Simple Gifts

I believe I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world; the Snoqualmie Valley. I get to see amazing things everyday. It's time to celebrate that. (You can view pictures in larger format by clicking on them)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Low Tide!

I love living in North Bend. I love the crazy weather and mountains all around. I don't mind the wind or shorter days that comes with being in the foothills. I do miss the beach though. I miss doing beach programs. I miss the crazy, amazing variety found on the beach.

So when Alan mentioned there was a low tide I got my lazy butt out of bed and got up to his house moderately early. We headed off to Golden Gardens and hit the beach. At first it didn't look promising. There were school buses, kids, sail boats and people galore. But they were in the main part of the park and we quickly wandered away from them. There were so many herons. I kept snapping pictures and then finding better 'photo ops'. They were fairly unconcerned to us and finally we stopped paying much attention to them. I was being typical me, which means I was in the water, doing cart wheels and exploring every tide pool. And touching stuff of course. I was thoroughly engrossed in a tidepool and looked up and there was a heron so very close! It apparently figured out just how intrigued I can be by bright and slimy things. I did get his picture and I am quite please with the results... it was almost as if he was posing!

Once again there were plenty of Moon Snail egg cases. Like so many people, the first time I saw an egg case I thought it was a bit of garbage. The Moon Snail takes sand and mucus and makes this amazing thing. If you ever get a chance to touch one they are smooth and not slimy. The remind me somewhat of a banana skin. The Moon Snail itself is a big, big, BIG snail and looks quite nasty (in a cool sort of way). It's giant slug-like body hangs out of it's large shell. I remember a guide picking one up once and water just pouring down as the snail moved into its shell. An amazing amount of water came out and I've since learned that it will suffocate if it remains in it's shell.

I love tidepools! There were anemones, crabs, seastars, sea cucumbers, shrimp and snails. Some really large anemones. I like to touch them (ok, fine, I like to touch most critters) but there is something amazing about feeling this soft sticky thing touch and hold your finger. The seastars were great too. I kept trying to find one that I could pick up, but they were holding on well. Of course that IS an important survival skill. I found one of my favorite seastars too the Pycnopodia or Sunflower Star. I did get to hold that. There body is soft, unlike other seastars and they don't hold on so tightly but they can move much more quickly. You can actually watch them move. They also grab hold more quickly and I once had a Pycnopodia suck its little tube feet on my hand and not let go. When I finally pulled it off, the tube feet were still attached to my hand... I hold them much less long since then. They tend to make an impression, the reason I can remember the scientific name, when I've forgotten so much else from college, is because of the impression one made on a fellow student. We were on an oceanography field trip and he went diving to share his find with us. He saw a very large pycnopodia. Later that night he was.... well, drunk. He kept repeating all night "A pycnododia THAT big" and showing us with his hand show big it was.

Sea Star

I was really excited to see the sea cucumbers. They are such bizarre and amazing creatures. In times of stress they will eject there stomach. Yep, they barf out there stomach and while the predator is either thoroughly grossed out or happily eating the nastiness they make there mistake. It happened once to one I was holding and I don't gross out easily but that did get to me. It was amazing how much came out. If you touch them they feel... hollow. It doesn't seem like there is anything inside. The outside is slimy and they can be quite beautiful. All my programs at Titlow beach I never encountered this specie which turns out to be Red Sea Cucumber (Cucumaria miniata).

Sea Cucumber

After exploring the tide pools I had to play in the water. I noticed a sand bar so I waded out to it and stood watching the waves break. At that point the wind was calm and the water was clear. I walked along looking into the water and found another favorite, jellyfish. Usually I see them washed up on the beach where they are just a big blob, but in the water they have a grace to them. It's strange to think they are related to sea anemones. They seem so different



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