Thursday, June 23, 2022

Yikes!

 Waning Crescent Moon

Just when you thought it was safe...

Yesterday I hightailed it out of the heat wave that has made San Juan Bautista uncharacteristically sweaty and headed for cooling ocean waves in Pacific Grove. I found a good parking spot at about 10:30 a.m. a block or two from Lovers Point and mulled it over for a few minutes. Then I decided to do my loop walk clockwise through town to Asilomar and return along the beach. Little did I know then that this decision would save me from witnessing something very unpleasant. My guardian angel deserves a raise.

Passing by the PG Library, the Museum of Natural History, and my favorite park with a Class AAAAA basketball court, I wound my way around to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. I knew very well that this is the wrong time of year to observe any migrating Monarchs, but I like this little park and it's fun to sit for a minute on the butterfly bench nonetheless.

Continuing on Lighthouse Avenue toward the beach, I stopped to take a look at the old NOAA quarters, which, as I understand it, was recently defunded despite strong opposition from stalwart local Congressman Jimmy Panetta. I hope at least that the awesome murals don't get destroyed by some billionaire's land grab. 

Soon I was oceanside and yes, it was perfect. I walked over to Rocky Point before turning around to head back toward Lovers Point. 


There were lots of people on the trail, most of whom had oh-God-I-love-this-place smiles on their faces. It was sunny, it was wavy, it was splashy, it was barely 70. It was breezy, it was stunning, it was coastal California at its very best. I saw one elderly couple frozen in place, awestruck, clearly on vacation from some miserable, landlocked, drought-stricken prairie, beaming with delight, but unable to budge from their ocean view delirium. So I spoke my go-to snap-out-of-it-man line as I approached. 

"These California summers are brutal aren't they?" I said.

They looked at me for a second and laughed, with sunshine in their eyes, and moseyed on down the trail. I had saved two more wayward citizens from Asilomar shock. Don't applaud, just throw money.



I soon passed the lighthouse and the golf course and padded my way to the edge of town, still walking along the ocean, when I began to see Lovers Point ahead of me. It is Lovers Point, by the way, not Lovers' Point or Lover's Point. The name is actually a short version of the longer, now out of favor  name - Lovers of Jesus Point. It's a long story and I don't want to get into Methodist-bashing here. It wouldn't be very Christian - or very Ohlone -  of me. 

Anyway, at the tip of Lovers Point, which juts out into the sea at a loverly city park, there were tens of emergency response personnel, along with teams from the local television stations. It was then about 12:30 p.m. Evidently, right about when I had begun my walk at 10:30 or so, when I had decided to do the town portion first, a swimmer or surfer in the water just off the point, was attacked by a shark in full view of witnesses. Icky bad development for all. As described in the newspaper article attached above, three heroic people jumped in to rescue the poor guy at great risk to themselves. According to the latest news reports the victim is doing pretty well in the hospital, the beaches of PG are closed, and the shark is being sought for questioning. 

I am grateful for the rescuers' heroic actions, but I can only imagine the hysteria of the moment at that crowded location. I spoke briefly to a couple of emergency crew members as I passed through the scene. They were incredibly cool and calm - the guardians of the human experience. Walking through the park and around the crescent shaped cove toward my parking spot, I looked back. I couldn't even tell anything had happened.

Peace, Love, and Lady Luck,

Jim

Friday, June 17, 2022

10/17/1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake Epicenter

 Waning Gibbous Moon

On Wednesday, the day before Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors (YAYYYY!) and the Boston Celtics (BOOOOO!), I drove over to the coast to hike in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park near Aptos, CA. The weather forecast predicted a hot day, so my strategy was to walk amidst the redwoods and stay UV-protected. 

Holy Cannoli! (You either get that or you don't). What a fun hike! I parked at George's Picnic Area and walked the old railroad grade to the Porter House Site, then I zigzagged down the Mill Pond Trail to visit the Buddha shrine underneath the footbridge. I was heading for the marker at the 1989 Epicenter of the 7.1 M Loma Prieta Earthquake, the one that shook up the Bay Area during the World Series game in Candlestick Park between the Giants and the A's (aka the "Battle of the Bay"). 



Popping back up on the Aptos Creek Fire Road, I encountered a mother (Kristen) and daughter (Katie) who were also headed up toward the epicenter. They had been there before back when Katie was a Girl Scout and Kristen was her group leader. After a brief introduction, I fell in line a comfortable distance behind them, a procession of three generations climbing the gentle grade to the Aptos Creek Trail. From there, it was a short hike to the Epicenter with a couple of easy creek crossings to make it interesting. 



The Epicenter, of course, is not one specific dot on a map or footprint-sized place in the dirt. It's defined as a point on the surface vertically above the focus of an earthquake. In reality, it's more like a small area than it is a point, but the sign constructed by the State Park is useful to let anybody who is interested know about where all hell broke loose on the San Andreas Fault deep beneath the surface back in 1989. 


