Backyard Adventure
Jenna Kuklinski

Since I’ve arrived in southern California, I’ve been wanting to visit their tidal pools. Memories from childhood motivate me to go- remembering those days traipsing around on the rocks bluffs of coastal Maine, discovering hidden treasures and strange creatures under every nook and carefully observed cranny.

There are so many tidal pools along the southern coast of California. A quick google search unearths a myriad of quick Top Ten hits, while some further investigation yields interactive maps where you can pinpoint exact areas and places where you might be heading and find out if there’s a tide pool near you. The two resources that yielded the best results for me were an article on OC Mom Blog and the interactive maps of California’s tide pools.

I roped my boyfriend Dave into the day trip to explore our new oceanic backyard, and set my GPS maps to bring us to Laguna Beach. This is a town famous for its television counterpart, and for having amazing beaches. The show- I can’t speak to, but I can say for its beaches- they are truly amazing.

And so uncrowded! This adventure was set on a Saturday, and the day’s low tide was predicted at 12:30 in the afternoon. I was afraid that this mid-day low tide would mean that everyone and their mom would be out, tottering across the uneven shore and gawking at sea-water, but that turned out to be not the case at all. As we came up to the first beach stop of the day, Crescent Cove, we were happily stunned at the lack of crowds and the easy-going atmosphere of the beach-goers.

Almost immediately after locating the tidal pools, we became captivated by small, scuttling crabs. They dashed off the rocks into the safety of the small pools of water as we approached onto the rock-ledges and were brilliant colors of neon green, and subdued hues of rose and sand. We froze in our steps and squatted down to start investigating the narrow tidal pool we’d come across. Dave and I watched with rapt attention as one tiny crab snacked on a sprig of seaweed and spied another giant one scuttling over the dry rock. We were set to stand up and move onto the next one, but just as we were getting ready to go, something caught our eye. Was that… two crabs? On top of each other? Maybe they were mating or fighting, or? No!

We realized with a shock of excitement that we were watching a crab shed its shell (also known as molting) in front of our very eyes. Emerging out of what looked like the first crab appeared to be a second, much darker, greener and more vibrant counterpart. It slowly slid its way backwards, shedding the old skin and then, suddenly, was free of its old shell. The crab sat, idly stretching its legs next to its old casing. Dave and I stared at each other in wonder, did we really just see that? How cool!

Photo by Jenna Kuklinski

The next interesting sight came up soon enough. After wandering around and looking at fat sea anemones clustered in the corners of the jagged rock and spying a great cluster of purple sea urchins, we turned towards a group of people excitedly crowded around a very small pool of water on top of the rock.

A woman volunteering in the area called out the name of what we were looking at- a Bat Star, also known as a Sea Bat. I’d never heard of anything like that before, but when I got up close I recognized that I’d definitely see it one or more times over the course of my binge-ful watching of Planet Earth and Blue Planet (shout out to David Attenborough). Its wide, flat, wing-like arms made it look like a star fish that could easily catch flight if an underwater breeze blew by. The thing was mesmerizing, and I spent the better part of the next ten minutes just staring at it under the water. Slowly, ever so slowly, it crept into the shaded refuge of a tiny cluster of seaweed in its personal pool. Like a hiker seeking shade from the mid-day sun, the Sea Bat was looking for a cool place to pass time while it waited out the low tide.

We saw fishes, massive clusters of Bull Kelp, natural underwater rock archways, and more mussels and barnacles than any sane person would ever try to count. There were sea birds, more sea urchins and miniature formations of coral clinging to the rocks. We wandered for the better part of three hours, winding our ways between ocean swells and craggy expanses of rock hugging the steep shoreline of Laguna Beach.

By 1pm we were hungry, hot and more than satisfied. With a fat red sea star being another highlight sighting of the morning, we were exhilarated with our first outing to the tidal pools of southern California. Walking back to the cars, Dave was compelled to ditch his shirt, shoes and hat, and dive headlong into the waves. I watched him from the shore, taking a video of him wandering in and thinking about how amazing the world we live in is. It’s gorgeous, it’s here for us, and we’re here for it. I cannot wait until I get out to these waters again- and perhaps I’ll come prepared with a snorkel and diving mask (I saw so many snorkelers exploring the underwater shores!) Until then, I’ll be searching further into forums and personal accounts of where to find some of the best ocean sights in California, hopefully adding more of my own accounts soon.

Photo by Jenna Kuklinski

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