We "survived" California Highway 1

Trip Start Nov 01, 2007
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, March 28, 2008

After a cordial breakfast in Monterey with Bob and Shirley, we started our trek down Highway 1 feeling excited about the beautiful landscapes we knew would be ahead. We also felt some concern because so many people had warned us about the scant shoulders and blind curves we would encounter on the narrow, winding road that had been carved out of sheer cliffs along the rugged Central Coast. Little did we know that over the next 11 days we would be braving many other hazards, such as cougars, sunburn, rock slides, and poison oak-but more on that later.
Because this part of the walk was such a different experience overall, we have decided on a different organization for this blog entry. Instead of the usual chronological narrative, we've picked several themes to group some of our most memorable experiences. Our nights were mixed with Quaker and other hosts, campgrounds, and hotels.
Amazing People
Our first overnight host was Norman Cotton, who met us on Highway 1 to drive us to his home in a backwoods community several miles up a steep, winding canyon road that was deeply shaded by towering Redwoods. He had been raised in the Monterey Bay Friends Meeting, but hasn't attended regularly for a number of years. He finds solace in beautiful surroundings, strong community connections, and a slow, casual lifestyle. He had built his rustic home over 30 years ago and had been living off the grid with solar electric ever since. He was a very resourceful and inventive man and he and Louis found much to talk about. We were appreciative of his lifestyle and commitment to simplicity.
Norman and his girlfriend, Teresa Fife, had met through their love of music, and after dinner they entertained us with their lively playing of contra dance music on the fiddle and piano. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, they threw in a few Irish tunes. In spite of muscles that were sore from a day's walking, we found it hard to remain seated.
Another day, after surmounting our longest climb we came to a hamlet called Loma Vista, which included a café and a couple of art galleries, and a fanciful "Spirit Garden." There we were greeted by Rachel Fann, who owns the Garden Gallery, a small shop with original and imported art work and jewelry. Although she wasn't a Quaker, through a series of phone calls with a variety of like-minded people, Ruah had arranged hospitality for us in her home about 12 miles south of Loma Vista. Rachel's son has created the Spirit Garden, a fanciful garden that celebrates plants (including many cacti), arts, and music. We found Rachel to be a wonderful, genuine, and loving person and immediately felt at home with her. Until it was time for her to close up shop and drive us home, she encouraged us to walk down to nearby Pfeiffer Beach, which she said was one of the most photographed spots on the West Coast, although few tourists ever find their way there. Our two-mile descent on a steep, winding road was rewarded with a gorgeously rugged spot where waves crashed against interesting rock formations, including natural arches, and blustery winds carved intricate ripples in the sand dunes.
That evening Rachel was our guide through the community of interesting people who live in this isolated little haven. (We talk about some of them in other places in this blog entry.).
Another day, after we had set up camp at the Kirk Creek Campground, a man came over from an adjacent camp site, saying he had recognized us by our Peace for Earth Walk banner. It turns out that he, Peter Day and his partner, Edie Salisbury are Quakers from the Orange Grove Friends Meeting in Pasadena where we will be in a couple of weeks, and they had read about our coming visit in the Friends Bulletin! After supper, he and Edie joined us for interesting conversation about our life journeys. Peter wondered if our meeting there was more than a coincidence.
Our first night back with a Quaker host was on top of a mountain in Cayucos, where Henrietta Groot, a member San Luis Obispo Friends Meeting, lived. She was originally from Holland and now lived in a small rental home surrounded by pet llamas, donkeys, dogs, and cats, plus a few wild coyotes and cougars. The vistas from her house were awesome, and we ate in awed silence as we watched the dramatic sunset during dinner on her deck. Henrietta told us fascinating stories of the long sailing voyages that she and her late husband had taken in a 35-foot sailing vessel from the early 70s to the 90s. Their near circumnavigation of the globe had not been in a straight line, but from place to place as their desires led them. They had spent long periods in different countries and had had many incredible experiences.
