The Beach


Author: Wilson

North Coast

Many of my family members have lived on and off again in the area of Crescent City, California. My dad spent hours wandering the redwoods of Jebediah trail, writing music and pondering life’s biggest mysteries. My grandparents helped raised cousins, nieces, nephews and grandchildren, including myself, in the earliest years of my life. Today, my oldest and closest cousin has returned to this little nugget of beautiful wildlife and impoverished culture, to maximize his career in surf photography. My dad and I visited him for a few days and on our trip, my dad insisted that we stop and visit Pebble Beach.

The beach has less pebbles than the name implies. If anything, it was covered in beautiful green moss, ice plant, and driftwood. The beach isn’t quite as wide as ours in areas like Oxnard Shores, but it’s got a pretty good amount of sand left, just a short distance from a public access road. Here and there along the road are lookouts, atop medium height cliff sides overlooking the blue water and big, black rocks. There are rocky formations everywhere you look on the horizon, leaving a feeling like being a character in The Goonies. Even on what would have been a hot, sunny day in our coastal area, this beach was my ideal: cold, wet, and gray. Only a few miles away from redwoods, I can see the appeal this coastal area has had on my family.

This beach and its surrounding nature trails have a lot to offer, but unfortunately much of the community surrounding it is poor, and unemployed. There are few businesses and not much areas for profit based around the natural structures. All the attractions (woods, beaches, cliff sides) and free of recreation and infrastructure, for the most part… which poses an unfortunate conflict. Do we compromise the size and quality of these beautiful areas by introducing money-making opportunities, or do we keep the area quiet, and untouched? Time will tell.

Catalina Island Beach

Early in the fall semester, I visited Catalina island for my birthday in late September. Having been to Anacapa, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz with respective school trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect from an island with so much tourism and public recognition. I only knew of the protected beaches, isolation, and wildlife of my research experiences. I must say, what I encountered was nothing could have prepared for.

I found myself thinking about the history of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz, the one I’ve spent so much time researching in anthropology and ESRM. I thought about the markets and the daily lives of individuals who resided on the islands, building an economy in their lifestyles out there across the water. This is the modern example of such lifestyles. High end boutiques, hotels and restaurants blanket the space only walking distance from the beachfront, which is narrow, crowded, and overpopulated. Conversations of $1000 hotel rooms are overheard at every table, and I can’t help but wonder if the baristas in the coffee shops sleep in tents, small apartments, island homes, or homes on the mainland. It’s all a very interesting phenomenon and it all happens day after day.

I was only there a few hours, having taken the trip out from several hours south of here at Newport Beach. I had about enough time to gawk at the tourists, have a meal, and walk past the overpopulated beach to a rocky cliff just past a road where buses, trucks and golf courts zoom to and fro. I tried to snorkel without swim shoes, and couldn’t muster up the strength to get past the pain of the rocks under my feet.

I was ill prepared for Catalina, and found myself missing the beaches of Santa Rosa, wishing I’d learn to snorkel before my earlier visits, when I had a bit of free time to enjoy the crystal blue water. Maybe I’ll get rich one day and return to this island for a longer trip, try to find some more reclusive spots to enjoy… but for poor little 20-something Lauren, the glamour was sort of lost on me. Still, I enjoyed the blue water and blue skies, and I’m always happy on a long boat ride.

Oxnard Shores in a Wall of Fog

I grew up in Oxnard Shores, visiting the beach any time I needed to get out of the house, any time there was an interesting weather condition, any time I went for a run, and all too often, when I needed a place at night to hang out with my friends and not disturb our sleeping families. Living in Camarillo now, it seems like my beach is a long journey away, and it is, especially at 5pm on a weekday. No matter how I approach it, I have to sit through traffic, following the sun, each moment dragging by as I reach closer and closer to my  destination at what feels like the edge of the world.

The day I visited the beach, I wasn’t just following the setting sun, but was following a wall of mystery and intrigue as the marine layer wrapped around the edges of the coast. The sight of it really emphasizes the curving shape of the coast, as you peer from left to right and see it, crushing forward on the earth like a wave itself. By the time I reached the beach, parking on the curved corner of W. 5th street, and marched up the sand toward the water, I could look up and see the waves of grey pouring past the sun at a recognizably high speed, gobbling us up only an hour or two before sunset.

The beach was rocky and the collectors were out, but not in abundance. I followed the shore away from the small clusters of couples, fishermen, families and dog walkers, toward the power plant, filling my bag with colorful rocks and eerily clear quarts, a trick of the eye impacted from the change in light above. In some places, where I walked, I stopped, confronted by a new sensation under my feet. It felt as if I were walking across metal plates, shifting and almost bouncing with every step. I paced back and forth a few times, bewildered, picturing some kind of strange bouncing metal platform beneath my feet, and eventually scooped back a few layers with my toes. The sensation was a result of layers and layers of rocks and pebbles, buried beneath a thin sheet of sand just covering it up enough to hide it all completely. I couldn’t recall a time I’d felt that on the beach before.

The eternal feeling of the journey toward Oxnard Shores is an appropriate foreshadowing for the long stretches of endless shoreline, unique to this landscape. Once beyond the long line of rocks separating the recreational beach area from the dunes, any way I turned, I saw no one, no streets, no buildings, and could only barely make out the lights of the power plant in the distance. I was alone on the beach, and walked for nearly two hours, only passing one or two other people on the way. This is an experience very few surrounding areas, if any, can provide.

The Shores beach changes throughout the year, but there is enough sand for much of the landscape to be pretty consistent. It’s almost as if the beach is cut up into strips: the entrance, elevating slightly with thick sand, littered with rocks and twigs and the occasional pair of flip flops; a flat sort of plain as you approach the beach, where trash, kelp, and larger driftwood settles; descending down toward the water can be smooth or rocky, and vary in size throughout the year; and finally the shore waters, where the birds dance, dogs play, and you take your first steps into the waters themselves.

I sometimes feel I have this beach memorized, but I also know that any time I go, it’s going to be different in some way. It’s always an adventure.

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