Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Exploring Pt. Lobos

Pt Lobos - a small but enchanting spot on the central Californian coast

Pt. Lobos is yet another must-see spot if you are visiting Pacific Grove (or the greater Monterey Peninsula, for that fact). It is a small but stunning California State Park lined with trails that offers breathtaking views along the rocky shore.

Jubilant children loving the sun and the sand

Nieve and Ronan appreciate beautiful vistas but prefer having hands-on fun. The four of us did a short hike to the protected China Cove where we relaxed in soft, white sand. The low tide let us explore small caves carved on the wall of the cove.

Ronan and his "Superhero Hideout"

Ronan was the first to spot the mouth of a cave and he braved the cold water to access the opening. He declared the cave his, "Superhero Hideout" and loved running around the small space, squealing with fright and delight as the water surged in and out of the entrance.

Correction - the rest of the family and the "Mermaid Cave"

Nieve watched Ronan disappear around the bend and promptly demanded Mom to carry her to the mysterious opening. She loved the small inlet but she determined it was an, "Underwater Mermaid Cave", not a "Superhero Hideout". Ronan agreed that this was a more logical/accurate name and thus it became known as the Mermaid Cave.

Ronan takes flight

There is only so much fun to be had in a small cave, so after a few minutes playing, climbing and splashing the kids wanted to head back to the warmth of the sun. The thrill of discovery prompted Ronan to want to explore new and even more inaccessible spots. He decided to climb over some tall, jagged rocks to another much smaller and rockier part of the cove.

A proud Ronan doing a 'Captain Morgan' on the rocks he just climbed over

Given the scramble over the cliff was not easy and a fall would have been serious, I closely followed Ronan to his new destination. I gained a new appreciation for his bravery, balance, and thoughtfulness as he quickly but safely navigated a passage (all in bare feet, no less) with me in tow.

A good spot to look for some sea stars and anemones

After a snack the kids wanted to explore tidepools, so we headed up the coast to where exposed rocks promised to house tidal flora and fauna.

Nieve taking a break from all of the exhausting searching

Both Ronan and Nieve like the challenge of walking on slippery rocks and finding hidden sea creatures, though Nieve is a bit less eager to hold that which she finds. Nieve did spot a few sea stars that she was willing to reach for but she remained uninterested in touching the grippy anemones.

Ronan and Mom ankle deep, exploring the tide pools

Ronan spent a few minutes exploring the tide pools but soon moved on to larger an more challenging feats, repeating his efforts at China Cove as he scaled large rocks that jutted out into the Pacific. Again I was tasked to follow and this time it was even more difficult to keep up as Ronan's bare feet seemed unaffected by the sharp, jagged rocks he was scrambling over. In the future I will have to wear snug, hard-soled shoes just to keep pace with him.

Ronan scrambled far out on jagged rocks, simply to prove to Mom and I that he could

After several hours of hiking we decided to call it a day. The next time we are in the area we will be certain to make time for Pt. Lobos - there are miles of trails we have yet to explore.

Lots of fun with the kids at Pt. Lobos

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunset Kite Flying at Asilomar Beach

It was a beautiful but brisk evening - Nieve was happy to have Nana's warm hat on

As part of our mini-vacation to Pacific Grove Mom wanted to do a picnic dinner at the beach. Not that a reason was needed, given 'picnic dinner at the beach' is almost always a great idea, but she wanted to watch the sun sink into the Pacific. Asilomar Beach was the place to do it and she chose a perfect evening for it as low, textured clouds created a fantastic canvas to reflect the changing sunlight.

Ronan, just before his pants became soaked with sea water

Ronan of course loved being at the beach, running through the soft white sand and testing his limits along the water's edge. Predictably he pushed the boundary too far and ended up soaking his pants even before dinner was severed.

Family portrait time!

Wet pants make for an uncomfortable evening, and even with his high tolerance for discomfort Ronan wanted to get into something warm and dry. As we did not have an extra pair of pants he ended up wearing a towel around his waist.

