The first Sunday of my Spring Break was a beautiful one... I woke up, bought cinnamon rolls, and thought to myself, "I'm going to San Diego. YEAH!!!!!!!" I left Sacramento nice and early, enjoying the warmer weather we've been having, and blasting Mouse On Mars, Venetian Snares, Otto Von Schirach, Revolting Cocks, and the Secret Chiefs 3 while being blown around in the 50+ mile per hour Santa Ana winds. I was through the grade and into Los Angeles by 2 in the afternoon, early enough to catch residents and tourists alike scrambling for a lunch spot along Sunset Ave. overlooking some sacred territory owned by the famous and infamous Hollywood-ites.In my pocket was a splendid and complete list of everything I wanted to look for in Amoeba Records... and left quite disappointed and slightly depressed...I couldn't find a SINGLE album that I wanted. Sure, they had "that other" album I could pick up, but that wasn't on my list so I WASN'T ABOUT TO BUY IT. So all I walked out with was a Dino Felipe album ($3.99!) and some Harry Belafonte at the request of a friend. Driving down Santa Monica BLVD I noticed the Matthew Shephard Human Rights Triangle, let go and riddled with trash.
Note to TOMMY'S RESTAURANT IN SAN CLEMENTE: When I order a regular cheeseburger, and you bring me a *sigh* bacon and chilli cheeseburger...Yes, I will accept it because I don't want you to trash it and waste food, but DON'T EXPECT ME TO HAPPILY PAY AN EXTRA $2 FOR THAT STOMACH-WRENCHING CHEESY BROWN LIQUID that you mistakenly put on the holiness that is my dinner...Oh, and the 50's theme is really played out. If you're going to do it, at least DO IT RIGHT. THANKS!
For some reason, no matter the time or how long my drive has been, when I reach the San Diego city limits and am driving past La Jolla, I start to doze off. I'm so excited to be here, but the terrible road food, and the long-ish drive has started to kick in. ...stay. awake. You can do. It......... and then there's nothing left to do but turn up the radio. By that time of the night and being that far into the drive...I've either got some super Christian station on, hosting a discussion on the evils of our modern secular society (with me not-so-calmly debating back), or assaulting all my senses by blasting Otto's "Goat Sperm" or Bong-Ra's "Spiegeltje Met Lijntjes" until I can pull in safely to my second home, my grandmother's beautiful home in Spring Valley.
Nothing beats waking to the warmth of the sun on your face and heating up your bedding... and there sure as hell isn't anything that beats waking up and visiting my grandma and eating her awesome breakfasts. At about noon I took off, noticing the thermometer reading 72 degrees...and not a cloud in the sky. I swung by Adventure 16, a small but amazing southern California outdoor store, picked up some Teflon shorts (field pants are the only pants) and, making a fool of myself and dancing and singing in my car to REVCO, entertaining or disgusting as many people as I could while on my journey to Pt. Loma, better known as Cabrillo National Monument. The town of Pt. Loma is quite beautiful and clean, as much of San Diego is, and is home to the city's OOH RAH Marine base and the San Diego Adalberto's location. NO TIME FOR BURITOS, FULL SPEED AHEAD!! Making my way around the Navy grounds, I drove through a military funeral hosted at the Cabrillo Cemetery, and I made it about to Cabrillo an hour before low tide. Gorgeous!
The rocky ledges were inundated with Chitons, waiting for the high tide to roll back through.
Working my way south, towards the tide pools, fiddler crabs jumped at the sight of me, and hurried to the pools filled with clams, mussels, and green anemones.
Gulls and Brown Pelicans flew overhead, and children constantly screamed "Mommy, look what I found!!" and splashed water in the pools.
At the height of the lowest tide, about 1440 at a -.4 low tide, I found a rather large pool and slowly sat in it, in hopes of watching life emerge as they forget my presence. It didn't take long before several species of fish, including the tiny tidepool sculpin, were out from their rocky hiding places, wondering why they couldn't remember this huge, fleshy rock being in their pool just moments earlier.
I sat in that water for over an hour, watching the larger sculpin species rest on submerged rocks and scare off the smaller tidepool sculpin and other schooling fish. Several people passed and gave me inquiring and confused looks, and I simply smiled and repeated "fish in here." They either smiled and exclaimed while running to check out what was so interesting to me, or rolled their eyes.
To those who did the latter...Why in the hell are you here at the tide pools if that's how you treat enthusiastic tide poolers?????????
Some unidentified traps, washed ashore.
