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.

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