41 for 41: Tidepool Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carillo State Park I grew up in Minnesota where there were 10,000 lakes and all of them, obviously, freshwater. Not a tidepool to be found. And other than Lake Superior, which was two hours north of us and only visited a couple of times a year, none of the lakes were affected by the gravitational pull of the moon. In other words, no tides. Minnesota lakes do not easily give away what lies beneath their surface.

My first tidepooling experience was in Washington state in the Olympic Peninsula. It was the highlight of a week-long adventure I was on with my husband and his sister and father exploring the area. I was in my mid-20s and a novice at traveling. Everything was astounding to me. Put in that context, it's safe to say that that tidepool experience was off the charts on a spiritual scale and thus the foundation of my love for them.

Purple Olive Snail

What draws me to tidepools are may things. First, there's the thrill of trying to nail down the perfect time to hit up a spot. Scanning tide schedules for each bend and hook and half-mile of coastline, looking for the lowest minus tide during daylight hours at an accessible spot...not exactly a casual undertaking. The reward, however, when you step out onto a freshly exposed rocky shore an hour before low tide (the best time for tidepooling) and take in the glistening new landscape, the ocean's version of Disneyland, is exhilarating. Knowing that in 60 minutes the ocean will begin reclaiming, once again, what is rightfully hers, makes it feel like game--a treasure hunt with a time limit like no other. (But one would be a fool to think he or she has a chance at beating nature in any kind of game, especially one that involves ocean.)

Pacific sea star and lots of sea weeds.

And then there's the joy of discovery. Tidepools are, in my opinion, one of the most diverse landscapes you can find in the smallest amount of area. From colors to species to textures to shapes, in one square foot there will be more for your mind and senses to behold than anywhere else on earth: limpets, chitons, sand castle worms, snails, hermit crabs, sea weeds, star fish, tunicates, algae, anemones, sponges, sculpin and prickelbacks...these are just a few of the things I identified on one quick visit to Leo Carrillo State Park last week.

Another sea pork, this one orange.

I put "tidepooling" on my 41 for 41 list this year because it is such a jolt to the soul when I go. From the time I learned about "primordial soup" in grade school, I have been fascinated with what lies in the sea. And when I am precariously crouching on a wet rock trying to get as close as I can to sea life clinging to its side and underneath, as a fine salt spray blankets me, as I squeeze out all sounds but that of the whispering sponges and clacking barnacles, as my eyes adjust to the micromovents of a miniature world, it truly feels a bit like coming home.

Neptune's Net