Friday, May 30, 2008

Who Ate My Tent?

It is now Friday, May 30th and I have now been on the road for one week! I am currently at a library in Laguna Beach and am now in Orange County. A lot has happened since my last post so I will try and fill you in. My big pack and I seem to attract some attention so I have been meeting some friendly folks. Ray, who wants to hike the AT (do it!), Allen, the surfer with Surfrider Foundation, I met at Swami's who was so stoked about my trek we both let out a cheerful howl as we parted. I met Edna from New Zealand who thinks that the population size is the big problem. I met a wonderful family who I hung out and had lunch with, Jeff, Jamie and their two kids. We shared traveling stories and Jeff told me about his recent eye-opening trip to Uganda, and the atrocities take place over there right now. We played duck-duck-goose. That same night, after a long day's walk, as a I was staggering around the campground, I ran into a family from Idaho who invited me to stay with them for the evening. Their son had left early that day so they had an extra tent and cot already set up, ready to go for me. I felt like I was getting spoiled but I couldn't turn down the offer. They were having BBQ wild Elk for dinner which they had killed in Idaho and brought out to California. I briefly considered trying it, but politely refused. (This was probably the closest I've come to eating meat since I became a vegetarian. But since I didn't need the meat for survival, I chose potato salad).

My first big scare came on Monday as I was heading into Oceanside. I had been walking barefoot along the shores all day when I ran into some serious trouble mid-afternoon. I reached a point where the shoreline and the cliffs were becoming one and I could not see around the bend to know how far it would stretch or what the conditions were like. It was 2:30pm and the high tide was not supposed to peak until 4pm. As I approached, two guys were leaving the area and it looked like there was enough sand for me to walk around, so I went for it. I got around the first bend fine, however, it rapidly got worse. The water was rising and the sand was quickly disappearing. Before I knew it, I was stuck, standing on a slippery mossy rock, bare-footed with my heavy pack. For the first time on the trip, I was truly scared. All the doubts and fears I had about the journey suddenly came crashing down on me with each wave that hit, splashing water and fright, ricocheting off the cliffs and knocking me back. I steadily hopped from rock to rock, timing it in between sets of waves. A few times I slipped sending me and my pack in the water. I finally was able to make it back to the sand. I dragged my defeated body up a long staircase leading me back to the street and civilization. I dried myself off and reassessed the situation, only to find that my tent was gone! I retraced my steps back to the water to no avail. The sea had eaten my tent! I was pretty bummed but luckily found an Adventure 16 store not too far up the road and managed to purchase a new tent just before closing. Thank you Evan! Hopefully this tent will last me a bit longer. I can't take chances like that anymore and am now being extra precocious.

The next big event was walking through Camp Pendleton, San Diego's rugged 130,000 acre Military Base. This proved to be the longest and most strenuous days thus far. When I walked up to the South Main Entrance, where thousands of cars were coming in and out all day, it appeared I may not be able to walk through the designated bike path, recommended in my guidebook. The soldier at the entrance, checking ID, told me I could not go through. He said the trail was for bikers only and since I didn't have a bike, I was out of luck. Just then another Marine came running out of the office and asked what was going on. I explained that I was walking up the coast and how I needed to get through. He seemed impressed. He asked for my ID and ran inside the office. He came back out with another Marine and I told my story once more. Now they were really excited and actually invited me inside for coffee and donuts! They told me I was "like Forrest Gump or something" as I chomped down a big sugary donut. It was fun hanging out with the boys for a few minutes. Someone tried to drive through with a forged ID card and got caught. Suddenly, there was a commotion and one of the younger soldier's got real excited because he found some "action". Their job looked real boring and slow, checking vehicle ID's all day. A few of them said they wished they could walk with me. We said goodbye, unfortunately they wouldn't allow for a picture, and I headed off towards the bike trail. I was officially walking through the Military Industrial Complex. It was eerie, like an artificial town, with a shopping mall, gas stations, grocery store, suburban town-houses, even an elementary school! Much different from the "Marine World" I went to as a kid. The walk itself was brutal; long, hot, and mostly uphill.

