Avila Beach Pier

On Avila Beach pier

Week 23. Avila Beach after work. I got a little behind schedule so there were two beach and two peak outings this week. The first was a little trip to Avila after a long work day.

Avila Beach & lifeguard tower

I highly recommend hitting up the beach after a long day of work if you can do it. When you live near the beach, sometimes you become a little complacent. A little forgetful of the luckiness that is your surroundings. It’s good to remember your fortune (beaches nearby) and make the most of them. You’d be surprised how many of us forget this.

The below photo is just a quick shout out to all of the other beach ordinance signs I’ve posted this year. Those beaches, they like their ordinances. This one is interesting in that you can have your dog on the beach in the mornings and evenings, but not in the middle of the day. It’s like Santa Barbara’s crazy “no left turn” rules during commute times.

All the things you can't do at the beach

Below: looking southward towards Shell Beach and Pismo Beach.

From the pier, looking south

Below: at the end of the pier.

On the pier

Looking south

From the pier, looking out to sea

Below: looking back towards the Avila shore. I think some of us locals still mourn for the old, funky Avila Beach. This is the new and improved Avila Beach after an oil company found an oil leak and had to (for the most part) raze the city and rebuild everything. Avila Lite. Avila-Times-Square. Yet, you also have to admit, new Avila is nice. It might have lost its funk, but it’s still a great place with cute shops, restaurants and fun bars.

Looking back on to shore

Below: looking north. (What you can’t see: Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, hidden by those hills.)

Pier rules + sunset


Below: Looking north at the Cal Poly pier.

You can see the moon

No overhead casting

out to sea, looking north-ish


The end of the pier held 12 or 15 people, several fishermen, several people out for a stroll and one heavy metal dude. Steve and I wondered: was the heavy metal dude a regular? Everyone took him in stride.

Towards Avila

Week 23

Dinosaur Caves and Beachcomber Street

Shane, Kirstin, Becky and kids

Week 22. August 3. We hit up two beaches this week, only a couple miles apart. First, Dinosaur Caves which is officially in Pismo, but on the border of Pismo and Shell. Then, we met up with friends having a picnic on Beachcomber in Shell. That Beachcomber spot is one of my favorites on the entire Central Coast.

But first, Dinosaur Caves.

Dinosaur Caves

Dinosaur Caves has a bit of a history that includes a building the shape of a dinosaur which you would enter in order to get to the caves themselves. Steve wrote about it on Findery.


All of Pismo was hopping with people, in full summer fashion. Dinosaur Caves had its share of visitors, but offered a nice respite from the crowds at Pismo Beach proper. There were kids in the playground (of course) and a wedding was happening, but for the most part it was quiet and peaceful with people fishing, bird watching or just taking in the views.

Two dogs

Riding bikes with tattoos

Everywhere there were pelicans and cormorants.

Pelicans and cormorants

Pelicans taking off

Shell Beach

Dinosaur Caves is at the northernmost end of Pismo. If you cross the street you are in Shell Beach, lined with houses and lucky ducks.

Beachcomber spot

Our friends were having a picnic further north in Shell Beach. Shane, Dan, Becky, Kirstin and kids were BBQing and kicking back (coming a little later: Tom, Cami and Maggie Mae.). It was so great there I actually wished we’d skipped the caves and just come straight here with the friends. I love this park and spot. You don’t get down to the beach, but you do get a great relaxing time in a beautiful spot. One of my favorites on the Central Coast.



Becky and Josie


Bailey and Josie love Steve way more than they love me and I think it’s because he’ll chase them. “Chase us Steve!! Steve, chase us!!” was ringing out the minute we got to the park. (Later it turned into “Why aren’t you chasing us??!!” Ha!) I love these kids.

Bailey and Josie love to be chased

Chase me Steve!!

I left the gang early because I had dinner plans with my mom. As luck would have it we wound up in Cambria and decided to do the Moonstone Garden boardwalk (see Week 10 for earlier pics) before we ate. I knew I wasn’t going to feature Cambria in my beach post, so didn’t pull out my camera (besides I had the wrong lens with me). However, the light was so pretty, I couldn’t resist going for at least one shot. Not spectacular, but you get a sense of how pretty it was.

