Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

I found some excellent convertible pants on sale at REI a few weeks ago, and being by nature cheap, had them shipped to my local store (free!). The drawback was that my schedule got totally crazy for a while, so the pants languished in the Marina REI‘s storeroom for a few weeks before I could pick them up. The bonus was that Marina is right on the coast, between Moss Landing and Monterey, so it was a good opportunity to explore some new shoreline.

I asked the friendly clerk at the checkout which beach access point was best, and she directed me to one of the newer state parks: Fort Ord Dunes State Park. Formerly part of the Fort Ord military base, it underwent extensive Superfund cleanup to remove unexploded ordnance and large quantities of lead before opening to the public.

First view of Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

I took the short trail between the towering dunes to the beach. To give you an idea of their scale, I’ve circled another hiker in red.

Tall dunes leading to the beach

First view of the water.

First view of the ocean at Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, with bright sun, refreshing breeze, light waves, and nobody else on the beach. Here is the view to the north, towards Moss Landing.

The view to the north

And south, towards Monterey.

The view to the south.

I decided to head south. There wasn’t a map of the park, so I wasn’t sure if there was more than one point where the paved trail inland connected to the beach. If there was, I planned to cut inland on my return. And I wasn’t sure about the tide; it looked like it was going out, but there was enough beach so that even if it was coming in I’d have enough room between the water and the dunes to make my way back. So I set out, care free and footloose.

Hmmm. The sign said they had collected all of the ordnance. Did they miss some? Or is this just a metal float? I did not poke it to find out. There were three of these on the beach.

A float or a bomb?

This was definitely a float.

Float on the beach

There were many signs of human usage on the beach: drainpipes, old pilings, old fenceposts, rusted metal scraps.

Rusted metal in the sand

And more recent usage: grafitti carved into the soft rock, alongside some swallow nests.


There were also a lot of birds. A pair of plovers was convinced I was up to no good, and squeeked and squeeked at me endlessly. Unfortunately I had no English-to-bird dictionary, so while I tried to tell them I had no interest in hurting them or their young, it was to no avail. Immediately after my run-in with the plovers, I came across a turkey vulture eating something nice and dead and stinky on the beach.

Turkey vulture with carcass on the beach

Some friends came to join him.

A second vulture flies in

I watched the vulture eat for a while, and tried to take photos of the other vultures circling over my head. Circling. Circling.

Vulture flying past dunes

Vulture circling overhead

Circling lower, and lower, and lower…. hey! Get away from me! I’m not dead yet! I jumped up from my log and left the birds to their meal. It was time to turn around and head back to the car, anyway.

More dunes.


The sadness of the abandoned chair.

A lost chair

After climbing back up from the beach, I took a short walk on a boardwalked trail to a viewpoint. Lovely!

View from the top of the dunes

I would definitely recommend this beach to anyone who wants solitude, views, fishing, or birdwatching. Swimming or surfing is not recommended, as there are riptides all along the beach. There are also biking trails all along the inland side of the dunes. And for the hardy and adventurous, one can walk all the way along the beach to Monterey.

2 thoughts on “Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

  1. Wow, spectacular …I have never been to this part of the country…thanks for sharing.



    The hiker/scale shot really cool.

  2. Good to see both you and Sarah-hope back in blogosphere after more than a month away!

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