Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Seaside to Monterey Bay

California Coastal Trail (CCT)
Seaside to Monterey
Distance: 3.5 miles
Hiking Time 2 hours
Jo, Mary and Julie

We did it! I've walked the beach from Santa Cruz to Monterey - over 40 miles. I've done most of it barefoot and in the sand. Glad I made it before the end of the year. It was great to finish up this last leg. We did this hike on November 11th - Veteran's Day and two days before Josephine went into surgery.

We drove both cars to Monterey and left mine there. Mary showed me a new and much easier way to get to the aquarium. It follows the coastline, so we could pretty much see what we were going to walk. We knew this was going to be a short one and only about half of it on the beach. We jumped into Jo's car and headed back to Seaside.

There was a lot of construction going on at the hotel, with backhoes digging up sand. It looks like they were trying to shore up the foundation of the hotel, which is located right on the beach. After passing the hotel, we saw a big cross on the hill. Mary and I climbed up to it. On the other side you could see the beginning of the bike path to Monterey.

We climbed back down to the beach. You could see Monterey and the aquarium on the far side of the bay. The beach was flat and the waves small. Ideal walking conditions.

We could look north and see the whole coastline that we had covered. It was quite a feeling of accomplishment to have seen all that coastline - step by step.

Even though we weren't planning on picking up rocks - especially Josephine who was determined to stop collecting - we all found some interesting shells. I found a rock with a fossilized worm hole on it. Mary, who is a biologist, knew all the correct names of our various treasures.

The beach walk lasted for about two miles. It was a lovely clear day. In the distance in front of us we could see the beginning of the Monterey wharf.

We arrived at the wharf and put our shoes back on. The rest of this hike wouldn't be in the sand. We walked out to the end of the wharf and watched the fisherman. There are several wharves, a yacht harbor and then of course you get to Cannery Row and the Aquarium.

When we were looking at all the boats we had Mary point out one which was the size of the boat that she and her husband Frank and their two (then) young sons sailed around the world in for five years. It looked like a really small boat for four people to be living in, but what an adventure that was.

We heard music in the distance and went to explore. It turned out there was an old car show going on, so we walked through and each picked out our favorite car to have our picture taken with.

We kept walking and came to Fisherman's Wharf. We walked up and down the wharf and tasted all the free clam chowder samples that the restaurants had out front to lure you in. We tasted about five different samples. Delicious! However, we had our hearts set on shrimp at Bubba Gumps, so we headed on our way. We were getting hungry after all our samples.

We walked through Cannery Row and came across this mural of Doc and the boys. Jo and Mary decided to join them. Monterey is a fun place to walk through, looking at the various shops, restaurants, wineries, hotels, etc. It was a pleasant reminder of what a nice town this is to visit. Especially now that Mary showed me whete that free parking is. Lots to see and do.

We headed to Bubba Gumps. We had drinks in the bar while we waited to get a table. We hadn't thought to make a reservation. We had a toast to completing the trail. Then we feasted on delicious hush puppies and steamed shrimp. Absolutely delicious. It was getting late so we headed to the car. It's a very scenic section of coast.

It was a great day. Good friends, good walking, good food and a completion of a goal. Now I have to decide where to go hiking next now that this section of the CCT is done. Life is a beach!

Lessons Learned: It's a great feeling to accomplish your goal. wallking has given me a whole new feeling about this section of coastline. Love those shrimp and hushpuppies!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Santa Cruz To Capitola Bar Hop

California Coastal Trail (CCT)
Distance: Santa Cruz - Capitola more than 7 miles
Trip time: 7 hours
Actual hiking: around 3 hours
Jo, Tara, Julie, Lisa

After our Breast Cancer Walk which we knew would be short - we decided to walk from Santa Cruz to Capitola. This is the segment of the California Coastal Trail that will allow Jo and I to say we have walked from Santa Cruz to Monterey when we have finished. Our goal was to walk the streets and beaches and hit as many bars along the way as we could. Thus, it was the Bar Hop.