I have been meaning to hike up there for many years, so I was happy to spend some time standing near the sign and trying to imagine what it might have been like to be present when the EQ happened. Would I have been able to remain standing? Were the redwoods wobbling and swaying? Did trees and branches fall? Were there any ground surface breaks? Did forest duff puffing up into the air and dust falling down from the trees make it hard to see and to breathe? How long did the shaking last? How many and how frequent were the aftershocks? I stared at the trees, the amazingly strong, resilient trees.


There will be more earthquakes, that will be certain. Life goes on. The Buddha abides.


Peace, Love, and Holy Cannoli,
Jim

#2,022 in 2022

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

 First Quarter Moon

I have been trying to conserve gas and hike the local trails lately, but two days ago I binged on a day trip to Pacific Grove. It's only 35 miles away, but what used to be an $11 trip currently sets me back $19. Oh well, it's better than going stir crazy.


Actually, it's WAY better, even on a day when the fog bank sat close to shore and the sunshine was intermittent. An afternoon of waves and sand at Asilomar State Beach was just what I needed. This beach is only about a mile long, but it is part of the Asilomar State Marine Reserve and it is linked by walking trails to Point Pinos, Lovers Point, Pacific Grove, Hopkins Marine Station, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey itself, and all the communities north to Marina. It is custom built for wandering for hours by the surf and rocks and tide pools. I parked across the street from the Asilomar Conference Grounds. Within minutes I was on the beach.






The air temperature was a chilly, breezy 57 degrees F, as is the case frequently in this neck of the grove, so I was glad to have an extra layer under my windbreaker. Once I got moving, I didn't even notice. I didn't see any mammals this trip other than my fellow walkers, but the pelicans, cormorants, and gulls kept me entertained in the airways and I got a few glimpses of little crabs and anemones in the tide pools. The Santa Lucia granite with its tiny "books" of plagioclase feldspar held my interest when I clambered around on it to see the pools.




"sharkwood"

The beachfront homes along Sunset Drive are appropriately unobtrusive for the most part. Some of the newer ones are borderline sprawling, but most are not. I can usually ignore them, but there is one small house that always catches my eye. It's a modest little one-story place, nothing fancy, but it reminds me just a little tiny bit of the first house I ever lived in down in Anaheim. There is hardly ever anyone there. When I win Lotto, I am going to make the owner an offer he or she cannot refuse. Then I will be snug and smug as a beach bug in a bungalow rug, with an occasional warming fire in the fireplace. There is a small guest house in the back. Call first, I may or may not be in the mood for visitors. 


Peace, Love, and Beach Dreams,
Jim

#2,022 in 2022

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Fort Ord Dunes State Park, Marina, California

 Waxing Crescent Moon

Fort Ord Dunes State Park is less than a mile from the Major General William H. Gourley VA-DoD Outpatient Clinic in Marina, California. The park is pretty new, part of the remediation efforts to change the old Fort Ord from a military training base to areas open to the public for education and recreation. The remarkably beautiful dunes tower over a four-mile stretch of the Monterey Bay coastline to the west and the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail to the east. 

Memorial Day is a sad holiday. I have experienced enough somber graveyard visits, so I don't do that exercise any more. Instead, yesterday I took a long walk on the beach and honored those who have died in war with a couple hours of peace. In my lifetime alone, The United States has lost service men and women to war in so many places - Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq twice, Syria, and Afghanistan, not counting the undercover War on Drugs countries and the Cold War countries and other War on Terrorism countries. I'm probably leaving places out because my brain is fatigued by the whole thing. I am lucky and I am thankful to be able to pick a scenic place to walk in silence and to appreciate all these brave sacrifices.






The General Plan for this park includes the construction of a campground near the location of some old barracks, which are at present an eyesore. This will no doubt add to the numbers of visitors to the park and lead to other developments nearby. I like the way they are doing this in stages, slowly removing all the decaying buildings and carefully cleaning up munitions and chemicals leftover from the once active training sites. This park is a symbol of hope. A cell phone tour of the area is available by clicking here and following the instructions.

Peace, Love, and Thoughtful Rejuvenation,

Jim

#2,022 in 2022

Hiking mileage to date: 820 miles

Friday, May 27, 2022

Harmoonic Cowvergence

 Waning Crescent Moon

Along the blissful two-lane road north from Cayucos, CA to Ragged Point, CA the landscape on the inland side is steeply rolling grassland. On the ocean side, is, well, the ocean with spectacularly rocky beaches. I have long held the belief that if cows lead good lives and they are not consumed by humans or other omnivores, upon death they are reincarnated as dairy cows and they get to live on these spectacular hillsides overlooking the Pacific. It's a bovine paradise with a billion dollar view. Every time I pass by, I think to myself, "damn, those cows got it good!"

