Point Lobos is like a summit turned on its side, lying on the deep blue bed of the Pacific. This Thanksgiving, as almost always, the husband and I made the trek to and from Florida and California on the busiest travel days of the year – Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Sunday after – to meet up with daughters one and two and an assortment of brothers, sisters, cousins and friends in the Monterey area.
One tradition has always been a Thanksgiving Day excursion of some sort. It used to be what we called sand sledding on the large sand dunes that overlooked both highway and ocean near aptly named Sand City. Kids and adults alike would zoom down the steeply angled dunes on pieces of cardboard – usually wiping out somewhere before the bottom, only to clamber back up and try it all over again. Thanksgiving didn’t seem complete without sockfuls of sand that would appear in odd places for several days after.
As the children got bigger and the adults creakier, sand dunes shifted to hikes. We’ve done several at the Garland Ranch. During one of the first, daughter one (and possibly daughter two) and I managed to get separated from the rest of the contingent, and spent an extra couple of hours wandering lost through the chaparral. Finally we saw a rather dressed up family whose outfits clearly showed they weren’t off for a long distance hike and we were able to follow them back to civilization. Another hike – when we were training for Kilimanjaro – was up in the Soberanes Canyon – and by up I mean steep! For some reason I had brought hiking boots, but no hiking appropriate jacket, not realizing how cold it would be. A common mistake when going to California. I ended up wearing my black Michael Kors raincoat for the whole thing. I’m not sure whether I cut a dashing figure or looked like some eccentric character out of a vampire novel.
This year we returned to Point Lobos. Just south of Carmel, near the start of Big Sur, the spectacular coastline between Carmel and Santa Barbara. Trails wander through coastal woods, and lead to cliffs that manage to be both rocky and sandy at the same time. Cypress trees are silhouetted against an open skyline, and out in the ocean rocks form classic arches that create pathways for the waves to pool and then crash. Along the route, numerous white sand beaches nestle between the cliffs. They are only reachable by rickety wooden stairs that wash out in every storm of any significance.
These hikes aren’t really for training and they aren’t even really to see or experience anything new. What makes them special is our family and friends, many of whom we only see once a year. We’ve been to these spots together any number of times. But as each year passes, the lens I view them through changes. The daughters launched into their twenties; the nieces with babies and boyfriends. Yet despite the ever growing cascade of years — the pelicans are still in flight; the sun glints off the water; the flat silver half dollar of the ocean is tossed by the roar of the waves. Still a peak experience, of sorts.