During our stay in California, we lived in the Coast Range in the middle of the wine country; to travel anywhere we had to drive through vineyards. If we drove for approximately forty minutes, we got to the shore. But just finding a beach we liked was difficult.
The first time we went beach-hunting, it was evening and growing cold. The wind was blowing, yet even on a not-so-nice day the beach was rather crowded. We had to turn around. Other beaches were either fenced off, private property, or, like one secluded cove of red seaweed, smelled terrible.
Finally, we were driving along the green-spotted, scenic drive Highway 1 and looking for a sign reading "Goat Rock." When we spied the wooden plaque, we turned onto a dirt road (potholes included) and drove for about half a mile. We parked in front of the huge boulder, wondering how the beach had gotten its wacky name. Here was the Rock part, but the Goat's origin was unknown. It could have been named because the explorer who named it saw a goat in the rock (like Stevenson, in "Silverado Squatters," who saw a lion in a rock). Maybe it was because goats used to live on the rock. It's possible that it was because the explorer's pet goat found the rock. Or that the explorer was just crazy about goats. It's hard to tell.
Whatever the reason, we frequently went to Goat Rock. Once, we walked to the beach's "end," the distant rocks with small pools of water in them. We couldn't find any life, however, except for some green, orange, and pink seaweed that looked like the giant kelp washed up on the shore in miniature. Another time, we found some beached bat stars, a species of sea stars (more commonly incorrectly called starfish). I didn't pick one up, but Katrianna dared to.
To see actual tide pool life, however, we swam against the tide of the school groups, going to a beach where no one but ourselves was tide pooling, unlike our Shell Beach experience, where even on a cloudy day a troop of kids were listening to a lecture about the animals found in the pools. Because of Mom's planning, we knew that Salt Point State Park's Gerstle Cove was supposed to be a good place to see tide pools.
It turned out that it was. Once we'd parked, we walked down the path, merging with a paved road that lead down to the cove. The tiny patch of sand was dotted with many cute little crabs scuttling in and out of their holes.
Looking into our first tide pool, a puddle in a rock, we viewed our first sea anemone. Climbing over a few rocks, we saw another tide pool with some hermit crabs, several crabs of various sizes that didn't have the snail shell that characterizes the hermit crabs (like the ones on the beach), a pickle-like sea cucumber, and a sea star.
I was scared by the huge, ugly insects called rock lice that crept around on the rocks. Mom said that they were a natural protection for the tide pools, but that did not make me think more highly of the prehistoric-like creatures, and I continued to scratch, thinking one was catching a ride on me.
We saw fish, sea stars that were purple with white polka-dots, a sea star that was orange, lots of crabs, two sea stars "kissing," a green sea star no bigger than a quarter, and many more anemones. Herring gulls flew about, swooping or perching on rocks. That was our best tide pooling experience -- we saw all of the creatures on the plaque except for the bat stars, which we'd seen at Goat Rock.
When we were on a trip to Oregon, we saw the ending point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, including where they'd climbed to a beach, now called Cannon Beach, to see a beached whale. While we were looking at the fish swimming around in the tide pools, the barnacles clinging to the rocks, and the green seaweed overhanging the pools and snapping pictures, a tide swept up. I ran to safety as quickly as I could and only the edge of my shoe got wet. Mom and Katrianna stood on rocks while the tide drenched them six inches up. At Goat Rock, a sign said to always be careful of berm tides. Berm tides can be dangerous and even carry people out to sea, but this one preferred soaking people. That was our last tide pooling adventure... and by far the wettest.