Christmas Day meant a day at the ocean for us this year!  In order to not be morose and miserable, with no family around, plus a frightening appointment in a week’s time, we HAD to distract ourselves.  It was Glenn’s idea to plan a day on the beach for our new tradition!  We planned to take Peter, our senior dog, with us as well, so we wedged his extra dog bed into the back seat.  This prevents him from falling into the space between the front and back seats, and gives him a more comfortable ride.  We also tossed in his new ‘squirrel’, a toy not unlike a Frisbee, assuming that he’d enjoy chasing it on the beach.

Before we got on the road we had two visitors.  First, Barb brought us some homemade caramels and some Stollen.  Then our next door neighbor Simon brought us a box of chocolates!  As we pulled out of the driveway, another neighbor, Pauline, flagged us down, saying that she had a present for us, but would give it to us tomorrow since we were heading out today.  The neighbors all knew we would not be having any visitors this holiday, so I’m assuming they wanted to cheer us.  We explained our plans for the day, so they waved us off.

I had printed off some maps to guide us through to Natural Bridges State Beach.  The first part of the journey was quite familiar to us, leading from home through the coastal mountains.  Once we got to Santa Cruz, my maps guided us through the city to the park, perched on the coastline.  water crash

We should not have been, but we were surprised by the entrance gate.  What this means is that neither had ANY cash with us!   Wouldn’t you know it, but they don’t take ANY cards, either.

“Cash or cheque.”   For once, luck was with us.  Glenn had one very timeworn cheque in his wallet.  A bit tacky, but it did the job.

DSCN0329_2For the first time in recent history, Pete wanted none of this.  We cajoled, coaxed, and pleaded, all to no avail.  Finally, we realized that brute force has a place in these situations.  However, once we were able to wedge Peter out of his comfy nest in the back seat, he was quite happy to trot alongside us.

When we stopped for our picnic lunch, we took turns throwing Pete’s new squirrel for him, and he obligingly retrieved it each time it was thrown.  Unfortunately, the slight breeze decided to play as well.  At one point, when I had tossed it towards a  pile of brush, the wily wind pinched it, and hurled it into the estuary beside our picnic site!  Daddy to the rescue! That same pile of brush yielded the tool to help save the toy, in the form of a long sturdy branch!  Once the drowning toy was out of the drink, Pete snatched it and was off.  Happily ever after!

Despite a large sign saying DOGS NOT ALLOWED ON THE BEACH, there were a few four legged family members enjoying the warm sunshine on the sand.  I guess everyone quietly assumed that no one would be upset, since it was, after all, Christmas!  Pete just trotted around us, mooching as best he could, especially when we got out the fruit bread that our bread maker made for us overnight.

By 3pm we were getting weary, especially since the route from the parking lot to the beach and back was a wet slippery path.  The downhill route was nerve-wracking, while the uphill part was exhausting.  We loaded Peter back into the car, and he was soon snoring happily.

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