Our next Quaker host was Liana Forest, who lived in Los Osos. She was an expressive arts therapist, who led workshops designed to help people live in harmony in their lives. She was very active on political issues and had a wonderful, grounded spirit about her. She lived in an apartment adjoining the house of her son and daughter-in-law. It was very energy efficient, with an open design to accommodate the many group sessions that she held there. Liana was also a gifted artist and had recently painted a large four-panel work that came from a vision of hers. It depicted four typical African women (see photo) who were from (left to right) South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and West Africa. We were fortunate to be staying in the room where this incredible art work was on display. In the morning we walked a special labyrinth that Liana and her family had created in the side yard. Instead of imposing a rigidly geometrical design on the site, she first sketched the labyrinth on an aerial photograph of the site, so the paths could be fitted around existing vegetation. The paths were lined with beautiful stones, succulents and other interesting plants. Throughout the labyrinth there were sculptures, water vessels, and shells in tasteful arrangements. It was a spiritually uplifting way to begin our day.
Our San Luis Obispo hosts were Melissa, Chris, Ian, and Laura Adair. Melissa was our contact person from Central Coast Friends Meeting, and she not only worked on the route after San Luis Obispo, but also had done a lot of the work on our route from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. The day we arrived happened to be daughter Laura's 13th birthday, and it must have a bit of a disappointment for her to have much of the family's attention focused on a Quaker potluck and guests at their home, but she seemed to be quite gracious about it. It was fun to be at a potluck once again with all the good conversations and interesting people. Melissa is a public health nurse and Chris is a water quality engineer. They have a very relaxed and comfortable home and we could feel the love that resided there. Melissa grew up as a Quaker and it was fun to learn of her roots. She is now the clerk of the Central Coast Meeting. The next day was Melissa's birthday and a much-needed day of rest for us, the first one since we left Monterey. Melissa's good organizing brought out a large group to the San Luis Obispo Public Library that night and afterwards we celebrated the two birthdays by going out for ice cream.
Amazing Encounters
So many times during the walk people mentioned that they had been part of the Great Peace March of the 1980s, which had gone from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. We all felt like kindred spirits when we met, and our walk brought back many good memories to them. We also talked to many people who had met Peace Pilgrim! Also lots of folks asked if we knew Doris "Granny D" Haddock, a woman from New Hampshire who in her 90s had walked across the U.S. in 1999 to promote peace. One day a car stopped and a woman and her daughter got out to tell us that the daughter, a high school freshman, was writing a paper about Granny D. They thought this was a boost for her research to be able to talk with someone else who was out walking with a cause. We were photographed with the daughter, and we encouraged her to read our website and blog to further her research
One day while walking along Highway 1 we encountered a bicyclist who called himself "T.J." who said he had no permanent home but was on his way to Alaska. We had a chance to talk with him because he was slowly pushing his bicycle and heavily loaded trailer up a very steep incline. Everything he owned was in that trailer, and unlike us, he slept under bushes with a sleeping bag and just a tarp for a tent. He said that he collected bottles for income. Despite his hardscrabble appearance, he was upbeat and friendly. (We talk more about T.J. under the Spontaneous Generosity heading, below.)
We also encountered many bicyclists who were riding from San Francisco or Santa Cruz down the coast to Los Angeles or thereabouts. We were amazed at their clear focus as they pedaled up those long hills. One young man, on spring break from school, said he had two big hills that day, and we were happy to say that, due to our slowness, we only had one to go.
On another stretch of road an RV stopped, and four young people got out to meet us. It turned out that they were all exchange students from a French university who were on spring break while attending a semester in a business program at San Francisco State University. We talked briefly about U.S. politics and ecology, and it seemed that they were well informed. They were excited about our walk and wanted to be photographed with us.