Wednesday was a short day in terms of walking, and most of it was spent head-down looking at the sand, jumping and dodging rocks along the shore. The sand was burning hot on my bare feet as I reached the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. I slowly tip-toed my feet along a strip of gravel paved around the edge of the facility. It was a strange feeling, walking around nuclear power. The facility itself oddly resembled a prison, with warning signs all along the towering barbed walls, reading "Do Not Enter, armed response." The eroded bluffs along the San Onofre shore, however, were amazing! My guidebook says that this is how most of the coast would look if not for human development.

As I rise into my morning headstand,
The world turns upside down.
A dolphin shoots out of the ocean sky.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.

Yesterday was the first day of my epic adventure and it was quite an interesting one. My Pops had flown down from Oakland to San Diego the night before, so that he could walk with me the first day, and send me off right. Friday morning came quick. I finished boxing up my room and loaded up my new home, to be worn on my back for the next 2-3 months. I said goodbye to my roommates, and made it to the People's Co-Op for breakfast, my last meal in Ocean Beach. Jeremy served me up potatoes, fruit salad, brown rice, and cuban black beans. Delicious. I said a final goodbye to my friends and community I had established in OB, took a few photos, and hit the road. It was very special to have Pops accompany me for Day 1. We made excellent time as we left OB, passing through Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Then, my first real challenge hit, hard. I know walking in California, I will be facing some of nature's harsher elements. The sun and it's heat will be a difficult obstacle. However, I wasn't expecting to deal with rain until I got closer to Northern California. But, that's just what I got, wet. Luckily I had a plastic poncho with me that I purchased at REI, which I wore over myself and my pack, saving us both from getting drenched. Pops, however, did not. We ducked inside a coffee shop in PB for an hour to let it pass through. The thought to check the weather didn't even cross my mind. It hadn't rained in San Diego in months and we just had a huge heat wave! And so it goes. While in the coffee house we learned from the television that there was a tornado that hit Sierra Madre, California, flooding the town! Rainstorms in San Diego at the end of May? Tornados in Southern California? Climate Change??? We found a dry cleaners and got Pops decked out in plastic.

Here comes the sun! When we got to La, Jolla the sky opened up and blue patches began to break on through. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as we entered the most beautiful part of our days walk. We stopped for lunch above the Cove and watched the Sea Lions. We walked along Coast Walk, which is the first of the actual California Coastal Trail ground I stepped on. It's an amazing little walk above La Jolla's caves, offering spectacular views of the area. We reached the La Jolla shores where we were to actually walk on the sand for the first time. The plan was to walk along the cliffs until I reached Torrey Pines State Park, where I would set up camp for the night. This, however, was not an option. The tide was much too high, and there's no way I could make it. The nearest campground was San Elijo, which was another 10 miles north! It was already 6pm and would start to get dark in a few hours. I was starting to get worried and had to think quick. Ty! My new friend who lives on UCSD campus! I had just met Ty a few weeks prior in a pretty cool way. He actually bought a tent from me off Craigslist. He came over to my house in OB to pick up the tent and we clicked instantly. He was gonna use the tent for his upcoming adventure in Costa Rica, and I told him all about my pilgrimage. We were both very impressed with Craig and his brilliant List. So I called up Ty and right away he told me to come over for the night. While walking to his pad, something extraordinary happened. A magnificent rainbow lit up the sky, actually leading the way to Ty's! My roommate Al came to pick up Pops, and we all said our goodbyes. I will now be walking solo. Crashing at Ty' house was a huge relief and I am now having a wonderful time with him and his friends. I decided to hang out here for the day, let the storm pass, and finish up a few things online (Hence this blog and post!) I will set out again early tomorrow morning. More to come! Many blessings.