Cambria Moonstone Beach

Three beaches in one day? Beach a Week (as I’ve been telling everyone) is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Beach a Week has turned into several beaches a week a few times. This all leads to one of my favorite summers in my adult life.

Week 22!

Exotic Gardens

Exotic Gardens

Week 21. July 27, 2013. At the end of our July day in Big Sur, we hit up a beach at the northern most point in Cambria.


Above: the path to the beach.

Exotic Gardens

Flying kites with turkey vultures

When we got down to the beach there were about 20 turkey vultures circling above (there was a dead harbor seal on the beach). I thought Steve’s kite would scare them off, but they are tougher than that. (The plovers not so much; this is why there is no kite flying on Morro Strand and so many other beaches.).

Exotic Gardens - looking out to sea

Exotics could be confused with Moonstone Beach. It’s on Moonstone Beach Drive and it’s across the highway from the old Moonstone Gardens restaurant. But Moonstone is to the south and has a boardwalk that runs along it. Exotics is like some kind of forgotten beach with fewer (if any) people. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Looking north towards San Simeon

Out to see -- dark sky, calm ocean

Flying the kite

Lone pelican, dark sky


At the south end of the beach was a hearty tide pool teaming with sea anemones. When I say teaming I mean swarming. Hundreds of anemones. This is just one pool with some big anemones… there were other areas with tens and tens of little baby anemones so small and prolific that you might not even know what you were seeing at first. Anemone City.


For a while there was a little wind; not enough really to fly a kite, but Steve gave it a good effort.

There wasn't a lot of wind

Moonstone Beach and the drive are named for the white rocks you can find. I don’t really know what a moonstone looks like. Maybe this is one?

Maybe it's a moonstone


Week 21

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Week 20. Morro Bay Dog Beach is just north of Morro Strand. Morro Strand is home to the adorable Snowy Plover, a bird that, while adorable, is so dumb that it builds its nest and then lays its eggs in the sand. This would be why dogs are not allowed on Morro Strand and why there is a special beach just for dogs.

And look, I’m a fan of the adorable Snowy Plover. I’m pro Snowy Plover. But the sand? They put their nest in the sand? This is not Survival of the Fittest behavior.

Seagulls however, these are birds that will survive a zombie-riddled, sharknado-storming, smallpox-spreading apocalypse. They are also birds that enjoy a nice Pacific Sunset.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

We saw dolphins. I was pretty excited about this. First we just saw one.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

And then we saw more. They swam one way and then they turned around and swam back.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

And this being a dog beach, this dog was just as excited about the dolphins as I was. And, then the dolphins were just as excited about this specific dog. The dolphins swam backwards and forwards to stay near the dog. Just after I snapped the photo below, the owners put the dog on a leash… but no matter… the dolphins hovered nearby for minutes.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

We were in the water, too. It was just one of those evenings. The water was so glassy, the waves so perfect, an amazing non-storming storm cloud and a sunset. At one point I was in almost to my hips. Top of the thighs. Taking photos, marveling at dolphins and beaches and gulls and everything.

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Morro Bay Dog Beach

Steve made this (very short, seven-seconds) video of me on the beach. For me, this sums up the very essence of my Beach a Week endeavor.

How much do I love Beach a Week? To seaweed infinity, that’s how much.

Infinity, broken



Cayucos, CA

Week 19. July 14, 2013. I know this spot as Abalones, but it’s seemed to have been renamed Estero Bluffs (It’s a mile or so south from the Estero Bluffs trip we did a couple weeks ago.). Perhaps it is Estero Bluffs South. I like Abalones better.

Cayucos, CA

Regardless of name, it was lovely. Almost deserted. And, unlike what it looks like here, a bit remote to get to. The parking spot is tricky and you have to climb down a small metal, store-bought ladder to get to the beach.

It was incredibly peaceful. The kind of peace that fills your lungs as you breathe in and pumps through your veins with your heart beats and makes you feel quiet and right with the world.

Because of the way the cliffs sit, the whole beach was in shade, despite the fact that we could see beaches to the south still sundrenched. I think this added to the peacefulness.

