Peering at the Ocean, Peering under Rocks

Damn this cold and wind. I feel like I haven’t been truly warm since this past fall in Death Valley, and even then the temps dropped as soon as the sun lowered. I know we’ve had warm—even hot—days intermittently, but we seem to carry the cold with us, and the ever-present wind.

Here at Sonoma Coast State Park, Bodega Dunes campground, we’re making the most of the gorgeous landscape despite the wind. We happen to have access to coastal beaches when the lowest of low tides occurs in the daytime instead of at night (once a month). So we bundle up each morning, drive along Highway 1, and stop at turn-outs above the coastal cliffs, looking for steps down to the beach.

We climb down cliffs and walk along deserted beaches, gazing out at huge rocks jutting up from the ocean and peering under the gardens of rocks revealed at low tide. I am mesmerized by life inside tidal pools, like I was at Sam Simeon.

Seriously, the ebb and flow of all the different shapes and colors of kelp, moving in and out with the tide, it puts me in a trance.

When I pull myself away, I step carefully among the rocks slippery with thick, wet kelp and lean over to look under every one.

Sea Stars cling to the coastal undersides, and they look like bright renaissance cloaks and dresses, with seed pearls embroidered in symmetric patterns.

The anemones I see are closed against the tide, speckled with colored sand like they’ve been rolling around when no one looks.

And the mussels grow from rocks in huge swaths like farmed fields, all pointing together, some huge, some sharing space with barnacles.

I keep finding new colors and variations of kelp that I find charming. White!

And rock faces that seem impossible, unnatural. More like styrofoam rocks from Star Trek sets.

Walking atop the cliffs is just as otherworldly. Wildflowers everywhere they can grow, sudden white foam jetting above rocks far out in the ocean, the sounds of sea lions gathering off shore.

And then the wind picks up and the cold sets in, and we head back to the campsite to make lunch and sit with Banjo in the sunshine beside the trailer, as it blocks the wind a little. Or I walk out across the dunes to the beach by the campground, wearing my down jacket, setting up for ten minutes with my book before getting so cold that I can’t shake it even when I’m inside the trailer again wrapped in a blanket.

Look what we find in the early morning hours, though. As with every complaint, every stress that comes with this lifestyle, what we discover is much greater.