Friday, July 12, 2019

Where A Shipwreck Changed Human and Natural History of Mendocino Coast

Point Cabrillo Light Station, June 9, 2019

Date: January 8, 2018, June 9, 2019
Place: Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, Mendocino, California
Coordinates: 39.350012, -123.813205
Length: 1.7 miles
Level: easy

When Pappa Quail suggested visiting the Cabrillo National Monument on our latest SoCal trip I was surprised: at that time I had known only about Point Cabrillo Lighthouse State Historic Park, which I had already visited nearly a year before. As I learned. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who was the first European to have set foot in the North American West Coast, had never made it as north as where Mendocino County is today. Still, Point Cabrillo is named after him as well.
And since our SoCal trip during which we hiked the Cabrillo NM and explored the tide pools there I also had another opportunity to hike Point Cabrillo yet again, and this time in spring.
I include here photos from both of these hikes.
At the trailhead, January 9, 2018
I dated the photos, but I think it's pretty obvious which was taken when. In it's not the clouds that are the determining difference - it's the vegetation. The difference between the mostly last season's weeds with the beginning of new greening to full early summer green and wildflowers colors is striking.
June 9, 2019
Along the coast of California there would be always something blooming. In early January the early bloomer was the huckleberry.
Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum, January 9, 2018
The park's main attraction is the old lighthouse and the fascinating history of the place, but the park's area also have a few very beautiful nature trails. It was the north loop that I hiked on both occasions.
January 9, 2018
Less than a mile down the west-bound trail I took a turn on a narrow foot trail through the coastal prairie to the northwestern corner of the park where the Frolic Cove Beach is.
June 9, 2019
On January I did this hike was very quickly. On June however, I stopped a lot to look at wildflowers or to graze on the blackberries that were ripening at the time.
Purple Checkerbloom, Sidalcea malviflora ssp. purpurea June 9, 2019
Coastal plants are often low and spreading as an adaptation to windy conditions. The irises grew  taller than most of the plants in their surroundings and were the easiest to spot from afar. Still, they were considerably shorter than their inland forest area counterparts. They were also much darker in color - both the green leaves and the deep purple of their blossoms.
Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana June 9, 2019
The local thistle provided a great example of this flattened wind-adaptation phenotype. It blooms pretty much at ground level.
Browny Thistle (Circium quercetorum), and Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), June 9, 2019
Mendocino County is part of the Pomo Native Californian territory. By 1850 the Pomo at their southern borders were already being harassed by the Spanish missionaries but in the northwestern part of their territory they were still largely unbothered. All that changed when the opium runner The Frolic run aground on the rocks right off the shores where Point Cabrillo SHP is now. All hands survived the wreckage and on their way back to San Francisco they had made a discovery: the huge forests of old growth giant redwoods.
The Frolic Cove. June 9, 2019
That discovery brought the end for the Pomo way of living and for many of the old growth redwood forests of the area along with the ecosystems they supported. The logging industry moved in in full force. New communities mushroomed along the coast and ports were built. The Pomo people were forcefully evicting to reservations where many of them died from diseases, starvation, and abuse. Of the huge redwood forests only a few enclaves were preserved.
And the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse was built to alert the ships which shuttled the redwood logs south to San Francisco and goods back north to Mendocino of the dangerous off-shore rocks.
A coastal rock ledge, January 9, 2018
From the view point of the Frolic Cove I made my way south along the coast, following the beautiful cliffs and enjoying the breeze.
June 9, 2019
This coastal trail was leading me south to the old lighthouse. It has a lovely red roof and looks very pastoral in the blue sky backdrop of June (photo at the top of this post). In January however, it was already getting dark when I was heading that way, and I could barely see that the roof had any color at all. There was only the radiant evening sun glowing through a thinner spot of the cloud cover. 
January 9, 2019
A second later there was a mother flash of light, from the still operational lighthouse itself.
January 9, 2019
Each season has its own charm and beauty. On my June hike I didn't see the lighthouse light but I was treated to a colorful display of wildflowers.
Seaside Daisy, Erigeron glaucus, June 9
And the water in the narrow coastal coves wore a sparkling emerald hue. I could stand there for a long time just watching the small waves washing in and out of those little coves.
June 9, 2019
The lighthouse building stands alone very close to the cliff edge. In the old time, the foghorn was located too in this building but theses days it is located on a buoy off shore. The light is still operational and the bottom floor is a nice historic museum. In this museum is the story of the area, including Pomo items and relics of the Frolic, excavated after its story was rediscovered by an anthropologist researching he Pomo old sites.
Point Cabrillo Light Station, January 9, 2018
Further inland are three more red-roofed houses where the lighthouse keeper, his assistants and their families used to live. Two of these very nice looking houses are available as vacation rentals. The third is another museum dedicated to the life in the old pioneer times of North California Coast.
Assistant Lightkeeper's House, now a museum. June 9, 2019
There is a paved road leading from the park entrance to the lighthouse area. It is possible to drive all the way and park right there. Driving there however, would have deprived me of that beautiful hike.
I walk back along that road, completing a loop hike.
January 9, 2018
Walking back and forth this road is how most visitors get to the lighthouse, and it is indeed a very nice walk and a good leg stretch for long distance drivers on Hwy 1. It is also where the park  personnel had strategically pace some nice information boards explaining some of the local nature, including some nit readily visible things like whales.
When I walked that road in June I had the pleasure of seeing more wildflowers along the way.
California Wild Rose, Rosa californica, June 9, 2019
One of these flowers was new to me and I was duly impressed with its color combination. At first i thought it was an invasive species but searching Calflora I identified it as the harlequin lotus, which isn't only a California native plant, but also a fairly rare one - it is endemic to the Mendocino coastal region. Such a fortunate sighting makes me happy.
Harlequin Lotus, Hosackia gracillis, June 9, 2019
As I neared the end of the road I turned around and took a last longing gaze westward. The lighthouse was hidden from my view by the grove of trees planted around the historic residential buildings, but the blue ocean was a visible thin line between land and sky. California coastline is very beautiful, and the Mendocino coastline is absolutely spectacular. Cabrillo would have loved it had he ever made it there in person.
June 9, 2019