Looking out into the ocean

I forgot to check the tide to find out if it was low tide or extremely low tide. I’m (unscientifically) guessing the latter as the tide pools sported what looked like a lawn of still very attached and still very green seaweed and many sea anemones were just in the sand — not even attached to rocks. It was a very delicate and fragile area. I was mindful of my presence and each step I took.

Sea anemone in the sand

I’ve never seen so many turban snails and/or hermit crabs. A colony. Several colonies. It was a densely populated, high-rise apartment city of turban snails with a healthy dose of sea anemone neighborhoods thrown in. Of course, none of my turban photos turned out.

Sea anemones in the water

The colors on the beach were exquisite. They would have inspired any painter or fashion designer. I loved the red of this seaweed.

the red seaweed

The beach was awash with rocks and shells and seaweed and rocks and shells and more seaweed.


Rocks with ocean view

But, as I said, the beach was shaded and as the sun sunk lower, the temps went down with it. We decided to hit up one more beach with the last rays of light. We went to 24th Street in Cayucos.

24th street, south view

Only a couple miles south of Abalones, the beach couldn’t have been more different: white sand, exposed beach, people still hanging out.

quintessential sand experience

Perhaps it is seaweed season.

seaweed and me

It was a lovely evening and a nice way to wind down the day.


sun set


sun set


Cayucos, Piedras Blancas and Baywood Park

Nathan and Nadine

Week 18. July 6, 2013. Fourth-of-July weekend was fun and packed. Big, annual third-of-July party with the Kallals; big, annual fourth-of-July campover with the Kormans (pics to come); and a visit with Steve’s friends from Austin. All of it was fun.

The Austin-ites (Nathan and Nadine) were up for Beach-a-Weeking so we headed north. The goal was Elephant Seals, but we stopped in Cayucos first for lunch (fish tacos at Duckies) and then a walk on the pier.

We’d been out there for ten minutes or so when I heard Nadine say “They’re going to jump!” and I turned just in time (and with camera in hand) to catch a backflip…

The back flip

And a gainer…

The gainer

And the swim in.

The swim away

After Cayucos we drove just north of San Simeon to see the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery. Steve and I visit the seals often. You see different types of elephant seals depending on the season: sometimes it’s all females, sometimes females and their newborns, sometimes it’s just juveniles. Middle of summer means the bulls are on the beach, and personally, that’s my favorite season because they always put on a silverback-gorilla show. Who is the king of the beach?

The warning sign

You can see all of the posturing and bellowing that was going on.

Fights left, fights right, fights in the water, fights erupting from seemingly mellow nappings. Big belching, roaring sounds. And then napping. And then posturing. And then napping. And then some sand flicking. And napping and roaring and fighting and napping. Repeat.

The fights

Because we are far away and it’s all just bulls on the beach, it’s hard to see just how big these beasts are. Fences with handy size charts along the rails can help. Nadine jumped up and added herself to the sizing mix. Here you get a sense of just how big those elephant seals down on the beach are: BIG.

The size chart

I noticed that some elephant seals don’t need to fight, they just need to bellow. They open their mouths and a huge sound comes out. I have a feeling that the sound correlates to their girth, because when big seals bellowed, the other seals literally backed away from them.

The bellow

There was a lot of bellowing.

More bellowing

Coming home, windswept and a little sunburnt, I enticed the team to stop at Good Tides Bistro in Baywood Park for some hot chocolate, promising them that it was The Very Best Hot Chocolate That They Would Ever Have. We drank it on the Second Street Pier, one of my most favorite places.


Nadine, inspired by the earlier-in-the-day Cayucos antics decided to jump off a pier herself. Less fanfare, perhaps, but you gotta start somewhere.

Nadine jumps

Our Austin friends on the Second Street Pier.

On the second street pier

A great weekend. And already two weeks ago. I have more Beach-a-Weeks to post.

Beach a Week #18

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach warning

Week 17. June 30, 2013. This beach is a beauty — no question. And the sand is purple (in parts). But on an off day it’s so windy that at times the sand blasts into your skin like little pieces of evil sharp evil things. And the ocean has a rip current that is sneaky and strong and waves come crashing in from three different directions.

