Fitzgerald Marine Reserve: Finding Starfish and Sea Treasures
By Dayna Wilson

Tide pooling with kids can be a lot of fun. Although I live in Walnut Creek, our family annually makes the worthwhile trek over Highway 92 to Half Moon Bay and up to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve right on the San Mateo coast.

STEP-BY-STEP

Before our outing, we check the tide tables to see when the lowest tides occur, and we plan our trip accordingly. This past year we invited our church group called the Sailboats to come along and enjoy the fun. Since we consist of families with kids under 10, all the adults were eager to expose their children to the natural beauty the shore has to offer.

We agreed to meet at a picnic table near the parking lot for a quick snack and to examine our reference chart we got from the library that shows the children what to look for. Next, our crew made our way down the hill and along the beach to locate the best tide pool area, one chockful of sea creatures and plants. On the way, there is usually a very deep pool area where you often see a number of seals up close and personal.

You can not take anything away from the area, but you can touch and look all you want. The most common sea life you can count on seeing are: crabs, both large and small, sea anemones, and a dazzling array of starfish. We usually see white, orange and purple ones.

On our most recent trip, we picked up a Bat Star, a Knobby Star and a huge Sunflower Starfish. There were also sea cucumbers, small fish, and spiny, purple sea urchins. The kids are thrilled and excited to uncover these oceanic gifts. We all run to see each other's treasures once they have been discovered.

If you plan to go tidepooling, one thing is a must: wear shoes with lots of tread as the rocks are very slippery and covered with seaweed. A towel, change of clothes, socks, etc. is also required as you WILL get wet! Fortunately, the area throughout the seasons is very pleasant and does not get unbearably windy.

Afterwards, you can enjoy a picnic on the beach or back at the picnic tables. You can also eat at one of Half Moon Bay's wonderful local restaurants. We like to dine at either the Moss Beach distillery (it claims to be haunted!) and sit outside if it's a sunny day. If you have never been to the area before, walk around the Half Moon Bay's colorful Main Street and lunch in one of their cafes. Of course, Mom gets a bit of shopping time, while Dad can grab a latte.
Several interesting book and toy stores will also occupy the kids for an afternoon of relaxation and fun.

On the way back to the East Bay, we typically stop at one or two wineries along Highway 92, as well as the lovely nurseries to browse or buy plants and flowers. Now that you have this information at hand, pack up your tidepooling gear and go have FUN!

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WHEN YOU GO, BE SURE TO:
 
*Check tidepool tables for low tide.
*Bring lots of sunscreen for everyone.
*Bring non-skid shoes and a first-aid kit in case someone falls.
*Take note that parking is free and not far away from the tidepools.

NOTEWORTHY WEBSITE:

* www.fitzgeraldreserve.org  - to find out more about the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

Dayna L. Wilson lives in Walnut Creek with her young family. This is her first article for BAFT.

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