WTF Fun Fact 13175 – California’s Glass Beach

California’s Glass Beach was used as a trash dump in the early 20th century. But as the decades have gone by, trash has been washed out to see and discarded bottles, tail lights, and other glass has been polished into what look like colorful sea pebbles. What was once trash now looks like treasure.

What is California’s Glass beach?

Glass Beach is located in Fort Bragg, Califnornia at the south side of MacKerricher State Park. It gets its name from the smooth, colorful pebbles on the shore.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as beautiful as it used to be. Tourists have decided to help themselves to its beauty.

According to California Beaches (cited below):

“This site was once a trash dump so broken bottles from the garbage cans of local residents have been transformed into little treasures to be found and photographed (and left behind). It is illegal to remove any glass from Glass Beach, but this hasn’t stopped people from taking what seems like a harmless amount. Over the years thousands of these pocketfuls have depleted the beach of its namesake glass. It still has a lot, but nothing like it used to.”

How the beach came to be

Trash was dumped on the beach from 1949 until it was full in 1967. Then, in 1998, the property was cleaned up and sold to the state of California.

Today’s Glass Beach is actually the third in a series of local dump sites that filled up in the area. But it’s the only one that is part of the California Parks system today.

While the beach is still beautiful, you’ll often find visitors collecting pieces to take home, despite that being illegal. The beach today won’t look quite like the photos from decades ago, but it’s still a unique and beautiful place to watch the waves roll in. California’s Glass Beach is also a reminder of the power of nature to transform whatever humans make.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Glass Beach” — California Beaches

WTF Fun Fact 12933 – Two California Tomato Highway Spills

It’s never fun to see a highway spill. You just know someone is in big trouble for letting a product spill out of their truck and onto the roadway to snarl traffic. But we couldn’t help but at least stifle a bemused “oops” when hearing about two California highway spills – partly because it just seems so absurd.

Granted, we doubt it was amusing to any of the drivers – or the people in need of tomatoes those days.

The first California highway spill

On August 30, 2022, a truck crash resulted in part of I-80 in Vacaville, California spilling its load of 50,000 pounds (!) of fresh tomatoes all over the highway on a Monday morning, disrupting traffic for hours.

The California Highway Patrol said the truck transporting the tomatoes crashed into another vehicle near an offramp. This caused the truck driver to lose control and hit the center divide and spill hundreds of pounds of tomatoes across the lanes. While drivers tried to maneuver around the mess, they also crashed into each other, creating an even bigger traffic disaster (we’re just guessing – but gawking while driving probably played a role here).

While the driver of the truck and two other people were treated at a local hospital, no major injuries were reported at the time.

The second spill

By sheer coincidence, the same thing happened again a few days later on another California highway. And we can only imagine the California Highway Patrol’s reaction when they got the call. Did they think they were being pranked?

According to Trucker’s News (cited below): “For the second time in a week, a tractor-trailer spilled a large load of tomatoes on a California highway. On Friday, Sept. 2, a load of tomatoes covered the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 in Elk Grove near Sacramento. The California Highway Patrol reported a trailer loaded with tomatoes detached from a truck around 7:45 a.m. PDT. There were no injuries reported.”

The two California highway spills took place about 50 miles away from one another. Considering just how big California is, that’s quite a coincidence.

Playing ketchup

Sacramento Bee story on the crash by Michael McGough was full of puns on the messy coincidence:

Running late in morning rush-hour traffic? Time to ketchup.
For the second time this week, a truck carrying tomatoes spilled on a Northern California freeway near Sacramento, painting the roadway red and causing delays.
A trailer carrying the fruit detached from a truck around 7:45 a.m. Friday on southbound Interstate 5, south of Elk Grove Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol’s online activity log.

We’re glad no one was hurt and just hope this doesn’t lead to a BLT shortage in the area.  WTF fun facts

Source: “For 2nd time in a week, large load of tomatoes spilled in California” — Trucker’s News

WTF Fun Fact 12830 – Tourists Fined for Visiting Hyperion

According to conservationists and no less an authority than the mighty Guinness World Records, a redwood called “Hyperion” is the oldest living tree on Earth. Of course, that only makes people want to visit it, and it’s very hard to get to. As a result of the damage done, by tourists are now being fined for visiting Hyperion.

