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Dinosaur Caves from the sea


 Dinosaur Caves is a small little section of beach-cliff in the Shell Beach/Pismo Beach area of the Central Coast of California.

   If you’ve ever been to Lagos Portugal… you’ll recognize similar features… but Portugal has warmer and clearer water.

   The rock strata and the waves have created an ever-changing landscape of eroded cliffs and caves and holes underneath them.
Caves and arches can be seen aplenty.. but since it is so difficult and precarious to navigate on the rocks, one does not see the full beauty of the cliffs from above them, looking down.
   We rented some kayaks from Central Coat Kayaks in Shell Beach.  They have a full range of various types and sizes of kayaks and paddleboards.  They like to get people started early in the mornings to avoid the wind.  We tend to get very windy in the afternoons.

   The caves are interesting, beautiful. It seems like you’re in another world… one of National Geographic explorers, and strange exotic animals….. it’s really pretty cool to just drift like a piece of wood, right up near nesting colonies of birds, seeing seals and sea otters.
   You have to be careful not to get so close that you disturb them… but they seem to be used to people drifting about in quiet boats….

   The rocky cliff-side is pockmarked with caves of various sizes and depths.  As you go along, you can envision how the coastline has changed through the millenia… some areas were obviously caves, but are now just narrow arches… soon to fall into the sea leaving only the posts on either side. 


   The Big Cave is really something to see. From shore you can see only the small hole that comes through to the land-side…
We all went through the cave…. you have to time it with the ocean swell so that the wave will pick your boat up and carry you over the rocks…. then you have to stop yourself and turn when the wave carries you through… because it crashes against the cliff on the other side…. it’s totally awesome and rad Dude!
   One of the fellows even worked back against the tide through the big cave.. seemed like quite  a feat to me..

   We paddled into one of the caves that has two holes… most of the waves go into one hole, and with a great rushing and swirling turbulence, it rushes out the other hole…. it was really easy to get into the cave…. but getting out was a bit of a challenge…. I pushed the other fellow out, helping to guide his boat through the crashing surf…. helping to guide it in the narrow channel filled with rushing waters going every direction, and trying to carry the boat sideways to hang bow and stern on the rocks…. we got him started, and like a sluice… once he got to a certain spot, he was able to just zip right on through…. then I was next… alone.. it took three tries.. but third time’s the charm… like a dream the boat found its own way through the channel, and it looked like I knew what I was doing!

  Kayaks are surprisingly easy to learn…. they are a pretty safe way to boat… much more stable than you’d imagine due to the low profile…. VERY shallow draft…. and Central Coat Kayaks will even give you lessons at their clinics and one-on-one lessons.

  Get out there and have some fun.. and good clean water-sports are one of the best ways to experience life and maintain fitness.

Patience My Ass, I'm gonna kill something!

   We have Turkey Vultures in this area. They are pretty amazing animals….. they can eat dead animals felled by disease, and their systems can clean the disease out…. they are called the ‘trashmen of the wilderness’… they are a necessary component to our local eco-system.

   They are also terribly pest-ridden creatures…. infested with little crawlies… and stinking really bad… really, really, really bad.

  But I like them a lot…. they taste a bit like a cross between a Peregrine Falcon and a Spotted Owl! (Joke).

   They are an amazing little creature to watch… they will sit high on a treetop or cliff waiting for the sun to cause the thermal updrafts that they ride so effortlessly…. a simple jump into the breeze… a short downhill glide to build air-current causing lift (the curves of the wings causes a vacuum that actually lifts the animal up), and the animal can turn into the updrafts… letting the upwelling column of air lift the bird up gradually… they must spin in circles inside this column of air….. each circle will bring them a bit higher than they were before…. all of this is done with just small ‘tweaks’ to the feathers… the birds can control some of the flight feathers giving small adjustments to balance and steering.

   Amazing creatures really….

   Incidentally… they have to take several running steps to build momentum for lift if starting off on the level ground. A Turkey vulture in a five foot pen cannot fly out due to this take-off restriction. I’d say  a Turkey Vulture takes thirty feet horizontal-run to get six feet off the ground.

Turkey Vulture on a tree

Turkey Vulture on a tree

    I saw this Vulture in a  tree over the creek…..

