Impressions of the California Coastal Trail – Two experienced backpackers take on the CCT

Impressions: The California Coastal Trail – San Francisco to the Oregon Border

Like an addiction, the urge to merge and exchange the very essence of our being with our surroundings became  the guiding force that propelled us out our front door and into the classroom of life.  A few weeks in a box to contemplate and bring to the surface the lessons learned from the Tahoe Rim Trail was enough time to elevate ourselves to a higher and greater overall view of our life and  to appreciate our unique point of existence.   Having achieved and fused with a new idea, we were suddenly able to let go of what was, and essentially empty our Selves once again. It was time to fill up the Self with something entirely new.

The California Coastal Trail book had been collecting dust for several years now waiting patiently for its time to provide usefulness in our lives.  The plan was for us to walk out the door and take one step at a time till we reached the Oregon border adjusting with the Moment and with whatever obstacles it presented for us at the immediate time.  From our previous travels we had learned that there was never a need to worry and that everything and every situation worked its self out.  From the Continental Divide Trail we had learned that nothing ever goes as planned.  We had found that the point of traveling was to explore what was unknown to us and to make it known to the core of our being.  How can one ever plan for what is unknown?  If everything in a trip is controlled, then how can anything be learned?  Letting go of our expectations and exposing our fears, we were suddenly able to take a step and evaluate each moment and how it effected us.  Aware of the action, we were suddenly able to decide what our next step in life was to be.  Each step in itself was a journey and adventure, trusting that no matter where the ride took us, we would still exist and be the better for it.  This was our ultimate Freedom!  This was our choice!  This is our life.

With the blink of an eye we found ourselves traveling through a tunnel across the Bay to emerge into the light of the shoreline of San Francisco.  Once upon a time the fear of the unknown within the vast wild places of North America plagued our constricting minds.  In time, we identified the wilderness as our true home where we could experience who we were without the countless rules and regulations and limitations and chaos imposed by the nature of our society.  However, now we were to travel along the coastline, a metaphorical border between the symbolic nature of wilderness and civilization.  The route was not only to be a trail or a sandy beach as those found in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, but also the ever-busy Highway One with little or no shoulder to buffer ourselves from the world that travels at light speed.  Our potential worries now came from the unpredictable and chaotic actions of human beings.  Our test was to integrate our movements in relationship to the restrictions and constraints of societies collective mind and to blend in with what we once considered unnatural.  But with an attitude acquired along the trails of life that all things and all energy is equal, we could no longer hold bias toward pavement, an extra wide trail, and the ghostly machines that haunt these pathways along the integrated web of all life. Like deer grazing and moving freely at the side of the road, we quietly and respectfully appeared and disappeared into the fabric of the landscape invisible to those who chose not to open their eyes.

Occasionally, cheers from the honking of a car horn bolstered our energy while the coca cola can from a disgruntled youth thrown at our heals from a speeding car told us the story of a polarized nation and a world of opposites.  Conflict is apparently Natural in a world where everything feeds and exchanges energy with everything else.  The red fox weaving its way through a herd of cows and the bobcat patiently stalking rodents on a dairy farm showed us that two very different worlds can, however, co-exist.

We were constantly reminded that beauty exists in all things.  Celebrations seen in waves of harmony crashed upon our shores as Coyotes serenaded us in islands of dunes, where micro-wildernesses flourished along the ever-shifting sands.  Each grain is indeed truly a sacred world to be marveled upon.  Worlds upon worlds, mingling and interacting with other worlds, is a miracle to be witness to.

Have you ever seen Sanderling’s dancing to the rhythm of the waves between two great giants colliding with one another?  Along the transforming shoreline, surf scooters rode the waves and free dove for their invertebrate meals while the brown pelicans plunged into a sea of mystery and diversity.  Can you hear the sea lions barking?  Do they speak to you?

In finding the Lost Coast of  California, we found a world that we could easily make more sense of.  A recently weaned black bear momentarily walked the same path in life as we did, popping tan oak acorns in its mouth as it brushed on by us.  For a moment we all saw the earth with the same eyes.  The elk chewed its cud and watched us curiously as if eating dinner in front of a television.  If only we could all act so relaxed in a world that is sometimes so tense.  Why can’t we all watch and learn from each other?

How many times did we talk with the birds as we stared deeply into each others souls?  They spoke to us and we spoke to them with a deep awareness, and a wanting to share a moment in time together.  Flowering plants and trees spoke to us too.  Along our route, the Douglas firs, Cypress’s, Shore pines, Bishop pines, and eventually Sitka spruce each took their turn lining the coastline occupying a specialized home that has molded it into what it has become.

Then there are, of course, the majestic Redwoods.  These are the tallest trees in the world;  Well, at least the five remaining percent of Old Growth that have survived since the great slaughter.  It is truly hard for us to imagine what state of mind it actually takes to disrespect such an awe inspiring creature and habitat.

Disrespect seems to be manifested through our fears.  Therefore, walking one step at a time on a pilgrimage through nature allows one to envision the rhythms of how our neighbors mold and shape us and how all things are interconnected.  Looking closely at Nature allows us to look closely at our selves and to dispel our fears.  It is a mirror that brings to the surface the reasons for our behavior and our very being.

A hike along the California Coast brought to us a wide range of emotions and showed us that beauty can be found in any situation.  A hike through Nature, no matter how impacted by civilization, will provide for each of us the wisdom that each of us seeks as we journey away from home in search for growth and the answers to the questions we long to discover in life.

May each step you take, be a home away from home, and one of self discovery.  Enjoy what is here and Now along the shores of your very heart and soul.

October 2004

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