I checked in over the weekend occasionally, but managed to refrain from blogging despite the chock-full-o’-news environment. There was a time that one could escape to the central coast of California and find refuge from the rest of the world as well (and I suppose that if one were so determined, that time remains to this day). But with cable TV, and internet pops in every town (at least every affluent one), it’s still difficult to avoid ugly intrusions from the rest of the world–continuing maniacal middle-east suicide bombs on Passover, Good Friday and Easter, the death of the Queen Mum in England–but possible if one consciously makes a decision to do so.
I watched the news, I read the newsites, I absorbed the blogs.
I just didn’t post. Particularly when there’s an overload of insanity and grief, I needed a break.
Instead we drove up into Big Sur, and hiked on the moors and beaches above an unusually calm (finally living up to its name) Pacific. The marine layer was thicker than Michael Moore (in both senses), and the clouds and fog hugged the coast the entire time. Just north of Pacific Valley, we decided to drive up Nacimiento Road a ways. This is one of the few roads that comes across the Santa Lucia mountains to the Pacific Coast Highway, and the only paved one between Cambria and Carmel.
We climbed up, and the fog grew thicker as we passed into the clouds, through occasional groves of coast redwoods. At a thousand feet or so, the natural miasma started to thin into wisps, and we finally saw blue sky. Breaking above the deck, we stopped at an overlook and surveyed the view back down the valley to the ocean. It couldn’t be seen–it was blanketed by the overlying sea of cotton-like vapor, swirling just below us around the live oak on the hillsides. The temperature was easily fifteen degrees warmer than below. After a few minutes of basking in the warmth of the sun, and marveling at the dramatic difference in microclimate a couple miles can offer, we drove back down the mountain into the soup.
We hiked out to the shore, and on the way, discovered a cache. It was a plastic container with a note, and several miscellaneous items–a candy bar, a bag of golf tees, some trail mix, several pens and a notepad. Apparently it’s a new sport to leave these things for others to either look for via GPS coordinates, or to stumble over accidentally, as we did.
It’s like the penny box at the cash register–if there’s something there you need or want, take it. If there’s something you want to leave yourself, do it. The note said that it was explained at the Geocache web site. We saw jackrabbits galore, but no sea life.
Back in Cambria, we went for a walk on Moonstone Beach at dusk (though with the thick clouds, it seemed dusk all day). We saw the top half of a coronary tribute drawn in the sand. Just two humps, with the words “PAUL” and a little plus sign below. The lower, pointy part, with the paramour’s name (presumably female, but this being California, one never knows) had been washed out by the incoming tide. It seemed a poignant and literal demonstration of the sometimes-ephemeral nature of love.
The best wildlife viewing occured on a hike across the East-West Ranch, just before we left yesterday. The trail is carved along bluffs above the ocean. The field was carpeted with a large variety of wildflowers, in a profusion of colors. As we looked down at the rocks just offshore, we saw several sea otters, heads bobbing up and down out of the surf. The Sea Otter Reserve runs from Big Sur down to Cambria, and ends where Santa Rosa Creek empties into the ocean, a mile or so north of where we were hiking. Apparently, no one had told the otters that they were outside the reserve–they had broken house arrest.
The ground alongside the trail was perforated with gopher holes, and in one, we actually saw one of them sticking its head out. But the most spectacular sight was a great blue heron. As we turned a bend, it was simply standing on the trail, perhaps thirty feet ahead. It paid no attention to us, but walked off toward the cliff, its lengthy sinuous neck bobbing its long-beaked head as it tentatively put one scrawny leg in front of the other, and then stopped and stared out to sea. Perhaps it was scanning for fish in the distant surf, but it sure looked like it was concentrated in deep thought as it gazed out over the ocean, as its ancestors have no doubt been doing for thousands, millions of years.
After a while, it turned around and walked back toward the trail. It was within twenty feet of us, and never acknowledged our presence. We had no more significance to it than did Palestinians, or bombs, or deceased royalty thousands of miles away.
We walked back to the car, and drove back down the coast to LA.