We lived in an inland valley outside of Los Angeles for more than 20 years and never really embraced the beach. The thought of hugging a stretch of sand on Earth Day didn’t even cross our minds.
In fact, our most vivid sand and surf memory from those years was that time we drove to Zuma Beach with folding chairs and a thermos of coffee to watch the sun set into the waves, only to learn an important geography lesson – beaches above Santa Monica for 150 miles mostly face south. Don’t judge. We were new.
Yet when we began plotting our move to the Bay Area two years ago after a nine-year career-imposed exile from the West Coast to Cincinnati, we decided to abandon the burbs and look for something near the water. We wanted a change. “It’s cold and foggy,” detractors warned. “Mudslides make travel to and from the coast unreliable. Where will you shop? Traffic sucks.”
Nevertheless, we persisted. And we found our little slice of paradise in Montara. Yes, it’s cool and cloudy much of the time. Mudslides and downed trees can make it travel tricky in the winter. Shopping is limited. And summer weekend beach traffic does indeed suck. But we don’t care. Two years after our move, we still get a thrill when Montara State Beach comes into view as we wind south atop the oceanside bluffs along Highway 1.
Perhaps belatedly, the health of the beach and ocean suddenly has moved from the edges of our social-consciousness radar to somewhere near the center. We care. It’s personal. So as Earth Day 2017 dawned, we downed our morning coffee and walked to the beach with buckets and gloves in hand to join 73 volunteers from throughout the San Francisco Peninsula for a two-hour beach sweep organized by the Pacifica Beach Coalition.
(Thanks Wendy, Kevin and Kristine! Click here for more information about the coalition’s 2018 Earth Day of Action beach cleanups, scheduled for April 21, 2018.)
Did you know there is more than one way to walk a beach searching for trash? While the GeekSlacker quickly determined and attacked the most efficient approach, MontaraManDan and his limited attention span tried a bit of each, with mixed results:
- Meandering: Walking randomly down the beach, head down, between bluff and waves is a bit like trying to score big on the slots in Vegas. You’ll probably end up with an empty bucket.
- Bluff check: West-facing beaches south of San Francisco harbor sneaker waves that can sweep an unsuspecting wader out to sea. That means informed beach-goers set up a good distance from water’s edge. The Geek stuck to the bluffs, scoring beer cans, bottle caps, a battered soccer ball and an enormous pair of men’s underwear. “Why would one drop trou and lose his Fruit of the Looms on a state beach?” she pondered briefly. Disgusted, she willed the briefs into her bucket, grateful she was wearing gloves.
- Tidal line: After meandering for a time between water’s edge and the bluffs, M-Man finally focused on the high-tide line. While the Geek was busy at the bluffs scoring recyclables and underpants, M-Man’s haul consisted primarily of snarls of fishing line, torn candy wrappers and tiny bits of Styrofoam. Important, but a yield only Sisyphus might appreciate.
- Water’s edge. Walking head down along the water line staring at smooth, wet sand is not advised. See “bluff check.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, the range of techniques employed to sweep the beach, our Earth Day bucket brigade collectively scored 182 pounds of trash and 38 pounds of recyclables. Debris included dog poo bags, a sealed packet of medical marijuana and a pair of socks. Bottle caps, beer cans and cigarette butts. Platform shoes, candy wrappers and that large pair of underpants. The list goes on. And the beach at Montara is considered among California’s cleanest. Sad.
And so we have a simple favor to ask. If you bring it to the beach, take it home. That’s it. Leave no trace. Thank you.
NOTE: This post has been updated to include a link to register for the Pacifica Beach Coalition’s 2018 Earth Day of Action beach cleanups. Register here.