After the waters came back in the park was coming close to closing time, I headed up the Lighthouse area and snapped some pictures of the city. I've never seen San Diego like this...
Too bad Diego, the Gray whale that had been in San Diego Bay for 26 days, had JUST left. This area would've been a great spot to look for him.
Tuesday was host to more beautiful weather and amazing sights. By 0800 I was standing in the Descanso District Ranger Station, buying a day pass to hike in the Laguna Mountains Recreation Area. The ranger station is located in the town of Alpine, a beautiful small foothill town just 30 miles east of downtown San Diego. It was hard to believe how close the city was, as the feel of the town, and by the way its inhabitants spoke and the way they carried themselves. There is something very special about small towns...especially when they're in such close proximity to the Southern portion of the Cleveland National Forest, a mix of boulders and rolling high desert, dense manzanita and oak stretches, and meadows of lush grasses, wildflowers, and pine near Laguna Mountain at 5,100 ft.
The sunshine hwy, just off I-8, leads through the center of the Nat'l Forest and is host to several beautiful views on the way to my destination, the Pioneer Mail campground and the Pacific Crest Trail trail head. Due to the uncomfortably high winds at that elevation, I only walked about 2 miles of that trail, just north of Garnet Peak, but was able to snap some pictures of the vast landscape and the desert floor just below me.
I think our idea of space has been so distorted by our transportation abilities. When casually looking at a map of California, or any place for that matter, we may see a particularly sparse or unpopulated area and think that there must not be much to see, as it only stretches 20 miles, or maybe it looks flat and topographically uninteresting. But take a look at this area! So close in proximity to a MAJOR U.S. city, and looking rather nondescript on a map, yet so vast, so unpopulated, so majestic and rich in color. There are miles and miles of hiking can be had here, including following the Pacific Crest Trail, leading from Mexico on up to the Oregon border. There are dozens of camp sites for a quiet solo trip or family camping adventures. And your still within an hour's drive of the Salton Sea, the Mexico Border, the Arizona border, and to the west... the Ocean!
A bit discouraged at my bitching out of hiking for the whole day, I was determined to still make the most of the day. My Nissan and I made our way through the northern portion of the Recreation Area, past beautiful and desolate Lake Cuyamaca, through the old mining town of Julian (eerily similar in appearance and feel to Auburn), winding through the foothills, quickly dropping in elevation and coming back into Northeastern San Diego County, on my way to La Jolla in hopes of making the -.2 low tide at 1415.
I made it by 1345, walked past the children's play cove/ sea lion cove, and worked south toward La Jolla cove. Walking around tide pools, lunging from one rock to another, I found myself quite content.
Smiling to myself, I noticed several small fish that I couldn't identify (note to self: Northern pacific tide pool field guide doesn't do much good in the warmer waters of So Cal!) as well as several green anemones and fiddler crabs. Luckily, this whole cove is protected as part of the La Jolla Marine Reserve, where fishing, or collecting of any kind is illegal and severely punished.
In passing a few younger girls checking out a rather deep and long running channel leading out to sea, I heard them shout OCTOPUS!, and I'll be honest, my heart jumped and I became quite giddy. I told myself that seeing one would be quite unlikely, so when I ran over to where they were and saw the octopus flowing with current and move underneath a thick mat of kelp, I knew that no matter what the rest of my day held, that the day had been made. The girls and I debated how to approach the waters and attempt to catch another glimpse of it, and after a few minutes of me slowly overturning rocks and sifting through kelp beds, we decided that he had eluded our view and made it safely back out to sea.
The cove constantly switches from rocky to sandy substrates, and after walking quite a ways south with only sandy substrates in sight, I figured that I'd work back and see if anything different comes out in the same areas I'd checked. With several minutes passing with no sight of even the smallest of schooling fish, I come to the end of the channel that we had seen the octopus, and peer down to see the juvenile Garibaldi. Not more than 10 seconds later, while writing in my field notebook of my observation of the juvenile, I was an adult, about 12-14'' in length, skirt in and around the stands of kelp and dart out to sea. Not more than 10 feet further did I see lobster! And just a few feet further, a pair of lobsters! I worked my way into the water as slowly as I could and got my hand within an inch or so of one of them, when I brushed the of the antennae, and at that moment they both instantly darted off further down the channel, under some rocks. A bit disappointed, I sat myself on the rock ledge, looking down into the flowing water, and instantly brightened up again as I saw two of the reddish arms of an octopus move underneath the rock just below me. I was within 20 feet of the spot we had first spotted the Octoput earlier, so I figured, due to the likelihood that it was the same animal from earlier, it had been chased enough. I left the cove happy, fully satisfied, and with an ever-growing appreciation of Earth's life, and the systems it resides within.