Mom and Nieve mid debate... I love they way they tease each other

The brisk temperature and persistent breeze meant the kids stayed closer to Mom and I than normal. They were eager to gobble up the warm food and loved cuddling/playing on a soft fleece blanket. They even sat still enough to take a posed family photo. Nieve was particularly precocious, taking every opportunity to tease whomever was nearest, or in her direct line of sight.

Ronan loved how the kite 'glowed' in the sunlight

In addition to tasty food, Mom brought our stunt kite so the kids would be distracted enough to (mostly) stay out of the water. The evening light made the rainbow colors of the kite glow and the kids wanted to touch the kite to see if it was 'hot'.

Ronan getting ready to launch the kite for Mom and Nieve

Once the kite was airborne Nieve and Ronan marveled at it twisting, turing, carving loops, diving precariously close to the ground and turing just in time to avoid impact.

Ronan's devilish grin is because he's intentionally trying to crash the kite at the highest speed possible. Nieve hides behind us, worried about the debris that may come from Ronan's intentional impact.

It was a matter of minutes before Ronan demanded that he get to fly the kite, and I quickly learned that he was not that interested at all in keeping the kite in the air. Rather he wanted to witness the mayhem from the kite plowing nose first into the sand at speed. He would cackle with glee as the kite's impact made an impressive thud and dusting up of sand.

Nieve started off mimicing Ronan, crashing the kite (and herself in the process)

When Ronan was finished doing his best to destroy the kite, Nieve wanted to pilot it as well. Her objective was different from Ronan's; rather than crashing the kite she wanted to wiggle and dance while the kite was aloft.

Little Nieve, flying the kite (briefly) without assistance

Normally I'm all for dancing but even small movements of the hand will dramatically change the course of a stunt kite. Nieve's wild body movements were problematic and resulted in the kite being on the ground far longer than in the air. Fortunately she wanted to see if she should make the kite 'wiggle', so she stayed still long enough to get a few fun flights in. After that both kids went back to making carnage by crashing the kite at the highest speed possible.

Mayday! Mayday! Get ready for a crash landing!

The entire time at Asilomar beach was a blast. To top it off, as we were packing up and trudging across the sand back to the car, the sky lit up in an amazing show of setting sunlight. It was a perfect sayonara to a perfect evening.

We all enjoyed this sunset... and yes, the photograph does not do it justice.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meeting the Monarchs

A well marked entrance into the grove

In addition to Lovers Point, Pacific Grove is known as a rest stop of sorts for Monarch butterflies during their annual migration. Each October thousands of butterflies descend upon the area, taking up residence for a few months in an old grove of eucalyptus trees. This little spot is known as the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary and consists of a simple dirt path, rope guide rails, and a few comfortable benches.

The *only* monarch visible in the entire scanctuary

Both Ronan and Nieve enjoy butterflies so we made a stop by the sanctuary to see if the Monarchs had arrived. Unfortunately we only saw a single butterfly, perched in a nearby tree.

It feels like someone is watching...

Ronan making Mommy 'mini'

Even though the grove was almost entirely absent of the little orange and black flying insects the kids still made the trip fun. Ronan delighted in playing with the binoculars and worked to master focus and zoom. He also discovered the demagnifying effect when looking through the binoculars backwards and tested the 'littling effect' on Mom and Nieve.

Nieve snatched the binoculars from Ronan and loved teasing him with them

Nieve enjoyed exploring the path, running up and down and playing on the rope rail. She would chase Ronan around and do everything within her power to win his attention. She would also charm other visitors that passed by, giving a friendly greeting and a precocious smile.

It's all fun when Nieve chases after Ronan and Mom

Fortunately for us we still got our fill of monarch butterflies as the backyard of our rental house seemed to be filled with them (as well as hummingbirds). It was fun to grill dinner and watch the little insects flit about the bushes and trees. In the future, if we are in Pacific Grove between October and February, we'll be sure to stop by the sanctuary to enjoy the spectacle when the temporary residents are in.

