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Thursday 5 January 2017

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Happy new year everyone! I hope that 2017 is off to a good start for you. We've had a quiet start to the new year with grey days spent at home, but I'm hoping that this year will be a year of amazing adventures for our family. It's also going to be the year of catching up (and staying caught up!) with my blog as my travel posts have been a little neglected as of late. So expect to see lots of travel posts in the coming months as I catch up - and hopefully from new adventures too!

Speaking of new adventures, today I'm sharing our last adventure of 2016; our day trip to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve just south of San Francisco.

Last weekend we decided we needed one last adventure before the year was done, so we hopped in a Zipcar and headed south of San Francisco to spend the day at a beach. It was a pretty last minute trip and at first we weren't sure where we would go. I liked the idea of hiking among the redwoods, or maybe up one of San Francisco's many hills, but as it was (almost) Kim's birthday I left it up to him to decide, and he chose the beach. As it happened, a friend had shown me pictures of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve just a few days before, and I knew straight away that it would be the perfect beach for our day out. When it's too cold to swim, what could be better than exploring rocky tide pools along the shore?

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is located near Moss Beach, about forty minutes south of San Francisco. The drive itself is quite scenic with many spots along the way to stop and take in the views, but the kids were keen to get to the beach so we didn't stop. The views from the car were pretty stunning though.

When we arrived at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve we parked in the small parking lot, grabbed an information brochure from the visitor center, then made our way down to the beach.  

Access to the beach requires stepping over (or walking through) a small stream. Ava and Lola walked through the stream in their rain boots. Mathilde was keen to join them but her rain boots are quite a bit shorter and would have filled with water instantly. I knew she would be pretty wet by the end of our beach visit but I didn't want her to be drenched right at the start, so Kim swung her over the stream, which looked like way more fun than getting wet feet!

Down on the beach we headed across the sand and straight to the tide pools. We got there about 2:30pm and low tide was around 5pm, so the tide pools were pretty exposed. Right away the girls started exploring and were amazed at what they found.

The first creature we spotted was a hermit crab. It was quite a decent size, so the girls could easily watch it without getting too close. It was dragging around a smaller shell that appeared to have something in it. Hermit crab dinner is my guess!

We continued exploring and soon found lots of sea anemones. I couldn't believe how colorful they were and just how many of them we found. The sea anemones swayed gently with the seaweed as little fish darted around and hermit crabs scuttled across the rocks. The tide pools were so beautifully peaceful. I could've stayed there observing them for hours.

We were hoping to spot a few starfish, but we weren't in luck. The sea anemones were so beautiful though that I didn't mind. The girls were excited to see the creatures in the tide pools, but really, they would've been happy there just to play on the rocks!

After a while, the girls decided that they wanted to build sand castles, climb on the big rocks by the entrance, and wade in the water. While they went with Kim to play, I explored a little more. A little further down the beach there were seals laying on the rocks. I was keen to see the seals a little closer but didn't want to go past the traffic cones marking the edge of the seal resting and pupping area, so I switched to my zoom lens for a few shots. Admittedly, the seals are still a little hard to make out as they blend in with the rocks, but you can see them in the bottom photo just before where the waves are crashing.

I headed back to Kim and the girls to check out what they were up to. Lola was playing on the large concrete rocks, Mathilde was digging in the sand (with some major plumber's crack happening thanks to her loose jeans waist!), and Ava was keen to take me wading in the water. Before I waded with Ava I wanted to get a shot of the girls all together on the rocks. There were lots of silly faces, but all three of them were in the photo so I was happy with that! Oh, and I even managed to get in a photo myself. Look! It's a rare occurrence, but there I am!

Now I had to live up to my promise and go wade with Ava. The only problem was that her rain boots were much longer than mine! While I hung back a little closer to shore Ava waded further out, with Lola joining her after a while. They both ended up with boots full of water. Good thing I packed spare shoes and clothes for everyone!

The girls and I did a little more exploring on this side of the beach and found all sorts of interesting things including a stunning abalone shell. When I first saw it, it was laying with the shiny side down. The girls thought it was pretty boring when I pointed it out to them, but they were amazed when I turned it over. The colors were absolutely stunning in the sunlight. A tangle of kelp jammed in the rocks caught their attention too and they spent some time playing tug of war with it. They didn't win!

By now it was starting to get late in the day. The sun was setting, the fog was rolling in, and it was getting rather cold - especially seeing as the girls were in wet boots, socks and jeans - so we started making our way back up to the parking lot. Below you can see the little creek that we had to cross, and how Kim swung Mathilde across it. Her jeans were falling down terribly while she was being swung across the creek and it was quite hilarious. I took plenty of funny photos, but I figured it was best not to share them all here, so here's one of the safe ones instead!

Back above the beach we watched the last of the sunset and the girls detoured along a little path as we made our way to the car.

Mathilde stopped to "read" the sign warning visitors not to approach the seals, and then we changed into dry clothes. We had pretty good timing getting back to the car as the park ranger closed up the visitor center and the public restrooms just after we finished changing in them. If you visit Fitzgerald Marine Reserve keep in mind that the restrooms are closed just after 5pm.

A day out at the beach was just what we needed after a week of being housebound with sick family members. It was so nice to be out in the fresh sea air, even if it was a little cold. The girls had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed seeing all of the sea life in the tide pools.

If you're looking for an easy day trip from San Francisco, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve really is a great spot. There are large sandy beaches nearby at Moss Beach, and in the Fall this whole area is great for whale watching from the beach. The best part is that it's so close to the city even though it feels a world away!

For information about visiting Fitzgerald Marine Reserve including the all important tide times, click here.

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