When we were camping at Kirk Creek a man looked at our Peace for Earth Walk banner, then approached to ask more about us. His name was Aubrey and he was a traveling nurse who had been in the San Luis Obispo area for a while. He and his wife sold their home and bought an RV, and they now traveled all over the United States, where he was often able to work. We saw him drive by the next day while we were lunching by the side of the road, and he stopped to ask if we needed anything. We saw him several more times driving north and south and each time he gave us a friendly honk and wave.
At the San Simeon Camp Ground we got a call on our cell phone from a local man, Harry Farmer, who had heard about our walk and wanted to come by the campground for a short visit. He arrived bearing a gift of  two lovely local oranges as his way of being part of the Peace for Earth Walk. Harry has led an interesting life with many careers, including that of astrological consultant, and has a charming free spirit.
We also met many people from other countries on this stretch of highway. At breakfast one morning we had an enjoyable discussion with a couple of men from Sweden who were vacationing in the U.S. for a couple of weeks. In addition to other Swedes, we also met visitors from Germany, Britain, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, and Thailand.
On two different days we met jade hunters. Apparently the shores are loaded with jade which local jewelers make into fancy stuff. The second two men had had a productive day and they gave us each two pieces of jade! Louis also found a piece one day on the road.
At Heniretta Groot's place, we were introduced to Nico Van den Heuvel, the owner of the ranch where Henrietta lives. He was a gifted and industrious artist, still working in his late 70s, and he graciously interrupted his work to give us a tour his studio. We found his work to be very beautiful as well as very eclectic. Some of his pieces looked like old masters paintings, while and others ranged from Modern to Postmodern. He was humble and very likable and enjoyed our delight at his work.
While walking through Morro Bay a woman called out to us that she had read about us in the paper and wanted to buy us a cup of coffee. Betsy Kinter is one of those people who had made the choice of time over money. She works very part time while her husband has a job teaching that he loves. She was engaging, interesting, and very appreciative of having us pass through her life.
In the area between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo we had a number of people tell us they had read about us in the paper. We heard the words "thank you for what you are doing" many times. It was very heartening. One man stopped his car and he, Karma, and his two sons asked us questions. (At the presentation in SLO the boys' grandparents approached Ruah to introduce themselves!) We felt very humbled by all this attention.
Spontaneous Generosity
All along the journey we were surprised by the people who wanted to be part of our walk by giving a financial or in-kind donation. The people who made these gestures varied a lot in terms of how much they understood what we were doing and why, but they all admired our fortitude and commitment to walking our talk.
While walking in the wealthy community of Carmel, we noticed residential real estate listings ranging from $1,000,000 to $3,600,000. A real bargain for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house had been reduced to only $2,500,000! As we were leaving town, while Louis was talking on the cell phone, Ruah was stopped by a local woman named Marge who asked about our mission. Then she asked if there way anything we needed. It being early in our day, we weren't in need of refreshment, so she offered us a generous cash donation, which we gratefully accepted.
At Big Sur, we were feeling celebratory as we crossed our 1,000-mile mark, so we stopped at the Big Sur River Inn for lunch and relaxation. Our outdoor table was next to a giant redwood, around which the deck had been built. When we were nearly finished with lunch, we were delighted to see Joe Morris and his girlfriend, Carolyn Ash, who were carrying the cart Sal down the coast to San Luis Obispo for us, and had hoped to run into us along the way. They joined us for a while, and Carolyn photographed the big moment for us (see photo). When our lunch bill arrived, Joe grabbed it and gave us the gift of paying for it as a way of celebrating our accomplishment.
On the day we were visiting with Rachel Fann, someone she introduced us to reached into his pocket and gave us a $20 dollar donation. The next day we met T.J., the free-spirited nomad (mentioned under Amazing Encounters, above) and we said that we had been gifted $20 the day before and wanted to pass it on to him. He was very surprised and grateful and had his own story to tell about having given someone else $3 that morning. Then, later that day, we walked into a restaurant for lunch, and a man who had seen us walking and had read our sign, spontaneously reached out with a $20 bill for us! This circulation of gift-money seemed almost "karma" like. Then, when we had finished eating we were told by the waitress that the gentleman had also paid for our meal.
