Outdoor Days

With only a couple weeks left of school, the kids and I have been spending lots of time outdoors. Yesterday we went up Mt. Diablo to Rock City, a trailhead with lots of sandstone wind caves and large boulders for climbing. We took a walk on the Trail Through Time, which has amazing views; but what struck me more on this particular trip was the wonderful manzanita forest. Manzanita is a local treasure, there are so many different varieties, they are an essential part of the Chaparral plant community, very important for local wildlife, and are lovely when blooming. However, I'm entranced by their red trunks.

It was hot and sunny, and I admired the shadow of pines on the sandstone trail.

For a completely different nature experience, today we drove to the Marin Headlands and the Northern Pacific Coast. We visited the Marine Mammal Center, a neat place where they rehabilitate sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals that are found injured or motherless in the nearby ocean. They had about 60 sea lions, two elephant seals, and five harbor seals in residence, more than usual for this time of year.  Apparently there is a toxic algae bloom off the Monterey coast. Here's a little more information on that: Toxic Algae Bloom. We watched the keepers feed the animals, and insert IV's in especially sick sea lions. It's an interesting place and they do good work.

Then we headed down to foggy Rodeo Beach to stick our feet in the 66 degree water (quite warm for these parts). The kids ended up soaked from the waist down, but that's part of the fun. There were plenty of surfers and some decent swells, so lots of action to watch as we picnicked.

The dog enjoyed running around, sniffing the flotsam. There were scores of valella valellas, washed up on the sand. Also known as 'purple kites,' they are a creature from the cnidarian group, and they eat plankton. They are quite beautiful, and it's unusual for so many to wash up this time of year - it might be due to onshore winds pushing them onto the beach. They have little transparent 'sails' that allow them to skim across the water. The dog kept trying to eat them, but then spit them out.

There were lots of flowers blooming, stuff that is played out in our neck of the woods already. Lovely naked ladies, in a deeper shade of pink then in my yard, decorated the marsh near the lagoon.

It's wonderful to have the time to enjoy our great Northern California outdoors. I'm so glad we live in a place that has such a variety of interesting areas.