I’m never far from a beach – never have been in all my life. When I’m in Negril, I’m right next to the rocky cliff of the Carribean. When I’m in Bodega, a mile as the crow flies lies the dramatic Sonoma Coast.
The two beach environments are polar opposites. The beaches in Negril are white fine sand – the beaches on the Sonoma Coast are dark and in many places pebble laden. The attire at the beach in Negril is a bathing suit covered with a Sarong. The attire at the beach on the Sonoma Coast would include long pants, long sleeved shirt, Uggs all topped with a heavy coat, hat and gloves. The Carribean Sea is mostly gentle and warm. The Pacific Ocean has surf of twenty to thirty feet that crashes in the cliffs and rocks, and you don’t dare go in unless you are in full armor (read: wetsuit complete with booties and a cap).
Once suited up and there though you are in for a treat. It is pure sea and weather drama and that drama differs not only day-to-day but also hour-to-hour. The rugged Sonoma Coast offers some of the most breathtaking views, the most extreme sea conditions and the most spectacular wild life viewing of any beach I’ve known. Thousands come each year to partake of her perfect harmony – weather conditions be damned.
“My” beach is actually two distinct bodies of water, coming into one. Bodega Bay meets the Pacific Ocean up at Bodega Head. Along that road is the marina, on your left the bay.
The marina is filled with boats of many type; big, small, sailing, partying. But Bodega Bay is and always will be a fisherman’s town – along with the commercial boats docked along the expansive pier, are evidence of a busy fishing community – nets, crab pots and the like.
The beaches along the bay are wide and somewhat tranquil. They are protected but the ridge of hills just beyond where custom vacation and retirement homes now sit so the wind doesn’t whip you around as you walk along the shore.
The ocean beaches are a bit more rough and tumble. They fall, in different sizes from the jagged cliffs above. Rock formations appear as though in the middle of the water. The surf is high and the surfers out in force when the conditions are just right.
Along the shore is a treasure trove of sea goodies. Pebbles and stones of all colors converge as though just dropped there randomly. These rocks tell the story of the shoreline in the making and the components of its imposing cliffs. Starfish peer above their safe tide pool; mussels cling to rocks of all sizes. Discarded shells of one creature host another – and so it goes, on and on, a study of marine life in the making.
In July we brought some visitors with us to Bodega Head. They had never been. Our purpose was to show off one of the most dramatic and beautiful vistas in the county – the seashore heading north, her rocks and cliff juxtaposed against a constantly swaying body of water. As we peered over the cliff though we had a great surprise – whales! A very rare occurrence in the summer, the best whale viewing times is when they migrate from the north in the mid-winter months. We soon learn that there are whales of all types – Gray, Blue and Humpback – lining the seas on the coasts of Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties. There is an unusual amount of Plankton in those waters and the whales have come to eat. They eat – we treat ourselves to their graceful dance.
In September we return, this time at high tide to see them again and spend more time. It is a bright sunny morning and as we drive along the bay our eyes are transfixed on another rare sight – white pelicans. Our friend is traveling with an “I saw this bird” map and happily marks that one and several others that we see during our beach excursion that day.
We tend to complete our beach excursions with a pleasant drive along the countryside. Heading north to the Russian River, we amble along in the vicinity of Duncans Mills to take in the scenery and the views and to momentarily escape the fog. I guess that’s really the thing about the weather along the Sonoma Coast – if you don’t like move on about one-quarter mile until you do.
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