Hokusai Waves and Almond Scented Arthropods

Today, I was one of the few people out, enjoying the ocean and the woods, and for that matter, driving on Highway 1 South. Stepping out of the car, I had an overwhelming urge to walk towards the ocean, and this is what I saw:

Side note: Please excuse the finger blocking the top of the photo – I was trying to keep the lens clean. Also, I’m pretty impressed with the camera on the iPhone 5. You be the judge–all of the photos in this post are from the same camera

I had never seen waves that looked distinctly like Hokusai’s famous depiction, that you see everywhere it seems, but today the waves were breaking exactly that way (though I didn’t manage to capture one in a photo). Tall, high cresting beasts surged in relentlessly, pounding anything in their way. Small waves would from on the face of a swell, and other wavelets would sideswipe, race to swallow or otherwise join with their kin, followed by the gaping maw of the mother wave that would inevitably chomp down upon the cavernous trough below.

I don’t think anyone would have stood much of a chance if they fell in the water today. I imagine even the fish had a hard time staying safe. The seaweed in the water exploded into the air, large pieces catapulted high in the sky and molecules of sulfurous rotting algae permeated the crazy wind-whipped sea spray.

On the hike up to the waterfall at Garrapata State Park, I found an alternate trail up a creek that joins up with the main trail and spent most of the afternoon exploring game trails. There are few things more satisfying than hiking on wet, springy foliage and humus, balancing on fallen trees that cross over water and going just a little further to see what’s on the other side (of the hill, bend, thicket, etc).

This was not the first time I have seen a banana slug, but this one was rather large. Here’s a close-up:

The mushrooms were out in force today as well:

The most interesting critter I came across today was a strange looking millipede. This is the first time I’ve run across this particular creature, and I’m really glad that it was on my terms (as opposed to suddenly feeling prickly legs unexpectedly on my skin):

As I read about this particular invertebrate, I’m bummed that I didn’t know that I should have smelled it. The yellow-spotted millipede (Harpaphe haydeniana) apparently smells like almonds (maybe that’s why it’s called the almond scented millipede), due to its ability to secrete hydrogen cyanide when threatened (perhaps that’s where it’s other name, cyanide millipede, comes from). The life lesson here is as follows: If the Kool Aid, or millipede, smells of almonds, it is best not to consume. One more picture of our flamboyant, poisonous friend:

I have to admit, I’m really enjoying this chaotic weather, and I hope that it results in some snow so that I can hit the slopes. Hopefully I’ll be able to post about an epic snowboarding trip this year!