Offset from the road a little bit on the inland side is a tiny art colony named Harmony, CA (population 18). That is not a typo. It is as tiny as tiny gets in a state bursting at the seams with hurried residents and flustered tourists. I have been stopping by to check on Harmony since the early 1970's. In 1986, I first pulled in as a cautious bicycle tourist. Back then it did not appear very welcoming to outsiders. Aside from the Post Office, which may or may not have been operational, it was a collection of old wooden buildings with bizarre pieces of sculptures in progress alongside other eclectic farm art. I, of course, loved it. But I was well aware that loving a place like this must be done carefully and from a distance. Harmony is a vibration, a chord, a mix of strings with just the right frequencies and densities and thicknesses. If you really love it, you're not going to jump in there and start twanging away. You're going to go home and fine-tune yourself.

So I have done that, studiously, with mixed results, ever since. When the mood strikes me, I stop by Harmony to see what's happening and to measure my progress. The day before yesterday, I eased off Highway One into "town" for the first time since the pandemic started. Mine was the only car. In the thirty minutes I stayed, I saw only four other souls. The eighteen artists who call Harmony home had been busy. It felt good, it felt groovy, it was different, but it was really kind of nice. 



I was happy to see that Harmony was more open, more confidently sharing than in my previous visits. There seemed to be more of a presence that reflected the women of the community, at least that was my sense of things. It felt more like stepping into a circle than peering over a fence. They even shared some of the area's history as a dairy farm and creamery back in the day. You might need to click on the photo to enlarge it if you want to read the poster.


I think there is something about the coastal air and fog and sunlight that combines to make plants grow and shine. The people who tend the plants probably have an influence, too, but the end product is really pleasant. The Golden State, although tarnished and dusty in many places, can still be a state of light and lightness. 



Creativity and playfulness are also a good combination. I am happy to report that both are displayed in the art and artistic businesses of today's Harmony.




If you like farm puns, enlarge the photo and enjoy.

I came away from my most recent experimental moment in Harmony feeling like I was more connected, like my long and winding path has a little more in common with this tiny humming  orchestra where the good cows go to pray and play for eternity. 


Peace, Love, and Churn On,

Jim

#2,022 in 2022

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Cayucos, California - Passing Through

Waning Crescent Moon

Ancestral lands of the Chumash and the Esselen people

My wanderlust has been overwhelming me lately, so I tried to do something about it by taking a two and a half day driving trip south to some of my favorite spots on the coast. I am not going to complain about the cost of gasoline. I repeat. I, Palomino, am not going to complain about the cost of gasoline. After all, what good would it do for me to complain about the cost of gasoline anyway - the sky high, ridiculously high cost of gasoline? It would do no good whatsoever, of course. Therefore, I am not going to complain about the absurd, buzz-killing, six-dollar-per-gallon cost of gasoline. I promise.

To be sure, I had a great time on my little cruise on the coast. Over the two and a half days, I had breakfast with a dear friend in Santa Barbara, I walked and sat for a while near East Beach, I puttered around downtown San Luis Obispo a little bit, and then I headed for Highway One, the Pacific Coast Highway, to set my soul free in the holy land - the Big Sur, as it is currently known. My first stop was Cayucos, a small village just up the coast from Morro Bay. I'll talk about the rest of the trip in another post.

I have ridden my bicycle four times (north to south) along Highway One over the years, each time stopping in Cayucos to eat and rest and soak up its gentle sea town vibe, each time amazed by how untouched it has been by the rest of the world's insanity. It's apparent that the big money has begun to move in and that things could quickly change, but for now, it's still a very cool place to practice being. I got out to stretch my legs and I wandered around for an hour or so on a typically foggy coastal morning. The first thing I like to do when I get there is to walk out to the end of the wharf and look back at the town and its simple, pleasing beach. 






After that, I walked a short block from the wharf into town. There was a lot of construction and road work going on along Ocean Avenue, but I dodged most of it, tuned out the noise, and looked around at some of the familiar shops and eateries (by the way, I really like the folks who operate the Sea Shanty Restaurant). After a while, I looped around back to the beach to study the previous night's deposits of sea weed and pebbles. This is not a prolific shell beach to speak of, but it usually has a wonderful variety of polished stones and pebbles left behind by the high tide.


Not even remotely representative of coastal tribal bands!


The woman in the background has been in approximately 1 million photos of this mermaid.


I selfishly do not want Cayucos (population 2,228) to change very much in the near future. If you are a thoughtful, responsible dude or dudette and you have not been there, I hope you get to see this wondrous little village in its relaxed state soon. If, on the other hand, you are one of those philistine vultures with bottomless bags of money who are intent on paving the entire continent and tricking everyone into forking out exorbitant sums to see it, could you please hold off on that idea for a little while? Better yet, could you please board one of your money-buddies' cool spaceships and get the heck out of here? That would be nice of you.

Peace, Love, and Beach Walks,

Jim

#2,022 in 2022