Turkey Vultures on a tree

Turkey Vultures on a tree

   Moments later a cousin (they nest in family groups) came to mess with him…..
They squawked for a few moments, then left off together to do some Vulture stuff I’d not understand.

Sea Lions in Avila

Young sea lion in Avila California


    Avila California has a few really nice piers.
    The Sea Lions have taken to sleeping along some of the lower access walkways.
    It’s illegal to try to get them to move.. as this may be construed as harassing them….
   They are also wild beasts… so if you try to get past them.. they might get scared and bite….
   In fact… these critters are like dogs with flippers and no ears.   They are beautiful creatures when in the water…. they transform from the ungainly creatures we see on land.. to swirling and twirling flying dancers in the deep kelp…..

beautiful and astounding.


Mary McLaughlin

Over the waves you call to me
Shadow of dream, ancient mystery
Oh how I long for your sweet caress
Oh how I long for your gentleness

Torn between sea mists and solid land
Nights when I’ve ached for a human hand
I’ll come to you when the moon shines bright
But I must go free with the first streak of light

Over the waves you call to me
Shadow of dream ancient mystery
Oh how I long for your sweet caress
Oh how I long for your gentleness


Shell Beach Cliffs

Shell Beach cliffs... notice the caves and the nesting birds

Shell Beach cliffs…


Shell Beach cliffs... notice the caves and the nesting birds


Shell Beach cliffs... looking north


Shell Beach cliffs... looking toward Pismo Beach


Shell Beach cliffs... looking toward Pismo Beach


Shell Beach sea lions basking on rocks


    The Shell Beach area is very nice. There is good shopping locally, some interesting historical attractions within 50 miles, and the weather is usually fairly cool in the summer… this makes it a comfortable place to spend part of a summer vacation when other places are blazing with heat.

   The beaches here are all on narrow strips of sand at the base of cliffs. The cliffs here tend to be some 40 feet tall.   Many of them have resorts on top… this is a very heavy resort town.  This makes it a very interesting place to visit as there are people from all across the world visiting the area.

a deer fawn

   We leave water out for the local wildlife… even though the deer love many of our cactus plants… I like having them around. Our best cactus is behind a seven foot tall fence….

   The local does (a female deer) have their babies here… it is a safer place than further from the house. Local predators do not come to our house that much because it riles the dogs…. the dogs bark like crazy at the deer, but don’t worry them too much. The dogs are preferable to coyotes….

   Our dogs are chihuahuas… so mostly all they do is make a ruckus. They get scared by anything larger than them… so they fright up when they see a rabbit.  But they do keep predators away…. believe me, foxes, coyotes and lions don’t worry about a chihuahua… but they know there is usually a human nearby… so this is a relatively safe place for deer. Sometimes we get to see the babies nursing…. so sweet.


   Here’s a photo of the little fawn near our house. I took this photo from our open front door.


a deer fawn

a deer fawn

Auto Draft

A salamander in the dry oak woodlands

We came upon a salamander in the woods.
We took a picture, and set him back into the forest duff.
This was underneath some massive giant Coastal Oak trees.
It’s amazing that these little guys can survive in such a dry climate.

Critters in my mug

   We have a few cats that live outside year-round.   They sleep under the porch and in some of the sheds and trees we have on the property. They serve the vital function of helping keep the numbers of rodents down. some of our neighbors are overrun by packrats and mice…. we don’t have any such trouble… generally…

   That’s because outdoors cats eat rodents outdoors.

   We’ve also got two kittens we bottle-fed as their mother had been killed. They barely had their eyes open when we found them…. the rest of the litter had died, and these two were cold to the touch, unresponsive and immobile…. but we warmed them up, and got them hydrated again using an eyedropper and kitten milk replacer….Chica the chihuahua served as a surrogate mother to them.. and they still run to her to say hello. They have some dog social habits…  we raised them as indoor kitties but let them in and out the doggie door as they pleased, and when we walk the property… we often have the two dogs and the two kittens all accompanying us. It is cute seeing the kittens playing in the field with the chihuahuas.

