Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zmudowski Beach – Moss Landing Beach

California Coastal Trail
to Moss Landing North Jetty
Landing Beach
to Moss Landing South Jetty
Distance: 5 1/2 miles
Hiking time: 3 ½ hours
Hikers: Jo, Jan, Julie

The 3 J’s returned to knock off another section of the California Coastal trail. This was an out and back hike. We parked at Zmudowski Beach and hit the sand by 11:00 a.m. We looked for landmarks so we would remember the entrance to the beach.

Jo and I had discussed how long this hike this would be. I just wanted to hike along the sand to the Moss Landing jetty. She thought we were going to do the whole segment which would have included walking along the road, crossing the bridge and then coming down to the MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) beach.

It was a foggy, gray morning and the water looked brown. The towers of Moss Landing loomed incredibly close. It was a leisurely hike on a flat beach. There were several fishermen, but no houses, just sand dunes. There was a horse trailer parked in the parking lot when we arrived and we came across the riders. They were riding the horses in the breaking surf and the horses didn’t like it one bit. They were skittish, which made us skittish and we gave them a wide berth.

Our time was mainly spent beachcombing. After the hike we were going to stop in Watsonville to see Paula –one of our hikers – who is recovering from surgery. We wanted to bring gifts from the hike – rocks, shells or driftwood – anything interesting we found. I wanted to find an intact sand dollar, which is a tall order for this time of year. There were a lot of fragments, but I never found a whole one.

We reached the rocky jetty at Moss Landing in about an hour. The jetty is made of giant rocks and there is not a pathway – you have to jump from rock to rock. Neither Jan nor Jo wanted to go out to the end of the jetty. I decided to try it. I got about halfway before turning around. There was a rotting carcass, too much bird poop for my bare feet and I didn’t like jumping from rock to rock.

There is a parking lot for this beach, with a strip of marsh land which is probably part of Elkhorn Slough. You can see the power plant clearly here. We decided to have lunch on a picnic table on the beach. As we ate the sun came out. The sky was blue with white fluffy clouds and the water sparkled in the sunshine. Jo and Jan got colder as the sun came out. We must have been less protected from the wind here.

We headed back to Zmudowski Beach. We decided since it had been such a short hike, that we would drive to Moss Landing and do the little section of beach between Moss Landing Beach and MBARI. I wasn’t sure how far that was, but I wanted to know that I had walked every foot of coastline possible.

As we headed back we saw a Sea Lion up on the beach. He hadn’t been there before. We hoped he was just relaxing in the sun and wasn’t wounded or sick. I got pretty close to him for this shot. He ignored me. I stepped on a jellyfish and thought he might have stung me. As I walked in the surf my foot felt better. It think it was a psychological sting.

Jo kept looking for the entrance to Zmudowski beach. In the distance she could see a fisherman standing next to a driftwood structure. There was the entrance to the beach. We knew or doubted that we could have missed this driftwood structure made of about 8 poles stuck in the sand. I asked the fisherman whether it had been built that day. He didn’t understand me.

We decided someone must have built it in the last three hours. We had been looking for landmarks and this would have been hard to miss!! Even we couldn’t have been that oblivious we told ourselves. It was amazing that someone could put it together so quickly, though. It must have been beach elves.

We hopped in the car to head to Moss Landing. There were two rangers parked at the entrance. I stopped and asked how to pronounce the name of the beach. I had been saying “zoom-mud-kow-ski” but the actual pronunciation is “muh-dow-ski.” The first ‘z’ is silent and I had been throwing an extra “k’ in there. Who knew? Now you do.

Jo and I marveled at how the fields had been cleared. A month ago there had been lettuce and artichokes growing here. Now it was just dirt. Not a plant in sight.

We parked at Moss Landing beach. It was a very short walk to the jetty. We walked in front of MBARI. Teresa, another one of our hikers, works as an Expedition Coordinator there. What a great place to work. I would be walking that beach every lunch hour if I worked there. Of course, it was a beautiful day and Moss Landing is known for being overcast and windy, usually.

The jetty on this side had a cement path, so we walked to the end of it. Walking back we noticed a soft green algae that looked like moss. We hypothesized that this is why it is called Moss Landing.

For our post hike celebratory drink we went to the biker dive bar next to the Whole Enchilada. It’s easy to miss this bar if you don’t know it’s there. When you walk in, the ceilings and walls are covered with $1 bill with messages written on them. They hang from the ceiling like stalactites or overgrown plants. We figured there was over a 1,000 of them hanging.

The bar was full so we sat at a table. There is a small dance floor with a pole. I decided I had to try out the pole and began swinging around and playing on it. When I was finished the table of men next to us started swinging on it. Two of them did a maneuver where you hold the pole, then lift your legs until they are perpendicular at a 90 degree angle.

I asked them to show me how to do it, but it is really difficult. I had a little help getting into this position for the photo. I’ve decided I’m going to work on my pole moves before the next hike. Jan and Jo both took a few spins on the pole and we headed for Watsonville.

We had a nice visit with Paula – who is looking great and recovering quickly. We gave her a variety of rocks and shells that we had found on tour hike. Mine was a little rock shaped like a brain, because the desired sand dollar never materialized. Then we headed for home.

As I drove back along Highway One and looked towards the ocean, I said – “We’ve walked the beach all along here.” Now, I can picture the coastline as I drive. It’s been a fun little adventure to explore the coast in our back yard.

Lessons Learned: Watch where you’re stepping and beware of skittish horses. The beach will always give you something interesting if you look for it. I need to work on my pole dancing moves.