Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

I knew I wanted to hit the coast this weekend but I didn’t have a particular destination in mind. “Going to the coast” conjures up ideals of beautiful spots to photograph the bike with the Pacific Ocean as background, waves and sandy beaches and all. Unfortunately the reality is that most public beaches have parking areas a short walk from the actual water, so it’s impossible to photograph the motorcycle with anything other than a Suburban. There are a few places I know of to get good pics, but they’re all outside of Poof-range at the moment; the closest one is 30 miles away.

Anyway, I was reading a magazine on the elliptical the other day and came upon an article on tide flats. Aha! This reminded me that I’d never actually been to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach.

Fitzgerald was designated as a state reserve in 1969 and is considered one of the best tide pool habitats in Northern California. Wikipedia tells us that it is one of 34 such coastal habitats having “Special Biological Significance” because of its large number of prominent intertidal species.

Hey, it wouldn’t be springtime in California if I wasn’t inundating y’all with photos of ice plants.

The important thing about visiting tide pools is to check the tide in advance.  Low tide yesterday was at 10:09 am, so Peter and I up got up early, had breakfast down in San Carlos, and then I hit the road to head to Moss Beach.

The 20-mile ride was fairly uneventful; I was worried that traffic on Hwy 92 would be bad from evacuated people returning home or from tourists wanting to see if the tsunami was still making waves, but I had no problems zipping over the hill to Half Moon Bay and then turning north along the coast.

Once at Fitzgerald, I parked, stowed my gear in my Givi bag, and headed down to the tide pools.  It’s a short walk from the parking area to the ocean, and then you have to scramble over some rocks and head out onto the slippery tide pool area.  There were more people there than I’d expected; lots of kids running around on the beach.  Out on the tide flats themselves, though, there were fewer visitors and most people were sitting silently, staring down at the rocks.

The cool thing about Fitzgerald is that at first, it doesn’t look like there’s anything there but rocks and kelp.  But if you stay still and look at one area for a few minutes, you start to see movement.  I hung out with this hermit crab for probably 10 minutes; (s)he was a ham!

After hanging out with the crab, I wandered onto a nearby rock that looked like it was merely a different color.  Looking a little more carefully, however, I could see it wasn’t rock — it was mussels!  Thousands of living mussels, clamped tightly shut.  Mussels start out as plankton and spend their whole lives in one place.  As they mature, they begin to secrete a byssal thread, which binds them to the rock and one another.

Further wandering around showed even more life: the further out from shore I got, the more colorful friends, like sea anemones, urchins, and starfish I saw.  I couldn’t get a good photo of the starfish as he was between two rocks, but here’s an anemone and a few urchins:

The zoom on my camera isn’t the greatest, but you can see there were also harbor seals sunning on a rock a few hundred feet out to sea.  From February until May, the seals use the area for birthing and nursing young.  Signs around Fitzgerald inform visitors that seal pups may look abandoned on the beach, but stay clear — mom likely just went to get some food, but she won’t return if humans are too close.

As you can see in the photo, the waves were picking up.  Even though it was low tide, the waves were pretty strong and moved in quickly.  A group of us were pretty far out on the tide flats when the waves started meaning business, but since the rocks are slippery, you can’t move too quickly, and we got stuck on a flat that suddenly became an island!

My waterproof Daytona Ladystars once again did an admirable job of keeping my feet and the Pacific Ocean separate… least, until I made a misstep and wound up falling into the ocean up to my knees. Turns out the waterproof boots can’t help you out when the water rushes in from the top!

My camera battery died shortly thereafter, and naturally I’d left my spare on the bike.  The waves kept pounding in, though, so I decided not to go back out onto the tide flats.  I chatted with a ranger for a few minutes and then got back on the bike.  Luckily it was a pretty warm day, so 50mph with soaking wet legs/jeans/socks was only uncomfortable and not hypothermic!

I stopped at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay to look around a little and take a couple of pictures with boats to prove that I’d actually ridden the Ninja.

This sign cracked me up:

I ate lunch at Cameron’s, of course, and then headed home.  The grand total mileage was 49 miles, woohoo!!! I did have some SI pain in the evening, as well as my ubiquitous muscle pain, but things seems to be OK now (the next morning) and I shall count my longest ride in 2011 a success!

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