Friday, October 2, 2009

Moss Landing - Marina Beach Hike

September 26, 2009
Moss Landing - Marina
Distance: 7.25 miles
Hiking time: 5 hours
Pole Dancing time: 1.5 hours
Hikers: Lola, Chantel, Simone

This was a chance for the Kilimanjaro Crew: Lola (Mary), Chantel (Julie) and Simone (Jo) to start a training for the big climb next February. This was also Simone's chance to finish the California Coastal Trail from Santa Cruz to Monterey. She had done every segment of the coast except this first one.

When I did this hike over a year ago, it was foggy and cold even in August. This was a beautiful day for hiking -clear blue skies and sunshine. We did the usual car drop off - leaving Simone's car in Marina and then driving back to Moss Landing.

We started off down the beach - Lola and I barefoot, Simone wearing her hiking boots. I remember the year before the sand was much coarser for most of this hike. I have tough feet, so it didn't bother me even then. This time we would often sink up to three inches into the sand - even at the waterline - which is usually much firmer. This made walking more difficult.

I remember this stretch of coast as being particularly isolated last year. This year there were many more people on the beach. As we walked along, we could see a large group of horse riders in the distance. We felt we were in a Western and the posse was coming to get us. I vaguely remember seeing one horse and rider last year.

Lola went to investigate where they were gaining access - which turned out to be Molera Road. In the parking lot, there were instructions to keep the horses down by the waterline, so that they wouldn't disturb the snowy plovers nesting areas.

I remember from the year before there was a lot of death on this strip of beach, because it was more isolated. We came upon several dead sea lions and a dead sea gull. We noticed the gull because a turkey vulture was nearby. The gull had obviously just died. There wasn't anything visibly wrong with it and it's beak was buried in the sand. It was very odd and we wondered what had killed it.

As we walked we came upon a housing complex close to the beach. I don't remember seeing this the year before and suspect that it had been obscured by fog. There were several large driftwood structures which people had built, so we went to investigate.

I assumed that there wouldn't be a river crossing at this time of year. We had crossed the Salinas River driving back from Marina and it had looked quite full, but I knew from the year before that it probably wouldn't empty into the ocean. I was right, but knew to look for the river this time. We ended up having lunch at the edge of the river which was quite a ways in from the beach.

There were many birds in this area and we noticed another seagull, who was in the same position as the seagull we had found though this one was still alive. It was obvious that he wouldn't last much longer either. It must be some kind of bird flu that was killing them.

After lunch, we reached the old rusty barge. I remembered this landmark from the year before. I was finding whole sand dollars along the way. Some were the bleached white ones, but I found several that still had purple fuzz on them. Simone then found a cool, large vertebrae - we weren't sure if it was from a sea lion or dolphin.

I was jealous and said how much I like bones and wish that I could find a nice skull along the beach. We hadn't taken a few steps further, but what should we find but a decapitated Boar's head!

It was a pretty wild coincidence. I will spare you the pictures. We didn't know if it had come off a boat, or if someone was roasting a pig on the beach. It was partly decomposed, so I was trying to detach the lower jaw with the big teeth, without any success. After messing with it for awhile and completely grossing out Lola and Simone, we moved on. Simone gave me the vertebra as an act of consolation.

I talked about the time I almost got a sea lion's skull up at Patrick's Point, when what should I discover up the beach, but a sea lion corpse with the skull completely exposed. Here was my chance. I will spare you the gory, gory details, but I tried to get that skull by cutting with Jo's pocket knife, hitting the vertebrae first with my hiking stick and then a two by four. It just wouldn't come loose. I was eventually able to get some of the jawbones and teeth. It was not my most shining moment. (After all that work, Bill says my teeth stink, so I have them drying in the backyard).

Afterward, to do penance for my brutal butchery and to improve my karma, I started picking up garbage. The Save Our Shores Beach Clean Up was the weekend before, so there wasn't too much garbage until you came to the populated areas. I knew we were getting close to Marina - I didn't want to carry a heavy bag of garbage, too far.

Jo spotted a flag in the distance. As we came closer we realized that we were at the Marina sand mining operations. There was a pond with a barge in it. Later, when I got home and opened up the Sentinel there was a whole article about this operation in Marina and the impact that it was having on the sand and causing erosion of the shore.

Next we came to the sand dunes right before Marina. We could see there were lots of people up ahead, so we knew we were almost finished with the hike. Lola and I decided to climb up and run down the sand dunes. The climb up was hard but the running down is always a blast. Lola was really flying down that sand dune - talk about getting some air!

We reached Marina State Beach, deposited our full bag of trash in the garbage can and headed back to Moss Landing and our post celebratory drink and pole dancing. We went to the little dive bar next to the Whole Enchilada and since it wasn't a Sunday, the bikers weren't there. We picked out a bunch of songs on the juke box and started the pole dancing.

I had gotten the true pole dancing bug at Burning Man and couldn't wait to get on the pole. Simone was of course a bit more reluctant to get on the pole, but once she was on it she had a great time, as this picture shows.

The bar is covered with dollar bills with messages written on them taped to the walls, ceiling, everywhere. We signed a dollar bill "California Coastal Trail" and came up with our aliases. I taped the dollar to the top of the pole.

I convinced one of the regulars - who I was told was quite a pole dancer to get on the pole. He was reluctant at first, but under pressure he got on and showed off his moves to the delight of the bar.

Then Lola and Chantel got on the bar at the same time. We were having so much fun we could have stayed there all night. It is both a great cardio and strength training exercise. I could certainly feel it in my biceps the next day. We danced for a long time, each song saying it would be the last. Simone said the guy at the table next to us said we were "poetry in motion". We were just having a great time. I made a buck and a half in pole dancing tips.

So Simone has completed the Santa Cruz to Monterey hike. Way to go - Jo! We will probably turn from the beaches and get into the hills and mountains to start our true Kilimanjaro training. We'll keep up with the pole dancing - no matter where we hike, though. This was a great way to end our Coastal journey!

Lessons learned: There is a little "Lord of the Flies" potential in all of us. Nothin' like a good pole dance after a nice long hike!