By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/25/2018
Occurred: 5/20/2006
Topics/Keywords: #California #McGrathStateBeach #Travel #Zachary Page Views: 285
The pictures from the McGrath State Beach segment of Zach's 7th birthday beach bash.

John and I had been there ten years before. We remembered it as beautiful and nearly deserted. This day it was full (we had prepaid reservations). We were given a site about 400 yards from the beach, between several good climbing trees. (You can see pictures in the Flash presentation above.) In spite of the crowd, there was plenty of room for all; it didn't fell crowded. There were flowers everywhere, and green trees; it looked positively lush to eyes grown accustomed to Arizona's sere desert. But things had changed in the past decade.

I stayed behind to walk the dogs, who were not allowed on the beach, while everyone else slipped into bathing suits and ran to the water. I went near the beach, and found a tidal pool for the dogs to frolic in, then returned to the RV and rinsed off the dogs under a water spigot.

By this time, the others had returned. "That didn't take long," I said.

"It was dis-gus-ting," Karen moaned. "You have to walk through a tar pit, and there was a dead baby seal on the beach."

"And it's rocky," John added. "When waves break on you, they throw rocks."

"A tar pit?" I repeated. I didn't remember a tar pit from my previous visit.

"From the oil refinery just South of here," John explained.

"But Zachary liked it," Karen added. So Zachary and I went to the beach to see what was up.

The "oil refinery" turned out to be an electrical power plant; the baby seal had apparently been disposed of; Karen's "tar pit" turned out to be the tidal pool I'd already found. Someone had tried to make a bridge out of driftwood so they wouldn't have to get their feet wet.

"That's hard to walk on," Zachary told me.

"I'm not surprised," I said. "But why bother? The water isn't any higher than your calves." I stepped into the tidal pool; muck stirred where I stepped, billowing great black clouds in the water.

"What's that black stuff?" Zachary asked.

"Well, it's biological material," I said.

"What's that?"

I laughed. "Basically, it's fish poop. But the ocean is full of it, and we don't worry about it there, do we? So don't worry about it here. We'll rinse off later." Zachary laughed, too. Poop is funny to seven-year-olds, even when it's microscopic and from invertebrates. I wondered how kids, who play with and kill bugs as children and go camping every summer, can so often grow up to become such stuffy adults.

And why I hadn't.

The beach was sandy, but there were a lot of rocks. And the waves did displace stones, which did hit your ankles if you were in the water that far. But Zachary liked to play that the waves were attacking him, and he held a driftwood stick sword and attacked back. I sat in the sun—now lowering—and watched as he ran back and forth, back and forth, parrying and thrusting against the evil wave monster.

The air was mild, the sky clear. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day. However, after an hour or so I saw Zachary was shivering, so I told him it was "about time" to go back. We've been taking him swimming since he was an infant, and I always warn him in advance of leaving so he can get used to the idea. Consequently, he almost never complains when we actually have to go.

At our site, he rinsed off and changed, then got busy climbing trees. They were perfect for his size and easy to climb and he had a ball. I was pleasantly surprised how much fun it was just to watch him. And how impressed I was with how competent this once-teeny baby had become. Seven years old! Where had the time gone?

John cooked dinner—pre-formed Black Angus hamburgers, some with embedded mushrooms and cheese—and we set up Karen's laptop to watch Hoodwinked, a movie we'd been saving for the trip. Someone came to tell us that we had to turn the generator off at 8 pm and couldn't turn it on until 10 am. We had thought the guard at the gate told us off at 10 and on at 8. But, whatever. We shut it down and continued to watch the movie until the laptop's battery gave out just before the end. The movie was a little slow and we were all more than ready for bed, so we didn't mind so much.