Waking before dawn at the Mariner’s Inn in Cambria, some 200 miles north of Los Angeles on the California coast, Hannah and I meditate together for 15 minutes. With first light appearing from the mountains to the east, we take our pre-breakfast walk by the Pacific.
It’s not just any walk; we have the serpentine boardwalk along Moonstone Beach here in Cambria. This mile foot-soothing walkway of planks takes us to the edge of the cliffs with the beach sand below. The continental breakfast at the Mariner’s Inn with dark roast coffee, pastries, croissants, and bagel rolls comes from the local Acola Bakery.
Packed and ready for a morning of bluff trail hiking, we drive north on the Pacific Coast Highway just eight miles to the William R. Hearst State Park, directly across the highway from the entrance to the Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst was the Donald Trump of his era – rich beyond belief with an ego that demanded he get what he wants. His life story was the inspiration for the Orson Welles film, Citizen Kane.
It is widely believed that his newspapers invented sensational stories, ran phony pictures, and distorted real events. This chicanery is often referred to as yellow journalism. Baby boomers may remember his granddaughter Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by the Simbionese Liberation Army and later fell under their spell.
Turning left towards the ocean into the parking lot of the Hearst State Park, we see elementary kids from Paso Robles, CA field-tripping to check out the marine life of the area. Of late, stray elephant seals have come to the San Simeon Beach, 4 1/2 miles south of the main spawning grounds with hundreds of elephant seals at Ano Neuvo State Park.
As we cross the beach, we chat up Cubby, the kayak tour guide and unofficial guardian of these errant elephant seals. Most willing to fill us in, he tells us that the five behemoths here on the beach today weigh some 1000 t0 1500 pounds less than mature adult males. Locals call this area “Loser’s Beach,” for these smaller males have not been able to establish their “real estate” at the main beach.
He cautions us to give them a wide berth for they have established their “territory” on this beach. By law we must be 100 feet away; it turns out that these blobs of nature could out run us over 30 yards. As we carefully observe from a distance, they don’t even budge .
Winding our way by these marine mammals, we soon climb the hill at the end of the beach on to the private land of the William R. Hearst Estate. Barbed wire sends the message that Billy’s heirs do not want us on their property. By California state law, the public has a right to walk these bluffs some 30 to 50 feet above the water through pines, cedars, and cypress.
We take a wide farm lane along the peninsula perpendicular to the beach as we are the only ones out today on this mid-January Thursday. The Day Hikes on the California Central Coast gives us the information that this two and a half mile round-trip hike has but 50’ of elevation gain.
As we bluff walk, we talk about why we hike. One, hiking in January lets us take a bite out of Maine winters. Two, Hannah learns what traveling teaches her about herself. Three, I look forward to learning and experiencing things that I have no way of knowing will even happen. The unexpected joys of travel.
Four, the hiking we do complements our back home walking and exercising at the gym. It keeps the gym from being tedious. With balky knees, we do need an alternative exercise after having run the roads in Arizona and Maine for 30 years. And five, I love having travel adventures to craft into blogs; I love the drafting, the revising; taking pictures to complement the text. I post my blog to connect with others.
At the San Simeon Point, we descend a sandy path down to the rocks below. This video gives you an idea what we feel as we touch the ocean and have the waves lap at our feet.
Back on the bluff, the trail gets dicey. Walking along the cliffs, we see the trail just disappear over the cliff edge in places. At this point, we head inland through the tunnel of eucalyptus trees. And then back again once more to the cliff’s edge.
As professional athletes say, Father Time is undefeated. Well, on the coast of California everyone plays second fiddle to Mother Nature. With the sandy cliffs being eroding by the relentless sea, we wonder how much of this trail our grandsons Owen and Max will have to hike.
Eventually the trail runs just out over one more cliff and we double back. And we are soon back talking to Cubby, who once was a guide for groups to see the elephant seals. I like him and am impressed that he is making a living outdoors as a small business owner doing what he loves. He is living the dream.
He reminds me of my entrepreneurial college roommates, Big Steve and Rich Meyer. While my career was working for local government as a public school teacher and later as a professor at Division 3 universities, Steve and Rich made careers constructing their own business, taking all the risks themselves. With their wives, Steve as a printer with Amelia and Rich as a photographer with Mary, they only get paid when they deliver the goods.
Cheers to Steve and Rich, True Californians. We salute them from the bastion of creativity and risk taking – the Golden State!