Camp Trip

A few more days of fantastic February weather. I do not recall such a warm winter. At 5pm the other day it was 75 degrees. 45 would be expected. The unusual occurrence mixes up my emotions. My body feels delightfully confused when I am able to lay out in the mid-day warm sun. Last summer I could rarely do that because of all the fog. I feel unnaturally anxious about the lack of rain. We depend on it. There should have been several good down pours in the last two months.

I removed myself from the work place for five days, expecting good weather, and got lucky with my timing. I drove my camper south on Highway 101 to King City, then west on to the Hunter-Liggett military reservation, and out to Mission San Antonio de Padua. The old Spanish mission built by Junipero Serra still stands, although it has gone through much restoration to preserve what it originally looked like. I snapped a few photos and walked around the mission grounds for an hour, before continuing my journey west into the Santa Lucia Mountains on Nacimiento Road. I camped one night on Nacimiento Creek under the oaks. That first night was the coldest, although my camper is quite comfortable inside. It has a bed, sink, stove, refrigerator, and furnace–enough conveniences that I could survive comfortably in more difficult conditions.

The old highway creeps twenty miles to the coast, winding up and down canyons and crossing over creeks. When I arrived at the summit, I could immediately see that vast band of blue, the Pacific. I drove down the steep grade a mile or two and found a place to pull off, eat breakfast in the warm morning sun, and read lofty thoughts from Kindle for an hour or two while sitting on this view point. The canyons below me were light green with a short, new, fresh winter grass. To my left, across the river canyon I could see windows in a rugged cabin reflecting the morning sun, and the echo of barking dogs carving through the same air that hawks and vultures used to entertain themselves in light up drafts of wind. Each year when I see my first wild poppy I know the earth is deeply committed to its new tilt toward the warm. Down the canyon, I could see my first orange blobs of color for the year. It was what I had been hoping to see, some sense of flowering about me. Even a little lightens my spirit.

Then I moved on, my mind full of thoughts from Tolstoy’s Calendar of Wisdom. Down the windy, twisty coastal road to Cambria, to look for a can opener, as I had managed to twist the plastic handle off the one in my camper. Cheaply made Chinese thing, hardly ever got to open a can before I had to toss it. I drove back north to San Simeon campground, a couple of miles below Hearst Castle. Very few camped here today, so I was able to stay in my favorite spot, the one I stayed in last December. It looks out over the Santa Lucias and a large grassy mesa where cows graze and horses run free, up and down the steep hill sides. I pulled out my folding chair and opened myself to the calm warm afternoon. I ate one of my salads that I am growing fond of fixing–greens, onions, mushrooms, red bell peppers, avocado, tomato, garbanzo, and a light drizzle of balsamic. A large bowl of this gives my stomach such satisfaction that I no longer crave the richer, refined foods I have eaten since my earliest days.

I pulled out my portable campfire, a propane burner that produces blue and yellow flames that tumble out from under ceramic logs. It is not as authentic as a wood fire, but so convenient, reliable, and effortless to keep it going. When I am done star gazing for the evening I simply turn off the supply knob and can go to sleep without concern over lingering embers that might stir.

The next day I drove down the coast the thirty miles or so to Morro Bay and walked about the town from the rock that oversees the horizon. I replenished propane tanks, ate another of my salads while looking out at the estuary to the south, then returned to my same camp site for another evening of star gazing and Kindle reading. Each of the two nights, at about dark, I could hear coyote packs in the deep canyons below, yipping back and forth to one another. The sound has always attracted my ears. It’s almost a song of gratitude or exaltation whose subject has to do with the magnificence of life. I get pulled into their point of view when I hear them, and wish I could join in, but my effort would be so embarrassing if others were to hear me. My self-consciousness seems formed in such a way that it prevents me from doing all the things I think I would like to do, but perhaps the world is better off without my pitiful attempts at yipping.

Wednesday I came home the slow way up the Big Sur coastline. Most who have been want to stay longer, but most the road is only for viewing upward and out to sea. I had to pay attention to the curves, narrow passages, and road crews out mopping up rock slides and repairing bridges. The road requires so much attention to keep it open. In my younger days I would wish it closed and washed out to sea, so that only those able-bodied enough to hike in would have this special part of the world all to themselves. The road itself allows many to see a huge area where no one would otherwise go. Now that I have enough years behind me to realize that such a hike would be much too long and strenuous, I am glad the road is open and kept reasonably safe, so that I might return again and again.

Today is even warmer than the ones just passed. I went down the road from home to the cliffs above Capitola Village. The beach was covered with sunbathers. What a place California can be in winter! I don’t think I need to spend the hundred bucks on gasoline to go to the south end of Big Sur to enjoy the outdoors. On a day like this one I experience today, the glory of the warm sun has spread itself out for all to partake.

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