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


Beach Feet

Many birds on the beach
There were a ton of birds on the beach — curlews, whimbrels, willets, plovers, cormorants, pelicans, terns and more gulls than a person could count.

Now, I’m not positive about my bird identification here, but based on what was standing where, I think I got these right.

Below: seagull.

seagull footprints

seagull footprints in comparison with my feet
Below: cormorant.

cormorant footprints

cormorant footprints with my feet in comparison
So much bigger than the gull, right? I didn’t see any pelicans on this part of the beach; could cormorant feet really be that much bigger than a gull?

Below: mystery bird! These are really tiny. I will guess that they are terns (because there were terns everywhere) and they are half-ish the size of the gulls. They could be sandpiper or plovers… but are those little birds heavy enough to even leave a footprint? I still think terns.

mystery prints -- maybe terns? maybe plovers?

Morro Dunes Natural Preserve

sandy path
A couple of weeks ago we hiked Point Buchon at the south end of Montana de Oro. On the way home we were wowed by the view below — the long sand bar that reaches from MdO in Los Osos to Morro Rock in Morro Bay.

View of the sand spit all the way to rock
The next week Steve suggested we head out there. I thought we would do the hike that took us from Pecho Valley Road to the beach and hang out for a while. Maybe walk for a bit. I had no idea that Steve intended to walk the full length and back. I would have brought some water.

hiking on the sandy trail
This post documents the walk from Pecho Valley Road to the beach which has several side trails (see below). We kept our momentum westward.

an alternate route
Much of the sandy/dune area is protected. A small fire blazed through here a few years ago, leaving it even more delicate (sand dunes and the surrounding flora are fragile things).

The fog rolled in and out. Sweatshirts came off and then back on several times.

layers on, layers off

the preserves sign
While walking to the beach the only people we saw were on horseback.

meeting the equestrian

equestrian crossing
The loose, deep sand carried us all the way to the ocean’s edge. The trail at the beginning of the hike was mixed with leaves and (very small) brittle sticks. Later it turned to silty sand and sharp shale. At the dune it morphed to more traditional sand, but with an awkward and aging black substrate (that I presume was) laid down to fortify the trail base. It was quite sharp and stuck out of the ground at odd angles.

We wouldn’t take off our shoes until we hit the shoreline.

up the dune

the down path
Photo below: At the bottom of the dune on the beach side, looking back up the trail we had just finished.

the road back up
Snowy plovers are adorable, small shorebirds that lay their eggs IN THE SAND. How they have survived all these years is a mystery to me. The central coast takes great care in protecting these cute creatures. Most of the dunes are off limits for many months every year.

Once we made it to the beach, the big question became “how will we find the trail entrance when we return?” Because: seen one sand dune, seen them all (seriously). Plus it was foggy — we couldn’t see much landscape characteristics in the background. I took the photo below to help us identify our point of entry later. Steve also marked the spot with a big pile of purposefully placed seaweed (not shown).

marking where we need to go back up
Luckily, in the end, we did find our place to hike back. By that time we had eight miles under our belts, Steve’s shoes were causing large welts and blisters, and I was tired, hungry and thirsty. Let’s just say we both kept our heads down and our feet moving forward til we got back to the car.

Then, as luck would have it, some friends were just driving by our car (visible from the road) when we got back. They stopped and shared water, tangerines, deviled eggs and cameraderie. What are the chances? They had been picnicking out at Spooner’s Cove. Man, I was happy to see them. I wish I’d had my wits about me to take their photo, but at that time I was exhausted and wilted. :) Still: thank you Kristin! Thank you Bret! It was a great way to end the day.

Peak a Week #22

Black Hill | Week 3 | Peak a Week

Fragile area

Black Hill is the second-to-last cerro in our Seven Nine Sisters line of peaks. It’s just before Morro Rock. It’s at the top of an 18-hole golf course. It’s not that steep. It doesn’t take long to hike. There’s a lot of (poison) oak. And there is a longer trail you can take, if you know about it, that winds down and around the whole hill, through the camp ground and on the outskirts of the golf course.

Going to the top

Towards the sandspit

It was cold-windy when we got there and the fog was coming in fast, and then it went right past us and we were back in sun. And then the fog came back. The fog, it’s fickle.







At the top, looking northeast

Peak a Week 3 Peak a Week 5 animated gif

“A” Beach | Week 3 | Beach a Week

Morro strand north looking south at the rock

Locals my age still refer to this as “A” Beach, short for Atascadero State Beach which is what it was called until some time in the 90s. My high school was on this beach (a rare and cool thing, a school on the beach) and for both PE and track practice I was sent (along with my classmates) to “run to the rock” or the dreaded “run to Cayucos pier.”

birds on Morro Strand

Beach notes: Full of sand dollars right now. Also saw a baby/juvenile gull, several curlews, and gangs of dowitchers, and a couple whimbrels. Also four horses, an egret, four dogs (prohibited on this beach), one kite, two people playing in the waves, and two people digging something up (i think just sand, alas) with a shovel where the water was meeting the beach.

sand dollars and bird prints

Sand dollars, closer

Horses on the beach

Your favorite person, emdot