Wednesday was quite the relaxing day. I just lounged around the house, helped my grandmother transport some computer equipment of my grandfather's to the e-waste recycling area in Chula Vista and got to see their old house, where my dad grew up and the elementary school he and my aunts went to. I would've yawned in my younger years, but now I absolutely love learning more about my family and their past experiences. With age comes appreciation, I guess.
Later that evening my grandma and I drove to my cousin Kim and her husband Don's house in Del Mar. We had a great Italian dinner (lasagna and spaghetti...!!!!!!!!!), I got to visit with them as well as my aunt Nancy and uncle Kip, and see my second cousin Alysson work on her gymnastics routine on her new trampoline (I can't believe how talented this 8 year old is at everything she picks up!!) and Madison, her 1 year old little sister.
Thursday was the day I had simultaneously been looking forward to and dreading; the drive back home. Looking forward to it because I was intent on seeing a new section of California and enjoying a chillaxing drive home, but dreading because, well...I'm leaving my second home and my family, not to mention the fact that it's a not so hidden reminder that it's the end of my vacation or any hopes of having a vacation anytime for the next few months, as I'll be extremely busy with the field season coming very soon.
I visited my grandma until 1100, swung by Adventure 16 and bought an awesome field shirt, and was on the road North by noon. I made the obligatory Tito's Tacos stop on Washington BLVD and chilled in the car listening to LA's progressive talk radio station. From there I switched gears, put on my comfortable Chacos (maximize comfort on vacation, right?), blasted Mochipet's 35 minute long Memekast, and stormed through Santa Monica and Malibu heading north on 101.
While driving I knew that I wanted to see some new territory, but wasn't sure which way to take. The inland routes north of LA are all new to me, so after some map viewing for a bit, I decided to head into Venture, then go north on 33 through Los Padres National Forest, and eventually lands you in Maricopa on your way to Taft, just west of Bakersfield. A long detour, but as it turned out, WELL worth the extra time.
HWY 33 begins just north of Ventura, and quickly heads uphill into the lush green foothills of the southern coastal mountain range. Driving through tiny towns reminiscent of Alpine that I had just been through, each little spot had its own look and feel, with its mom-and-pop diners, gas stations, and shops. Little slices of heaven as yet untouched by the corporate tentacles outstretched just 10 miles south. Ojai is the last town you pass through before making the swift and winding ascent into the National forest, following several running streams and with the sight of rapidly moving grey clouds and fog at the peaks just above your head.
The Los Padres National Forest is something I wish that I had known of sometime earlier in my life, as its truly unbelievable to me that I have neglected to visit such a gorgeous stretch of rolling landscape.
I immediately fell in love with everything. The wildflowers and the lupines, the wet air and the dry soil, the red boulders and the white waters, the green peaks and the blue sky it tried to reach...all of it screamed at me all at once. I HAVE to come back this Fall and next Spring to do some hiking and camping.There were several times that I had to slam on the breaks and not so elegantly slide into gravel turnouts so graciously made on the side of the road in order to absorb the vista, and of course to take pictures.
A westward gaze in the high desert
At just before dark, I reached people(slightly more than the single person I saw at FUBAR, the most awesomely named and awesomely located bar in all of history that I had driven by not more than an hour ago) for the first time, in the town of Frazier Park, and reconnected with I-5, and began the monotonous drive that is the central valley at night time. Took 99 for a change of scenery, attempted to stop and eat at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace in Bakersfield but was discouraged by the number of people in the parking lot (Thursday night in Bakersfield and people are still AWAKE...REALLY???) I arrived home by midnight, with 1,360 miles more under my belt than I had started with.
Now comes the weekend, simultaneously attempting to reflect on the vacation and absorb it all and attempting to be fully physically and mentally prepared for Day 1 of the Field Season starting next week... a long summer it will be, but every bit of it will be out in the sun and staying busy. Because of this I can say that, despite the stresses of all the recreational, educational, occupational, and financial planning and preparing I've been doing lately, I can't say that I have anything major to complain about. It should be a good rest of the year. I will just keep my head up, my thoughts on higher things, and my activities in line with everything I have planned the next few years: full time school at CSUS, hiking and exercising a LOT (including my Mt. Whitney ascent in the fall of 2010), working and maintaining financial and personal stability, and hopefully doing Peace corps within a year of graduation. I'll find happiness in doing my own thing...because that's all we can do.