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.