Coastal Trail


June - Sept 2003


Chapter ELEVEN.

Published August 29th 2003.

This week Janette’s musings range from a look at the surfer culture to ranchers who don’t want to allow public access through their land to campers who want nature, but not at the expense of modern conveniences.  And as always, there is Janette’s amazing ability to capture and share the immediacy of the beauty she encounters…

Sunday, August 24

Hike & Bike Campground at El Captain State Beach

          "Yesterday was a layover day.  We went to Santa Barbara to do our laundry and purchase sundries.  In the afternoon I couldn't resist the opportunity to return to State Street and see the recently released surfer movie, ‘Step Into Liquid.’  Last Thursday when we were walking along Highway 1 we arrived at the Falama Road junction and saw an old white jeep pull up and two youngish men get out.  They carried a weathered board on which they had stenciled the single word ‘Wedding’ in elegant maroon letters.  They introduced themselves as Chris and Dan Malloy, two of three brothers who have been involved in the pro-surfing movement for the past ten years, and are now ready to devote more time to movies and videos about their watery pursuit.  Chris was to be married on the Saturday, so they wanted to put up the sign to help direct the many friends and relatives they expected.  We held up the decorated board while they used bailing wire to attach it to the State Highway sign.  They then tucked clumps of grayish green crepe under the wires and attached a tall handful of dry buckwheat to one of the posts.  Ginny had found a bunch of lavender tied with a ribbon along the road and had been carrying it for some miles.  We enjoyed the scent and when she first found it I thought of it as a positive omen.  So I witnessed a moment of sheer delight when she offered the lavender as a wedding gift, and the groom-to-be received it with thanks and promptly added the fragrant bunch to the less fragrant bouquet of buckwheat.

     I'm sure ‘Step Into Liquid’ will play in Laguna Beach.  It's spectacular. With flashbacks to ‘Endless Summer,’ we are reminded of how some masters of the sport worked thirty years ago.  All the sequences are awesome, especially the 66 ft. high wave...off San Diego, which only occurs every five years or so...

     Surfing is about finding a passion and going for it.  And fortunately, in terms of ecological damage to the coastline, it appears to me to be a benign pursuit.  A place to park and beach access or entrances in the form of unofficial trails is about the extent of their impact. So what about those whose passion is controlling a motorized vehicle while running it on the dunes and beaches?  In California their coastal playground has been limited to one stretch at Oceano Dunes.  It is unfortunate that their ‘rush’ entails so much damage to the environment and wildlife. It also conflicts with many non-participating folks’ view of what is or isn’t an appropriate way to use up the earth’s resources.  I suspect a dune buggy driver would have little interest in changing to a roller-coaster rider whose thrills can be provided within the controlled environment of a theme park.  So for the future its NIMBY to dune buggies along our glorious California coast - but look out desert tortoise as your home is still their playground.

     A recurring theme in ‘Step Into Liquid’ was the majesty of the ocean.  One powerful young man spoke about how he could find no words to adequately describe the beauty of the waves.  I was reminded of a particular moment in the hike through the Hearst Ranch.  We Started at Ragged Top Point, walked down the hill on Highway 1 to where the rolling hills of the ranch begin.  The Hearst Corp provided a guide. Susan was unfamiliar with our intended route but had copied the appropriate pages of 'Hiking the California Coastal Trail' and gamely lead the way. I will not go into details of how half the group got our worst cases of poison oak so far, and how one member was so affected he couldn’t hike for a week.  My memory is of the beauty of the beaches and the ocean along the 18 miles.  The bluffs are not tall, so when we look down, many of the sandy details are evident.  The shoreline is not majestic in the way Big Sur hills cascade into the sea.  The marine terrace of the Hearst Ranch is level, mostly open grazing land which then rises to form the hilly interior where the ranching takes place. In a quiet interlude, Susan and I were standing above the bluff looking down on a large rocky cove with barely moving water shimmering in the sunlight.