful day. Not too hot, slight breeze. And the bay/ocean was mostly calm. This harbor mouth can be a doozy during bad weather. It has capsized boats (and killed some people). During the winter time waves sometimes break here and surfer will paddle out. But today was calm and nice and perfect.

dolphins in the bay

We even saw dolphins inside the harbor.

out at sea, looking back at the shore

I was determined to have a great time whether or not we saw any whales. The ocean and scenery were quite lovely.

otter out to sea

I’m used to seeing sea otters in the bay…. To be honest, I think I just considered them bay-type of creatures. I never pictured them out in the open waters. Yet, we saw several otters (mostly loner types) way out in the ocean. The skipper said that they tracked an otter once who swam all the way from Morro Bay to Cambria in one day. Who knew?

otter even farther out to sea

So it was a lovely day of sea lions, dolphins and wayward otters.

And then….



We saw several whales traveling south together. Here’s a tip: once you see them, count down about five minutes and you will probably see them again (that’s how long they go before needing another breath). Where you will see them will be a mystery, but more likely than not, you will see them surface again in five minutes time.

More whales

It was pretty exciting. We didn’t see them breach, but we saw flukes, we saw spouts, we saw backs. We were happy.

even more whales

If we had just gone a week before we probably would have seen more activity. A month or so before and we would have seen even more than that. So, calendars are marked for next year. Maybe we’ll see a blue whale, too.

cute otter family with kayaker in the background

In the meantime we will placate ourselves with adorable otter families and beautiful scenery.

coming back in to morro bay

dos osos taken a couple days before

me, beach a week #26

Sand Spit Saturday

sand spit view of Morro Rock
Week 24. August 17th.

steve on the beach
The Sand Spit runs four miles or so from Montana de Oro to the Morro Bay Harbor Mouth. Steve and I walked its length and back on a day that danced from socked-in wet fog to bright blue skies.

Due to a plethora of washed up rock crab, sand crabs, and near-shore sea creatures, there were a ton of birds. Of course gulls, but also Caspian terns, long-billed curlews and cormorants. And whimbrels, willets, plovers, and pelicans.

If you walk this on a sunny day you see Morro Rock looming ahead, getting closer and closer. On our foggy day, we were so socked in we had nothing in front of us except a wide expanse of gray. Gray for days. We had no idea how far we had walked or close we were getting to the Rock.

This is not a complaint.

When we finally caught a glimpse of the Rock, it was pretty exciting.

low glimpse of the rock
And then, just like that: the fog lifted. And I found a pelican feather.

me with my pelican feather

the rock

the stacks

looking out to sea


sand dollar