Monday, March 29, 2010

Up the Coast to San Simeon

Last Thursday, we spent the morning debating about whether or not we wanted to load ourselves into the car and take off on a drive. By early afternoon we were finished with talking about it and decided to just do it, so off we went. The first thought was to head down the 101 South toward Santa Margarita Lake and go on a back country drive, which is exactly how our ride started. Unfortunately, after cruising through the little town, replete with antique stores, a restaurant and a garden nursery, we misread the signage and instead of turning right, kept on straight--straight back to where we had started, albeit the back way.
I wasn't about to turn around and in fact decided to point the car north and see where things wound up. Obviously, we didn't have a Plan B, but we were in agreement that we weren't ready to head home just yet.
We took the 101 North up through Paso Robles and then turned off on the 46 East with the sole intention of seeing if any of the wildflowers had started blooming. On an aside, once the wildflowers hit their full bloom, the hills are covered by a magnificent carpet of purples and oranges and vibrant yellows with a few red pops here and there and every so often you glimpse the unreal, almost fabricated greens of the grasses and trees. Actually, everything looks so beautiful that it seems fake--a Hollywood prop or a landscape painting.
Nothing doing with the wildflowers yet as we seem to be a few weeks ahead of catching a rash of warm sunny days on the tail end of a good rainy season, but we sure enjoyed looking for the riot of color.
Once we came to the end of the 46 East, we could have taken a left and gone down through Morro Bay and then made the back loop home, but I decided it would better serve our adventurous natures if we took a right and headed up Highway 1 along the coast, on toward Moonstone Beach and San Simeon.
As we edged up the coastline, the ocean swelled with spectacular waves, our view broken only by the rolling green hills and a few grazing cattle and sheep. On the right, the inland hills were more densely covered in fog. We turned off Highway 1 and made our way down to Moonstone Beach, past the little cabins and bungalows and into the gravel lot right above the trailhead leading down to the sand. Moonstone Beach is a little unusual in my expiences of beachcombing, but of course I've only been there once or twice before and this was my first time venturing down the wooden stairs and out along the water. What struck me as most unusual and gave rise to the feeling of being gypped was the glass-like smoothness of the sand, the abundance of gulls and seabirds, and the absolute lack of anything else. My preference is for beaches littered with shells and rocks and other interesting bits of nature; items that I can hunt, inspect, and pocket with the sole intention of bringing home to fill jars or spread out upon the livingroom mantle. So, while I quickly lost interest in the shore and walked up to the rocks, Ken wandered closer to the water. I saw him pick something up and inspect it, but unlike me who when I find something amazing will scream and run and show anyone and everyone, he merely slipped it into his sleeve and wandered on. It wasn't until later, when we were about to walk up the stairs to the car that he showed me what it was--A STARFISH! Now, we have never found a fact, I never knew that starfish could even be found along this part of the coast, so it was a huge surprise, a fabulous find, and destined for a spotlight position on my mantle. The only real problem was that it was, well, to put it mildly, still alive. By this, I don't mean to imply that it was moving or waving its arms about, but it should I say---squishy, soft, fleshy...I couldn't touch it twice; it rode home in the trunk and then spent 4 days on the porch until it was hard.
We left Moonstone Beach with our starfish in tow and headed farther north to see what else we could discover. Somewhere in the mix, we had decided to drive up past Hearst Castle and visit a beach that we had only seen from the road. Now the really amazing thing about this part of the journey is that Hearst Castle is probably one of the most remarkable and astonishing sights of all time, rising from the top the green hills, set off from the road and lording over sea and pasture. In many ways, it reminds me of a sight from the Medieval period where glorious and magnificent castles resting on the utmost highest of peaks would loom into the heavens above. Seeing Hearst Castle rise up into the sky from such a pastoral, idyllic and rustic locale is truly one of my favorite reasons for driving up Highway 1. On this particular day, however, and for the first time in my experience, the castle was nowhere to be seen--enveloped in a dense blanket of fog and completely hidden from view. It's an amazing idea to me that something so magnificent can disappear via Mother Nature, but having lived a good many years in Seattle, I've experienced a similar phenonomen with the beautiful and fickle Mt. Rainer.
In retrospect, it was probably better that Hearst Castle wasn't looming and garning our attention for we were able to explore the little town of San Simeon, the pier, and take in some beautiful architecture before heading back south and on toward home.

No comments:

Post a Comment