Today D. and I visited the lighthouse at Montara, on the coast between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. The town is at the foot of Montara Mountain, which is a northern spur of the Santa Cruz Mountains and features the only undisturbed coastal mountain habitat found in over 100 miles of coastline.
A hostel shared the grounds with the lighthouse, and a path led down to the rocky shore full of tidepools and a small beach. Before we even got down the the beach, we saw two red-tailed hawks hovering overhead, scanning the ground for a rodent or reptile to have for lunch. One hawk was so skilled in flight that it held its position relative to the ground, hovering absolutely motionless in the strong seabreeze. There were also lots of pelicans, gulls, and a black phoebe on the hostel grounds. Down on the rocks we saw a wandering tattler, a new species for me.
The most fun was on the tiny beach and among the tidepools once the tide went out. The rocks were festooned with sea palm algae and other kinds of kelpy plants, taking a real beating in the pounding waves but never losing their grip. Clinging to the rocks were masses of limpets, mussels, barnacles, black turban snails, sea anemones, big gnarly sea stars and a few chitons, all awaiting the return of the tide. In the cracks and crevices between rocks we saw lots of little crabs hiding out. In several pools we were amazed to find bunches of tiny hermit crabs crawling around, living in vacated snail shells. When we discovered the first one, we exclaimed in perfect unison and total amazement, "It's a hermit crab!!" That was even more fun than finding an amazing enormous anemone in a previous pool.
The astounding variety and diversity of invertebrate life in the tidepools was a source of wonder. As we made our way from pool to pool, we encountered surprising new and delightful creatures. At times I felt just like a kid again.
The tidepools, sun, sand, wind and surf made for a beautiful, refreshing and therapeutic day out of the City.