Rivers Running Through It

It’s been rainy around these parts. Supposedly, it’s been one of the more significant rain events in the last five years or so. Check out the local rainfall totals!

So not surprisingly, our rivers were slightly swollen. The Mad River, near where I live, spilled its banks. Generally a placid, mirror-like body of water during the non-rainy season, the river turned into an angry chocolate milk torrent yesterday.

Mad River Last Month

Mad River Last Month

Mad River Yesterday

Mad River Yesterday

Start of the Arcata Bottoms section of the Hammond Trail

Start of the Arcata Bottoms section of the Hammond Trail

Yesterday's view of the Arcata Bottoms

Yesterday’s view of the Arcata Bottoms

There were lots of people coming and going to check out the river flooding. There were also people arriving [like bicyclists, who rely on this bridge as the only non-highway crossing of the river] who were surprised the way was blocked.

We sat along the edge and watched the water slowly rise. There were thousands of little insects climbing out of the water like shipwreck survivors. I tried to save as many as I could, but I was stepping on as many as I was pulling out of the water.

Eventually, movement pulled my eyes away from the drama of the bugs. Something had caught the stranded cows’ attention; their heads collectively whipped in one direction. Three deer started swimming through the flood water.

Oddly, they didn’t take the straightest route to dry land, but instead took apparently the straightest to where they ultimately wanted to head.

Three Black-tailed Deer

Three Black-tailed Deer

They started bounding through the water, almost as if showing off for the cows. They reached the first fence-line and the doe went under and then jumped the second. The buck wasn’t so clever.

Doe Jumps the Second Fence

Doe Jumps the Second Fence

Buck Jumps Too Early

Buck Jumps Too Early

Buck Bounces Off Fence

Buck Bounces Off Fence

The buck bounced backward off the fence, apparently misjudging his obstacle, but seemed unharmed physically. My favorite part of that whole sequence is the herd of cows watching the whole debacle.


The Rainy Season

This is our first winter here in the North Coast. We are at nearly the same latitude as Salt Lake City, Omaha, and Indianapolis and yet have no snow.  Thanks to the Pacific Ocean, we often don’t see temperatures below freezing. While that could be a consolation for some, we also get the majority of our precipitation during this time of year. Winter has been replaced with the rainy season.

The rainy season is beckoned in by radio ads talking about getting the greenhouses up as to not get caught off guard [certain cash crops can be severely damaged by the slightest rainfall], spiders disappearing, worms appearing [inside!], and birds coming down from the higher altitudes to stay warm.  I rather enjoy having company at the feeders, but I’m not too fond of peeling half desiccated worm bodies off the entry floor.

Glad to have enough light to catch this "Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco finally!

When the rains and wind let up, everyone floods outside. It is strange one day to walk the dog and see very few people moving about, and then the moment the sun breaks, people pop up like mushrooms. I guess it’s not so bad though, since looking like a drown rat walking something that looks like a drown polar bear isn’t really what I want everyone to see, just the other drown rats.

Chickens Enjoy Sunshine, but Most of All, Bugs

On a couple of fine days in between storms, we joined the crowds and headed to the beach. We really like walking around the beaches of Trinidad, and since in North Coast California, a busy day really isn’t all that busy.  The only place that has felt busy recently was Moonstone Beach with its dog walkers, rock climbers, hula hoopers, tight rope walkers, bocce ball players, kayakers, surfers, and general beach goers. Every time we go there is someone doing something you wouldn’t expect. And it’s not a developed beach, it’s a little cove blocked by cliffs on one side and the Little River on the other. It’s just easy to get to and has a cool name, I guess.

Anyway, we made it to Trinidad twice now between the sputtering showers and heaving, wind-driven downpours. 

It is one of my favorite places to mill around because of the color in the rocks. I feel like every time I go, I see a new rainbow in a rock. I believe most of that can be attributed to the hodge podge geologic composition of the North Coast Range that butts up against the ocean. Farther East you have mountain building due to volcanic activity. Out here, the North American plate is scraping against the Pacific plate, peeling off sea floor sediments and piling them up as the Coast Range. It’s essentially like mounding up what you can scrape off the top of a gravel road; it’s going to be a mix of whatever is in the way.

A Rainbow Rock in College Cove

Getting past this geology tangent, it is the rainy season when the land and sea really battle it out. Large waves are more frequent, chipping away at the cliffs and bluffs, but the rains do their part to put as much of the earth into the sea as possible.  All this sediment contributes to our murky seas, and possibly to the higher rate of shark attacks here. Since the visibility is reduced, sharks likely rely more on their electromagnetic sense than sight. Obviously, sharks don’t have hands, so they ‘feel’ around with their mouths.  There aren’t many people in the water, thankfully, but if we were as busy as southern California, yikes!

The Creeks are Swelling Fast

It is a dynamic coast that seems to be caught in a never-ending cycle of washing away, scraping up, and washing away again. Of course, it’s not just the rock sediment that gets caught up in this battle. On Pewetole Island, Sitka Spruce hangs on precariously to what used to be connected land. I’m not sure what species of tree that has been wedged between the boulders, but it attests to the force needed to place it there.

Pewetole Island Between Boulders

Waves Crashing on Pewetole

Remember when I mentioned that people pop up like mushrooms when it doesn’t rain?  The same fair weather rules apply to the crab fishermen. In the summer months, you hardly see a boat on the water [if you can see the water through the dense fog], but come the rainy season, boats line the Pacific’s horizon like streetlights on a major highway.  They have to battle the waves [most of the boats are fairly small], plow through the rain, and avoid the sea stacks that guard the rocky cliffs.  While I am sure they have a lot more on their mind, the crab fishermen can likely thank the rainy season to rush sediments down to the ocean where the prey items of the dungeness crabs feed, allowing the crabs to feast on the small, well-fed  shrimp and fish. From there, the now well-fed crabs are traded for bills to land on a plate. Cycles within the cycles of the rainy season.

Crab Boat Horizon



Since there was no stratus deck in the way, we had to take advantage of the high clouds that lingered two day ago and catch the sunset. Even after packing dinner, driving to the chosen spot, driving back home to fetch a forgotten battery, and driving back to the spot, we had enough time to walk the beach a little before the show started.

As we walked around, we noticed a few other photographers. I wasn’t sure if they were locals or tourists [Trinidad is a fishing/bed and breakfast town], but most of them faded away before the sunset really got started.  The only things left on the beach were the dog walkers and some invertebrates drawing doodles in the sand.

The waves, relatively tame for the Pacific, splashed against the rocks as the tide pulled out. If they broke just right, they caught the sun like stained glass.

Although not the most spectacular sunset on this planet, somehow I and another photographer–by the looks a professional, managed to end up on the same small piece of sand.

As we both snapped shots, he would switch from one side of my husband and I to the other. I wanted to ask him if we should move, but he had headphones on. Hard to communicate that way.

I think in the end the pro landed in front of this rock, which looked really neat with the sand eroding around it. After he left, I began to pack up too and noticed the view he had.  I didn’t feel too bad about hogging the prime real estate then!

To see the set, please go to: Sunset at Trinidad on Flickr!