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Day Just Got Better: Exploring Point Loma Tide Pools

Point Loma
Date: November 20, 2018
Place: Cabrillo National Monument, Sam Diego, California
Coordinates: 32.668319, -177.244522
Length: about 0.5 mile in  and out
Level: easy

The best distraction from actual hiking is the exploration of natural wonders such as tide pools. When we learned upon arriving Cabrillo National Monument that there are nice tide pools there and that low tide is expected in the afternoon we quickly dropped all our previous plans for after our Bayside hike. In stead, upon completing the hike we headed to the tide pools area to check it out.
This wasn't what I normally consider a hike because the walk the parking lot is very short. Despite the popularity of this place we were fortunate to find a parking spot that allowed us to minimize the hike and maximize our time at the pools.
Our walk from the Point Loma Tide Pools parking area to the tide pools
It's a short walk down to the tide pools and while Pappa Quail and the chikas hurried down the paved trail I paused to look around a bit.
Golden-club Cactus, Bergerocactus emoryi 
Right over the tide pools - a reminder sign for people to leave empty shells at the beach because they are recycled by hermit crabs who use them as homes.

The trail ends in a sort of high natural rock platform that overlooks the tide pools. By the time I got there the chikas were already down in the main area of the pools. I do not post a photo of this area here because all that can bee seen in these photos are the gazillion people that were there too that day. Focused my attention a little further out where the pools end and the ocean begun.
Great Egert 
The beautiful layers of sandstones are exposed by erosion.
Sedimentary rock layers topped with alluvial sand 
Interesting rock formations add to the geological beauty of this place. Some of these are the work of water and winds. Others, as I've seen lower by the tide pools, were made by mollusks.

I climbed down to the main area of the tide pools. My first challenge was to find the rest of my family in the crowd. It took me a while but eventually I detected the younger chika as she crouched over a small pool with hermit crabs. She informed me that the elder chika went around the big rocks in the deeper pools and that Pappa Quail went with her. I sat with my young chika for a some time, then wandered off to do some exploration myself. My other challenge was to get wide shots with as few people as possible. Later, I even had to crop those. It was really busy there that day.

