It’s warm on the beach as the sun sets on Shi Shi, the last rays of light reflecting off the vast Pacific and providing some lasting semblance of the day’s warmth.
The ocean spray creates a light mist, obscuring the far reaches of the beach, but from where we are, it is cool, refreshing after a long day’s hike. I haven’t seen anything like this is a long time, if ever.
The tide has lowered, revealing a small archipelago once hidden by the pounding surf, a short walk away.
On the other end of the beach, the same.
I didn’t come here just for the beach, but already my companion and I have a campfire going.
We eat dinner – corn on the cob, beef jerky, a bag of chili lime Doritos. I’m in heaven.
And darkness falls, not in a bad way. It’s only that cameras, at least my iPhone camera, don’t really work in low light without special lenses or attachments, and I don’t have one.
Down near the shore, there are sand fleas, all manner of insects and arthropods. I don’t even know the names, but they’re disgusting – I’ve always hated bugs.
…wait for it.
Then we get to the tide pools. Small bodies of water, left in the rocks and coral lining the beach, these, too, are new to me. I’ve read about such in books, seen documentaries on television, but seeing something with your own eyes is so much more enlightening than through simple media.
I’d recommend it, and Shi Shi, to anyone.
Life exists here, in these tide pools. What looks like solid rock is barnacle or sea sponge. Or sea cucumber, or sea kumquat.
Forgive me, I’m no marine biologist. Point is, what appears to be rock and stone is alive. Small arthropods exist here too, strangely less disgusting that their sand-dwelling counterparts.
I step on what I assume is a sea anemone, accidentally, and it squishes.
Here and there in the water are small crabs, scuttling back and forth from tide pool to tide pool, at home either traveling across the sand or huddling beneath sea urchins or other cover in the small bodies of water they inhabit.
These are no Dungeness crabs, seen at Pike Place Market in Seattle, or Alaskan King Crab caught along the massive swells of the frigid North Pacific, but their miniature cousins, eking out a living eating plankton and scavenging the decomposing remains of other ocean and tide-dwellers.
When I was a boy, visiting my Aunt in Georgia, we visited a beach, and saw few enough such crustaceans that they were a marvel to me. I had wanted one, then, as a pet, but I leave these be, bothering them only with unnatural light and curiosity.
That isn’t all we find in the tide pools, or the last time we visit them, but it grows later and later and the waves lap continually further and further down the beach. As the ocean seems to tire of it’s relentless battle against the earth and shore, so do we tire, and retire – ending a day well spent marveling at the novelty of nature.