It has been over a month since my last backpacking trip; the longest time in the last year and a half, since I started backpacking. So no, I have not backpacked my whole life; I have hiked since I was little, and most of my life has been about the outdoors. I've lived off the grid in a cabin I built with some help from my friends, I've farmed, landscaped (still do that), led hikes and I live in a cabin that I consider luxurious where to some it would be very basic ( have electricity but need to run the generator to spin the washer..).
I started backpacking when my mother died a year and a half ago and I returned to Switzerland to take care of things. After the funeral I had a few days before my flight back and for the first time, with both my parents now gone and despite some very welcoming and loving extended family, I felt without "home". So I borrowed some gear from my cousins and headed for the Alps and found my home in the mountains. I came back to California and through my friend Joshua learned about BPL and soon did my first trip with fellow members Ken Thompson, Cameron Kennedy, Jay Wilkerson, David Lutz, Josua and son Ocean; that was to the Trinity Alps, to Canyon Creek Lakes and L lake. The beauty of the place and the truly great people I met got me hooked. I don't backpack to get away from anything, really, rather to go find my home again.
This already sounds soupy, so I'll try and fast forward.
There is a coastal resort, fifteen minutes from where I live, called Costanoa. I have worked there in different capacities since it's beginning twelve years ago.I have a fulltime job,but I get called regularly to teach crafts, to take kids on "adventure hikes", and to lead hikes for gropus, as the resident naturalist.
This weekend I had wanted to go backpacking, but I was asked to lead two hikes, one to the hills overlooking Ano Nuevo island, from 11 am to 1pm, and another one from 2 to 4 pm, taking out a group of 22 people, brought together by a 60th birthday. Some flew in from as far as New York, some from elsewhere in California and some where from the Bay Area.
This post is about how lucky I am to live where I live, and to get paid to do something like this.
I leave home and drive 6 minutes of a windy road, north of the town of Davenport, which takes me back to Highway 1, less than a mile south of Waddell beach, where Big Basin meets the Pacific. As I drive along the beach, I spot a lone elephant seal bull ( there is a large colony two miles north, off of Ano Nuevo Island) and since I am a liitle early for my hike, I get out and take these pictures
Back in the car for five more minutes of scenic driving that take me to the resort. So much of the landscaping has been my doing here and I am always glad to see the plants grow and thrive, well most of them anyway...
For the first hike I take a family of four, including two teenagers, and two elderly but very energetic couples, on ridge overlooking the resort and miles of coast. Officially this is a three mile hike, I say it's no more than two. I get to talk about the plants, the insects, the geology of the area, as we take in some breathtaking views. I had left my camera in the car, so I have no proof of that.
The hills are still green, the soil is soft, the scats are plentiful and thankfully the wind is elsewhere, for once.
We get back to Costanoa and as we part, the friendly and appreciative mother shakes my hand, leaving me with a handsome tip. I am already in disbelief that I actually get paid , and well, to do something like that, and here this.
I have an hour between hikes, so I sit on the Ranchhouse porch, overlooking the Ocean, and take out my knitting. I finish one of my beanies and a guest, who has been sitting nearby, asks me about it and buys it from me. :)
Oscar, the director of Activities, briefs me about this second hike.They are all in their fifties and sixties, some quite heavy, so take it easy, help them climb down to the beach in the one tricky spot. He will surprise the birthday couple, and twenty of their friend and family, by hiking ahead and waiting at Franklin Point, on the deck, with bottles of sparkling wine and chocolate.
So all twenty three of us walk through the resort, cross Highway 1 and after spending a few minutes discussing poison oak, we continue our hike single file, through sand dunes amongst Arroyo willow, European beach grass, spent poison Hemlock, bush lupine, coyote brush, coffee berry, Artemisia, beach strawberry, buckwheat, poison oak.... About a mile of meandering takes us to the beach just north of Franklin Point. There are three distinct points along this coast: from the south it's Ano Nuevo, Franklin and Pidgeon Point.
We make it to the deck at Franklin Point, the happy couple celebrating and imbibing with their friends, while Oscar entertains them all with stories of sunken ships and how we are now standing on the recently discovered remains of some of the passengers of a ship called the "Franklin".
We decide to give everybody a choice of either going back the same way we came, with Oscar, or making a loop ( another two miles) with me. I am pleasantly surprised that all but four decide to keep going . The silvery Ocean and the amazing clouds had something to do with that.
We've been walking along the bluffs, north to south. We look down upon Whitehouse beach ( more on that in a bit) to see a receding tide. It's time now to veer off on a different trail that takes us back to the resort, where outdoor jacuzzi and massages await some of the lucky group. We are running late, but no one seems to care. I encourage them, once again, to come back at sunset; there is an easy path to this last beach, and the clouds seem to promise something memorable .
Back at the resort, more thanks, more tips, more spirits for some. I am done for the day. As I drive out onto the highway, I decide to take my own advice and park again and walk all of ten minutes to get back to the beach we just left a little while ago. And it delivers.
There was no one else on this beach. It's just one of many along this beautiful coast.
The sunset pictures are not in order, my punctuation leaves a lot to be desired, I wish I wrote better, I probably said too much. I didn't get to go backpacking....oh well.