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Friday, January 04, 2013

First Beach Day of 2013!

Yesterday marked my first day to get out on the beach in the new year. Winter beach combing tends to be tricky as the days are short, the weather often horrible and the "good" low tides occur after dark.

Thursday marked the first day within a very short "window of opportunity" where I could get "out there" and back during daylight hours. Even so, it tends to be a mad dash (aka an almost 4-mile "racewalk") to get where I need to go, followed by brief beach combing, followed by another racewalk in the fading light, back to where I started.

Thankfully, it was a clear sunny day, which not only made the outing more pleasant... but added a good 20-30 minutes to the amount of available daylight. It was also on the cold side-- that white stuff in the photo is a thin layer of ice/snow from the previous day.

The beach where I generally beach comb is backed by a tall escarpment on the "land" side. Unlike many waterfront area, these sometimes 400-foot tall banks are not cliffs (aka "rock") but compacted clay and sand, deposited there by glaciers during the last ice age. It's odd to think that the beach where I now walk once upon a time had an estimated 3000 feet of ice on top of it.

These slopes are not exactly the most stable landscape on the planet, especially during the time of the year where it often rains, freezes and thaws... over and over. Slides are frequent, and can sometimes completely block the way for weeks, until a good storm spreads the debris. Since this is not a "maintained" beach, nature simply has to take its course.

Indeed, I encountered a fairly new slide; this one fairly "minor" (comparatively speaking) and partly washed away by winter storms. "Minor" is perhaps a relative term-- meaning only about 5,000 tons of clay and sand came down, as opposed to 100,000 tons for a major collapse. I've experienced one of these "erosion events" up close and personal (from a few hundred feet away) and it sounds like a freight train coming at you as the slope gives way and a blend of clay, sand and rocks throws around 75-foot trees like match sticks. The beach truly is "alive."

These slides are not a good thing for the sea glass hunter. Not so much because they are dangerous, but because the layer containing recent garbage (and sea glass) ends up being covered by a 3-foot thick layer of "virgin" sand from thousands of years ago... and it will take years of storms and waves before the sand is moved and mixed enough for the sea glass to surface, once again.

Resigned to finding little, I instead took time to enjoy my surroundings-- a superb view of Mt. Baker on a clear day, wearing a thick coat of fresh snow.

Although it seldom snows significantly here at sea level, we are surrounded by snow covered mountains, many of them with white caps all year long. It makes for spectacular surroundings-- and I often have to remind myself to look UP from the beach and take in the beauty that surrounds me. It's easy to get completely wrapped up in the business of looking for little pieces of glass!

Lots of ducks spend the winter here or pass through on their migratory path.

I don't know the names of them all, but sometimes the shallows are literally covered with thousands and thousands of birds. Although most are distinctly "northern" birds, I have also seen a few flocks of brown pelicans fly by.

Fortunately, not all the beach was covered with new sand, so my fears of returning empty-handed were unfounded. I managed to get in just under two hours in one of my favorite spots... and even though the pickings were somewhat slim, I did manage to come away with a few interesting and colorful treasures.

Unfortunately "overpicking" continues to be an issue around these parts-- however, there is not much one can do about that, given the increasing awareness and popularity of sea glass. I just wish people would develop some better "beach combing etiquette" and at least throw back the obviously damaged pieces so they can finish "cooking," and be enjoyed by future generations of beach combers.

All in all, though, I was grateful to be back on the beach-- for the first time since late October. I came home with a few nice pieces (the best pictured at left) and had a lovely walk on a gorgeous winter day. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to get out on a day with "decent" tides, which is going to come around later this month.

Till then, I hope your beach combing endeavors go well, wherever you may be. Happy New Year!

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About Me

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1960 vintage Danish national now living in the Pacific Northwest... active in the global HSP community; active beach comber and sea glass collector; lifetime collector of postage stamps from Scandinavia; writer and consultant, primarily to the metaphysics and self-help industries, writer at OM Times magazine; artist who doodles on rocks; eBay & Etsy entrepreneur and studio and production assistant at Radio Nahmaste.

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