Teresa chose to bow out of this portion of the hike. We parked on Josephine street off of River and headed for our first destination - the harbor area. We followed the paved bike trail along the river. I had never been on this portion of the trail, but it goes all the way to the boardwalk. Tara was looking pretty in pink. She had definitely gone all out to find and borrow pink for the hike. She was decked out from her shoes to her bra.

It was a beautiful sunny day. We crossed the trestle and then hiked East Cliff around the corner to the point. There were different memories that we shared as we walked. This was my old neighborhood when I lived on Hiawatha. Josephine told us she was on "the point" when she decided to move to Santa Cruz.

We followed the CCT along the cliff top and in front of the houses on the bluff. I would find it very annoying to own a house with such an incredible view, but then constantly have people walking by. We were overlooking the beach and we could see a guy practicing his tightrope walking between two poles.

We crossed down to the harbor, climbed up to the bridge then circled around to the Crow's Nest side. Jo noticed an old fashioned "pirate ship" was at the harbor. She went to investigate it and decided to take a tour another day.

We had reached our first drinking spot, so we stopped for margaritas and beer. There were four seats at the bar, so we sidled up. As we were sitting there our sunny skies disappeared and the fog rolled in. We couldn't believe how quickly it came on.

The next portion was a beach walk, so we stripped down to bare feet. I spent the time as usual in the surf. The other gals found it too cold. The tide was low so were able to get around the point and cut up on the bench probably around 14th street. We walked along East Cliff for a little bit then cut back down to the beach at Sunny Cove.

This was Josephine and my old beach when we lived on Palisades. We hadn't walked it for years. Jo and I walked barefoot, but Tara and Lisa kept their shoes on this time. After the beach, we walked through our old beach cottages on Palisades, which are now for sale and in sad, sad state of disrepair.

We walked on along the cliffs along East Cliff and then cut over to Portola to hit the Over The Hill Saloon. We saw that happy hour didn't begin until 4:00 and it was only 3:00. We debated going in until we learned the drinks were still only three dollars. Mizzi the bartender remembered Jo and I from our last pit stop there after a CCT hike.

The guy next to me asked if I was a bowler. I said, "No, why, do I look like a bowler?" It turns out there was a breast cancer bowl-a-thon the same day which frequent patrons of the bar had gone to in the morning.

Jo and Lisa examined the bus routes to determine when and where we could catch the bus after our last stop at Capitola wharf. We finished our drinks, talked and then were ready to head into the fog towards Capitola.

We were in quite high spirits (literally) by this time as we walked down Portola avenue.

We walked by Frenchys the adult "bookstore" which Lisa and Tara said they had never been to. This required a stop. Josephine shopped for her Halloween costume, while Tara and Lisa looked at the various toys and gadgets. I promised not to post any of these pictures on the blog, but let's just say there was a lot of laughing and giggling going on. We visited the "movie gallery" at the back the store, but decided not to watch any of the videos.

We dragged Lisa and Tara out of there and headed down Opal Cliffs to Capitola Village. When we arrived at the wharf, Tara shared a memory of her and Kirk's three month anniversary on the Capitola beach. They have now been married 25 years. We were able to take our drinks outside, so we sipped Bloody Mary's and looked at the fog. There was some sort of boat rescue going on and we watched a sea otter and a bird, floating together.

We had really worked up our appetites now so we headed to El Toro Bravo for the best chili rellenos in town. (At least that's my opinion). We munched on chips, salsa, nachos and all ate Chili rellenos. Josephine ended up buying us dinner which was much appreciated.

Now that the walk was completed we headed back up to 41st avenue to the transit center at the mall. Our timing was good and we didn't have to wait long at all to catch the bus. We were all feeling happily satiated after a fine day of walking, eating and drinking.