More about the “world’s largest tree”

The mighty Hyperion is located in California’s majestic Redwood National Park. According to CNN (cited below): “The coast redwood Ssequoia sempervirens) tree is 115.92 meters (380 feet) tall, and its name is derived from Greek mythology — Hyperion was one of the Titans and the father of sun god Helios and moon goddess Selene.” Its trunk diameter is 13 feet around!

While it had long been photographed from above, it has long remained hidden from hikers on the ground.

There are no trails to the tree. In fact, getting there basically requires you to bring a machete and hack away at the surrounding foliage.

But in 2006, a pair of naturalists did find the tree – and you can imagine what happened after that.

To their credit, the park never gave out directions and never made a path so people could reach Hyperion. It has always required people to take the risk of going off the trail and potentially getting lost or hurt. There’s spotty service for phones and GPS, so anyone trying to reach the tree not only takes their own life into their hands but risks the safety of rescuers (if they’re even able to contact them) as well.

But, of course, some people need that Instagram shot. So they do it anyway.

Visiting Hyperion now comes with fines

The California park recently issued a statement threatening thrill-seekers with up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. After all, they’re risking the life of an ancient landmark as well as the lives of those who have to help them get out of the forest.

The statement reads, in part:

“Hyperion is located off trail through dense vegetation and requires heavy ‘bushwhacking’ in order to reach the tree…Despite the difficult journey, increased popularity due to bloggers, travel writers, and websites of this off-trail tree has resulted in the devastation of the habitat surrounding Hyperion…As a visitor, you must decide if you will be part of the preservation of this unique landscape – or will you be part of its destruction?”

Do we really need to read a blog about the tree so much that we’d risk it being destroyed? Clearly, people have different answers to that question.

And the damage caused so far by tourists includes erosion at the base of the tree, bushwacked paths away from its base so people could use the bathroom nearby, leaving human waste behind and toilet paper, and just plain old trash around the site.

Clearly, it’s not just nature-lovers who are hacking their way to Hyperion.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Visitors to the world’s tallest tree face $5,000 fines” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 12705 – Invasive “Jumping Worms”

In a not-so-fun turn of events, people in the U.S. are concerned about an invasive species of worm that can reproduce on its own, destroy soil, and spread quickly.

Usually, worms are a vital part of ecosystems and help the soil provide nutrients to crops. But not the Amynthas agrestis, or Asian jumping worm. They’ve been troubling people since 2013 in the U.S., but they’ve been spotted far and wide now and farmers are concerned. They are native to east Asia, and Japan and the Korean peninsula in particular.

There are lots of ways worms can move around the world, but we’ve never seen them pose this kind of threat. More recently, they’ve been seen as far west as California’s Napa county (although to be fair, that’s actually closer to Japan).

We import a lot of beautiful plants from overseas for our gardens, so it’s no surprise the U.S. is now home to new kinds of worms. But these ones can cause long-term damage (and startle gardeners quite a bit!). They’re called “jumping worms for a reason.

According to The Guardian, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) warned in a report:

“These earthworms are extremely active, aggressive, and have voracious appetites. True to their name, they jump and thrash immediately when handled, behaving more like a threatened snake than a worm, sometimes even breaking and shedding their tail when caught.”

Yikes. Good thing they’re still small.

Normally, we’d say let nature be, but it turns out that they may cost a lot of money (and even livelihoods) down the line since this isn’t the soil they’re supposed to be in. The Guardian warned: “Jumping worms can destroy a forest ecosystem by chewing through fallen leaves, in turn destroying the top layer of forest soil upon which many plants and organisms depend.”

The CDFA report continued the dire warning: “They are destructive and cause severe damage to hardwood forests, especially those consisting of maple, basswood, red oak, poplar or birch species that rely on thick layers of leaf litter that serve as rooting medium.”

Sometimes we don’t realize how important soil is to our lives, and these are capable of completely changing the nature of soil (and therefore the crops that can be grown in it).

The Guardian also provided some advice (since, as you likely know, even chopping a worm into pieces with your garden shovel isn’t going to do the job – in fact, it can just create more worms):

“Experts have recommended several strategies to detect and eliminate the worms, including using a mustard pour – a mixture consisting of water and yellow mustard seeds – over soil to drive out any worms to the surface, and covering moistened soil with a sheet of transparent polyethylene for two to three weeks until soil temperature exceeds 104F for at least three days, destroying the worm’s cocoons.”

