California is a very large state, and diversity is its middle name!  It includes mountains, ocean coast, and flat sandy desert.  Giant redwoods share space with golden grasses, chilly breezes urge frothy whitecaps to slap ragged grey rocks.  Sizzling sunlight sears the center of the state, causing massive drought conditions, while the inland plateaus await their seasonal dose wet snow that will arrive in a few months.

We have seen barely a teaspoon of these natural conundrums since late March.  Our plans since we arrived here in California have included taking the occasional weekend to snoop around.  Since Glenn leaves for his second, and final visit for this year, It seemed like a perfect time to add to our list of known sights!

Our initial plan was to head in the direction of Half Moon Bay, on the north western coast, then travel back through the state and visit the Giant Redwoods.  Unfortunately, many of the rest of the folks in the state planned to head to the coast on this warm day.  Sadly, two cars met in a violent version of their plans on the highway that leads to the beautiful beaches here.  For the rest of us commuters it caused a huge delay, altering our intended plans, so the Redwoods lost out.

There were many little fresh foods stands along our route, most advertising local cherries and apricots.  Although we passed by the first few, I succumbed to one that mentioned ‘organic strawberries’, meaning that they wouldn’t contain any chemicals so could be munched for our mid-day lunch!  We were able to take care of the small pint of deep red berries quite handily, and they made a sweet, juicy side dish for our healthy muffins.!

Eventually we came upon the best known beaches in the state:  San Gregorio, Tuscadero, and Pompiano, to name a few!  These beaches are picture postcard material:  pale sand dotted with crumbs of quartz diamonds, large athletic waves topped with creamy fluff, and stubborn mounds of rounded rocks creating ideal perches for resting bathers.  The edge of the surf was liberally dotted with bathers both young and old.  Most preferred to stay on the water’s edge, jumping and giggling as the surge of water pummeled them.

PICTURE PERFECT
postcard perfect shot of the coast in central California
HOT SAND
OUCH! That lovely soft sand is HOT HOT HOT!

The laughter of the children was encouraging me at latter beach, so I sat on one of the kindly rocks and stripped off my shoes and socks.  Almost immediately, the biting burn of the hot sand made my anticipation of the joy of the moment ebb.  Having gone several steps, the only solution was to plunge forward, dashing as best Icould to the hopefully cooling ocean.

swallowed by surf2
Undertow? But, where is the monster?
DSCN0156
Cormorants showing off, and posing for the camera!

The minute my feet touched the foamy surf, I’m sure I heard a quick sizzle, but all my mind registered was AAAAHH.  It wasn’t long before the water began to play, pushing me back and pulling me forward.  As my feet were swallowed by the surging surf, my mind played an old reel from when I used to visit Epping Forest Campground, on Lake Erie, in southern Ontario.  Periodically, the camp owner would warn all the guests of an ‘undertow’, which could suck a smaller swimmer underwater, drowning them.  My vivid imagination always filled in the blanks, and provided a terrifying monster, effectively keeping me AND my friends OFF the beach!  I willingly shared my mental  picture of  the fearsome UNDER-TOE,  a slimy snakelike creature that would swim under you, grab your tow (sic), and pull you underwater!Today, beaches were not nearly as crowded as they had been on the July 4th long weekend, so it was a much more relaxing afternoon.  Glenn had brought his new camera, so made good use of its presence.  This was a picture perfect beach, willingly posing for many number shots to suit his artistic eye.  A flock of cormorants couldn’t miss the opportunity to claim their piece of photographic history, as they gathered on a rocky precipice down the beach from where we were.

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