Lessons Learned: Walks down memory lane are always sweet even when bittersweet. We've all lived in this town a long time. I should have gotten a Bloody Mary at the wharf. El Toro Bravo still makes a great chili relleno. Laughter is good for the heart and soul. Being silly is it's own reward.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk

Location: San Jose, CA
Distance: a little less than 5K
Walking time: around 45 minutes
Jo, Teresa, Tara, Julie, Lisa

We started a grass roots team of employees of King Library and their friends and family to walk in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk in San Jose. I dedicated the walk to my friends Paula (one of our hikers) and Sheryl in Sacramento. The team was named "Walk With the King" and we raised over $4,300 dollars of which almost $2,500 was raised by the Santa Cruz contingency made up of Jo, Teresa, Tara, Lisa and Julie.

The walk started at 9:00 on Saturday and the group met at 7:45, so it was an early morning over the hill for us. Jo, Teresa and I rode the Highway 17 bus and Lisa and Tara drove. We all showed up in various levels of pink, but the crowning glory was when my colleague Carole showed up with pink rubber crowns inscribed with "Walk with the King". The crowns were very helpful in spotting team members in the crowd of 7,000 walkers.

There was a brief aerobic warm up which all the Santa Cruz gals participated in while my San Jose colleagues watched bemused. We were ready to party and have a good time. I had filled out a square dedicating my walk to Sheryl and Paula. Everywhere were folks dressed in pink. Survivors were identified by Olympic looking medals. The spirits were high and we were through the start line a little before 9:00 a.m.

The route followed the river down to the Children's museum. There were volunteers along the way to cheer us on and hand out water at various spots. The walk went very quickly and everyone was surprised when we had reached the finish line by 9:45. (I later found out the walk wasn't quite 5K).

We went to some booths - tried hula hooping and ate some fruit and then jumped into Lisa's car to head over the hill for our second hike of the day in Santa Cruz.

But, first things first. The morning walk made us work up an appetite, so we decided to make our first stop Auntie Mame's in Scotts Valley for breakfast. I had my favorite corned beef hash and eggs with fresh biscuit and gravy. Yum! Now, we were pleasantly stuffed and ready to walk.

It had been a fun morning. I've never participated in a walk like this before and will definitely do it again. The energy of the walkers and survivors was great. It is such an important cause and one that is close to my friends and thus my heart.

Our fundraising far surpassed my expectations. It was a great experience.

Other photos from the hike can be seen at:


Lessons Learned: Grass roots effort can work. People's generosity is quite surprising. Often those who have the least give the most.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Marina to Seaside

California Coastal Trail
Marina to Seaside
7 miles
4 hours
Jo, Tara, Julie

This section of the CCT involved another car drop off. We left Jo's car at the beach hotel in Seaside - then drove back to Marina in a rather circuitous route since I took the exit before Reservation Road. We made sure not to make this mistake on the way home.

It was a beautiful sunny day. It had been cold in the morning so our packs were heavy with shoes and extra clothing, that it turned out we didn't need. As always, better safe than sorry. What we should have put on was more sunscreen, because both Tara and I got sunburnt on this hike.

The waves were huge and breaking very close to the beach. The beach was angled and the sand soft which made for difficult walking conditions. I was disappointed I couldn't spend more time walking in the surf - but you had be extremely vigilant watching the waves. The rogue waves came on unexpectedly and waves which seemed big would peter out without reaching you. By the end of the hike we had all gotten wet - something I like to get over early in the hike.

This was a fairly deserted section of beach - similar to the Moss Landing to Marina section. There were no buildings and few people. I saw on the front page of the Sentinel that giant sea turtles had migrated to Monterey Bay so we had hoped to see one - but alas, we never did. We didn't see any wildlife in the water - though Jo at one point thought she saw a whale spout.

Birds were our main companions. Vultures, gulls, plovers and pelicans. We saw lots of animal corpses in various states of decay - nature in action. There was one Sea Lion skeleton with the skull exposed which I was tempted to try and take, but it was to stinky and still attached to the body. Interesting to get to see the teeth up close.