Other than people, hermit crabs were the most active beings in the tide pools. It is, of course, their home, unlike the human visitors of Point Loma. Soon I, like my chika, was couching over a tide pool, mesmerized by the movements of the hermit crabs as they glided to and fro in the warm, shallow water, going about their business.
Hermit Crabs 
I found Pappa Quail as his usual pose of aiming his big lens camera at the sky. Gulls can be somewhat challenging to identify, especially when their legs are hidden. Even more so with the background sky so murky with smoke.
Ring-billed Gull

Pappa Quail pointed at where the elder chika was. To get there I had t climb the higher platform and down over the other side. This area was more into the ocean and the tide pools there deeper.
Elder Chika Quail exploring the tide pools 
There were much fewer people on that side of the rock platform. It was harder to climb down there,  and the pools were deeper and more frequently washed by the waves. But it was a much better exploration experience.
As I was climbing down (descending mostly on my behind) I paid attention to the critters stuck to the rocks. The move around during high tide and when the water recedes they adhere to the rock face to protect themselves from dehydration as well as predators.

Many of the rocks had round depressions done by acids secreted by mollusks. I don't know how long it takes them to dissolve a hole like that or wether it's done by a single animal or more. I'll look it up in the near future.

Some of the creatures I found at the pools were very familiar to me from the tide pools in Northern California.
Others beings were new to me. This one looked like a coral but apparently it is a colony of sand castle worms.
Sand Castle Worm colony
I walked slowly in the tide pools, treading carefully as to not damage anything. Little fish swam from beneath my feet and rock crabs scattered from the rocks as I approached. There really is no way to tide pool with absolutely no disruption of the critters' lives there but I did try to be as inconspicuous as I could.

Every now and then I got rewarded by a crab that didn't run away from me but continued grazing peacefully on the sleek rocks.
Rock crab
The elder chika was busy too. As interested as she was in the little pool habitants she was more focused on the birds and got quite close to some of them.
Black Turnstone

Pappa Quail on the other hand, remained u on the rock platform and used his zoom to get optically close to the birds, photographing them from above.
Spotted Sandpiper

And while we all saw and admired the dolphins that graced us with their presence, Pappa Quail was the one able to get the photos.
The time passed and the tide started moving in again. More and more waves got over the rocks and washed into the tide pools.

Waves of green grass moved gently with the water. These were bunches of surf grass - a true plant, not an alga.
Surf Grass, Phyllospadix torreyi
Besides the surf grass there were many species of algae, or seaweed, all over the place. Although nt considered taxonomically as 'true' plants, they are like plants to me and I love them.
Rockweed, Silvestia compressa 
Small groves of red algae waved back ad forth with the water. The movement was so mesmerizing I could sit there and watch it for a long time.
Feather Boa Kelp, Egregia menziesii 
Outside the water the algae cover rendered the rocks very slippery and I had to be very careful about where I stepped, not only to protect the critters but also to avoid falling down. There cannot be haste when tide pooling, nor should there be any.
Bladdewrack, Fucus sp.  
I looked up and saw that both chikas had joined Pappa Quail on the high rock. Pappa Quail called me, saying it was time to go if we wanted to go anywhere else that day. So I slowly made my way up the sediment layers, pausing to appreciate the pretty clumps of barnacles attached to it. Soon the high tide would cover them and they'll open up and send their thin, filtration 'arms' out to grab what morsels the ocean had brought them.

Our way back to the parking lot was much quicker than our way down to the pools. I did pause a little to look at one thing or another, but when I got to the car I saw that all my family were already inside and ready to go.  

Goldenbush, Ericameria sp.
It was a very good place to visit, both the hike of the Bayside Trail and topping it off with the wonderful tide pools. All and all, the day was pretty much done. We did try to get to the nature center across the bay but it was closing as we got there, so we settled for a short sunset walk by the water and when daylight faded we were off to Chula Vista, where to spend the night. On the morrow we had planned to visit Border Fields State Park and had high hopes to see the famed magpie jay bird. 

Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants and algae!