You can also bag the worms and bake them in the sun – anything that keeps them from thriving and spreading. And you may want to double-check your potting mixes and mulches before you spread them around your yard. Even the wind can blow around their egg sacs, spreading them easily.

It may even be the case that over the last few years, leaf pick-ups that turn our autumn leaves into compost have helped spread the worms.

Want to see a jumping worm in action? Check it out:

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Source: “‘Extremely active’ jumping worms that can leap a foot raise alarm in California” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12701 – Like A Fish Out Of Water

We may not all love bees, but we can’t live without them since they pollinate the crops that make the food we eat (among other integral ecological roles). That makes protecting them integral to our future.

In California, that means considering them “fish” for conservation purposes.

The law is a weird thing sometimes. In this case, it required some creative thinking in order to make sure bees got protected status under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

Others had argued that the Act protects only “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants” – in other words, not insects like bees. They won the original court case, but it was just overturned by a Sacramento Court of Appeal.

According to Reuters:

“While ‘fish’ is ‘commonly understood to refer to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the Legislature … is not so limited,’ Associate Justice Ronald Robie wrote for the appeals court.
CESA itself does not define “fish,” but the law is part of the California Fish and Game Code. The code’s definition includes any ‘mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate (or) amphibian,’ Robie wrote. All those categories ‘encompass terrestrial and aquatic species,’ and the state legislature has already approved the listing of at least one land-based mollusk, the opinion said.
‘Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumblebee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species,’ Robie wrote, joined by Acting Presiding Justice Cole Blease and Associate Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch.'”

The case is Almond Alliance of California et al. v. Fish and Game Commission et al, Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation et al, intervenors; California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, No. C093542.

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Source: “Bees are ‘fish’ under Calif. Endangered Species Act – state court” — Reuters

WTF Fun Fact 12583 – How California Got Its Name

California is named after a 16th-century Black Queen of an island of women. The only catch is that she’s fictional.

Real or not, she’s still the inspiration behind the state’s name.

Queen Calafia was a character in Castillian author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s Las Sergas de Esplandián, an early 16th-century adventure-romance novel. A Black warrior queen, Calafia ruled a mythical island called California inhabited only by Black women.

Calafia was also a fierce queen with quite an arsenal – armor made of fish bones, weapons made of gold, and an army of griffins (because, hey, why not?).

Needless to say, many people are surprised by this origin story. At the very least, it was rare for a man during the Renaissance to write in such a triumphant way about a woman, much less a Black woman. There is no sense of racial inferiority (which was a common trope) in her story.

So how did an American state come to be named after a mythical character?

Well, the novel was so famous in Spain that when conquistadors arrived on the tip of what is now the Baja Peninsula, they thought they had found the mythical island of California. So that’s what they called the whole area.

And while the name stuck, Calafia has been largely forgotten until recently.

An excerpt from the book reads:

Now I wish you to know about the strangest thing ever found anywhere in written texts or in human memory. […] I tell you that on the right-hand side of the Indies there was an island called California, which was very close to the region of the Earthly Paradise. This island was inhabited by black women, and there were no males among them at all, for their life style was similar to that of the Amazons. The island was made up of the wildest cliffs and the sharpest precipices found anywhere in the world. These women had energetic bodies and courageous, ardent hearts, and they were very strong. Their armor was made entirely out of gold—which was the only metal found on the island—as were the trappings on the fierce beasts that they rode once they were tamed. They lived in very well-designed caves. They had many ships they used to sail forth on their raiding expeditions and in which they carried away the men they seized and whom they killed in a way about which you will soon hear. On occasion, they kept the peace with their male opponents, and the females and the males mixed with each other with complete safety, and they had carnal relations, from which unions it follows that many of the women became pregnant. If they bore a female, they kept her, but if they bore a male, he was immediately killed. The reason for this, inasmuch as it is known, is that, according to their thinking, they were set on reducing the number of males to so small a group that the Amazons could easily rule over them and all their lands; therefore, they kept only those few men whom they realized they needed for their race not to die out.

– WTF fun facts

Source: “Our Origin Story’: Queen Calafia Returns to California in New Theatre Production” — KQED