The soft sand made this a difficult hike. After doing so many miles of beach walking there is a natural rhythm you fall into. The landscape is constant and yet changing. You walk watching the waves. There was a surprising amount of trash on the beach, but it was too far to carry it. The most bizarre piece was a cat scratcher which was by a shopping cart in the middle of nowhere.

We came across a couple and stopped to chat with them. They had come from a new park that had been created but wasn't officially open yet. I asked them about the "enlisted officers club" which was a building our book said that we had to climb around. The woman said that it had been a beautiful building - but they had torn it down several years ago. This was valuable information - because we stopped looking for a building in the distance. On the Moss Landing hike we kept waiting for a river that wasn't there.

We stopped at 12:30 and had a short, pleasant lunch. It was hard to judge distance, so we stopped based on time. What can seem quite close takes quite a long while to reach. As we hiked we could see a Para sailor in the distance. He was on top of large sand dune, so we decided to stop and run down the sand dune several times. There is nothing like that sensation of flying down the dune. It takes so much effort to climb up and less than a minute to come sailing down. From the top of the dune you could see Highway One and the houses of Fort Ord in the distance. You felt so isolated on the beach but civilization was just a dune away.

In the distance we could see what must be the site of the officers club, since it seemed like the waves came up to the cliff and we couldn't get around it without climbing up. We put on our shoes for the climb up and came into a construction zone with all sorts of equipment and piles of rubble. There was a real estate sign for Ocean View property which seemed rather incongruous. We were of course ignoring many "No Trespassing" "Dangerous Edge" and "No Parking" signs as we made our way through this area. We cut through the sand dunes and were able to make our way back to the beach.

Now we could see a giant flag and our hotel in the distance. We were like horses headed for the stable and our pace picked up briskly. This last section was well populated, but our goal was to make it to the car and get out of the sand!

Although this hike was only 7 miles, it felt a lot further. I was glad we decided not to do the full 10 miles to the Aquarium. Tara and I had both neglected to put sunscreen on our faces and were reddening already, along with other odd spots.

We headed to the little dive bar in Moss Landing and I was excited about dancing on the pole. Unlike the last Saturday hike however - the bar was full of bikers which we found out is common on Sundays. What bike club should be there - but none other than our neighborhood club the Lompico Ghost Mountain Riders! A lot of the dollar bills that had been hanging from the ceiling were cleared off, so it didn't have the same cave like feeling.

The bar was packed with bikers, but we eventually all got seats. We got to meet some of our neighborhood Riders. Tara got on the email list of the Ghost Mountain Riders and I was invited to their clubhouse which is right down the street from my house. A great blues band started, so we danced (though the pole was blocked and I wasn't about to try it out with so many spectators). It was a great way to end the next-to-the-last-segment of the California Coastal Trail. Hiking and dancing two of things I love most in the world, done with dear friends.

Lessons Learned: Don't forget your sunscreen. You may have farther to go than you think. Always dance, you'll never regret it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zmudowski Beach – Moss Landing Beach

California Coastal Trail
to Moss Landing North Jetty
Landing Beach
to Moss Landing South Jetty
Distance: 5 1/2 miles
Hiking time: 3 ½ hours
Hikers: Jo, Jan, Julie

The 3 J’s returned to knock off another section of the California Coastal trail. This was an out and back hike. We parked at Zmudowski Beach and hit the sand by 11:00 a.m. We looked for landmarks so we would remember the entrance to the beach.

Jo and I had discussed how long this hike this would be. I just wanted to hike along the sand to the Moss Landing jetty. She thought we were going to do the whole segment which would have included walking along the road, crossing the bridge and then coming down to the MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) beach.

It was a foggy, gray morning and the water looked brown. The towers of Moss Landing loomed incredibly close. It was a leisurely hike on a flat beach. There were several fishermen, but no houses, just sand dunes. There was a horse trailer parked in the parking lot when we arrived and we came across the riders. They were riding the horses in the breaking surf and the horses didn’t like it one bit. They were skittish, which made us skittish and we gave them a wide berth.

