Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Occidental to the Sea

When you are in a new place and you are training for something as challenging as the 3 day, you have to look around to find that perfect route. The route can't be too long, after all you do have other things to do on this vacation besides walk. But it has to be long enough to keep up your momentum. It has to push you just a little. After all October 2nd is pretty darn close.
I scoured the Internet looking for suggested walks and could really find any except Armstrong Woods and Austin Creek Park. So I looked to biking suggestions and found one that looked interesting. You would leave out of Occidental on a road for around 10 miles, with hills, and end up at the ocean. They said the route was beautiful, and that for me, was a prerequisite. I looked at the topography and saw it would contain significant ups with a final down leading to the sea. Looked good to me!

I asked Glenn if we could go to Occidental for breakfast...and so off we went. We had the perfect pre-walk breakfast at a great little spot the Howard Station Cafe. When the check came... we left, off to walk to the Pacific. I hoped that somewhere along the way I could get a cell signal to call Glenn to get our return ride.

Coleman Valley Road is smack dab in the middle of Occidental. I am sure it is well known among people in the area, but in general it is not a road that is traveled much except for local traffic. It became evident as we turned to walk up the road... it would be up and up and up for a good while. But the road was shaded and the day all ours, so we took it at our own pace and trudged ahead.

In the first half mile you know you are near Occidental. There are a number of homes along the road and even a few street signs all those tell tale close to town sights. As you continue on you find the look becoming increasingly rural. On the way we passed Llamas in one of the "nearer to town" homes. I think Allison found her dream home (on the market for $849,000) . I told her if she bought it I might even house sit. It had a pond with turtles and blue gill fish, vegie garden, paddocks and horses, a 2 bdrm main home and a 1 bdrm cottage on 6 acres. Not bad for $849,000!

The landscape stretches out like a gigantic mural, in 360 degree wonder. At points along this route you can look around and see no signs of people. The stillness startles you until the breeze from the ocean lures you her direction.

At one point, we came upon another road I had read about. The biking link said you would need GOOD tires. Hhmpf... What to do??? I asked Allison to flip a coin to decide which way to head. She flipped it over her shoulder but caught it. The coin said, stay on Coleman Valley Road. If anyone has taken Willow Creek Road... let me know if we should go back and turn right!

When we came upon the sign that announced a winding road ahead, it also let us know we had walked 2 miles by this time. The intensity of the uphill start could have made you believe it was more like 4... but.... onward.

Along the way you can see little creeks that have dried for the summer. The ferns and the moss still cling to the shade and every once in a while some remnants of the spring rain lingers in a still pond. There is a smell to the outdoors on rural trips like this, that will morph from blackberries, to eucalyptus, to dried grass to musty undergrowth. Some of the smells are so intense you can almost taste and feel them. How is it that when the is something that so overwhelms one sense, it makes the others step up and pay attention. You can tell how old approx. this area is. The school house had the date 1869 on the front.

I wonder when you are away like this, how it is to live your life. Do you miss the quick trip to the store to pick up a curry sauce... or do you learn to grown all your own ingredients and make it yourself. Do you find yourself missing that neighbor over the fence, or is it more fun to go on a walk to say hello.

There are reminders of the past along the route, including old horse drawn farming equipment.

Structures that used to have a purpose sit clinging to the bank of a creek, ready to tumble at any minute.

You wonder when the last time someone used these buildings was. Then you wonder why they never removed them, instead of leaving them for the elements and time to chip away until they crumble to nothing. Of course you are left with the strong sense of gratitude that they still are there for you to wonder about.

Big open fields lead to to solitary ranch homes.

This was a nice respite from the hills. Allison and I enjoyed taking a stroll along the flat stretch of road.

Some of the scenery is pretty enough for a painting. In fact I bet I have seen one or two of these idyllic subjects some time in the past.

As we crossed the summit we could see and feel the ocean's presence.

Adjacent to one ranch there were sheep, hiding out in the shade of an oak.

I had a cell signal and called to notify Glenn that we could see the fog. I was sure we were at least 2-3 miles off though. He said he and Chris would start for Coleman Valley Road and see if they could find us. (I didn't want them to catch us before the ocean, so I picked up the speed... thinking the rest of the way would be down hill... It almost was except for that last surprising rise around the corner of my eye.)

The road less traveled.

Except by us.

The fog sat at the far distance of our journey... waiting.

Almost there ... the last Cattle guard.

STOP!!! It's Hwy 1!

And the Somona Coast!

The end of the road... from the coast.