Mendocino

April 2015

I have wanted to see Glass Beach for some time now, ever since I saw some photos on the internet. I was looking around for campsites and on Yelp many people said that all the glass on Glass Beach was being taken away because people go with bags and collect it, so I wanted to actually go see it while the glass is still there.

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Glass Beach is part of MacKerricher State Park in Mendocino, CA, which is 4hrs North of Santa Cruz. Once upon a time people used to push old cars and similar garbage off the cliffs by Fort Bragg. Over time, the broken glass started to wash up on local beaches as sea glass. The red pieces were usually bits of old tail-lights from cars.

Friday

Dmitriy and I drove up on Friday night. We went over the Golden Gate Bridge and got a very nice view of San Francisco lit up at night. When we got to our campsite it was pretty late and it was also totally pitch black. It was on land behind a farmhouse that the owners apparently rent out for events like weddings, etc., but the land is kind of in the forest and the actual tent spots are super spread out and there are no lights, and the campsite was essentially empty except for us. It was both cool and a little spooky (for me anyways). Dmitriy saw his first banana slug!

Saturday

We slept in until 9-ish on Saturday morning and there were lots of birds singing. Our tent site was next to a big meadows and there were deer grazing in the morning.

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We lazed around for a bit and then had breakfast. We used the table that comes in the back of our car for the first time ever. The Honda CRV is built with the frame of a civic, and in the civic there is a space in the trunk for a spare wheel. Since the CRV has a wheel on the outside of the back door, they covered the wheel spot with a folding table.  Good job Honda CRV designers!

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We set out for Glass Beach. There were patches of glass deposits along the beach.

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Here is Dmitriy examine some glass and rock up close:

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We decided to walk out onto the rocks. We saw a crab hiding in his hole, surrounded by exposed sea anemones.

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A little further on was a wall with all these sea anemones that had been exposed to the air when the tide went out.

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Most of these photos are of animals, but there was also lots of cool plant/seaweed life!

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From here we had a fantastic view of all the people stealing glass off the beach and putting it into big ziploc bags. Boooo!

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I found another wall of sea anemones. It must be unreal SCUBA diving or snorkelling in the area during high tide.

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While I was looking at the sea anemones Dmitriy kept exploring and found “Dmitriy’s cove”. In it was a giant sea anemone!

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At this point I was pretty excited so I waded into the pool to check it out more. Luckily I brought my SCUBA mask! There was really cool seaweed that changed colour depending on what angled you looked at it from.

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In the same pool we also saw some big sea stars! This is a Leather Star (Dermasterias imbricata).

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After some time we decided to continue on along the coast.

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There were also seals on the rocks a bit further out.

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We saw a lot of cool crabs. I will try not to put too many photos of them onto this blog post, but they are great!

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Dmitriy found a small tide pool that was kind of high up on a rock. In it was a super well camouflaged fish. See if you can find him! The first photo is just the fish, the second photo will show you where he is.

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We saw several of these things. I think they are called volcano barnacles.

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So many more exposed sea anemones:

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Below is an Ochre Star sea star. This is one of the sea star species that has been hard hit by the sea star wasting disease sweeping the coast of California.

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Another crab. Photo by Dmitriy!

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I think the shells below are beautiful. In both the below photos there are also small crabs hiding out in the barnacles (its a bit like playing “Where’s Waldo”).

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There was a lot of old trash in the intertidal zones, and especially old trash that was old car parts. In the image on the left are a bunch of old wires that have somehow become part of a vertical rock cliff face. On the other image are some fuel injectors sitting on the bottom. There were a ton of them.

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At this point we had walked far enough along the cliffs that we rounded a corner and were near a new beach. Here is another massive anemone!

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This is my favourite thing I saw all day. It was a little pink thing that was moving along the pebbles in the water. You can tell the direct by the tail of tentacles. I have no idea what this is.

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I took a little video of him moving.

There was more trash. The old shoe sole is starting to be overgrown. In every hole where there was once a stitch, there is now a little sea shell organism in place. It was interesting to see how a place that was once a garbage dump is being overgrown by nature.

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I came to a wall that had tons of crabs living in holes in the wall. There was a slight clicking noise and I think it was the collective noise of all the crabs. I also saw some of the crabs in a pool picking out algae and eating it with their claws.

Then Dmitriy called me over to a new pool he had found. It was FILLED with sea urchins.

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I don’t know what this is, but we saw several of them around the pool.

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Here are some close ups. The sea urchins burrow into the rock.

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This was a different pool where there were sea urchins and mussels. I like the mix of blue and purple.

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There was a little fish in there. He pretty much swam up to me and just stuck around while I took a ton of photos of him. I think he is a Tidepool Sculpin.

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Here is Dmitriy as we headed back to shore.

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And some more photos of the glass on Glass Beach.

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I remembered seeing this photo and tried to recreate it.

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It doesn’t quite look the same.

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I thought maybe we could stage a cool photo with tons of sea glass, but this was as far as we got. Still, it was fun sitting around looking at all the sea glass.

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At this point my camera died. Afterwards we went and walked along the bluffs, which apparently used to be covered in concrete but the city removed the concrete to restore the area. Then we got some lunch, went to our campsite, and had a nap. After a while we went to a beach near our campsite and hung out. I climbed this big rock in the ocean that was really tall.

It turned out there were flocks of massive ugly turkeys that roamed our campsite. If you chased them, they could run really fast and they looked like little dinosaurs running, and then they would magically disappear but once I saw one in a the tree so they must have been flying away. And hiding in trees. Eeeck. They were scary.

Later we went out for dinner at “Frankies” which was a pizza/falafel/ice cream shop. I got a Piadene, which is pretty much a salad wrapped in flatbread, and it was delicious! Dmitriy had pizza. We reluctantly headed back to our very dark campsite and started a small camp fire before going to bed.

Sunday

On Sunday morning we headed out on a hike to see the pygmy forest. We took a fortuitous wrong turn and end up on the bluffs overlooking the ocean:

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While wandering back to the start through the forest, we saw this very unappealing looking banana slug. I do not know what the black thing hanging out of it is, but I (maybe) would like to know (depending on what it is).

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Along the walk we saw some perfect climbing trees!

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Here I am in the pygmy forest. It is pretty much a strip of shorter than normal trees. This is because they grow on podomized soil, which is nutrient-poor, highly acidic soil that stunts their growth. It is notably very different from the surrounding redwood forest.

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After this we went back to Frankie’s for lunch and drove back to Santa Cruz. It was a very scenic drive home.