Our time was mainly spent beachcombing. After the hike we were going to stop in Watsonville to see Paula –one of our hikers – who is recovering from surgery. We wanted to bring gifts from the hike – rocks, shells or driftwood – anything interesting we found. I wanted to find an intact sand dollar, which is a tall order for this time of year. There were a lot of fragments, but I never found a whole one.

We reached the rocky jetty at Moss Landing in about an hour. The jetty is made of giant rocks and there is not a pathway – you have to jump from rock to rock. Neither Jan nor Jo wanted to go out to the end of the jetty. I decided to try it. I got about halfway before turning around. There was a rotting carcass, too much bird poop for my bare feet and I didn’t like jumping from rock to rock.

There is a parking lot for this beach, with a strip of marsh land which is probably part of Elkhorn Slough. You can see the power plant clearly here. We decided to have lunch on a picnic table on the beach. As we ate the sun came out. The sky was blue with white fluffy clouds and the water sparkled in the sunshine. Jo and Jan got colder as the sun came out. We must have been less protected from the wind here.

We headed back to Zmudowski Beach. We decided since it had been such a short hike, that we would drive to Moss Landing and do the little section of beach between Moss Landing Beach and MBARI. I wasn’t sure how far that was, but I wanted to know that I had walked every foot of coastline possible.

As we headed back we saw a Sea Lion up on the beach. He hadn’t been there before. We hoped he was just relaxing in the sun and wasn’t wounded or sick. I got pretty close to him for this shot. He ignored me. I stepped on a jellyfish and thought he might have stung me. As I walked in the surf my foot felt better. It think it was a psychological sting.

Jo kept looking for the entrance to Zmudowski beach. In the distance she could see a fisherman standing next to a driftwood structure. There was the entrance to the beach. We knew or doubted that we could have missed this driftwood structure made of about 8 poles stuck in the sand. I asked the fisherman whether it had been built that day. He didn’t understand me.

We decided someone must have built it in the last three hours. We had been looking for landmarks and this would have been hard to miss!! Even we couldn’t have been that oblivious we told ourselves. It was amazing that someone could put it together so quickly, though. It must have been beach elves.

We hopped in the car to head to Moss Landing. There were two rangers parked at the entrance. I stopped and asked how to pronounce the name of the beach. I had been saying “zoom-mud-kow-ski” but the actual pronunciation is “muh-dow-ski.” The first ‘z’ is silent and I had been throwing an extra “k’ in there. Who knew? Now you do.

Jo and I marveled at how the fields had been cleared. A month ago there had been lettuce and artichokes growing here. Now it was just dirt. Not a plant in sight.

We parked at Moss Landing beach. It was a very short walk to the jetty. We walked in front of MBARI. Teresa, another one of our hikers, works as an Expedition Coordinator there. What a great place to work. I would be walking that beach every lunch hour if I worked there. Of course, it was a beautiful day and Moss Landing is known for being overcast and windy, usually.

The jetty on this side had a cement path, so we walked to the end of it. Walking back we noticed a soft green algae that looked like moss. We hypothesized that this is why it is called Moss Landing.

For our post hike celebratory drink we went to the biker dive bar next to the Whole Enchilada. It’s easy to miss this bar if you don’t know it’s there. When you walk in, the ceilings and walls are covered with $1 bill with messages written on them. They hang from the ceiling like stalactites or overgrown plants. We figured there was over a 1,000 of them hanging.

The bar was full so we sat at a table. There is a small dance floor with a pole. I decided I had to try out the pole and began swinging around and playing on it. When I was finished the table of men next to us started swinging on it. Two of them did a maneuver where you hold the pole, then lift your legs until they are perpendicular at a 90 degree angle.

I asked them to show me how to do it, but it is really difficult. I had a little help getting into this position for the photo. I’ve decided I’m going to work on my pole moves before the next hike. Jan and Jo both took a few spins on the pole and we headed for Watsonville.

