California Coastal Trail
Manresa to Zmudkowski
Hiking time: 3 hours
Julie and Jo
Josephine and I decided to try another leg of the CCT. We got a bit of a late start, since I lost track of time. Jo followed me in her car to Zmudkowski beach.
The exit for Manresa is San Andreas Road which we passed before we got to Watsonville. I kept looking for the turnoff to Zmudkowski. I've seen the signs off Highway One and thought I had been there years ago. When we entered the Moss Landing city limits I was sure I had missed the turnoff.
Then right before the gas station I saw the sign. Struve Road. It was confusing because I turned on the road, but it actually was the gas station. I drove through with Josephine faithfully following behind. Then we drive down a narrow little street where farm workers lived. Then out into the fields. The road just kept going and getting narrower.
As Jo said, "who needs to go to the farmer's market?" First there were strawberry fields, then broccoli (we think) next, artichokes and finally headd of iceberg lettuce - already harvested - just waiting to be picked up - or so it seemed to us.
Zmudkowski has a dirt parking lot out in the fields. We climbed the sand dune to see the beach and find markers so we would know when we had reached our destination. There was pole stuck in the sand and the entrance seemed obvious.
We hopped into my car and headed to Manresa. It was a deceptively long drive back. With point to point hiking you wonder if you are ever going to see your car again. "Just how far is this hike? " The car shuttle took a long time, though we did stop to check out the walk in campsites at Manresa. We were on the trail head or beach head, I should say, at noon.
This beach walk was much more populated than the week before. We walked past Manresa, Sunset and Pajaro Dunes. Only a few stretches were isolated. The Moss Landing power plant was always in the distance - the twin towers looking like a castle in the fog (in my imagination) but like a power plant when it cleared.
It looked like there had been a sand castle contest at Manresa. There was an elaborate sand sculpture of a fish. Jo is posed amidst the pyramids. You can't see in the picture - but they had built a whole littel civilization with different pyramids and roads and canals connecting them
Josephine quickly spotted dolphins offshore. Different schools of them accompanied us on almost the whole hike. There were lots of birds chasing the tide: the small snowy plovers, the larger pipers and a larger one that had a huge long arched beak. We also saw several dead birds on the hike, all of the same kind which we couldn't quite identify. We didn't see any living birds that looked like them so they must be migrating through. Josephine later went to a bird identification and identified them as a "Sooty". I'm still not sure thats what they were.
As we walked along the beach we saw lots of big jellyfish washed ashore. Usually it is just little pieces of them in the sand, but here you could see whole ones.
As we approached Sunset Beach we could see crowds of people. It was a popular beach full of activity. There were fishermen, folks digging in the sand with shovels, tents set up, surfers, kite flyers and just regular beach goers. There were odd driftwood structures that looked like drying racks.
We had lunch once we were past Sunset. We could see Pajaro Dunes in the distance. As we approached we saw a fisherman approaching us walking in the surf dragging something. It was a BIG fish he had caught. It made Jo want to start ocean fishing.
Pajaro Dunes starts with beach condos that all look the same. As you walk further, the houses become quite different. There were all sorts of modern designs, weird shapes, a wooden "castle" and other with strange geometric designs. It was interesting to look at the varied achitecture.
I knew the Pajaro River was up ahead. I wasn't too worried after our experience with the Salinas River the week before. We crossed an open area and then came to the river. There was indeed a river. It was a narrow channel - but it was hard to judge how deep it was. We kept walking toward the ocean trying to find the narrowest, shallowest crossing. It seemed that the tide was coming in. We finally decided to take a chance and plunged into the river - only to discover that it wasn't even midcalf deep. The water was warm.
On the next section of beach Jo found some unusual crystal rocks. Early in the hike she said, "I'm not going to pick up any more rocks or shells. I have too many already." But these were pretty unusual so she kept them. I found the inside of a sand dollar. It was the lower half with a beautiful pattern etched into it. It was extremely delicate and even though I put it on the outside pocket of my backpack it was crushed by the time we reached the end of the hike.
We were getting close to Zmuddy. A young couple and their child approached us to tell us there was a sea lion on the beach ahead. They said they had crawled really close to it. They didn't want us to scare it or mistake it for a lot. That reminded me of Teresa's close call with the sea lion at Gazos Creek.
I asked Josephine if she wanted to crawl and cuddle up to it and she gave the proper response - "are you crazy?" I did get this picture of the two of them. Jo was actually much closer than she appears in the photo.
Before we knew it we were at our starting point. It was much too soon for me and I would have liked to keep going. Jo had had enough, though. Jo really liked this beach we agreed when we do this next segment - Zmudkowski to Moss Landing. We would do an out and back hike and then hang out at the beach and have a picnic.
We drove back to Manresa after harvesting a few roadside vegetables. There is a beautiful Victorian for sale at the entrance to Manresa. A giant white house with columns - it looks like a plantation at the top of the hill with beautiful ocean views. We stopped to look at the price: 2.5 million. A car was in the driveway, so I didn't peek in the windows. What a house!
We stopped at Manuels for our post celebratory drink and chili rellenos. Another enjoyable day at the beach and another segment of the CCT knocked off!
Lessons Learned: People can be quite creative with sand. There are all sorts of fun places to explore tucked away in your own backyard.