I spent the holidays in Pismo Beach, a medium sized resort town north of Santa Barbara. The main attraction is, of course, the beach, which is long and pristine and allows dogs. Sign me up. The nice thing about Pismo in particular is that the majority of the beach is public, state park land with beautiful dunes and sweet-smelling eucalyptus. At Oceano State Park you can pay $10 to drive out and camp on the sand. (We did not, because Sacagewea’s 4wd went out back in Amarillo.) Between Pismo and Oceano is a grove of eucalyptus where a huge colony of Monarch butterflies spends the winter. Though my lens was a bit too short to capture them, from far away they appear like brown globs attached to the ends of branches (they cluster to weigh down the branch and keep the wind from scattering them), and you can watch the individual butterflies flit from tree to tree above.

We spent every morning taking a beach run. Monty enjoyed these, though Niko is still shedding his winter coat, so he was less thrilled. I spent my lunches picnicking on the dunes and people watching. At night I swam in the pool (yes there was a pool), sat the in the hot tub (yeah, I know) and read. I read probably 10 books over Christmas, most of them sci-fi and fantasy (see my Goodreads page at www.goodreads.com/sarahcmueller).

My last two evenings in Pismo I spent at a primitive campground right in the thick of the dunes along the beach, so close everything smelled like salt and eucalyptus. Those nights I listened to the booming waves and the chug and whistle of the Amtrak train a few miles away while reading by candlelight.

Merry Christmas to me, right?