We had a nice visit with Paula – who is looking great and recovering quickly. We gave her a variety of rocks and shells that we had found on tour hike. Mine was a little rock shaped like a brain, because the desired sand dollar never materialized. Then we headed for home.

As I drove back along Highway One and looked towards the ocean, I said – “We’ve walked the beach all along here.” Now, I can picture the coastline as I drive. It’s been a fun little adventure to explore the coast in our back yard.

Lessons Learned: Watch where you’re stepping and beware of skittish horses. The beach will always give you something interesting if you look for it. I need to work on my pole dancing moves.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Capitola to Manresa

Coastal Trail
Village to Manresa Beach
Distance: 7 miles
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Jo, Jan and Julie

The 3 J’s decided to tackle the next section of the California Coastal trail from Capitola to Manresa. Jo and I had a lot of discussion trying to decide how to coordinate the car shuttle. When it was only three of us we decided to meet Jan at the Soquel Park and Ride. There was a parking lot somewhere in Capitola but we couldn’t exactly remember where it was or how long you could park there.

We drove to Manresa Beach and left Jan’s car there. Jo and I didn’t go down to the beach. Since we had been there the weekend before we figured we would recognize the staircase at the end of our hike.

I drove us back to Capitola and we parked in a neighborhood above the village. It turns out this was really close to Jan’s house, so it was ironic that she had driven to Manresa when she could have just walked to meet us! Oh well.

We followed the railroad tracks into the village. The trestle crosses the river and gives you an interesting view of Capitola Village. It is a cute little town and fun to see it from a different angle. The trestle is high, but there are walkways on each side so it’s not too scary. Jo didn’t like the way the boards gave underfoot and was glad when we were on solid ground.

We followed the tracks towards New Brighton Beach. As we crossed Monterey Avenue we saw the parking lot – it had 12 hour free parking! Now we know where to park next time.

Jan really enjoyed walking on the tracks and I told her about my various railroad hikes following the tracks out to Davenport and to Felton. She decided she wanted to more track walking. I warned her that the only problems are a) it is illegal trespassing - but who pays any attention to that - and b) that you might meet unsavory characters. Right when I said that a large group of people appeared on the tracks in the distance. Uh-oh. As we got closer we could see it was a family including parents, grandparents and young kids. We joked about being able to “take out” the five year old if he gave us any problem.

Above New Brighton Beach there was a dirt path down to the beach. In the distance you could see the cement ship at Seacliff Beach. Once we reached the beach we walked along the surf – Jan and I barefoot and Jo in her running shoes. It was a steep angle to the water with a short breaking point for the waves. Even though I had rolled my pants above my knees, I was soon soaked. Oh well, par for the course. I got wetter on this hike than any of the other sections.

This stretch of beach is the most populated with houses most of the way. Seacliff stood out because of the cement ship. Jo knows this beach very well, since she used to spend lots of time here. There is an RV campground right on the beach and Jo plans to come and spend the winter here when she retires and moves back to New York. It did seem awfully sweet to be right there in a cozy little camper.

We kept walking past different houses and towns trying to figure out where we were. Is this Rio Del Mar or La Selva? Hard to know. We found a less populated area and sat down to have lunch. Although we hadn’t walked that far, it felt like we had.

After lunch we kept walking. We came to an area that didn’t have houses and then far up ahead we could see another populated beach. We had much discussion about how far we had left to go. We asked one woman and she said, “Manresa – that’s in Watsonville, almost all the way to Moss Landing”. We asked another man and he specifically pointed down the beach and said those buildings right there. We chose to believe him, since he was telling us what we wanted to hear. It was still a long way to walk and both Jan and Jo were starting to feel it in their feet and ankles.

Since Jan had never seen the staircase, she would ask with each one we passed, “is that it?” Jo and I discussed whether there were houses near the staircase. The weekend before we had focused on just getting to the beach and heading south. I didn’t remember any houses being nearby.