When we had dinner with Rachel Fann at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, we were introduced to Torrey Waag, the manager of the now non-profit organization that ran the historical Inn. When we were ready to pay for our meal, we received the bill with a big zero written on the bottom line with the words, "compliments of Torrey."
On the day we were walking to our next overnight stay, this time at the Tree Bones Resort, when we met the Hagenaus family from near San Francisco. They had just spent a couple of nights at Tree Bones, and we enjoyed our sharing experiences with the mother, father, and three sons. That evening, when we were ready to pay for dinner, the server informed us that the family had called the resort and were paying for our dinner! (We tented at the resort but had full access to all that it offered. Our tent sight is pictured with this blog and had a great view, but that night was very windy and we felt like we might blow right out to sea! Everyone at the resort was very kind to us.)
While observing the elephant seals south of Ragged Point, we were approached by a woman and her two friends. After learning about our walk, the woman, a native of Thailand named Pui, asked to be photographed with us. She turned out to be a photographer herself, and after some discussion she asked if we would accept a donation. In a later e-mail she said "have a great meal on me."
For our last night camping, after 21 miles of walking, we were looking forward to relaxing around a campfire. But it was Easter Sunday weekend, and there were no staff on duty at the state park to sell us firewood. It would have been a four-mile round trip to the nearest town to get a bundle of firewood, which was out of the question in our fatigued state. But a very nice couple in the next campsite offered us most of their firewood, which was enough to get us through the night and the next morning too.
Springtime in California
At the beginning of our walk, many asked us why we were walking north to south since it had been so cold and dreary in Washington. We hadn't had a good answer then and sometimes we had questioned our decision, but now, walking through Central California in it's spring time splendor, we had no doubt that we had made the right decision.
Everywhere we turn there are magnificent spring wildflowers. Our photographs do not do them justice. The California poppies seem to like rocky outcrops and they really glow in the sunlight. The colors and textures of the roadside flowers took our breath away. One flower, the Redwood Sorrel was endemic to the area. Another endemic was the Monterey Pine, which has distinctive radiating branches and cone clusters. We kept noticing a small bush with lilac type small flowers and wondered what it might be. It's a blue brush which is often mistakenly called a California lilac. There were "feral" calla lilies along the streams and too many others to name.
The hills were velvety green from late winter rains, and we were told that within the next two months all would become brown and yellow as the dry season continued (there had been no rain for us since we had left San Francisco). There were still small rivulets of water streaming down the rock face, and some years ago at some of these points beautiful drinking fountains, like grottos, were built for thirsty travelers. The plumbing had now been dismantled, probably because the safety of the water could no longer be assumed, but the lovely stonework remained.
The drama of the rocky shores with sparkling water, giant waves, and flocks of birds, kept our attention even when we probably should have been looking more closely at the cars.
Marine and Land Mammals
At the Carmel River Bridge we saw a wildlife crossing sign with a silhouette of a wild hog with a baby following. Although we never encountered any wild hogs, this gave us a clue about how wild a country we were about to enter. Shortly after that sign Louis spotted a Bobcat in a meadow, apparently stalking a burrowing animal. We watched it leap in the air as it tried to seize its prey, just like our own house cats pounce on a cat toy. Shortly after this experience we overhead a woman talking about her neighbor shooting a cougar that had been raiding his animals. When Ruah asked for more information, she was told that cougars were all over the place and that we needed to keep aware. While walking along the main highway we didn't sense much danger, but when we took side trips we were often looking over our shoulders.
We also saw coyotes on two different occasions. One we saw in broad daylight that watched us intently as we were watching it as we walked along. And the others were walking and howling on the crest of a hillside at dusk.
One morning our attention was attracted to a large rock in the ocean that was covered with birds. We crossed the road and started scanning the area with our binoculars when much to our delight we saw a pair of harbor seals right below us. We appreciated then how different it is to walk rather than drive or bike along a scenic area rich with wildlife, because we were able to see things that only those moving at a slow pace could observe.