This fun bench was a winner

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fun at Lovers Point

Enjoying the delightful little cove on a sunny afternoon

This past weekend we took a mini vacation to Pacific Grove, a friendly little community hugging the shoreline of California's central coast. The weather was perfect; sunny and warm but not overbearingly hot. The water conditions were even better - clear, cool, and almost as calm as a lake.

Nieve loved bobbing in the water

The perfect spot for kids to jump in the Monterey Bay is at Lovers Point, where a protected sandy cove with a shallow entrance makes it safe and inviting. It's small enough to corral far-wandering kids but big enough for the adventurous pre-schooler to explore.

A wet boy is a happy boy

Ronan delighted in running, swimming, and jumping into the Bay, playing with other children who seemed to do exactly the same. It was fun to watch him gravitate to kids a few years older than him, mimicking their movements and always trying to master whatever physical feat they attempted.

Ronan relaxing on rock he waded out to

Nieve was mostly pleased with her purple wetsuit and liked to say that she was going, "out into the deep blue sea". She was braver than we expected - she waded in all the way up to her neck without any prompting from us.

The great, wet 'Nieve Monster' marauding the shallows

On one occasion a surge tipped her over and she floated face-down in the water until we picked her up an set her on her feet again. Surprisingly she didn't panic and seemed to not let the incident impeded on the fun she was having.

Nieve demonstrating the 'two finger touch' rule for sea creatures that she learned at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Both kids also loved finding creatures (mollusks) and flotsam (shells) in the sand and water. Some other children captured a crab and Ronan helped to build a little 'habitat' to keep the crab safe yet still under the care of the kids. Mom found a little snail that became Nieve's 'precious'; for the most part she was gentle with her slimy little pet.

Nieve and Ronan taking a moment to goof off in front of the camera

Our time spent at the little cove was delightful with both Ronan and Nieve asking to go back to play in the water. I'm certain the next time we are in Monterey we'll be sure to stop by and make more fun at Lovers Point.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beach Days, 2012

Ronan be nimble, Ronan be quick...

In August we spent a week in San Diego enjoying the warm sun, the refreshing Pacific, and Nana's hospitality. San Diego's main attraction are the sandy beaches (more on Legoland in another post) with 20th Street in Del Mar and La Jolla Shores being the easiest for us to get to with two kids and the stuff that comes with them.

Ronan made a sunflower for Mom out of the flotsam he found on the shore

A warm beach is almost the perfect spot for kids to explore. Ronan and Nieve love combing the shore for interesting flotsam and at the water's edge they can dig for scurrying sand crabs.

Joe cool, hanging at the beach

Building with sand always exercises the imagination, with drip-style castles the latest fad for Ronan and Nieve. They have learned to site their creations just out of reach of the surge but close enough to the water so they can dig a 'drip quarry' without much effort.

Who needs wave power when you have Uncle Todd power?

But what makes spending time at the beach magical is the ocean itself. Swimming and riding waves are obvious pleasers, be it with a board or not. This year we got Ronan a snorkeling kit and he went out past the breakers in search of underwater life. He was successful on his first time out, seeing sting and bat rays as well as a couple leopard sharks.

Even though the ride was thrilling, Ronan loved observing the behavior of water spray

When he wasn't snorkeling Ronan was busy cajoling Uncle Todd into pulling him through the shallow water on a boogie board. Ronan loved the speed and giggled like crazy, demanding Uncle Todd to run faster or farther.

Time to do some trick riding...

Nieve was not interested in thrilling board rides. Instead she played with her bucket and shovel in the shallow water, feeling the push and pull of the gentle waves. She also liked to let her feet get buried by the tide - she's stand in the same spot at the edge of the water until her feet sank into the wet sand, all the way up to her mid-shins.

A happy girl, playing in the shallow water. Fun and refreshing!

The several days we spent at the beach with family, friends, and wildlife (Ronan loves chasing seagulls) was much needed fun toward the end of our summer. We all had a blast, with Ronan and Nieve already asking about beach week 2013!