We finally got to a beach with a lifeguard and asked him how much further to the Manresa staircase by the campground. I believe we were at the beginning of Manresa State Beach, but forgot to ask him where we were. He pointed well down to the beach to the point we had already surmised was our destination. It took awhile to get there, but we finally saw the familiar staircase. We took a break to let our feet dry and to look at our accomplishment. It was a long way back to Capitola. Not that you could tell where Capitola was exactly...

Manresa had lots of people at the beach, especially down by the campground. A banner warned of “dangerous rip currents.” Nice to know after walking in the surf for four hours!

We asked the lifeguard to take our group photo. Turns out that it was the same lifeguard whom we had asked for directions. He said, “So you made it.” He was impressed when he found out how far we had come and said, “That’s a wonderful walk”. We wondered if he had ever walked it. More likely he has driven it in his lifeguard jeep.

This section wasn’t as interesting to me because of all the houses and people. Even so, there is something calming about walking on the beach. The sand gives you a natural pedicure, the cold water washes your feet, and the rhythm of the waves is soothing, until a rogue wave gets your adrenaline racing. The sun sparkling on the water – blue sky and clouds. It is just hard to beat a day at the beach.

We climbed the stairs to Jan’s car. Jo and I laughed to see a whole housing complex next to the staircase. Neither of us had noticed it the weekend before, we had been so focused on getting to the beach and knowing we wouldn’t be back that day. Talk about oblivious!

As we drove out of Manresa I could see my Victorian Mansion on the hill for sale. Sigh. It is a beautiful house.

Jan dropped us of at our car above Capitola Village. She had too many things to do, so she opted out of the post celebratory drink. Jo and I went to the Over the Hill Saloon which was in our old Pleasure Point neighborhood. They had $2 happy hour drinks from 4-7 p.m. even on a Saturday. Now that’s what I call a happy hour. The bartender, an older woman, was extremely friendly. We talked about the plastic life size horse that used to be out front – but it had been vandalized and set to pasture out in the country. There were photos of it.

Since we were in the old neighborhood, we decided to drive by the old beach cottages we used to rent. Jo and I had both lived there for seven years. Sadly the property was abandoned, boarded up and overgrown. It was a bittersweet moment for both of us, seeing our old homes in such a state. We remembered the good times of another lifetime. It was a reflective way to end a day of good walking.

Lessons Learned: It’s not the distance, but the conditions that count. It’s easy to not pay attention. Life moves on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Manresa Beach to Zmudkowski Beach

California Coastal Trail
Manresa to Zmudkowski
7.1 miles
Hiking time: 3 hours
Julie and Jo

Josephine and I decided to try another leg of the CCT. We got a bit of a late start, since I lost track of time. Jo followed me in her car to Zmudkowski beach.

The exit for Manresa is San Andreas Road which we passed before we got to Watsonville. I kept looking for the turnoff to Zmudkowski. I've seen the signs off Highway One and thought I had been there years ago. When we entered the Moss Landing city limits I was sure I had missed the turnoff.

Then right before the gas station I saw the sign. Struve Road. It was confusing because I turned on the road, but it actually was the gas station. I drove through with Josephine faithfully following behind. Then we drive down a narrow little street where farm workers lived. Then out into the fields. The road just kept going and getting narrower.

As Jo said, "who needs to go to the farmer's market?" First there were strawberry fields, then broccoli (we think) next, artichokes and finally headd of iceberg lettuce - already harvested - just waiting to be picked up - or so it seemed to us.

Zmudkowski has a dirt parking lot out in the fields. We climbed the sand dune to see the beach and find markers so we would know when we had reached our destination. There was pole stuck in the sand and the entrance seemed obvious.

We hopped into my car and headed to Manresa. It was a deceptively long drive back. With point to point hiking you wonder if you are ever going to see your car again. "Just how far is this hike? " The car shuttle took a long time, though we did stop to check out the walk in campsites at Manresa. We were on the trail head or beach head, I should say, at noon.

