A Walk Along the Shore

Walk the shore enough and you’ll grow to think you know it. I’m prone to that. It’s only natural, but I believe it’s good advice to walk once in a while with someone new. See the shore through their eyes and you’ll see a different shore. Whenever I’m lucky enough to stroll a beach or scramble over intertidal rocks with another naturalist, especially one I don’t know well, I notice we see the shore in different ways. Worldview exerts an influence on all aspects of our lives. Why would our nature walks be different?

Shared beach walks expand my joy far beyond the shore. I’m guessing it’s the same with you. Let’s take a walk along the shore. I’ve assembled a selection of images from July 4th’s morning low tide. They start with my arrival at the beach two hours before low tide and end with a starfish meetup just before I departed, about an hour after the turn of the tide. Come along on an abridged three-hour stroll.

That moment when first I see the shore. Willows, clouds, and drift logs frame the scene like a looking glass. Let’s step through.

What discoveries await?

Time and the tides. They wait for no one, but with over an hour ’til low tide there’s time enough to perch on a mussel bed and take in the view.

A mostly seascape
A good place to let off-beach anxieties settle

Ripples in a reflecting pool. Wind and surge usually team up to perturb the surface of tide pools enough that they don’t reflect. Here, the wind is still. Peaceful. The hint of rippling you see on the left edge results from surge pouring through a scant connection to the sea. The tide will turn before this pool becomes isolated.

A sand-filled pool with a large barnacle -covered rock in the middle. Rock and headlands in the distance reflected in the pool.
Iconic headland in the distance

Beaches are for beachcombing. Drifted discoveries break up the otherwise featureless strand. Distant outlines on the beach inspire curiosity and a sense of discovery. The drift is always a mix of human-made and natural finds, and every item has a story.

An explosion of diversity. The austere beauty of beaches is compelling and they are a beachcomber’s dream, but when you pass a rock jutting up out of the sand you’re passing a wholly different ecosystem. On rocks exposed by the lowest tides you’ll experience an explosion of diversity.

Expect this view only at the lowest of tides

Catching up with rocky intertidal connections. Even the lowest tides turn and it wouldn’t be right to leave the beach without exploring life on its rarely exposed rocky reaches.

Shifting sands. Do you know that over the seasons sand levels will rise and fall several feet? Sand falls with the erosive forces of winter’s surf, storms, and currents, and builds during gentler seasons.

Three months ago the beach in the foreground was a low intertidal boulder field

Are the starfish are coming back? In 2013 starfish, like Pisaster ochraceus, experienced trouble with wasting syndrome. They took a beating, almost disappearing in places, including the beach featured here. Signs of the disease are still present, but it is much reduced.

A bunch of friends who wish to tell you they’re back

Coda. Grateful for a good low tide, it’s turned and it’s rolling in, picking up steam. It’s time to leave this place to its rightful surf and surge.

Your Choice