Pismo Beach, California – The big sandbox

Around North Beach Campground in Pismo Beach there is a big colony of monarch butterflies that overwinter in the eucalyptus trees. Pismo Beach is the only beach at the entire west cost where it is allowed to drive with a car and even to camp. The entrance fee to Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is 5 $, for two days including overnight camping 10 $. With an OHV or ATV you can drive on the tough broad beach but in the soft dunes as well. I manage to sink into one of those dunes – not too deep, and not for too long – but I get some spectators anyway. In the rear part of the beach you can just camp on the beach, but make sure to be far enough from the waterline; the flood will come!

An old Dodge military ambulance from the 40s chugs by. You can go for a walk at the beach, collect shells and sand dollars, or watch birds. Sand dollars are spineless relatives of the sea urchins with the appearance of flat discs that crawl in funny loops over the sand. The skeletons of the dead specimen show a beautiful pattern on top, among it the fivefold petal of their former respiratory organs. Tiny little western snowy plovers race along the waterline like dervishes with absurd speed. They just stop for turning around and picking a shore crab. They prey insects and invertebrates with their conspicuous run-and-pause-technique. That’s all a lot of fun, and we are nearly alone here.

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