This beach walk was much more populated than the week before. We walked past Manresa, Sunset and Pajaro Dunes. Only a few stretches were isolated. The Moss Landing power plant was always in the distance - the twin towers looking like a castle in the fog (in my imagination) but like a power plant when it cleared.

It looked like there had been a sand castle contest at Manresa. There was an elaborate sand sculpture of a fish. Jo is posed amidst the pyramids. You can't see in the picture - but they had built a whole littel civilization with different pyramids and roads and canals connecting them

Josephine quickly spotted dolphins offshore. Different schools of them accompanied us on almost the whole hike. There were lots of birds chasing the tide: the small snowy plovers, the larger pipers and a larger one that had a huge long arched beak. We also saw several dead birds on the hike, all of the same kind which we couldn't quite identify. We didn't see any living birds that looked like them so they must be migrating through. Josephine later went to a bird identification and identified them as a "Sooty". I'm still not sure thats what they were.

As we walked along the beach we saw lots of big jellyfish washed ashore. Usually it is just little pieces of them in the sand, but here you could see whole ones.

As we approached Sunset Beach we could see crowds of people. It was a popular beach full of activity. There were fishermen, folks digging in the sand with shovels, tents set up, surfers, kite flyers and just regular beach goers. There were odd driftwood structures that looked like drying racks.

We had lunch once we were past Sunset. We could see Pajaro Dunes in the distance. As we approached we saw a fisherman approaching us walking in the surf dragging something. It was a BIG fish he had caught. It made Jo want to start ocean fishing.

Pajaro Dunes starts with beach condos that all look the same. As you walk further, the houses become quite different. There were all sorts of modern designs, weird shapes, a wooden "castle" and other with strange geometric designs. It was interesting to look at the varied achitecture.

I knew the Pajaro River was up ahead. I wasn't too worried after our experience with the Salinas River the week before. We crossed an open area and then came to the river. There was indeed a river. It was a narrow channel - but it was hard to judge how deep it was. We kept walking toward the ocean trying to find the narrowest, shallowest crossing. It seemed that the tide was coming in. We finally decided to take a chance and plunged into the river - only to discover that it wasn't even midcalf deep. The water was warm.

On the next section of beach Jo found some unusual crystal rocks. Early in the hike she said, "I'm not going to pick up any more rocks or shells. I have too many already." But these were pretty unusual so she kept them. I found the inside of a sand dollar. It was the lower half with a beautiful pattern etched into it. It was extremely delicate and even though I put it on the outside pocket of my backpack it was crushed by the time we reached the end of the hike.

We were getting close to Zmuddy. A young couple and their child approached us to tell us there was a sea lion on the beach ahead. They said they had crawled really close to it. They didn't want us to scare it or mistake it for a lot. That reminded me of Teresa's close call with the sea lion at Gazos Creek.

I asked Josephine if she wanted to crawl and cuddle up to it and she gave the proper response - "are you crazy?" I did get this picture of the two of them. Jo was actually much closer than she appears in the photo.

Before we knew it we were at our starting point. It was much too soon for me and I would have liked to keep going. Jo had had enough, though. Jo really liked this beach we agreed when we do this next segment - Zmudkowski to Moss Landing. We would do an out and back hike and then hang out at the beach and have a picnic.

We drove back to Manresa after harvesting a few roadside vegetables. There is a beautiful Victorian for sale at the entrance to Manresa. A giant white house with columns - it looks like a plantation at the top of the hill with beautiful ocean views. We stopped to look at the price: 2.5 million. A car was in the driveway, so I didn't peek in the windows. What a house!

We stopped at Manuels for our post celebratory drink and chili rellenos. Another enjoyable day at the beach and another segment of the CCT knocked off!

Lessons Learned: People can be quite creative with sand. There are all sorts of fun places to explore tucked away in your own backyard.