Story by Lukas Ferrenburg
The mist hangs in the air, like someone is burning a large brush pile. Calm wind. Most people head to the Oregon coast to escape the heat, and enjoy some of the most beautiful rugged coastline the world has to offer. However, I’m there for a very different reason, tide pools, and according to the tide charts today is a massive minus tide. As I slide into my rubber boots I take a look around, there’s nobody here, perfect. I begin my ascent out towards the crashing waves. I pass millions of giant green and aggregating anemones. I climb over rocks being careful not to cut my hands on the barnacles or crush all the encrusting mussels living on the rocks. Closer and closer I make my way to the furthest point I can possibly go.
It is in this algae covered environment that I find myself slowing down and freeing myself from all the stressors the world has to offer, a certain solitude that only the sound of the wind and the gentle caressing of waves against the ancient stones have to offer. I crouch down near a single pool looking at every single crack and crevasse, for minutes on end, and then I see it a flash of fire orange and electric opalescent that is the Opalescent Nudibranch (a fancy word for sea slugs) and suddenly my heart starts racing and a rush of adrenaline courses through my veins. “Look how awesome this thing is!” I yell out to friends. Suddenly it seems like I’m no longer on the Oregon coast because I’m looking at some animal that looks as if it belongs in some tropical paradise on a coral reef, and I should have a fruity drink mounted in my hand. Moments later my jaw drops, I see a grotesque tiny blob, the size of your thumb, climb across the rocks and into a pool. I quickly move towards it and peer into the pool to find a baby Giant Pacific Octopus (the largest octopus species in the world). A truly rare find, “excited in awe phrases” and hi-fives are given all around and huge child like grins are on everyone’s faces. Other highlights include a Red-Eyed Medusa (a jellyfish with red light sensing organs above each tentacle) drifts erratically, pulsating its bell in a “1…2”rhythm, propelling it in a random direction each time. Tide pool sculpins dart back and forth as you walk by, anemones close their tentacles around mussels pried off the rocks from the crashing waves, hermit crabs scurry away as fast as possible as your shadow projects over their pool. All in all, a great day celebrated by cracking a few cold ones in the parking lot and reminiscing the days “best finds.”
This is the way tide pooling often goes; there could be nothing or there could be something that will blow your hair back, you never know. Much like Christmas morning every pool is a present. Some of those presents are the wrapped socks you’re almost guaranteed, which represent tide pools filled with the cool but ever so common animals such as anemones, and urchins. Other pools are like unwrapping that Nintendo 64 you got during the Christmas of 96, meaning some wild flamboyant animal from the depths that few people have ever seen, let alone even know they exist.
Some of the most amazing animals I have ever seen in my life are in tide pools. My personal favorites are nudibranchs. You wouldn’t think that marine slugs would be all that interesting, but they’re some of the most beautiful animals this world has to offer, and virtually come in every color the human eye is capable of seeing. I’ve seen baby giant pacific octopuses just hanging out in the open. I’ve seen bizarre fish, worms, crabs, and even a family of otters residing behind a rock outcropping and gorging themselves on tide pool sculpins. All of these life long memories I have made would have been missed if I hadn’t slowed down to take a long look at things. It’s almost as if the ocean has pulled back its curtain of mystery and given you a slight peek into the treasures that she hides in her belly that few have ever seen.
Fortunately and unfortunately, having no crowd is usually the case when it comes to a tide pool session. To be honest it has always baffled me why so little people are out exploring the pools, especially considering how accessible all the public rocky shoreline Oregon has to offer. Even if there are people out there, it usually seems like they are in a hurry, or bored assuming there’s nothing but anemones, urchins, sea stars, barnacles, and mussels. They may just ignore the tide pools altogether, waving their selfie stick aimlessly and ask what I’m looking at in passing. Not to say that there is anything wrong with any of this. How you enjoy the outdoors I feel is on an individual level. However, I can speak from experience that there is so much more these pools have to offer. If you can take the time to slow down, which is becoming increasingly difficult in todays fast paced information overload world, I can guarantee you’ll be extremely rewarded. You may possibly make life long memories, finding solitude, and maybe even catch a glimpse into the secrets the ocean has to offer. I encourage all of you to check a tide chart, choose a nice summer day, fill a cooler with your 6-pack of choice, and most importantly take your time out there, the memory of a lifetime could be waiting out there in a pool and you don’t want to miss it.