On our last day at home, El Niño dropped 7 inches of snow on our driveway. After shoveling ourselves free, we backed out of the garage, and left for our first month-at-a-time travel destination of Pismo Beach, California. Driving out on the icy streets of our neighborhood, we felt relief and excitement, but also apprehension as we left behind our comfort zone.
Just after sunset, we arrived safely at our rented single-wide mobile home, dubbed by its owner as “The Cozy Cottage by the Sea”. Measuring about 11 feet wide and 34 feet long, it sits in a row of other narrow manufactured homes in a clean and quiet mobile home park. Nicely situated, it has a back deck overlooking a nine-hole golf course and the Pacific Ocean.
Once inside, our single-wide seemed surprisingly small. The owner must be a graduate of the cluttered knick-knack school of interior decorating. Nautical artifacts and kitschy beach souvenirs covered the walls, and dusty artificial plants and token keepsakes crowded all available surfaces. After unpacking and some serious rearranging, we stopped bumping into each other, and our single-wide started to take on the feel of an actual cozy cottage.
In the morning of our first day, we took Lizzie for a short walk on the beach. She chased every shorebird in sight, and smelled every broken seashell and piece of seaweed. Spunky and energetic, she thought she was a puppy again.
As we walked south along the beach, the massive Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex loomed in the distance, on the southern horizon. Winter storm patterns like El Niño and millions of years of persistent off-shore winds have amassed and sculpted mountains of sand into one of the largest intact coastal dune ecosystems on Earth. In the coming days, we plan to investigate the mystery of these dunes, and uncover the secrets buried beneath their shifting sands.
Where the dunes meet the ocean, the never-ending wave action and longshore current have fashioned a wide sandy beach extending for 18 unbroken miles. An absolute paradise for walkers, we continued our stroll along the sweeping stretch. During the month ahead, we want to walk as much of the central California coastline as possible, combing the sand for treasures and curiosities, while looking out for birds and other coastal wildlife.
The central California coast is home to a vast diversity of birds, marine mammals, and intertidal organisms. In the next few weeks, we will have our binoculars and tidal charts ready, hoping to glimpse these native creatures.
Back on the beach, Lizzie was dog-tired, so we put her in her backpack, and returned to our cozy cottage by the sea. There, just steps outside our door are massive and mystifying sand dunes to investigate, miles of beaches to traverse, and a multitude of wildlife species to search for. As soon as Lizzie wakes up from her nap on the couch, we will be back out that door, in our first month-at-a-time destination of Pismo Beach, California.