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Simon’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 12 Apr 2008

Location: Various beaches, California, USA

MapRemember that classic Sun headline ‘Phew, what a scorcher’? There’s no better way to sum up today’s weather.

You know when you step off a plane after a tedious flight and sheer heat hits you like a warm blanket? You starkly realise that you’re not at home anymore (Toto) and that’s exactly what it was like as I left the hotel at around 9.30 this morning. I’d already planned to go to Carpinteria, and I was glad I’d managed to get out of bed early enough (the aforementioned social deviant in the room next to me went to sleep with his TV blaring, and I was woken every other hour during the night by Bruce Willis’ muffled shouting in Die Hard…).

It’s a lovely drive down Hwy 1 to Carpinteria and, with the sky that particular shade of powder blue and wind in the palm trees, the glistening Pacific looked lovelier than ever as I pulled up. The temperature was already up into the eighties as I plonked myself down on the sand and, as the weather had burned off any strains of fog, I was able to see right across to the Channel Islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara.

The tide was out too, so I was able to walk much further along the sand than previously and I found a small cove that was totally empty (aside from a guy and his ultra-cute chocolate lab playing ball), so I sat there for an hour just soaking it all in.

As noon approached I decided it’d be best to head back to the hotel for lunch as I tend to resemble a matchstick if I stay out in the sun too long, and saw a report on the news that the temp at LAX, just 50 miles away, was 92…figures!

In the afternoon I’d planned to go to good old Refugio but, as I approached the car park, I discovered that most of Southern California had had the same idea, so I decided to plump for El Capitan Beach further down the coast instead.

There was a great vibe there as one of the local high schools was having a party, and the shrieks of kids having tug o’ war contests and engaging in general tomfoolery (or 'tomfoorahahery'...) were complemented by the rolling surf crashing onto the stony beach. Then I noticed a couple of teenagers stop throwing a football and point out to sea and, as I followed their eye line, spotted what they had seen: a large pod of dolphins, lazily arching out of the water as they swam along parallel to the beach. It was truly mesmerizing and I certainly felt very lucky indeed to have seen such a thing ‘in real life’, as it were.

I got in touch with an eminent Conservationist (well, t’wife) and we decided that they must have been Pacific Bottlenoses. However, I’ve flicked around the web and after comparing some shots with what I saw, I reckon they were Pacific White-Sided dolphins.

Edit - it turns out they were common dolphins...

The only downside with seeing large marine mammals in the wild is that you’re convinced any subsequent white plume or dark shape you spot out of your peripheral vision on the surface of the ocean is something significant. I can blame dive-bombing brown pelicans, a snorkeler and a small fishing boat for fooling me into believing I’d just spotted a blue whale.

A truly great day!