A Beach Day

The kids and I took off for one last hurrah, to Point Reyes National Seashore and Limantour Beach. For those of you that aren't familiar with Northern California, Point Reyes is north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and on the Pacific Coast (it takes us a good hour and half to get there). Limantour Beach is part of Drakes Bay, a nice little inlet/cove with calmer water. It's not safe to swim at an awful lot of Pacific beaches, but this one is ok - still not entirely safe, but safe enough to do some boogie boarding.

Generally, summer is NOT the time to go to the beach in Northern California. We have this natural air conditioning system we call the marine layer - it causes extreme micro-climates and cooler weather in the summer near the coast, and hotter weather inland. In the winter, it's completely opposite - San Francisco and the Northern Coast often have very sunny, warm weather, while out in the suburbs, we have frost and freeze. It's very interesting. But it makes for better beach weather in the winter.

However. It's been over 100 here inland, and several San Franciscans have been reporting sunny and warm temperatures over their way, so I thought we'd go for it. It's hovering around 92 here today; it was 65 at Limantour Beach.

A typical summer day at the beach in Northern CA

That didn't stop us, oh no! We stripped down to our bathing suits (though this beach does welcome nudity, we did not indulge) and got in the water immediately.

I'd heard reports that, due to a building El Nino system, the water is warmer right now. Another weird thing about the Pacific - the water is generally several degrees warmer in the winter and colder in the summer. Another reason not to go to the beach this time of year! But indeed, the water did seem warmer today, maybe 60 degrees? Cold enough to hurt, but warm enough to eventually manage it without a wetsuit. Typical summer temps would be more like 52-55, so this was positively warm. The kids had a blast in the waves. No surfers around today.

We've heard lots of reports of increased sea life this year (another possible El Nino sign, we're all very hopeful), but we didn't see much of it here. No sea lions, no whales, no great whites (!), no pelicans. Plenty of cormorants and fishing boats. The ubiquitous yellow jackets when we dug out our lunch. A few seagulls. But really, fairly empty. A couple of folks came by on horses. A father and his two sons hiked past us with large packs; they were backpacking the coast and wondered whether to take a dip. Someone flew a kite. Joe and I did some beachcombing, and look what I found!

These mini-sand dollars (the size of my thumbnail) made it home unscathed and are now living in my garden. Aren't they adorable? I NEVER find sand dollars, though I've heard many people do, here. I was very excited. Do you know how sand dollars live, in the ocean? I came across fields of them, back in my scuba diving days, and they are fascinating. Let me see if I can find a picture....

Oh, my, I hit the jackpot. Check out this blog post if you want to know more about sand dollars. Underwater, they are fuzzy and often standing upright in the sand, filter feeding.

Anyway, I'm digressing, as usual! It was a lovely (though cool) day at the beach, and if you ever get the chance to hang out in Point Reyes National Seashore, you really can't do any better for fabulous views, soft sand, wildlife, and a good outdoor time.

At home, I've found other treasures.

Not the first acorn I've found this year, but the first from our valley oak.
A little early for acorns.

I call this tomato, the 'Kardashian'