One constant for us is to walk along as much of the shore as we can, wherever we are. California is an excellent place for this, as the law strongly protects public access to the shore. Some landowners have tried to oppose this system, but all they’ve done is unloaded some of their excess cash in pursuit of things that are not theirs (Hello, David Geffen).
In northern California, there are lots of new places for us to visit. The only limit to how much of the shore we see is how long we can keep walking. We had to make a stop at the Arcata-Eureka Airport. I looked for a place nearby for a walk and found Letz Ave., right across from the airport turnoff. We drove north as far as it went, then parked. The Hammond Trail passes by the parking area and we headed north past another parking spot, Vista Point, where you can see out over the mouth of the Mad River. The river has worn a channel parallel to the shore for over three miles before making its way to the ocean, creating a narrow island. The island’s end at the river mouth is quite remote. We could see across the narrow span of water, but it’s only accessible from far to the south. The tip of the peninsula is quiet, serene, and empty, except for the seals.
The beach was lined with harbor seals! More than 100, casually hauled out, with a few more swimming around nearby. With their tiny rear flippers, these seals move like inchworms, wiggling up onto the beach, and eventually waggling back into the water. Their motion is called “galumphing.” (Not kidding.) People stop to get a view of the shore and the animals. From where we parked, a gentle downhill trail led us all the way to the beach opposite the seals, the far south end of Crab Beach.
We could see the seals just across the river mouth, but they stayed on their side and avoided our side. Once we headed up the beach we were surprised by the huge amount of driftwood that has piled up. Currents must bring it in during storms and on high tides, as a lot of the tree trunks were very large, and perched well above the normal high tide line. It must be quite something to see during a winter storm–from a safe distance.
We strolled up the beach looking for shells and beach glass, picking up a large clam shell to use as a soap dish, driftwood sticks for our jenga pile, and our biggest sand dollar thus far. We looked at the seals for a while, watching them do nothing, and occasionally galumph their way in and out of the water. With almost no human company on an overcast day, we had another beautiful walk.
A small stand of trees leans across part of the path, blown by the constant wind into a permanent arc. On the way back to the car, it provided excellent birdwatching: an osprey overhead, a yellow warbler and a wrentit in the trees, and down below us, like a chicken on a nest, a flicker sat in the middle of the path.