Sunday, February 26, 2012


With a short drive to the Pacific Ocean, I had a relaxing and picturesque day at Moss Landing Beach and Elk Horn Slough with the kids during their vacation week.  The lighting at the beach always seems to be right and the contrasting elements of white surf and darker sands sets up so well for photography.

The waves kept coming and Ella asked, "Why are there waves at the beach?"
"Well," I said, "It's because of the moon pulling on the ocean water with its gravity."

Once we were settled in the perfect spot, Ella got right to work digging random holes in the sand.

A good kind of kid fun with shovels and sand in February.  It's a warm winter in California this year.  This summer will probably be torturous with heat and drought.

Leaving my dreadful thoughts of impending summer doom to be blown away by ocean breezes, I watched the sanderlings dash back and forth along the shoreline seeking small crustaceans and snail like critters in the sand.

As the tide receded the feeding frenzy began.  I was lucky a group stopped right in front of us to work on this section of shoreline habitat.  With my long lens on I got some interesting pictures of these little birds in action.

The small flocks foraged along the beach front while my kids played against the dunes behind me.  Everyone was entertained.

An occasional stranger was welcome among their midst.  This curlew was swept away, down the beach with the little birds as they dashed from some invisible threats within the waves.  I think I heard him squawk, "If they're running, I'd better be running too!"

Wyatt the builder was about constructing a small fortress with drift wood and seaweed.

He was able to recruit Ella to harvest dead sticks in the dunes and I watched them gallop back and forth on the low hill behind me.  I reminded them, "Pick out only stuff that is dead already!"

And Ella was observed taking a moment to draw letters in the sand.

Wyatt had no problem building a metropolis with little bits of this and that.

We packed up after about and hour and a half since we had been out canoeing in Elk Horn Slough for the hour and a half before beach time.  On the way back out to the road we stopped and watched the sea otters for a time.  They come into the protected and more quiet waters of the slough during the day and sleep in rafts.  They are sure cute in action, but I found they are not so easy to capture well on my camera.  They just look like a furry mess! 

And as we were ready to depart, a white crown sparrow popped out of the bushes to wish us good bye.  But upon reflection of his aggressive chirping tone I almost think he was saying, "GO HOME!"  And so we did . . .

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Canoe on Cosumnes River

Happy New Year and all that . . . but I'd like to rewind briefly to Christmas 2011. This is what "Santa" brought for my present. I don't know if this means I was a good girl or not. A bright red, two-seater canoe complete with paddles and a low profile dolly that you can use to drive it to and from the car and dock. Good stuff right?!

So fast forward to New Year's Eve and see the two victims pictured below. They were destined for a trip up a river, the Cosumnes River, in the dead of winter, in the confines of a small plastic boat. One looks surprisingly happy, while the other no so sure of what is coming next. It could just be the wedgie from his life vest or the unpleasant thought that future girlfriends may see this picture of him wearing the wedgie vest. Either way Mr. Grumpy Pants was ready to go whether he liked it or not.

Then there was the husband lying under the canoe for some inexplicable reason. The canoe weighs only 75 lbs so I had no fear of eminent danger for him, but it was a strange place to see him so early on in the trip. Was he taking a nap? Did he need shade? Did he trip over the rather large red boat in front of him?

Then Ella talking to Grandma was probably asking, "Grandma, why is my Daddy so strange?" To which Grandma replies, "Ella, I have no idea."

After extricating my husband from the underside of the canoe we started driving to the boat launch located just a short stroll from the parking lot. Wyatt, of course, was asserting his manly ways by insisting on "driving" the canoe.

At the end of the path the boat launch awaits our motley little crew. Three generations were embarking in an adventure within new water.

At the boat launch the grimy water critters had been pawing and clawing all over the banks of the slough channel. The boat launch (not pictured) is mostly standard with aluminum decking that floats over the water and is boring . . . but otter and beaver tracks, now that's exciting stuff. I am guessing once the sun goes down it's party central at this murky hot spot.

To prevent a camera fatality, I stowed "my precious" in the backpack and boarded my floating bathtub. And it did not sink! Small favors.

As to the boat crew allocation, I was blessed to be the pilot with my two very docile and passive wild and loquacious children in the front of the canoe. Grandma King and Mike (her youngest son) were enjoying the quiet solicitude of paddling in their own boat. Note the far distance between our boats. We (I) was abandoned.

As captain of my vessel, I commanded, "Paddle! Paddle Wyatt!"

And Wyatt paddled.

Sometimes . . .

Using my superior paddling technique, I was able to keep up a slow pursuit, even with the handicap of Wyatt putting his paddle against the direction of our trajectory.

But the oak riparian forest on the banks of the Cosumnes River was lovely even while lacking it's leaves. The naked branches and spreading tips reaching skyward against the cool blue haze was something to behold. It always is in any season.

Soon we had an "emergency" potty break which required pulling off the river for the kids. During our brief landing, Ella elected to embark with with Dad and Grandma. She is a rather smart woman. I thought that the three of them looked like some strange winged beast awkwardly slapping their wings against the water.

Paddle Ella! Paddle Ella!

Here's my favorite picture of a valley oak tree overhanging the river. I am surprised it has lasted this long without getting ripped out of the bank. But the riparian trees along the river must have some meaty strong roots embedded in the soil to stay put.

Then just to prove I was there I took a self portrait.

Some of the only "greenery" in the trees was the mistletoe hanging from the upper canopy branches.

After yet another potty break, we mixed up the canoes once again and split the crew between boys and girls. Them Mike got a feel for what it's like to paddle with Wyatt up in front. It's a real treat . . .

On the way up stream, I was working hard paddling to keep up. But heading down the river I was afforded the opportunity to photograph the train bridge over the Cosumnes River. It's a simple, gray steel bridge with bolts and I-beams and wooden ties. In contrast to the riparian vegetation it looks out of place with it's industrial appearance.

Quite a bit of workmanship went into constructing this bridge. Cross bracing and angles and metal - all suspended over this simple little river.

Then on the way down river I noticed that someone had a bad attitude about paddles. Ella felt it best to give Mom the evil eye even though she was in danger of being splashed by the cold river water. I guess she is practicing for being a teenager.

Then Dad came paddling along and unfortunately gave this little pouty-faced, spoiled little person the particular paddle she wanted. Let's just say she knows who she can work and who she can not.

I kept telling Mike, "You're spoiling her. She's working you!!" But then he told me, "You're the best at steering the canoe, Dear." I know his complement was simply an attempt at distraction from my wrath and due to his guilt in perpetuating the "Daddy's Little Girl" syndrome. You see my thrilled appearance once again via self portrait.

Then upon getting back to the launch I snuck a picture of Grandma.

So, no one fell overboard and our boats did not take on water. We saw western pond turtles (very surprising in the middle of winter), valley oak tall forest, great blue herons, great egrets, belted-king fishers, button willow, sandbars, and fish jumping. All-in-all it was another good trip to log into the books since as a family we managed to canoe without bickering for over two hours and have fun with nature! Bonus.

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