Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aaahh, the Beach!

We sit high on our perch, binoculars and camera at the ready, coffee in hand and reading material nearby, surveying our empire - the blue Pacific as far as we can see, dotted by hundreds of wetsuit-clad surfers bobbing endlessly, catching an occasional wave, pelicans cruising low over the waves, tiny peeps running as one from the encroaching water, beach walkers and children playing in the sand, the fitness-obsessed running up and down the nearby long stairway, a huge school of dolphins in a feeding frenzy, a crab tender checking his traps - then someone calls, "whale!" and all eyes scan for the telltale spout of a passing gray whale.    The binoculars reveal the giant creature coming to the surface, and perhaps his companions.  Such are lazy hours spent at our campsite by the beach every Christmas.  It has become something of a tradition to meet my sisters and their families at San Elijo State Beach in Encinitas, California for a lovely week of getting our ocean fix.

As the morning wears on, breakfast begins calling.  Oh, the choices!  We could walk over to Pipes for a huge burrito filled with eggs, sausage, avocados, salsa and cilantro.  Or we could stroll just down the campground to Bull Taco for some oyster street tacos.  Then there is always Swami's Cafe or the Potato Shack in Encinitas, requiring a longer walk, but a necessary one to burn all those calories.  Cook?  Why would we do that?  OK, Christmas morning does call for waffles, eggs and bacon, right after the gin fizzes!  A time to diet this is not.  

The beach requires some closer inspection and exploring, feeling the saltwater on the toes, finding a new bird or a lovely shell, laughing at the antics of the marbled godwits (don't you love that name?), whimbrels, willets and the tiny sandpipers.  One bird befuddled me, and I decided it could be a wandering tattler (another marvelous name!)  A solitary and unspotted spotted sandpiper foraged every day in the same spot, only joined occasionally by a snowy egret.  An osprey scooped a fish out of the surf and then was harassed unmercifully by two gulls trying to steal the meal.  A song sparrow sits on the bluff vegetation and sings his heart out.  My favorites, though, are the elegant terns, those comical characters with the punk hairdo, often loudly berating one another, or standing like soldiers facing into the wind.

Sisters at the Beach - Carole, Susan, Connie

Walking north to Swami's Beach, a world-famous surfing spot,  I ascend the stairs and go another block to enjoy some peaceful moments in the Swami's lovely meditation garden where benches are set among the lush vegetation overlooking the ocean.  Named for the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, the gardens are free and open most every day.

If we can tear ourselves away from the beach, there are endless possibilities for interesting exploration, including the fun and funky coastal towns of Encinitas, Cardiff, Oceanside, Leucadia, Carlsbad and Solana Beach.  The San Elijo Lagoon, now with a beautiful new visitor center and miles of trails, beckons nearby.  There we see buffelheads and avocets, egrets, warblers, a night heron and a northern harrier flying low over the marsh.  A little farther afield is the Leo Carillo Historic Ranch, now a park being restored and developed by the city of Carlsbad.  Enchanting old adobe structures set amid acres of trails and lush vegetation provide an oasis in the sea of bustling city around it.

Although none of us are Christmas traditionalists, it's still fun to find a tree and decorate it with makeshift ornaments often gleaned from the beach, topped with a lobster shell and strung with a few shells and some seaweed.  Lights now adorn our camp spaces, and on Christmas morning we exchange silly gifts.  My husband cooks a turkey on the barbecue and we sit down to a more-or-less traditional dinner with a most amazing backdrop!

We have cousins living in the San Diego area so thought it would be fun to have them and families to dinner at the beach.  The weather could not have cooperated more, and it was a beautiful evening when all 14 of us sat down to dinner to toast our reunion and wish each other well for the New Year.

The sunsets, brilliant night sky and campfires provided each evening's entertainment.  For my sister, Susan, and me, who love photography, the setting of the sun, with its glorious reflection on the wet sand, outrageous colors and cool silhouettes is the best time of day.  Thanks to the photography gods for giving us digital technology!

We bid farewell to 2011 with sincere wishes to all of you for many moments of wonder and joy with friends and family in 2012!


  1. Thanks for this nice post, always with beautiful pictures!
    What a nice sunset!
    Happy New Year!

  2. A wonderful way to spend Christmas. I wish I could get my family to do that.

  3. Wonderful family gathering at the beach with lots of memories recorded in you photos! Happy 2012.

  4. What a great holiday celebration with family on the beach.

  5. lovely setting and great photos. I especially like the elegant turns. With their hairdos, they must be kindred spirits for the surfes.

  6. These are wonderful photos and I would love to go to California and see all those birds! I love the makeshift Christmas tree as well. My husband would love this place!


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