Morro Bay is a Sensory Wonderland By Barbara L. Steinberg
Inhale. Watch the sun set behind Morro Rock, bark at sea lions, call to a night heron, and walk in silence beside a forest of pygmy oaks. At every turn, open spaces and environmentally sensitive biomes of extraordinary splendor await. Miles and miles of nature preserves, state parks, state beaches, and magical places with names like The Elfin Forest elevate Morro Bay’s allure. From a waterfront perch at the Inn at Morro Bay, only one question emerges, “What next?” Mother Nature worked overtime to create this canvas. It deserves all your attention.
Head for Montaña de Oro State Park toward shoreline and estuary views. In just a few miles, the road narrows; the “real” world drops away. Some days are sunny. Today, fog drapes the hillsides but without diminishing the heightened anticipation to reach Sandspit Beach – a four-mile “ecologically diverse” sand dune area separating Morro Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
One vehicle in the parking lot alludes to a park ranger, nowhere to be seen. Out of your own four-wheeler, the world is quiet. You zigzag along with the boardwalk, along sensitive dunes dotted with sand verbena and lupine. A slight rise in the dune and – suddenly – stillness to crashing waves! A view that thrills you to the bone.
Breathe. One seriously long, deep breath of the fog, the mist, the ocean air.
See. Open your eyes, wide! Really, really wide to an abundance of sand, shore birds, ocean debris, wildflowers, pounding surf. Incredibly, you are the sole inhabitant on this expanse of beach inside Montaña de Oro State Park. Imagine the coastal Chumash who once called this home.
Step. Follow the footprints – some four-footed – the comings and goings of previous visitors. The tide rushes up and laps at your feet, washing away remnants of your passing and those before you.
Gaze. Scan for signs of life. A troop of curlews hurries in and out of the surf chasing an elusive breakfast. A band of brown pelicans rises and falls with the light as if on some unseen carnival ride. Bashful snowy plovers sneak – left, right, left right – over dunes to protected nesting ground. A gang of turkey vultures nibble on the carcass of a dolphin, its mouth agape in a petrified smile. Heartbreaking, but it is the nature of things and now part of this memory.
Sun and fog debate which will prevail over today’s weather. Fog appears to be winning. Though a distance away, you linger in hopes that Morro Rock will reappear through the mist. Not to be on this adventure. After a mile on the spit, it’s time to turn back.
A ghostly surfer slips the top of a wave, a solitary figure, as you depart. Exhale.