Saturday, October 25, 2008

October '08 Jalama Beach Expedition

Today the San Luis Obispo Gem & Mineral Club conducted a field trip to Jalama Beach near the western end of the Gaviota Coast of Santa Barbara County on California's Central Coast.

I carpooled with club treasurer and man-about-town Mike Shipsey in his hybrid SUV which was kinda cool as the only money I owed him for the gas could be and was repayed with a Jalama Burger with accessories along with splitting the $8 park entrance fee.

We left SLO around 8 A.M. and got to the park around 10 A.M. with a stop in Lompoc for water and a bathroom break.

There has been a strong and persistent Santa Ana Wind Event this past week into this weekend that has gripped the mountains above Jalama Beach in a long-lived Red Flag Warning. Therefore it was incredibly sunny and warm to the point of being nearly uncomfortably hot with the sun glaring blindingly off the ocean and off the whitish bluffs that border the beach.

The surf was really pounding and thus this famous surf spot was packed with surfers and their girlfriends along with vacationing families whom filled the campground to the overflowing.

Mike and I headed up the beach to the creek and while he checked the bluff strata for fish fossils and checked in the bank of the creek for petrified whale bone.

Having failed to find anything there we headed down the beach and encountered some fresh beach rock where I did find a nice agate that was fresh enough to not have been beach-rounded.

When we got to the bluffs to the south of the campground we invested about half an hour's time splitting strata and found plenty of fish scales but no fish skeletons.

My little Chihuahua/Terrier (actually "terror") mix Tequila didn't like this beach the last time I visited (early 2006 which was also my first visit) and she liked it no more this time.
She is afraid of ocean waves and today it was really pounding so she fought me most of the visit pulling on her leash laterally up the beach to get back to the campground and vertically towards the base of the bluffs to get away from the surf. Next time I won't take her.

Around the point I did find some more beach agates and a complete abalone shell replete with seaweed grass growing from atop the shell.

I also split some concretions in the bluffs right around the point to the south and found some nice little calcite crystals but no whale bone, unfortunately.

There was too much sand and not enough rock on the beach to give us a decent shot at the petrified whale bone we came for and we were too impatient to take the time splitting strata at the base of the bluffs to find the fish fossils we hoped to see as well.

On the walk back to the campground I reconned the bluffs for access when I hopefully visit next wherein I plan to scramble across the bluffs and check the old sea cobbles and pebbles embedded in the exposed old beach material that overlays the upturned sea-bottom strata that compose the bottom half of the bluffs along that part of the coast.

From an instant-gratification standpoint the expedition was a bust as we found nothing worth carting home but we did conduct good recon for future expeditions and saw some incredible scenery and experienced some awesome weather and got off our fat white hineys and took a long walk on the beach burning calories and revving up our corpse-like metabolisms.

Something that is worthy of mentioning is all the naturally-occurring tar on the beach here which bubbles up from tar seeps along faults under the ocean offshore along this part of the coast.
Currents and wave action wash this tar up on the beach here and all along the Gaviota Coast and Santa Barbara Channel area.

This tar can be found splashed on rock outcroppings and on driftwood or just laying as large patties or little globules on the sand.

The Chumash People used this tar to caulk their boats they used to travel along the coast or over to the Channel Islands.

Avoiding stepping on this tar was effectively impossible and I got a good one on the sole of one of my sandles. Even in the Jalama Store and Grill there is the distinct odor of this tar on the bottoms of many or most visitor's feet and footwear.

When we got back to the campground the place seemed to teem with even more people than when we arrived and the overall feeling of the place was that of Summer Vacation on the California Coast which was nice for the end of October despite the Coney Island atmosphere which normally I find unpleasant.

After tying Tequila to a post next to Mike's vehicle we headed for the Jalama Beach Store and Grill which was directly across from where we were parked and was now much more crowded than when we arrived.

Ignoring the Jalama Beach Store given our having shopped in Lompoc for supplies on the way down we placed our order for two Jalama Burgers with all the fixings as well as an order of fries and two Cherry Cokes in the Jalama Beach Cafe and awaited our lunch while exploring the displays in the dining hall.

The displays showed some photos of the Honda Point Disaster of September 8, 1923, as well of marine fossils and Chumash artifacts found on the bluffs above the beach over the years which was very cool and inspired me to future expeditions there.

We decided to eat there instead of outside in the hot sun with the crowds and after eating we left and drove home without incident.

We never did see any other members of our club nor of any other clubs nor anybody who appeared to be there for rockhounding in contrast to the last club field trip there last July wherein some of our members encountered other rockhounds. I know that club secretary Lynnette Bayless and club show dealer chair Dianna Deem were supposed to have carpooled down for this event but we never encountered them.

At Mike's house where I parked my pickup for the day, we did conduct an impromptu San Luis Obispo Gem & Mineral Club board meeting of sorts discussing club policy and strategy as it relates to our two annual shows in Cayucos and came up with some things to discuss as a group at next month's club meeting.


  1. Kim,
    Your adventure sounds much like my own there.

    We probably need to go there in the winter, when the gravel is exposed, to actually find much, but it sounds like you had a cool time nonetheless.

    Let's you and I go down there this Winter, okay?


  2. Kimmer, Thanks for the comment on my blog :-) Jalama is my special magical place. Reading your account of rock hounding there made my heart ache. Living on the east coast now, there is no where comprable to the beach of big winds.
    Happy trails!

  3. Hello, great blog. I would love to do an article on you and your site. Please contact me if you want.

    Thanks, gary-

  4. I just got back from there yesterday and i just love that place I could live there but there was only one problem the wind we were walking back from from the big rock's and the wind was blowing so hard that the sand was hitting our bodies and it hurts so bad my poor dogs were getting sand in their eyes so I had to pick them up and carry them the rest of the way to camp but other than that I just love jalama Beach that is the best place I've ever been.

    Thanks jalama for letting us camp there we will be back..