Loggerhead shrikes and stellars jays woke us with their shrieks. Thank you, birds. Yesterday morning we watched the sunrise from the comfort of our tent and then regretted the missed photos all day. Today, we rise.
Blurry-eyed and half-dressed we stumble through the canyon and up to a ridge that overlooks the ocean. Pairs of California quails scurry out of our paths, throwing us annoyed glances. Deer watch us from their own elevated perches. Ravens have congregated and are holding conference on a flat piece of rock. I always forget that I love mornings. I usually love sleeping more.
From the ridge we can see the cloud-shrouded island of Santa Cruz, another Channel Island. Within minutes, its curtains unfold, the sun emerges, and then itís over. Good morning!
The afternoon holds even more delights. An eight mile hike takes us to the eastern end of the island and a rocky shoreline filled with hundreds of little pools.
Tide pools! Is there anything I like more than a sandy beach? Yes! A rocky beach filled with tide pools. Just stand still and look down. Peer into any water-filled nook or cranny. Even my less than 20/20 eyes can see hermit crabs, snails, sea anemones, little fish and sometimes, if I am really lucky, a starfish.
I first discovered these microcosms at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. I had no idea the creatures that filled so many aquariumsí ďtouch meĒ tanks could be found so readily outside. This was a whole new world to me.
At Cabrillo, I had to watch my step. Not so much because of the thousands of nickel-sized hermit crabs but because of the dozens of other humans sharing the same slippery rock surfaces, peering into the waters and (gasp) sometimes sticking their hands in. Today, Michael and I share the rocks with sunbathing seals and oystercatchers or, as we like to call them, demon birds.
The seals are a distance away and occupied with games in the surf. The red glowing eyes, bright red beak and red legs of the black demon birds are all focused on one task. Catching, picking apart and eating oysters. Michael is in search of the biggest crab. My eyes are fixed on the splendid orange starfish clinging to the underside of a rock that is getting pummeled by the incoming waves.
Being near the ocean is a joy in itself. But searching for creatures and colors in the pools gives me a reason to lengthen our visit to the beach. A purpose in my step as I scramble from rock to rock. Whatís in here? Whatís over here? Exploring tide pools is better than beachcombing; (here Iíll whisper so Michael wonít hear me) even better than birding.
Concentrated, slow moving, brightly colored, beautiful and unique. These are adjectives that someone with bad eyesight and an old pair of glasses can really appreciate. Tide pools were made for me.
As I squat and squint into yet another pool, I wonder if Iíll see any abalone. Thatís what the girl in Island of the Blue Dolphins used to eat. In fact, the entire time we have been on the island I have been thinking about her. I canít remember her name but I remember how she was left behind as her village moved away, how she overcame her fear and loneliness and learned to love the island. Today, I love this island.
Santa Barbara, another Channel Island, is the setting for Scott OíDellís childrenís book. But thatís close enough. This is only our third day on Santa Rosa. Three long days filled with walks, talks, observations. It seems there is a choice here. You can go crazy with the solitude and sounds from the wind, water and wild. Or you can accept them. Embrace them. Enjoy them. Like the girl in the Island of the Blue Dolphins did. Like I am learning to do.