Emerging from the inland hills, the coast greeted us with its customary Hello-- a big cold exhale of Ocean's Breath. Way back in Washington a ranger described the constant wind and moisture whipped up by the Pacific as Ocean's Breath, and it is FOR REAL. Descending round a sharp curve, it fell on us like a blanket as we finally met California's Highway 1, and as we rode the fog chilled temperatures 15 degrees cooler.
The coast is its own adventure of unknowns, some of them more preferable than others. If I put on another layer, how long before the sun comes out and makes me uncomfortably warm? Twenty minutes? Five minutes? What kind of rock formations will poke out of the water once I round this bend? Will I have a shoulder to ride on as I ascend this cliff? What color will the water be today- Grey? Cerulean? Aquamarine?
The route is serpentine and hilly. Freshwater streams flow down from the hills in gulches to meet the ocean in little inland coves. Each gulch carves out a mini-canyon that a biker must first descend on one side at breakneck speed, changes direction abruptly in a hairpin turn and then snakes up the opposite side of the cove. Though we climbed no mountains on the coast, these gulches sometimes gave us a total of 2000 feet of climbing in a days ride.
Most of the parks we camped at during our last leg of the journey showed us a side of the coast that we had only heard about, and hadn't yet discovered. In contrast to the frigid, sandy Oregon beaches or the foggy, forested Washington beaches, the California beaches offered stark cliffsides, rocky shore playgrounds, sandy dunes, hidden coves, and even a few WARM, SUNNY days.
For the first time I explored tide pools, the tenuous ocean refuges that emerge in the rocks after the sea retreats. The black, craggy rocks hold shallow islands of water, each populated by a startling array of technicolor species, like anemones, snails, crabs, kelp, and little fish. We searched for the elusive starfish but couldn't find any.
We also got up close and personal with the coast's cuddliest creature, the harbor seal.
My, my are these guys adorable. They hang out in colonies on flats of rock close to shore, and they hang HARD. I don't know what they're doing with the rest of their time, but when they're out the water the spread all their blubber out, soak up as much sun as possible and pass out. Sometimes they wake up with a start, streeeetch out their tails, flip over on their backs and get back to sleep. I even saw some baby seal pups. I just want to raise a baby seal and a baby manatee in the same bathtub, is that too much to ask??