Monday, April 2, 2012

Road Trip.

My apologies to my loyal reader for my absence on Friday, but I was enjoying a weekend trip to the coast with some friends of ours.  The weather was sort of unpredictable, it was cloudy but nice when we arrived, started raining heavily over night and the next morning and then cleared up in time to give us a beautiful afternoon before we had to reluctantly leave to come back home.  As usual, I documented my adventures to provide lazy Monday morning post content.

We stayed in San Simeon, a tiny little town near Cambria, which is itself a tiny little town along highway 1, somewhere between Big Sur and San Luis Obispo.  When I was a boy, I used to spend a couple weeks every summer camping out along the beaches near San Simeon with my grandparents in their travel trailer.  Those were some of the best memories of my childhood and I hadn't been back to San Simeon since I was probably about 13 years old, so there was a lot of nostalgia for me seeing the coastline that I grew up loving so much.

This time, I was with my wife and some friends of ours and the little towns that I grew up visiting had changed quite a bit from how I remembered them years ago.  There were still some familiar sights though, old buildings and houses that I amazingly still remembered, and of course Hearst Castle up on the top of the hills that frame the coastline.  

The ocean was beautiful.  The sky was overcast, which is to be expected from the central coast, but it wasn't yet threatening to rain, so we took advantage of it to head down to the beach to watch the sun set.

As we walked out to the beach, I noticed the different, colorful rocks that littered the shore.  Another flashback moment to my childhood, spending hours on end scouring the coastline looking for the most impressive specimens, polished by repeated tumbling in the gritty surf and deposited on the beach.  I felt the same wonder that I had as a boy, I wanted to drop everything and spend the rest of the afternoon filling up a plastic bucket with treasures.

The sun began to sank towards the horizon and the changing light played across the glistening shore, sparkling like melted gold on the waves and glinting off the colorful, rocky beach.

As the sun fell lower on the horizon, the clouds began to clear up just slightly, allowing the sunlight to shine a little brighter.

The sunset was incredible, like a painting.  

When I was a boy, my grandfather would send me down to the beach with a plastic bucket and a little plastic shovel and I was tasked with bringing back the most impressive rocks I could find.  I would gather the most colorful and unique rocks and return periodically to my grandfather, eager to show him my collection.  Whenever I showed him my bucket, he would scrutinize the contents, take out the one or two best-looking rocks from the whole bunch and then dump the rest out.  He would then say, "There's a whole ocean full of rocks out there, don't just pick up every rock that you see, I only want you to get the best ones." and send me back down to the beach.

This accomplished a couple different things.  For one, it kept me occupied for pretty much the entire day, every day that we were there, because I never got tired of looking for the "perfect" rocks.  The other thing that it did was teach me a valuable lesson about my own personal standards.  It taught me to value quality over quantity and it taught me patience, to wait for the right choice to present itself, rather than hastily grabbing the first thing that came along.  That discerning quality has served me pretty well in life.

I thought about my grandfather a lot as I watched the waves break on the shore.  I remembered how he would walk out on the rocks during low tide until he reached one of the large rocks out on the very edge of the shore and sit there with his fishing pole, sometimes even actually catching a fish.  I caught my first fish off of one of those rocks, a silver perch.  I was so proud of it, I held it with both hands for the picture my dad took of me, smile beaming on my face.  Then, just after the camera clicked, the fish flapped in my hands, scared the crap out of me and I dropped it onto the rock, where it promptly flapped itself off the edge and back into the sea.

The twilight created some incredibly clear lighting on the beach, illuminating everything in a soft glow and turning a clump of seaweed into the corpse of an alien beast.

Upon closer inspection, the creature appeared harmless.

The sun began to sink below the horizon, turning the sky into pure awesome.

As we began to reluctantly head back to our room, I was just as impressed by the beauty of the flora that bordered the beach as I was by the rocks that covered it.

Even mundane things are a little bit cooler when they're 100 feet away from the ocean.

As I was crossing over highway 1 to get back to our room, I decided to stop and take a picture looking south down the highway.  I don't know why, but feel free to insert your own profound commentary here.

And the evening came to an end the only way that it could.

I don't know about "suspicious" but I definitely look something...

Day 2 brought an entirely different look at the central coast, and one that I had never experienced before.  We took a 30-minute or so drive north towards Big Sur and just before we got there, we stopped at an inconspicuous looking turnoff next to a place called Salmon Creek Trail.  What followed was one of the coolest experiences I've had on a trip to the coast.

From the edge of the highway began a trail that ultimately leads several miles inland and stops at a couple of campsites.  We were only going to head in far enough to reach the waterfall.  "There's a waterfall?"  Yeah, there is, and not only does it feed the Salmon Creek, it also creates little rivulets of water that randomly bisect the trail, like so.

Previous visitors were helpful enough to not only let us know which fork of the trail lead to the waterfall, but also what a great recreational activity to do there would be.

As we got closer to the falls, the creek became more visible and the further we got away from the highway, the more awesome the foliage got as well.

"I'm taking a picture because that rock looks like a face."
"Omg, that rock does look like a face!"

Wildlife!  I had a sudden urge to play the game Centipede.

Almost to the falls...

And there it was.  Not even 10 minutes from the highway, nestled in a deep valley and packed with so much lush, greenery.  This was one of the most beautiful trails I've ever seen, literally every step was impressive.  By the time we reached the falls, we were having sensory overload from all the cool stuff we had already seen.  Sitting here, watching the waterfall, felt like a million miles away from anything that mattered.

There was just so much life along this trail.  I don't know a better way to describe it, but it was like everything was alive.  Everything had plants growing on it, trees growing around it or something crawling on it.  Plus, the fact that it had just finished raining when we arrived left everything fresh, clean and wet from the rain, making it even more visually impressive.

More wildlife!  A banana slug, the official mascot of U.C. Santa Cruz.

Just past the waterfall was a giant cave, formed from fallen rocks.  A makeshift campfire area was  set up just inside and there were several rocks that made perfect benches.  This made a perfect spot to take a break and reflect on everything we had seen.

It's kind of amazing to think that something like this

Is literally a stone's throw away from this.  

So, that was my weekend... Well, the first half of it anyway.  I also rehearsed with my new band on Sunday, but that's a story for another blog post.  Life is pretty awesome sometimes, you just have to take a little side trail now and then to find the best parts.

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