Tunitas

I should need no excuse for exploring the countryside around me, other than for amusement and joy, but yesterday I knew my carpenters would be beating on lumber with an extra fervor to prepare for a sheet-rock crew to begin their stage of the work later this week. It made sense to get away for the day and let the hammers and saws have at it. So my wife and I drove up the Highway One coast to an obscure country road called Tunitas Creek, which traverses the Santa Cruz Mountain range, from the coast to cities along the San Francisco Bay.

I seem to never tire of driving quiet country roads. Maybe I’m subconsciously looking for a place on earth where I don’t feel threatened or fenced in. I look for the contour of the land and changes in vegetation and elevation when I go for a drive, like the one up Tunitas Creek. I often wonder why roads of many miles in length, with such light usage, were even made in the first place. The amount of material and labor required to produce ten or twenty miles of back-country asphalt with only a small handful of cars using it each day seems almost frivolous. I feel as if the road was built just for me. A little car and a few gallons of gasoline are all I need in order to have a sense of tall adventure.

I look back at some of my more recent journal entries and see that I have done a lot of wandering and camping lately. I have been doing this ever since I was able to drive, taking my first surfing trip into Baja California in 1967. The behavior is nothing new to me. The day my sister was born in 1951, I was three years old. I wandered away from home looking for her and my mother. They were in a hospital across a field, which I could see from the house we were living in, about a mile away.

I don’t feel the same when wandering in urban or suburban environments as I do when in rural. What humans have put together doesn’t make much sense to me. I must continue to possess some sort of subconscious link with the primitive world that has passed, a hunter instinct that remains alive. I’ve had to work in the city, but haven’t had to live in one for more than half my life. Here I am in my spare time driving myself even further from the city life. I often wonder whether I’d be more content if I lived in a very remote part of the country. Maybe if the weather was as good as we have it here on the California coast.

Yesterday afternoon we made it over the summit of the mountains, then down to the shore of the bay to shop for new kitchen cabinets, and a return trip home back up and over the mountains on roads seldom used by anyone. We startled a coyote on one road and stopped to observe him. He froze in his tracks and just watched us for the longest time. Maybe he was expecting us to toss out a ham sandwich or something. What a mangy-looking critter, with half his fur coat missing. Fashion must not be important in his circle of friends.

A coastal marine layer had pushed up the western slope of these mountains and stopped its expansion east when it reached the summit. We pulled off the road several times to witness the soft, golden brown hills become covered in woolen-like blankets of gray and white. The deep canyons between the hills filled with redwood forest also became smothered in fog, but with tree tops sticking out of the fog, and unseen roots below with toes extending into stream beds. Putting the sight into words strips away the majesty. How egotistical of me to think I could describe such a striking view. My wife and I recalled yesterday that when we were teenagers we would drive up to these mountain tops to fly kites and kiss in the wild ocean wind.

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