Date: May 2015 and April 2016
Place: Estero Bay State Park, Cayucos, California
Coordinates: 35.449825, -120.932640
Length: 2 miles
On May of last year my mother came with a close family friend to visit us. Naturally, we took them traveling around California. The beautiful Morro Bay was on our itinerary and as always, was a great boon. We visited the usual places, like the Morro Rock and the El Moro Elfin Forest, and took a boat on the bay water to see marine wildlife up close. But then, I was also looking to expand my knowledge the area, and so I lead everyone on a couple of trails that were new to us. One of them was at the nearby Estero Bluffs State Park.
Ester Bluff is right by Hwy 1, There are several pullout gravel parking areas along the road and we selected one randomly and looked around. Late in May, after a painfully short rainy season, the scenery was nearly all dry.
We took the shortest trail to the water. I didn't expect to see anything blooming but here and there, hidden in the tall dry grass, low morning glory was blooming, adding its beautiful color to the otherwise dormant view.
Many rocks are off shore, creating little islets that are safe haven for birds. Some of them are seriously white-washed, but others are low enough to be washed by the high tides.
The little cove we were at featured a colorful display of algae. I didn't post all of them here but just the iridescent one that gleamed at me from the water.
The chikas were more into the animal life and they called me to check out the anemones and hermit crabs. There were plenty of them on the submerged rocks.
While generally the Pacific Ocean lies west of the California coast, the Estero Bluffs shoreline actually faces south. And looking south, there is the view of Morro Rock standing guard at the mouth of Morro Bay.
Papa Quail focused his eyes on the sky. Many birds were flying here and there, nearly all of them over the water.
|Pacific Brown Pelican|
|Coastal Tarweed (Deinandra corymbosa)|
I did, however, plan to go back there as soon as I could, and 11 months later I had the chance to go there twice - by myself and with a group.
Last April I took a group of Bay Area families on a camping trip to Morro Bay. Remembering how lovely my time at Estero Bluffs was, I added the park to the group's itinerary as well. In preparation to the camping trip I took a solo hike in that park and was amazed at how different it looked from my hike there of the previous year.
The most striking thing I saw there during my April hikes was the greenery. Last April came after a long and blessed rainy season. It even rained on the day I was there.
And embedded in the green - wildflowers. Many, many wildflowers.
|Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus)|
One of the best examples of this take over is the black mustard, the Brassica nigra. Brought overseas and intentionally sowed by the Spanish missionaries along El Camino Real - 'The King's Highway', the dense mustard bloom now paints the coastal hills and mountains with intense yellow every spring.
The children in the group spread themselves on the rocks, searching for sea treasures. And they found them too - many, many treasures. They did, of course, leave everything where they had found it. Collecting is forbidden there.
It was completely overcast on my April solo hike there. I made my way on the criss-crossing paths along the edge, looking over the crumbling cliff and enjoying the greenery and the occasional spring sprinkle.
Then I came upon a wall of mustard. It is a good place for mustard to grow there, because the mustard was monstrous size. A narrow path was cut through the mustard thicket and I walked it, getting petal and pollen-yellow as I passed through, rubbing against the blossoms.
|Mustard Tunnel (Brassica nigra, non-native, invasive weed)|
A small bird stood at the top of the most prominent rock. I couldn't see what it was but had no difficulty identifying it by its song: it was a male red-winged blackbird.
I approached until I was close enough to confirm the bird's ID by sight. As I circumvented the rock the bird rotated on its spot, constantly training his eye at me.
The trail lead me down to the sandy beach and I carefully approached the birds. They didn't fly away, just looked at me and moved a bit sideways.
|Blochman's Dudleya (Dudley blochmaniae)|
On my solo hike I had walked all the way back to where I had parked my car. On the group hike, however, I had parked my car at the south parking lot. Some only had to take the quick path to Hwy 1 where everyone waited while I shuttled the drivers of each family to our starting spot. On the way to the car I took a final, longing look at the green field to the north: it was girdled with bright yellow mustard and dotted with blue-eyed grass. If I had any crafting talent I'd paint it or quilt it. Being who I am I simply photographed.