   All was fine until they started to hunt…. and I don’t want to discourage them from this activity as their predatory instincts… while deleterious to the local small animal population does reduce the numbers of gophers eating our cactus, mice getting into sheds (and house), and rabbits causing HUGE damage to our terraces with their large tunnels.

   But we have to draw the line at them bringing rodents into the house to play with and eat. For months we’ve found bloody evidence of their nocturnal forays…. we’re happy and proud that they are great hunters… but please, don’t bring rats into the house!  They tend to bring them in alive and play with them before killing and eating them…. and some of their prey have escaped… and I’ve had to catch them….. usually I can be found with a drinking mug in hand… when a cat brings a rabbit, rat or mouse into the house and drops it near our feet… I quickly spring into action… I down the last of my liquids quickly, and set the mug over the erstwhile prey… and take it outside to be released….

   We’ve now taken to closing the doggie door at night, the cats can go out, but they can’t come back in…. so for a couple of weeks, we’ve been able to keep the carpet clean(er) than before. And I don’t have to gulp liquids down so I can use my drinking vessel as an emergency capture device.

   Here’s the last two critters the kittens brought into the house… one is a large shrew.. the other is a small cottontail bunny such as are so common here, and a major food source for local predators.
   I took both critters outside and released them.  It’s a strange thing to release critters when I’m wanting the cats to eat them anyway… but I can’t bear to give a little critter back to a cat, that seems a bit unfair even if I took it from the cat in the first place… and I don’t want to kill them myself….


 A joke:     Why don’t bunnies make any noise when they mate?
Answer:   They have cottonballs!


bunny in mug

bunny in mug



Winter toad

  Winter-time toad

   We’re dry and hot in the summer….
   We have a lot of toads that come out in the wetness of winter…
   This was one of them…..
   We don’t see too many toads in the summertime.

Gopher Snake

Gopher Snake

  We call them Gopher Snakes here…
Some places call them ‘Bull Snakes’, or ‘Corn Snakes’
Taxonomists call them “Pituophis’

Some of the old folks call them ‘Hoop Snakes’…
and say that when frightened in this hilly country,
they will grasp their tail in their mouth,
form themselves into a hoop, and roll down the hill to evade capture.
I’ve never seen it happen….
But my cousin met a guy once who did.

They imitate rattlesnakes….
very interesting.
I’ve jumped out of my skin a few times when one of these guys turned up in the brush.
They’ll form into a coiled striking pattern…feigning strikes,
wriggling their tail and hissing in a strange way that sounds vaguely like a rattlesnake tail-rattle.

This one was sunning on the asphalt roadway.

I like these snakes… they eat vermin…
maybe having them around might reduce the rattlesnakes
as there’d be less food for the rattlers.
The King snake is good also..
and they are known for killing and eating young rattlesnakes….
although I imagine they’d eat gopher snakes also.

There’s usually no need for killing snakes….
beneficial snakes such as this should be left alone to live their lives.






Amazing and awesome whale story

   I’ve seen some sights in my time… and animals and people both continually amaze me…. I don’t get out much anymore… but reading a story such as this makes me want to go to sea again!


The Whale

   A female humpback whale had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines.
    She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat.
    She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging
in her mouth.
    A fisherman spotted her just east of the Faralon Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed for help
    Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to
save her was to dive in and untangle her — a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill
a rescuer.

    They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. 
    When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles.  She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, nudged them, and pushed gently, thanking them.
Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.

    The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.. 

May you, and all those you love, be so fortunate…
To be surrounded by people who will help you get
untangled from the things that are binding you.
And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude. 
We pass this on to you, our friend, in the same spirit.

Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly,
Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably…
Never regret anything that made you smile.


    The posting above was sent to me by a WWII Marine who was in the Guadalcanal invasion along with other island campaigns in WWII. He often sends me truly inspirational e-mails… and I am happy to receive them.

    I have been watching the HBO mini-series ‘The Pacific’ chronicling the exploits of the First Marine Division…. it makes me even more thankful for the sacrifices he and other military have given in defense of our lives and freedoms…. thank you to ALL veterans out there… while we wile away the time at home,  it is the ones who fight for us that we should be thinking of, and appreciating when they come home….. carrying their shield or on it.  God Bless you all… thank you so much for your sacrifices.