Bees & Blooms


New Brighton & Natural Bridges State Beach

I recently visited Capitola and Santa Cruz with my family. Our favorite beaches to visit are New Brighton State Beach, where we camped, and Natural Bridges State Beach.

Natural Bridges has a small sunny beach, tide pools, and a fun visitor center. It’s known as a site where swarms of monarch butterflies pass through on their migratory routes. A short distance away (10 to 20 minutes on a bike), is the famous light house / surfing museum. There used to be a number of “natural bridges,” but most have eroded over time.

Images: top left: view along shore from bike trail, looking towards Natural Bridges (not visible); bottom left: the lighthouse; right: the remaining “natural bridge.”

New Brighton State Beach is farther down the coast. It’s characterized by steep bluffs and exposed cliffs. It’s at the very north end of Monterey Bay, and you could walk unimpeded just about as far as you pleased down the beach.

The cliffs, which stretch from New Brighton towards Capitola City Beach for about 3,500 feet, are part of the “Purisima Formation,” and feature layers of fossil shell deposits from 3 to 5 million years ago. If you visit the Santa Cruz City Museum, you can purchase an informative little pamphlet (cited below) that explains the composition and natural history of the cliffs.

Images: top: view from end of beach looking south-east into Monterey Bay; Images of the cliff face with my dad offering comparison for scale; close ups of various fossils.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sancuary encompasses this area, making it a wonderful place to view marine wildlife. We spotted a pod of dolphins and sighted whale spumes. Other commonly seen animals include sea lions and sea otters, and a wide variety of sea birds.

Image: least sandpiper.


Perry, F. A. (1988). Fossil invertebrates and geology of the marine cliffs at Capitola, California (pamphlet). Santa Cruz, CA: Santa Cruz Museum Assoc.



Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, by Donnie Eichar

San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013

ISBN 9781452112749

Subjects: Dyatlov Pass Incident; Russia; Ural Mountains Region; Hiking; Mountaineering accidents; Travel

Summary: Dead Mountain recounts the 1959 tragedy known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Nine young people from the Ural Polytechnic Institute (now the Ural State Technical University) trekked deep into the Siberian wilderness in the hopes of earning a prestigious hiking certification. Their goal was Otorten Mountain. The day before they were to make their ascent, they camped on the slope of Holatchahl (Kholat Syakyl), or Dead Mountain. That night, an unknown force drove all nine hikers from their tent in subzero temperatures without their shoes. There were no survivors. What happened that night remains a mystery, but theories, both wild and mundane, proliferate. In this book, Donnie Eichar offers his own theory and also details how he arrived at his conclusions. Impressively, this process involved traveling to Dyatlov Pass himself, as well as speaking with the only living survivor of the trip — Yuri Yudin — who would have been the tenth member of the group, but was forced by ill health to turn back before the fatal incident.

Evaluation: Eichar presents the story as a gripping narrative and offers a thorough exploration of a puzzling and chilling mystery that has fascinated people around the world for over fifty years. Most importantly, he doesn’t lose sight of the human story of nine young hikers who met a tragic end one freezing night in the Russian wilderness. The many black and white photos included in the book, as well as the author’s descriptions, gives the reader a very endearing and real-seeming sense of what the hikers were like as individuals and as a group. Eichar offers his own theory concerning the incident at the end of the book, which is based on the premise that a natural phenomenon led to the hikers’ deaths. He lists many of the most prominent other theories and offers his reasoning on why he does not find them feasible. He expresses his own belief in his theory, but while the reader can decide how satisfying an explanation it is, ultimately the mystery remains unexplained.

Other thoughts: I vaguely knew the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident from a horror movie I saw a few years ago (Devil’s Pass, 2013), as well as the video game “Kholat” (IMGN.PRO, 2015). However, I recently fell in love with the Astonishing Legends podcast, and their 2-part series on Dyatlov Pass is excellent. They mention this book in their coverage of the topic, and I enjoyed those episodes so much I decided to read it. I would highly recommend checking out the Astonishing Legends page for the Dyatlov episodes, as well as listening to the podcasts, for anyone interested in seeing more documentation about the incident, as well as more in-depth coverage of the “fringier” theories:

Back, and finally finished with school (almost)

I finished my ePortfolio, which I guess means that now I just have to wait for my degree to arrive in the mail. I won’t lie — it was a lot of work. I felt like all I was doing was regular work and school work since… well, since the last time I posted anything here. I still have a bit of school work to do before I’m all the way done. My “children’s literature” class isn’t over until the first week of May, and I still have one minor and two major projects to complete by then. I will be happy to be done with official school, but I don’t want to slack off. I want to keep reading professional literature and studying things on my own, for professional development, you know.

I bought an air rifle the other day. Z had got one for us to “share” the Christmas before last, but he keeps it in his room all the time and I don’t want to go in there and just take it, because I doubt he’d like that. I got it to shoot rats with. It’s extremely accurate (so far), but I don’t know if I will ever actually shoot a rat.

The rifle is a Gamo Whisper Silent Cat. It doesn’t seem any quieter than Z’s rifle, and most reviewers on Amazon said the silencer didn’t really do anything. For my purposes, the scope is fine, although many people complained about that as well. Besides mentions of those two features, however, the reviews were extremely positive, which led me to choose this rifle over another I was considering: the Daisy 880 Powerline Kit, which came with ammo and protective goggles. Starter kits like that make you feel like you’re getting more, but the quality of what you get is usually less than if you choose and buy each component separately. I chose the Silent Cat because it was touted as being very accurate and effective for small game hunting and pest control. I haven’t killed anything yet, and I probably never will, but if I do I’m pretty confident this rifle can do the job. It shoots .177 caliber pellets at between 1000 and 1250 feet per second.