Editor's Note: If you want DN’s best, you gotta stick around

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate April 19, 2013 05:25 pm

Residing in Crescent City for five-plus years has led to one glorious revelation above all others: Living at the beach is far superior to visiting the beach.

Especially Pebble Beach, simply one of the most scenic stretches of coastline anywhere.

It’s not that the out-of-towners don’t get it. They have a hard time driving along Pebble Beach Drive without pulling over for pictures.

They do this in any weather, aside roiling waves or a still surface, the green water of a gray day or the sparkling blue of a sunny one.

But unless they’re lucky, they miss the transcendent events.

They may stay a few days and revel in the sea’s transformation from high tide to low, but they haven’t experienced those shifts occurring every 10 minutes unless they were here on March 11, 2011.

They may marvel at skydiving pelicans feasting on fish in the summertime, but they probably haven’t seen those birds massed at the edge of a bluff, their long bills tucked against a stranding January storm long after they should have flown south.

And they may turn pull-offs into haphazard parking lots at the slightest sign of a Pacific sunset, but … well, you get the idea. Sorry, Visitors Bureau, but the biggest rewards eventually go to those of us who are here for the duration.

Take Tuesday, just past sunset. Laura and I gazed out our front window at a bulbous pink cloud about to be pierced by a jet contrail. An above-average scene.

A seaward line of birds materialized at the top of the glass pane, part of a squadron passing directly over our house. Within seconds, they were just a small portion of a dark string of connected V’s.

I flashed on flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz.” Laura, prone to numeration, exclaimed, “There must be 500 birds there.”

The entertainment was just beginning.

As the initial articulated mass diminished with distance, several others came into view, dirtying the sky and seemingly all pointed straight toward the oceanic horizon. But we were pretty sure where they were headed.

If it weren’t situated on this remote piece of the continent’s edge, the crown jewel of Pebble Beach would be a world renowned landmark simply because of its shape and sprawl. But us Del Norters know that Castle Rock is more than that. It’s a national wildlife refuge, northernmost home of the elephant seal along with colonies of other barking pinnipeds, a critical habitat to nesting and migrating seabirds, and blah, blah blah.

Before our eyes, the potential of textbook information was spectacularly fulfilled. The Aleutian cackling geese were bound for their overnight quarters, and it was rush hour.

The lines veered north. Soon a funnel cloud of birds swirled beside Castle Rock — only so many could land at once.

By now we had out the binoculars, watching flock after flock feed the funnel. Forget that early estimate of 500. Thousands of geese were arriving simultaneously. It took about 10 minutes for the sky to clear.

It was one more Del Norte show in an irregular performance schedule that caters to us season ticket-holders.