crane beach sand dune (ipswich)

with a map on my lap and the memorized directions in my head, i led my parents along with jawei to crane beach in ipswich on this warmish high-70's autumn day. having spent his whole life with just the pacific ocean, i felt it fitting that he should now also experience that other great body of water. true, he'd already gone to revere beach on friday and touch the atlantic, but that was on one of the coldest days of the season thus far, and revere beach can't compare with crane beach, one of the best beaches in massachusetts that's not on the cape.

crane beach

crane beach low-tide

kelp skeleton

admission was only $7 because it's the low season now, even though from the look of all the cars in the parking lot you'd never guess that. the low season also meant that dogs (on leash) were now allowed on the beach, as well as horseback riding (which is kind of disconcerting, when you're trying to work on that tan and a horse gallops over you, not to mention the piles of horseshit that accumulates on the beach, but i guess that's what the tides are for). none of us brought proper beach gear; jawei came the closest, with his shorts and a pair of flip flops. i ended up taking off my shoes and socks and rolling up the legs of my jeans so i could walk along the receding edge of the ocean, the water temperature near freezing.

crab claw

nonbreeding black-bellied plovers

nonbreeding semipalmated plover

crane beach is a clean beach, in that there's very little debris on the shoreline, the most you can expect to find is an assortment of floating seaweed, some tiny pieces of driftwood, and the occasional clamshell; it is not a good place for beachcombing. the only really exciting wildlife were various types of plovers speedwalking along the surf, taking baths in the shallow pools of water, occasionally sticking their beaks into the sand to look for food.

beach grass art

inner dunes

dune trees

we walked maybe about a mile along the coast but it felt like more before we decided to walk across the crane beach peninsula and follow the inner trail through sandy dunes mixed with beach grass. i cringed everytime jawei left the path to climb a dune or to walk on some vegetation. it seems like the season for mysterious non-edible berries as i encountered several different varieties today.

my parents had packed lunches in a cooler in the trunk, tuna sandwiches for all with an assortment of different drinks. after we finished eating, we followed route 133 east to halibut point in rockport.

halibut point tidal pools (rockport)

the first and last time i came to halibut point was with renata 2 years ago on a cold spring day. it kills me she couldn't be here today; when we came in april 2003 it was a miserable afternoon, the tide was high, the air windy and frigid, and even then we were still able to catch a few critters in the few small tidal pools. now imagine today's weather, a warm october afternoon, the tide at its lowest, the entire rocky coastline exposed revealing vast areas of tidal pool action. compared to the desolation of crane beach we just visited, halibut point was a hotbed of naturing, and i could've spent hours there, just peering into the tidal pools, looking for things to take photos of.

i was so excited when i found my first starfish (the politically correct term is "sea star") that i called everyone over to come and see. that's before we realized the whole place was dotted with starfish of all sizes, from little tiny ones to those as big as my hand. i found some sea urchin skeletons before i actually saw live sea urchins (they came in a group, clumped together underneath a rock).

radial symmetry

starfish madreporite

starfish feet

crustacean lifeforms abound as well: occasionally i'd see small things dartly around the water that may or may not be tiny shrimps or copepods. jawei spotted a large atlantic rock crab hiding in the crevasse (we thought it was dead until i poked it and it wiggled its legs frantically), and it wasn't too long before we found another one. though edible, i didn't think it was a good idea for us to be removing wildlife so we can eat them. there were also timid hermit crabs who would come to life if i waited by a pool long enough for them to feel safe.

rock crab

claw strength test

hermit crab

coming back to the parking lot, i asked one of the park rangers what "the score" was since i heard him listening to the game on radio earlier. "10-1, red sox," he said, "and the indians lost too." in the evening we had spaghetti and turkey meatballs for dinner before getting a ride back to cambridge. my exchange student and i spent the rest of the evening chatting animately about where to go in taiwan for the best street food.