Tired of plastic on the beach

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A dozen or so tires wash up on the beaches each year at Point Reyes. Most of them on the rim which makes them very heavy. I usually move them up as high on the beach as I can in case someone more industrious than myself feels like packing them out. I’ve only packed out two that I can recall. The rest either washed back out, or someone came and got them.

There is a forty-eight inch diameter aircraft tire buried in the sand on Drakes Beach, sans rim. In case you feel inclined to go get it, park your car near the cafe, walk ~2 miles to the right(low tide a must), it is high on the beach. Bring a shovel or two.

Shredded plastic wrap tangled in bull kelp and feather boa kelp

Bull kelp and feather boa kelp, minus the plastic

Tangled up and blue

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September, seductive winter light is coming on, beaches are covered deep in sand pushed ashore over the summer, making access easier. Not the high season for litter usually. Local fisherman have been plying the Marin coastline for months looking for crab, salmon, halibut and rockfish.

I can tell when they have been out. Beaches are covered in beer and soda cans, bait packaging, miles of plastic rope, hundreds of buoys and bait containers, snack wrappers and sometimes fishing poles or parts of boats. All blown or carelessly tossed overboard, then blown to shore. I pick it all up and pack it out on my back.

This evening a shiny flasher caught my eye in the wrack, I bent down to untangle it from the surf grass and other kelp. A long strand of mono-filament was threaded into the plants, a plastic hoochie, more line, a copper spring of some sort. Then I spied the scavenged body of a seabird, a murre or guillemot with a large nest of the mono-filament tangled around what was left of the wings and sternum.

NOTE: According to a bird expert I know, the bird is a common murre.

Had the bird seen a fish on the hook, swallowed it and died? Or had it surfaced and become tangled up in the line after diving perhaps 200 feet deep in search of a meal? I did not know. I only know that it was alive before coming into contact with this man-made trash, and now it was dead, wrapped in plastic.

Egg to bird to egg to bird and so on. Nothing in that cycle is toxic. All of it breaks down into something another creature uses for life.

Humans on the other hand have created all manner of clever tools. Tools made of plastic, which comes from oil. Plastic clothing, plastic fishing gear, plastic boats, plastic food wrappers. All of it so convenient for humans, for a moment that is. Once we are done with our “single-use” item, we generally toss it overboard, or into the land-fill, or the street, or out the window as we drive down the freeway.

None of this plastic breaks down or goes away or turns into something humans can eat.

What other creatures celebrate milestones in their life by releasing balloons into the air? Balloons made of nylon or latex that will fall back to earth eventually. Balloons that look like jellyfish and other forms of food to sea-life. Have a look here at the hundreds of images of balloons I found at the beach and in the High Sierra Nevada.

We are poisoning our nest, the nest of all the creatures on this planet, with our human conveniences.

Can we survive without so much plastic in our lives?

We survived until 1907 without any synthetic plastic.

From an article in the New York Times:

About 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally each year. Only about 10 percent of that is recycled. Of the plastic that is simply trashed, an estimated seven million tons ends up in the sea each year.

There, it breaks down into smaller and smaller fragments over the years.

The tinier the pieces, the more easily they are swallowed by marine life. (One study found that fish in the North Pacific ingest as much as 24,000 tons of plastic debris a year).

A long walk on The Great Ocean Beach – Point Reyes

I’ve not posted anything in a while.

My creative muse is on extended hiatus and my writing is not something I am overly fond of.

Last night the swell off Point Reyes was over 20 feet for an extended period of time, peaking at nearly 25 feet around 3:00 am. Big waves! Big fun.

I love being on the beach when the energy is high.

Last year I walked nearly the entire Great Ocean Beach with a few friends. We got a late start and grew tired, so we did not do the last mile.

Yesterday I decided to bag the whole enchilada. I packed food and drink, and all the clothes I might need. Without a car shuttle, I either needed to hitch a ride at the other end or do the walk twice. How would my legs hold out?

The blue line is my track - click to see a larger image

Got up at 5:00 am, drove to North Beach (the midpoint of the Great Ocean Beach, some call it ten mile beach, others twelve mile beach, I call it the outside beach, Drake/Limantour being inside) and stashed two liters of water. Then I drove up to Kehoe Beach and left the car at 6:19 am. After the short walk to the beach I was greeted with moderate winds and huge seas. The foam was deep and all the way up to the dune grass. Enormous waves crashed and pounded the beach.

To do the whole beach proper, I hiked north about two thirds of a mile to the wall. I had to dodge waves and deep drifts of thick foam all the way to the wall. Sea birds, wounded in the heavy surf littered the beach or swam in the foam/water, clearly not well. At the wall I set a waypoint and set off to the wall at the other end by the Lighthouse. It was 6:49 am.

All along the way I was serenaded with the sound and sight of enormous crashing waves. Waves twenty feet high crash long and loud, foamy spray shooting into the sky. The litter load was not as heavy as I would have thought. Lots of crab gear, some pelagic litter (from far away, coated with goose-necked barnacles and green slime) and the usual wrappers, bottles and broken patio furniture. One glass IV bottle showed up with Asian writing. As did a small brown glass vial for needle use. Only one hypodermic needle today.

Given my need for speed, I did not pick up everything in sight as is my usual MO. Plastic bottles, tennis balls, oyster spacer tubes, plastic brims from sports caps and the random toy made it into my several bags.

At one point I almost tripped over a Western Grebe. It immediately began kicking with one leg and crying out. The other leg was lifeless. I backed off a bit til it quieted down and watched it for a few minutes. It was terrified, unable to move except in a semi-circle as it kicked with one leg and cried. I pulled out my knife, said a short prayer, looked it in the eye and put it down.

Still miles from the other wall, I moved out, the lifeless, yet I hoped no longer suffering grebe foremost in my mind.

As I neared the North Beach parking lot, I noticed the heavy surf had knocked down a large portion of the rope fence put up to keep people out of Western Snowy Plover nesting areas. Walking along and resetting several posts, I hoped I had set it in the same location it was before.

By now I had about 35-40 pounds of trash with me, time to cache this and get some water and snack. One apple, some cheese and chocolate washed down with a liter of water and I was good to go.

Eventually I reached the South Wall at 1:07 pm and stopped for lunch. Legs sore and now facing a headwind, the idea of punting at either South Beach or North Beach on the way back crept into my fatigued mind. My third apple, 2 more ounces of cheese and some chocolate consumed, I set off into the quartering-headwind from whence I came.

By the time I reached North Beach again, my legs and feet held the floor and the vote was in, punt. Climbing over the bank, the parking lot was full of cars, surely one was headed to Kehoe eventually.

The nearest car’s driver had just hopped in and turned the key. I caught his eye and got him to roll his window down. “Hi, are you by chance headed to Kehoe Beach?” I asked.

“Well, I am making it up as I go today, where is Kehoe?”

“About twenty minutes north of here, I’ll show you the way and explain the sights as we go.”

“Great, hop on in.”

Daniel was visiting from the East Bay for the day, exploring beaches he had not visited in many years. He drove me right to my car. I and my feet thanked him profusely and we parted ways.

I popped three more ibuprofen and headed back to pickup the trash I had cached at both North and South beaches. I still have another cache to pickup further south and will do that later.

After 20.85 miles in soft, sloping sand, the hot shower felt wonderful.