We took a quick trip to the California coast, to MacKerricher beach near Fort Bragg. It was lovely. We had a series of unfortunate events at the beginning but nothing that lasted or caused big problems: our car was making weird noises before we left so we decided not to risk driving it so far and rented one for the trip, we couldn’t find the small propane tanks for our camp stove the first night and had to drive all over, asking, we forgot to close the stopper on the cooler so had a few damp items when we arrived. It was frustrating but we solved the issues and enjoyed our time there. We found tidepools and waves and seals and acorn woodpeckers. We made towers and fires and sand drawings. We walked and climbed and sat and talked.
Here the kids are trying to direct the waves into the blowhole beneath us.
Doesn’t this anemone with snails look surprised?
A week or so later we headed up a local canyon called South Willow to camp with my parents and sister and her boyfriend. We celebrated Lilah’s upcoming birthday and went on a few hikes and chatted and enjoyed the warm and cool fall weather. There were some wild turkeys hanging out around the camp which was fun.
We went to Alaska! It was something my parents had wanted to do with us for years and had been postponed due to my dad’s cancer and postponed due to covid travel restrictions and dangers so I sighed out a huge breath of relief and thankfulness when we stepped on board the ship.
We traveled from Juneau to Sitka, stopping to kayak and hike and ride in zodiacs. We saw glaciers up close and calving. The colors of the ice were astonishing. The sound of the ice breaking and falling was amazing.
We saw lots of wildlife: humpback whales and orcas, birds of many kinds, seals, sea lions, sea otters, bears, moose, deer, and water creatures like anemones, seastars, hermit crabs, periwinkles, sculpin as well as beautiful, intriguing and sometimes dangerous plants and fungi.
We were always busy, with morning stretch class and meals, watching whales out on the deck, going on excursions and listening to naturalist presentations. We even got to do several hikes and one very exciting bushwhack hike!
I tried using a gopro video/still handheld camera for underwater video and it was a fun first spin. I’m excited to keep at it and improve. Maybe next time I’ll try it without trying to steer a paddleboard on the ocean currents at the same time, or maybe not.
The kids got to try driving the zodiac around the big ship.
We drove out to Mendocino with my parents to visit the ocean. We stayed in two cabins next to each other on a natural preserve, filled with trees, ponds, plants and animals. It was lovely and we spent a bit of time exploring the preserve, but what we really wanted to spend most of our time doing was going to the beaches.
We explored several different spots nearby, each with their own attractions.
One day we watched a whole lot of jellyfish drifting and spinning in the water from high bluffs.
We scrambled up and down bluffs, played in the sand, sat and watched the waves and the seals, went looking in the pools.
In the tidepools we spotted sculpin, sea urchins, crabs of several kinds including one munching on a squid, anemones of several kinds, ochre stars, snails of many types, bat stars, six-rayed stars, a leather star, a sea lemon nudibranch.
We admired some impressive blowholes (areas where the ocean has worn away tunnels in the rock and creates huge splashes or eruptions of water when the conditions are right), arches and caves.
Back at the cabin between ventures, this is what downtime looked like.
The kids rolled and threw a bunch of driftwood into the waves and watched the pieces move with the tide.
We collected some shells.
One day we took a sea cave kayaking tour.
On our last morning in town, we went to the beach one last time. Chris and I watched the waves while the kids created a landscape out of sand, rocks, feathers & shells while telling stories about characters they’ve created.
We drove over to the top of California to camp in the Redwoods, visit with Chris’ parents and visit the beach.
It was so nice to play in the sand, to toss driftwood (or logs!) in the water and watch pieces go out and come back in or sometimes just keep moving out.
The kids made their own game using driftwood, rocks and shell pieces and played for hours.
We collected shells, especially lots of sand dollars.
We caught up with Chris’ parents and had lots of fun with them on the beach, at the aquarium, at Trees of Mystery. It’s always so good to see them and the kids look forward to every visit we get.
We went down the the beach early to tide pool.
As we were about to leave the beach I looked out and spotted something with a fin so we watched for a while as several dolphins, lots of pelicans and other birds and a family of sea otters were catching some fish out in the water. Lilah was particularly excited to see dolphins!
We picked wild blackberries on the trail to the beach.
We saw sea birds, sea stars, anemones, mussels, barnacles, snails, limpets, hermit crabs having a fight over a shell, other crabs, fish, a tiny sea cucumber, chitons, a nudibranch and a gumboot chiton at the beach.
At the campsite in the redwoods we saw jays, ravens, other birds I didn’t recognize, chipmunks, mushrooms and banana slugs.
There are large stumps of old, old redwoods to climb on, in and around all through the campground.
It was wonderful. It’s so much fun to go exploring in types of places we don’t have near home (and types we do)!
We visited Grandma and Grandpa who live too far from us, the redwood trees and the beach in California just for a short few days, but wow, was it fun!
We had a few brief but treasured afternoons with Grandma and Grandpa, mostly spent at the beach but with enough time for hugs and catching up.
The kids tried blackberry picking and eating from the wild bushes all along the path down to the beach. They decided they like blackberries freshly plucked and which don’t have any red pips. While looking for berries we saw some small snakes living in the bushes.
We looked in lots of tidepools
and discovered many, many purple and orange and red sea stars, small and big, and one leather star that I couldn’t get a clear picture of because the tide was coming in and making for murky water.
We spotted a sea cucumber,
anemones, giant green and smaller pink and cream kinds, periwinkles and hermit crabs and dungeness crabs,
caves, including one we could go into through one channel and out another,
nudibranchs, animals I’ve only rarely spotted,
lots of iridescent sea weed
some bright orange washed up sponges that were so bright and so rubbery looking I thought they were washed up balloons at first
shells of various kinds
pink and orange sea lichen or algal crusts, not sure which, but I used to think of it as tidepool wallpaper
mussels and barnacles, in the thousands.
We played in the water and on the rocks and read signs about the area.
We climbed on redwood stumps in our campground and spotted a few banana slugs and many jays. Lilah even collected some jay feathers.
On the sandy beach down the road we found hundreds of sand dollars, big and little, bleached and still covered in mauve fur. Here are a few of the most intact sand dollars we found.
The kids spent hours pushing and throwing sticks and logs into the wavelets and watching them come back, running back and forth in the ocean’s edge.
At the campsite, Lilah and Gavin arranged firewood and kindling and Lilah lit the fire, as she had been very anxious to be part of that since Gavin had done the same on his own at scouts just a week or so back. She was successful and we had some s’mores before heading to our tent.
When we pried ourselves away from the beach and drove the hundreds of miles home, our cats and bird and dog were waiting. Lilah made a welcome home card for the dog and put it on his carrier.
Much of the way there and back we listened to Douglas Adams on audiobook, reading his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. He’s particularly good at voicing Zaphod Beeblebrox, who particularly amuses me.
Much to his annoyance, a thought popped into his mind. It was very clear and very distinct, and he had now come to recognize these thoughts for what they were. His instinct was to resist them.