I have figured it out…
Minnesota is my home but California is my playground.
There’s a reason I see the good and bad in both places — but through different lenses.
I stepped off the airplane from Minnesota at noon on Monday. By 12:45 p.m., I was in my wet suit — snorkel gear in hand — stepping into the ocean.
The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the ocean breeze was refreshing. The ocean was calling my name. I love California for many reasons but my biggest one? The ocean.
Our last snorkel adventure was a good one, but we didn’t see the sharks we were looking to see. I wanted to try again before it got too late in the season, and why not do it while we were already in the area? Who cares if I had just stepped off the plane and was a little tired from traveling?
There were only two other snorkelers out there when we initially got in the water. I was crossing my fingers we would see sharks. When the two snorkelers called out that they were all over the area, I was thrilled.
As the first large shadow headed our way, I could feel my heart rate increase.
I had researched them before going, so I knew mostly what to expect. But reading about sharks that are 4-6 feet and actually seeing them are two different things.
They were apparently bigger than Andy had imagined, too, because he panicked a bit when he saw how large they were. I guess he had been picturing little sharks (that’s what he gets for not listening to me when I talk!).
He eventually calmed down after I reassured him that they are non-aggressive. Female leopard sharks congregate in this area this time of year when they are pregnant, finding the sandy bottoms and warmer waters to their liking during their gestation period.
Many of them were closer to four feet long but we did see some that were between 5.5 and 6 feet (I am 5’5″ and there were a couple that were longer than I am tall).
I thought they were beautiful. They were a little skittish around us at first, especially the larger ones. I cannot describe the feeling of watching one come toward you from the murky distance. Even knowing that they are virtually harmless, there is still a rush of adrenaline — especially when they come up from behind you! I had several swim directly beneath me. I found that if I did not splash around too much with my fins, they were way more comfortable having me close to them.
The largest grouping we saw was seven at once, although there were probably at least 30 to 40 in the area.
We also saw a bat ray, which was super cool.
It was pretty small, about the size of a dinner plate if not a bit smaller (not including the tail). I found out later that leopard sharks eat them sometimes so I hope this little guy got away!
Kayakers and paddle-boarders in the area got a cool top view of the sharks. We stood in the shallow water for a while and some of them came up near us in only about 3 feet of water! It was really neat to see them in the waves as they rolled in.
Most of them were in 5-6 feet of water.
We both thought the experience was super cool, and we are happy to be living in a place where we can have such awesome encounters.
We did find many pieces of plastic floating in the area and, like always, collected what we could from the water (we always try to remember our dive bag for trash). One of the sharks had a piece of what looked like rope wrapped around its body. Unfortunately, we did not have our knife with and could not get close enough to cut it off. The fact that we see things like this regularly when snorkeling really reminds me of the effects we are having on the ocean (remember our cormorant/fishing line issue).
I certainly wasn’t tired anymore after we saw our first shark. It was an amazing welcome-back-to-Cali experience. I am thankful that Andy is as adventurous as I am and indulges me in my animal encounter/ocean experience desires!
We wanted to see them again on Thursday but with the cool, overcast weather and chance of rain, we decided it was the perfect day for a hike instead.
We decided to try a new trail, so we set off with our friend Tara.
We hiked a portion of the Iron Mountain trail before splitting off to reach our destination: Ramona Overlook.
We got rained on a little bit — and it was quite the hike — but the views were worth it!
(Sorry about the sideways video!)
The incline and rough portions of the trail kicked my butt.
We got back to the bottom, feeling pretty good about ourselves and liking the workout.
It was a good thing we didn’t bring the dogs on this one — the rocky parts of the trail would have been hard on their feet for sure.
We love our adventures in our California playground, and we are looking forward to what the weekend will bring!
6 Comments Add yours
Where do you park for extended stays?
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We are currently park hosts in Southern California. In exchange for working the park part time, we receive a free place to park including water, sewer and electric. Some places offer discounted rates for extended stays as well.
Loved your piece in the St. Paul paper today!!!
Sent from my iPhone
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I’ve spent my last two nights idle time at work reading from the beginning and I’ve got to say you’re an articulate writer. I like the reminder of the constrast of living in CA vs Heartland of America and why I like to visit there but reside in CA. Hang in there, you’re an inspiration. FYI, chalk often repels ants if you can make a border.
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Thank you so much for the kind words! I love hearing from readers. And I appreciate the tip on the chalk — I definitely need to try that. Thank you again for reaching out 😊