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Caspar 3 September 2020

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Ready for the High Sierra?

As ever, the days before a trip become the yardstick by which our next adventure is measured. If we live in the best place in the world (and we think we do) why would we travel?

This question is particularly notable in this time of Sheltering in Place while the spectre of SARS-CoV-2 peers over everyone's shoulder. As Damiana points out, we have been trapped inside for six months, and cabin fever is setting is. Although we will travel through the second most contagious county in California, Butte, where Chad and his family live, we are staying for most of this trip in the four counties at the lowest end of California's broad spectrum of contagion, Sierra, Plumas, Mono, and Alpine: east side of the great Sierra Nevada range.

<p>Tidal bench: Point Cabrillo</p>

Tidal bench: Point Cabrillo

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Here on this edge of the continent, the forces of subduction keep shoving the seabed up, creating terraces. The latest terrace is always a tidal bench, wave-washed during the big seas of Winter, but in Summer, and especially after a calm winter like the last one, there are still places in August where water continues to trickle, creating glorious wet walls festooned with wildflowers and mosses. 

Below, on the tidal bench, there are splash ponds that fill with fresh water and grow a rich green environment.

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<p>Sea Anemones in a healthy tidepool</p>

Sea Anemones in a healthy tidepool

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In keeping with global climate change and the anthropogenic echoes of heedless abuses, our intertidal and near-shore environment still reels from the extinction of the Sea Otters who used to keep the Sea Urchin population in check. At right you see the entrenched enemy: generations of spiny Purple Sea Urchins have dug craters in “urchin deserts” where Anemones and Kelp alike struggle to survive. Not even the Japanese hunger for Urchin Roe and a concerted effort by local environmentalists seems to be able to reverse a change that's aggravated by rising sea temperatures.

<p>Urchin Desert in the inter-tidal zone</p>

Urchin Desert in the inter-tidal zone

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<p>Sea Lion convention off South Caspar Point</p>

Sea Lion convention off South Caspar Point

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We may be eating better, during the plague, than ever before. Here's a Lemon Meringue Pie Rochelle made for no particular event ... and a loaf of sourdough bread Michael baked.

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Caspar's habitations are scattered over the first three terraces above the intertidal bench, starting with the bluff nose we walk along. Settlement is thin enough, and parklands sufficient, to support a broad range of life forms besides humans – probably the reason that most of us choose to live in Caspar. Here we see a Great Blue Heron eating one of our garden scourges, some form of burrowing rodent. Our pond receives a visitation from a member of this worthy species a couple of times a day, in search of frogs.

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Son of an entomologist, Michael is always delighted to see a Mendocino Blue butterfly, a small, quick, nervous Lepidopteran with a range limited to a short stretch of our Mendocino Coast. Our favorite almost-daily overlook of Caspar Beach has a small stable population of these little gemlike beauties, as well as an apparent grey cognate, possibly an emergent sub-species. Living on the same patch for half a century gives us a special appreciation for the subtle changes brought by time.

The “Blue” is about the size of a dime; this one posed patiently, uncharacteristically open. I especially enjoy her antennae, striped like an Italian church tower.

We have also been observing a territorial wasp (no picture yet) whose territory seems to be comprised by trails, and escorts them to the boundary, then buzzes aside for us to walk by. We suspect this wasp has been here all along, but it is just now that we have noticed her.

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Our daily walks have taken us, recently, to new, yet close-by, stretches of our generous local parkland. Here, just north of our northern walk-to beach, Jughandle, a long stretch of headland, once dairyland, was deeded by its owners to State Parks. Just south of a beach we have long visited, thinking it the next beach north of Jughandle, we discovered a “Secret Beach” well-trod by, we assume, the residents of Jefferson Way, but unknown to us.

Amother day, our walk took us down the logging road to the east, into the deeply indented canyon of Caspar Creek.


We live amongst wonders!

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