California is a land of contradiction. Los Angeles sprawls 50 miles south of where I live, and yet there are wetlands nearby that serve as rest stops for migratory birds. Locally, Ormond Beach, which is between the Seabee base in Port Hueneme, and the Navy base at Point Mugu. Currently, areas of the beach are closed off for nesting birds whose only nest is a shallow indentation in the sand, with eggs speckled to match.
Today, I met up with a number of people for a hike sponsored by the local Nature Conservancy, whose essential philosophy is to preserve wild places by buying land, and keeping people out. They have bought up and have had land donated for the Ormond Beach Wetlands Restoration Project. They also have other sites here in Ventura County, such as in the Santa Clara River, which is one of the last – if not the last – river in Southern California that has not been modified between its source and release into the Pacific Ocean.
Coastal fog and overcast are normal for the California coast in May and June. It can be wet and drizzly and grey, while a few miles inland sunshine reigns. This fog is essential to many California environments, and while not fun to be in at times, it is really stunning in its own right. We live inland, so the sun is usually visible, but today, it has spread to our own valley. I left a slightly sunny inland valley to arrive to a drizzly, drippy beach. My glasses and camera lens had rain drops on them (I hope the camera will be okay – seems to be), and soon my clothes and hair were wet. Our starting point was a local recycling plant, at the end of a road, and we had views of the Halaco property, which is part of Superfund clean-up efforts . . . there are power plants here, visible across fields ready to plant. It’s a rather dreary place in the gloom.
Our guides were knowledgeable about the area. While very flat, the plants and such could be a bit of a challenge to trudge through. We saw various birds, such as great blue herons, great white egrets, horned larks, terns, and snowy plovers, Flowers such as coastal lupine, beach morning-glory, dune primrose, and non-native species were also in bloom. We found animal toilets, where this animal and that pooped, leaving behind interesting scat filled with remains of pelagic crabs, feathers, and bones. Animal trails showed paw prints of coyotes, raccoons, herons, and other small birds.
In a world increasingly damaged, the beauty and delicacy of the natural environment is accordingly threatened. Places such as Ormond Beach are a refuge for not only birds and animals, but for humans as well. I enjoyed this hike, and came home like a little kid, covered in mud and muck, soaking wet, and completely refreshed by a beautiful world and fun companions.