Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You come over with all of your friends

Limantour Beach to Muddy Hollow Road, California
1.5 miles

View from the beach, early in the morning

My dad is coming to pick me up right now, as I sit on the grass early in the morning. After three days in the wilderness, this feels vaguely like a failure, like everything else does in my life. I don’t even know why I bothered to call my family, but they’ve rented a house within thirty minutes of here, and I came across a pay phone at a beach this morning, and it felt like fate. At least it’ll give me a chance to spend more time with my glorious nieces.

Now that I called, though, now that I’ve reconnected with civilization, it feels like Pandora’s box being opened. Turns out I sort of exaggerated the amount of food I can do without when I’m hiking ten miles a day, and $45 for groceries wasn’t quite enough. I kind of wanted to just risk it, and keep going, and walk out with nary a granola bar in my backpack, but I decided not to. Now I sit here, in the sun, shielded from the wind, and wait for another human being.

The California Coastal Trail is beautiful, and how happy I am to be out here again. The weather is almost always perfect—the breeze coming off the ocean cool enough, the sun hot enough. It’s pretty level, too, following the ridges that circle the Pacific, with spectacular vistas, rocks coming down to meet the water. Yesterday I stopped at a total of three beaches: one for a lunch, one for a late-afternoon sun break, one for sleeping. I’m clambering among rocks and existing.

I’ve been camping, mostly illegally, following Leave No Trace ethics as much as possible, but having a hard time when it comes to the mainly hostile plants around here. California hosts some amazingly prickly plants. Not just the exquisite thistles, which gorgeous to look at, but less gorgeous when they jab me in a central vein. The worst are these innocuous-looking ones that have prickers even on the bottoms of their perfectly shaped leaves. There are bushes upon bushes of overgrown blackberry and raspberry brambles, which are fantastic when you’re walking along, looking for a sun-warmed snack, but less so when trying to camp among groves of them.

Not that I mind. It makes it feel more real, more hard-won, more hard-fought. As I’ve veered away from the well-used, three-lane trails that lead from the main visitor centers to the beaches, the trails have become overgrown, nearly impassable, and I’ve found myself wishing more than once for a machete. But that’s where the herds of tule elk hang out, where the California quail spring away into the underbrush, where the red-tailed hawks trace currents in the air.

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