Hazards and Health of Pier Walking
-Fred Stock

          On a somewhat regular basis, we walk. Itís good for the digestive tract they tell us, relieves constipation, refreshes your blood flow, and itís excellent for straightening out glucose levels for the diabetics and for the  hypoglycemics. Another thing walking does is get you out. You see sunrises and sunsets and workers in yards and other walkers. It gives you time away from the telephones unless you strap a cellphone to your hip. When you work at home thatís important too. On trash day, you get to play ďdodge bucketĒ down the sidewalks. Yes sir, walking is good!

Sometimes we travel. We love to visit our family members on the coast and while weíre there, we walk the piers. Letís see, there is ...

Morro Bay pier, Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach pier, one atÖ well, there are several. Now for the uninitiated, pier walking can be great. Warm summer breezes, salt air, kids fishing off the pier, a few of us old guys too. Our Grandson Logan loves to walk with us on the pier at Pismo. He has discerned that there are new planks (recently replaced) and old planks (weather worn and sculptured.) He has great fun pointing out each kind as we walk that suddenly-great-length pier with him. And then there are the knot holes. A five year old cannot resist looking through every one of them at the ocean below!

There are seagulls and pigeons and brown pelicans. The children love to run and try to catch the birds as they strut along on the pier deck. They never can because the birds are wise to them and flap away just in time. I watched one little guy try about five or six times, then lay back thinking

about how to outsmart the creatures. I winked at his Dad who was also watching, and told the lad, ďIf you can catch one Ė even just touch one, Iíll give you a dollar.Ē A couple more tries and then he looked at me and Dad and shook his head, shrugging his shoulders. No dollar today. Later, the bird ate from his hand and his dadís!

 

The piers are long enough to get a pretty good lap in, and twice around is a dayís requirement and then some. Now there are a few things of which one should become aware before embarking upon this regimen. Piers have hazards. The fears of a few

things may be natural when you look down so far below at the water. There, uhh,

 

 

might be holes in the boards! (Never saw one that big!) Perhaps there is a missing plank. (Nope!) What if one of the planks is broken and falls through? (Planks are about six or eight inches thick and would probably withstand a bunker buster.) Well, then what the heck are you talkiní about?

           Well, there are high nails. These illusive little nails (actually they are huge things about twelve inches long and look like railroad spikes to me. ) sometimes work loose and stick up about half an inch or more above the walking surface of the pier. You are strolling along maybe...

watching the bi-planes flying around, or other humans and a nail trips you up. Oooops! You go flying as you stumble along. See, I thought there was a general spirit of love and affection between all the couples walking the pier. Actually, they were holding hands to try to remain upright!

 Another item that can send you hopping is the high plank itself. Once in a while a plank will be about an inch higher than those around it. You soon realize this condition exists and begin keeping an eye on the pier as you walk. This means you plow into the other old couple stumbling in the other direction, also watching

to avoid wayward wood decking! You can make a lot of friends that way! (You meet in the ambulance.)

 

          Another hazard is a grey or white sticky substance on the hand rails and tables along the pier. Locals seem to be aware of this and avoid it, but those of us more neophyte are less apt to react Ė at least the first time. Yipes! Apparently you are not supposed to disturb it

 

for some reason. It seems the local avian population has the habit of leaving a tracer mark so it can return to the same spot someday. Thatís was a fisherman told me. How in the world do the birds know which mark is theirs? Itís just another mystery of nature! So much to learn! Oh, my!

 

        Then there are the sea birds themselves. They have no fear of humans as we said, but they seem to believe they own the entire beach. Youíd think they were here before we wereÖ (Oh, they were? Then OK, never mind.) But they have discovered that people fishing off the pier are a great source for fish they can steal.  The birds also apparently know that children will heist dadís and momís fish bait and feed it to the birds. They take full advantage of both kids at play and adults who are getting close to nature!

 

 

        Walking is a great activity. Itís healthy, itís pleasant most of the time, and it certainly presents a different view than you get from behind the steering wheel, of in the confines of a gym. Itís just that I canít remember a gym patron complaining about white stuff on the hand rails.

Brown Pelican with fish in bill pouch, from a fishermanís catch!
Photo by Barbara Stock