this morning renata and i were supposed to go to a flea market in leominster. unable to find the town in my arrow street atlas of eastern massachusetts (renata told me later that her father told her it was near worcester), i figured it was too far away for a quick drive, so we opted to do something else instead, which was to go check out some tide pools. after some online research, i picked halibut point reservation as our destination, located in rockland, one town over from gloucester. i called renata to let her know the change of plan, quickly made some breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausages, mango juice), then went across to the street to get some snacks and drinks for the road trip.

the drive was uneventful, route 2 to 95 north to 128 north to 127 north. the road up 127 through gloucester was the essence of quaint new england charm, passing coastal homes left and right, glimpsing the ocean here and there. when we finally got to the reservation, i was surprised to see that it wasn't very crowded, i had imagined that everyone would be out today enjoying the weather, despite the rather cool 50-60 degrees temperature. there were dense patches of crocuses at the start of the path, almost like a colorful beacon drawing your attention towards that direction.

the place used to be a granite quarry about 150 years ago, until it was abandoned in the first half of the 20th century. the quarry, now filled with water, looked like an inland pond with deep sloping rock walls. that was all very interesting, but we were here for the tidal pools, and made a beeline for the rocky beach, negotiating through paths overgrown in waist-high thorny thickets. the few groups of people who encountered either seemed to be fellow nature fanatics like ourselves (most likely birders) or families with kids. renata noticed that most of the families there were foreigners, speaking either portuguese, spanish, russian, or chinese.

good news, we found the tide pools; bad news, it just happened to be high tide at the time. most of the remaining exposed tide pools we saw were empty, not even seaweeds were growing in them, nothing but clear salty seawater. we hopped around from rock to rock, searching for signs of life in these tide pools,

while next to us the ocean waves crashed against the large boulders, spraying us with sea foam. it was definitely much colder near the beach as well, as i noticed a performance decrease in the renata unit while she borrowed my gloves to stay warm.

after some searching, we finally found a small tide pool filled with hair-thin seaweed swaying gently in the water. at first we thought it was empty other than the seaweed, but after some careful observation, we saw a snail and this thing that looked like a shrimp but shaped like a tadpole. turns out it was a copepod, a small (5mm) plankton-like crustacean. renata wanted to try and capture these animals, but after i expressed some hesitation, she balked.

we went a little bit further down the beach before we saw these rock formations, an obvious homage to andy goldsworthy. they seemed dangerous though, a child injury waiting to happen, although there were so many granite rocks of all sizes and shapes strewn about that a small child would probably be injured in so many other ways besides being crushed by toppling rock statues.

we found a large empty tide pool (N 42°41.533' W 070°37.925') and sat to rest, enjoying the shoreline, drinking our ginger ales, eating our trail mix. eventually we got cold enough that we had to go back inland, where it was warmer.

we walked up the side of the hill to a scenic overlook above a mountain pile of large quarried granite blocks. in front of us as far as the eye could see was the atlantic ocean. it was hard to gauge how far up we were except for the small pinpoints of people walking on the rocks far away down below us. renata remarked how great it'd be to come here at night and watch the stars or a meteor shower, i mumbled in agreement.

we went to the visitor's center tower to use the bathroom, but not before we saw something that scared us a little bit. in the distance up in a tree, renata spotted something big and black. i took out my monocular to get a closer look: it was a large black bird, looked like a crow but was the size of an eagle. a raven! i've never seen a raven before, and i hope i never will again. although ravens are only 6" longer than crows, to see a "crow" of that size is kind of scary. it didn't make a sound, just perched on top of a tree, surveying the landscape. after we used the bathroom (composting toilets! yuck!), we left halibut point.

half a mile down the road heading back home, we parked briefly at folly cove landing. a tough love father smoking a cigarette was leading 4 little girls down the rocky shore. here the tide pools were different. because they were closer to the land, ocean life mixed with terrestrial life to create this layer of green primordial ooze on a lot of the pools. in one clear pool however we saw small shrimps hiding between the crevasses in the rocks. this part of the beach also had a small rock shoreline, where clumps of different seaweeds had washed up onshore.

we made it back to town. since neither of us had lunch yet and renata had an hour or two to kill before she had to meet up with her brother, we got some food in the porter exchange at the ramen shop. i had the pork miso ramen, renata ordered the chinese vegetable miso ramen. minutes later, the waiter served us our cauldron of hot ramen. neither renata nor i could finish our portions. afterwards, renata got a red bean mochi from the ice cream shop while i had a double scoop of green tea ice cream on a cone. renata drove me back to my place before going home.

i got a call from manny asking if i wanted to help him finish off some easter ham. he picked me up for dinner at his place (where i got a chance to finally give him his birthday present), his sister maureen was there visiting as well. besides the ham (which looked remarkably like a pig's head), they also made some fried calamari and whole squids. i finished before everyone else, then helped myself to more ham, where i quickly hit my food threshold, yet continued eating until i finished my ham. stuffed, we watched a episode of law & order: special victims unit, guest starring mark-paul gosselaar as a pornstar, then manny and maureen drove me back to my place while we had a heated conversation about the war in iraq during the trip.