Pfeiffer Beach

Yet, people still get in the water. And then they spread their blankets on the beach and pretend that they aren’t experiencing purple sand dermabrasion.

Pfeiffer Beach running from the waves

These kids had it right. Run! Run for your life kids.

Pfeiffer Beach chasing waves

And I shouldn’t joke because people have died at this beach, getting caught unaware by the rogue rip.

Pfeiffer Beach running from waves

We braved the elements, too.

Steve at Pfeiffer Beach

Braving the wind, watching kids run from waves at Pfeiffer Beach

The trees that line the path to the beach are truly beautiful. I love Monterey Cyprus.

Monterey Cyprus at the Pfeiffer Beach boundary

Trees along the walk back to our car

I heard that if it’s windy in other parts of Big Sur, it’s a windstorm at this one. So here’s my advice: if it’s calm, go. Visit. And know that you are experiencing an amazingly beautiful beach on an amazingly beautiful day. If it’s not calm — let’s say it’s a little breezy elsewhere on your Big Sur trip, go. Visit. But go armed with a warm jacket and a hood (not a hat — it will blow off) that you can cinch tight to your head. And know you are experiencing an amazingly beautiful beach with hellish conditions and stay the heck out of the water.

» See other people’s beautiful photos of Pfeiffer Beach on Flickr
» See aerial photos of Pfeiffer Beach

Week 17

Foggy Morro Strand at San Jacinto


Summer started which meant the fog rolled right in. So we went to Morro Bay. Lunch at Taco Temple and quick walk on the beach to pretend we could see the rock.

Steve going through the bush tunnel

Because the snowy plovers live on this beach, laying their eggs in the sand like the dimwitted cuties they are, much of the dunes are roped off and off limits. A trail takes you through a tall-bush tunnel….

tall bush tunnel

I call this photo No and No.
no and no

And nyet to pets.
still no



Looking due north.
looking north

Looking due south. This would be where we would typically see the big looming rock.
view of the rock

one-legged curlew

curlew went a-courtin'

dune flower

yellow flower stand

I’m a sucker for a pun: drift-mas tree.
driftmas tree

me, week 16

Estero Bluffs

Estero bluffs

Just a breath north of Cayucos is Estero Bluffs, a place of shorebirds and rock coves.

Here’s a little of what the walk and beach looked like (a la Steve. Thank you Steve.)

The sign implies “dogs okay” but at the beach there seemed to be big “no dogs” signs. Mixed messages! However, considering the number of plovers we saw on the shore, it would seem the “no dogs” would win out.

Estero bluffs

Estero bluffs

Tons of birds this morning, with the ocean filled with seagulls and pelicans and the rocks decorated with cormorants and wave splashes and the beaches Killdeer City.


cormorants rock on

the cormorants and the wave

I’m not sure what intertidal creature leaves this mark, but obviously it is an early breed of highway man.

trail left by mysterious intertidal creature on the sand

Our beaches are pretty free of trash. This bottle was the only refuse I saw. I didn’t have the heart to pick it up, as it was a new hunting ground for a totally different kind of sea creature.

someone left a bottle on the beach (not us!)

And here is Steve’s video of bottle activity:

This gull was being chased by five other gulls. Five greedy, hungry other gulls.

the gull will have the crab

Looking towards Cayucos.

looking towards Cayucos

And out to sea.

looking out into the ocean

me, week 15

Harmony Headlands Beach

Harmony Headlands

With a nice long walk and a mile or so of rocky shore, we turned the Harmony Headlands trip into both Beach and Hike a Week.


The little dots of birds you see in the air are swallows and they were going crazy. They’ve built their mud nests into the cliffs and were darting and swerving and gliding and swerving and darting and charging all over the place.


The waves were huge, by the way. South swell (Killers seemed packed). We saw five or so guys out just south of the Headlands, too (as well as three walking back the path, coming from the north), but at this spot the waves crash too close to the rocks. We both took a ton of video. I’ll see if anything Steve took turned out. Mine didn’t match the awesomeness of the moment.

Steve taking photos

Harmony Headlands

Harmony Headlands

Harmony Headlands