A winter walk on the edge of the continent

Kehoe Beach-2639I have been looking at the picture above – taken from Tracy and Richard’s backyard – for a couple of days, trying to put together an interesting post. To un-stall myself, I’m just going to list what I want to say, post a couple of pictures and go on from there (or let it go and get on with my life).

  • First I want to say Here, on the coast of California, the long nightmare of winter is over.
  • We went for a walk on the western edge of the North American continent but we also went for a walk on the eastern edge of the Pacific plate.
  • Saturday was Michele’s birthday and Sunday was Super Bowl Day. Saturday was clear, warm, and calm (when I took the top picture). Sunday started foggy and warm – when I took the picture below -then cloudy and warmer, and it seemed like a perfect day to walk on a beach.


Now, I’ll try to do some ‘splaining. When I say that the long nightmare is over, I’m just bragging. I love the weather here, I love that it is so micro-climatish, that it can be cold and windy at Candelstick and hot where we live. I grew up here, it just seems natural. Although it may not look like it in these pictures, this doesn’t mean we don’t have four seasons, just milder and different seasons. Winters are the rainy season and the summers are the dry season. Spring is spring and the fall is summer; it’s simple. I should say used to be rather than are because, rather than just being a drought, the rainy season has slid to Late Spring. This means that the rains are warmer and we get less snow in the mountains. Because we used to store our water in the mountains as snow, that change is not for the better.

Kehoe Beach-2648Meanwhile, back in the Winter Walk department, on Superbowl Sunday, after celebrating Michele’s Birthday on Saturday at Tracy and Richard’s weekend home, the people who stayed over went for a walk at Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. Our guides choose Kehoe because Michele’s sister, Claudia, was with us and had brought her dog,Emma, and Kehoe is a Dog Beach. It is also at the western edge of the North American continent.

I don’t know how old I was when I learned that there are seven continents, but I do know that I was much older when I figured out that the whole continent thing is Eurocentric phony baloney-ness. Continents are supposed to be large land masses with an inference that they are separate areas. But Europe isn’t a separate landmass – any more than, say, India is – it is a part of Asia and is about the same size as China which doesn’t get awarded Continental status.

Point Reyes National Seashore, where we went for a walk, is on the western edge of the North America continent but we are really walking on the Eastern edge of the Pacific Plate. Almost all of  the so called North American continent is on the North American Plate. Unlike continents, plates are real things. The hard outermost shell of Earth – the part where we live – floats on a viscous interior. This hard crust is broken into rigid plates like the sections of a soccer ball. Where the plates bump or rub against each other are most of the world’s geologically active areas. One of these boundaries is our very own San Andreas Fault which separates the North American Plate from the Pacific Plate.

The North American plate is some what misnamed because it not only consists of most of the continental North America, it is also Greenland, Western Russia, and part of Japan. What isn’t on the North American Plate is Point Reyes, that is on the Pacific Plate. The Pacific Plate is probably better named because it is mostly the Pacific Ocean along with Point Reyes, part of southern California, part of southern Japan, and part of South Island in New Zealand.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Tectonic plates
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Tectonic plates

Point Reyes, the peninsula, seems to have been very loosely attached to the rest of California, but that is only partly true. It is attached, but it is just passing by as its homeland plate slides serenely north (of course, that is only serenely on a geological, deep-time as John McPhee calls it). North of us, the San Andreas fault runs along the coast of California, as it goes south, it comes inland and, almost to Los Angeles, it bends more easterly and runs along north of the San Gabriel Mountains. Along the way, the fault cut off a little of the granite batholith basement of our Sierra Nevadas. As the Pacific Plate moved north during the last 80 plus million years, it has dragged this southern section of the Sierra base-rock with it. Just north of where we went walking is an area of exposed granite that used to be 300 miles south, near Tehachapi, east of Bakersfield.

Back at the trail to Kehoe Beach, we follow a small stream down to the beach where the seagulls are standing around, feeding on what ever is washed down the stream. I guess it is the animal equivalent to a desk job.
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We walk along the beach in the cool air with a soft, warm, sun. We walk in groups of, mostly, two; stop and cluster; then walk in a different pattern.

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As we walk back to the car, I think  about the drought, that it is real and as unstoppable as the incoming tide. Walking, in the soft air, I fall in love with Life again. In love with California, with the lovely people I am walking with, with their shadows and reflections that join them at their feet.


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