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March Slice of Life No. 15.

We arrived late afternoon for our annual end-of-summer beach week.

We unpacked. [Funny how two words represent over an hour’s worth of work.] Then we eagerly headed to the path that would take us through waving sea grasses, over a small dune, and onto the beach. We were so ready for our first surf walk of this long awaited September week.

My husband started across the dry sand toward the surf. But I stood for a few moments on the crown of the dune, drinking in the expanse of sand and surf. A sea breeze stirred. There was a hint of something on the edge of that breeze. It was not the normal. I wrinkled my nose and deliberately sniffed the air. Fishy? Or was it just salty? More like the Atlantic than my beloved Pacific. Strange…. but it was just a whiff. So, I pulled off my flip-flops and with my eyes on the crashing, foaming surf, I hurried to catch up to my husband.

We had crossed the expanse of sand almost to the tide line from the last high tide before we noticed them. So many of them. More than we had ever seen. We slowed down and I put my flip-flops back on. We started counting, but stopped. There were hundreds of them. Now the smell was strong. It was not pleasant. Strangely, though it was unpleasant, I found myself savoring it just a wee bit because it filled me with so many wonderful childhood memories, memories of summer vacations at the sea, of fishing docks on Hatteras.

We usually don’t talk much on our surf walks. We both enjoy the roar of the waves. But on this walk, I was full of questions.

“What do you think happened to all of them?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was there a storm yesterday?


“What would eat so many?”
“Where are the seagulls? Why aren’t they at this feast?” We had only seen a couple along with a few black ravens.

“Oh! Look! There aren’t any claws. Just shells.” I kick a few of exoskeletons over and bent closer to examine them. Then I had to hurry to catch up to my husband.

“Do they molt?”


“They must molt. But why have we never seen this before?”
“Do you think there will be more tonight or tomorrow?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think they are just right here, or do they cover the WHOLE beach?”

“I can’t see any further than you can.”

I began speculating about our week, wondering if we’d enjoy the beach as much as usual, thinking about how we might need to clear a spot in the morning so the grandkids could build sand castles.

“Do you think they’ll rake the sand during the night? When I was a kid some of our New Jersey beaches were raked during the night.”

“I doubt it. Maybe high tide tonight will clean it.”

With that idea, I began checking tide tables on my phone. When would high tide occur? How high would it be? Would it be higher than the last one so it could wash all the shells back out to sea?

I was so full of wondering.

Back at the beach house, I found answers here,  here,  and here. In short, my thinking was confirmed. Crabs had molted by the hundreds!  [I found the process of their molting to be extremely fascinating.]

The grandkids arrived and unpacked. It was dark. Too late for them to go to beach. We said nothing.

Early the next morning, before the grandkids were awake, we went for a surf walk. I shivered in the lingering night cold as we crested the dune. Our giant shadows seemed to stretch to the surf. The air was fresh, not a hint of fishy. The sand was pristine, only a few shells remained along the water mark of the last high tide. It was as if it had never happened.

I was glad the beach was clean but sad that my grandkids had missed seeing the crab cast-offs.


From my Beach Album

The beach path, looking west to the ocean. It is hard to tell where ocean ends and sky begins,

The beach path, looking east toward the houses along The Promenade

My husband walking ahead on the sand. I snapped the picture from the top of the small dune.

Crab exoskeletons washed ashore at Seaside during molting season.
(I did not take this photo: source)

The top of the dune at the beginning of our morning walk.
I love the September color of the sea grass in the early morning sunlight.

Our giant morning shadows.
I laugh every time I look at this pic.

Walking back to the beach house (house on the right)
after a very long morning walk along the surf.

The sand has been “swept clean.”
That’s Tillamook Head, a promontory that rises about 1,200 ft above sea level.
It is forested with Sitka Spruce. It is the location of Ecola State Park,
the place where one of the scenes in The Goonies,
a Steven Spielberg story, was filmed.

I never tire of this view!


For FUN:  Clamming and crabbing on Oregon coast.

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