OC Is More Than Disney: Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve & Wetlands – Dr. Plastic Picker

OC Is More Than Disney: Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve & Wetlands

| Posted in Travel

Coastal Sunflower, part of the native coastal sage shrub flora.

March 19, 2021

by drplasticpicker

Our family is on a short few days get-away in Dana Point. This is just over the border of San Diego County and Orange County. We picked our vacation destination because Mr. Plastic Picker and I are very by-the-book. The County of Public Health website said within 200 miles of your home for travel during COVID-19 pandemic this week, and this was the furthest we could go. We were thinking of going to Palm Springs or Santa Barbara, and I know that likely that would be safe. But we wanted to set a good example and we are rule-oriented but desperate to get a away. Mr. Plastic Picker found the hotel-room which was more than I ever imagine spending $350 a night for a two-bedroom suite at the Residence Inn Marriot. But are kids are very large now, and we wanted a separate bedroom. Given COVID-19, we also wanted a fully equipped kitchen so we could cook and avoid exposures yet still be on vacation. That essentially was our only cost, two nights at the hotel. We can afford it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone and does help the local economy. So Mr. Plastic Picker booked the hotel and we drove up not having any plan as to what we were going to do other than to spend time together. We left the crazy poodle mix at home with the grandparents, and our organic garden and composter. Grandparents although vaccinated are being super-safe still and stayed home to putter around the house that we are still paying the mortgage on.

I know it is irrational to spend $700 on two nights at a hotel near the beach in OC, when we already pay mortgage on our primary home near the beach that has more square footage. But I’m a product of my upbringing and I still need to go on vacation. We try to be mindful and reduce our econological impact. I also still am bascially mostly frugal except now when my teenagers are so big. I enjoy having our own room and don’t want to squish sleeping in the same bed with my kids. I haven’t had back pain since starting intermittent yoga, but there is always that risk – or so I make up that excuse to justify the extravagance of the Residence Inn 2-bedroom suite.

But it has been an unexpectly wonderful vacation thus far. We stil have the rest of the day to enjoy the hotel suite until we check out at noon, and I am hoping to do one touristy thing before we make the one hour drive back. But the one hour it took us to get across the San Diego county line, really made this seem a world-away. I actually did sign-out all of my patient care duties and turned off the work email and work cortext messages. I am a good middle-manager, but good enough and enlightened enough to know I am replaceable. If I am not replaceable, than I am doing something wrong in our organization.

We’ve enjoyed getting take-out and eating at the hotel room. The kids tried the local sushi place in the strip-mall across the street. Other than the styrofoam packaging, that dinner was a hit. The first night we just stopped by the local Vons and actually ran into a high school friend I had not seen in over 25 years. And last night, we stopped by Costco and for $11 we had enough chicken bakes and a hot dog to compliment the bagged salad we had purchased the night before. We still have some left-overs for today’s likely snack break.

But the best part of the vacation was completely free. We went hiking at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve. It costs $0!!! https://bolsachica.org/ It’s a completely volunteer organization and they staff one of the most amazing wetland restoration efforts on the west coast. There are so many endangered shore-birds here.


I am kind of an amateur birder now. We have a new set of binoculars from REI that was from a rebate we received. That also essentailly was free. We saw marbled godwits that I am very good at identifiying as they live on the stretch of beach I clean. But I also saw for the first time in my life curlews, dowitchers, great egrets and many little songbirds that I wasn’t quick enough to identify.

Pops of yellow everywhere. Coastal shrub ecology.

What I didn’t expect to love was the coastal shrub plants that are an example of what this area is supposed to look like. There were coastal sunflowers and the bladder plant, which is a very funny name for a beautiful and interesting plant.

Little bladders of the bladder plant.

And otherwise it was a flat nature trail that was filled with wildlife, birds, lizards, grasshoppers, and such a cool breeze. I highly recommend this hike with the family. Both our children enjoyed the hike quite a bit. Remember to bring hat, water and plenty of sunscreen. And if you decide to pick up a bag of trash, that would be great as well. Although, the trail was pretty clean.

Last view as we went back home.

I’m not sure why I never knew about this place. I think all the other times we were in OC the kids were younger and we were like most people headed to Disneyland. In gerneral, the kids said that comparing Disneyland and Bolsa Chica Wetlands is not a fair comparison. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. But for me Dr. Plastic Picker, I find Disneyland always was stressful with the cost and most of the time the kids came back sick with fever having caught something there. At $0 (other than the $700 hotel toom) this hike seemed much more worth it. We didn’t hurt the earth, and indeed I think helped her a bit by picking up a bag of trash and I did buy a birding guide at the volunteer store.

If I know you in real life, let me know if you ever come here for a hike and what your impressions are. I’d love to compare bird sightings with you! Gratefully out of town but coming back soon, your local litter-picking pediatrician.

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2 thoughts on “OC Is More Than Disney: Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve & Wetlands”

  1. Viena says:

    Awesome, I’ve never heard of the reserve! Sounds much more peaceful than Disneyland!

    1. Dr Plastic Picker says:

      Thank you Viena for stopping by and reading the blog! I was amazed how less stressful it all was and actually stress-relieving. We came back healthier rather than with someone with a virus. Hugs.

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