From the lodge deck at Tree Bones we watched large numbers of migrating Gray Whales, exhaling plumes of hot air as they repeatedly surfaced and dived. For the next day or two we continued to see them occasionally as we walked south.
Just north of San Simeon we saw hundreds of Elephant Seals sunning themselves on certain protected beaches. Lots of people drove up from the cities to the south for day trips to view them. The adult males were at least double the size of the females and they were all gigantic. They were just contentedly sleeping and occasionally scratching themselves and coating themselves with sand. For the most part they were so motionless that at our first sighting we thought they were just big rocks on the sand until we saw some movement. It was interesting that there were signs everywhere warning people to leave the Elephant Seals alone-as if some people had to be told that they were wild and potentially dangerous animals and not cuddly big Beanie Babies.
We also saw a herd of Mule Deer and many Ground Squirrels running in and out of their burrows in the ground.
During our stay at Ripplewood, we saw Wild Turkeys courting right on the grounds of the resort. We didn't expect to see turkeys, but had been looking forward to all the shore birds we would see. We weren't disappointed since we saw many beautiful and new-to-us birds. Our only disappointment was not to se a California Condor.
We were lucky to see Thick-billed Murres and Marbled Godwits. We saw lots of Bush Tits, Cliff Swallows, Wren Tits, Western Kingbirds, and an Orange Crowned Warbler.
Being Photographed
We've decided recently that we must be the most photographed Quakers of 2008. People actually stop their cars and jump out to ask if they can photograph us. Our hosts want photos with them as we depart and photos are taken when we give presentations. It's all quite amusing since we are treated as celebrities but we don't necessarily feel like celebrities.
Although we were concerned about traffic, by and large cars travel fairly slowly around the many twists and turns of Highway 1. Louis noted that we seemed safer when there was minimal shoulder since the cars didn't want to get too close to the cliff, but when there was a wider shoulder the cars would often take the corner narrowly with their wheels going far over the line. Ruah walked at the lead with the big earth flag held quite high around blind curves to warn drivers that we were there. We remarked that we thought bicyclists were much more vulnerable than we were since they had no warning flags and were not wearing reflective clothing. This doesn't mean that everything was well for the drivers since we were told stories of tragic accidents happening frequently mostly by people who weren't familiar with the road. We were told of one local rescue man who extracted an eighteen-month-old baby in its car seat where its parents had died when it went over one of the cliffs. We also heard about another man who was trapped in his car for more than 24 hours before being rescued. It is thought that the man lit a fire to call attention to his plight, which ended up consuming a number of acres of woods.
We've mentioned cougars already, but we had been unaware of how threatened we'd feel while walking through marked rock slide areas. Louis would often say, "Let's pick up the pace through here." Although we knew that the biggest risk is during the period of heavy rain, which can loosen whole hillsides and wipe out large sections of the highway in a flash. In fact that had happened shortly before we embarked on this part of the journey. We prayed for no earthquakes or rains. Louis pointed out one place where the pavement had been gouged by falling boulders so large that heavy equipment must have been needed to remove them. At another slide section (see photo) the highway department had erected a very heavy duty steel fence to hopefully contain the further slides that were likely to occur.
Another unforeseen danger was poison oak. We were told by a park ranger that this was a banner year for the menacing plant that seemed to grow profusely among the roadsides making our choices for bathroom breaks and lunches more difficult. (Ruah actually got a little bit on one hip.) One person we talked to who owned llamas said she had contracted a bad case of poison oak after rubbing the wool of the llamas, which must have rubbed against poison oak while walking through brushy areas..
Although we were armed with sunscreen we really had no clue as to the strength of the springtime sun. Some days we felt like we were broiling. Most of the time we traveled down the Central Coast there wasn't a cloud in the sky from dawn to dusk. We slathered ourselves with sun screen several times a day and still ended up looking burnished.
Overall we had a magnificent time along this journey and are very grateful to Rebecca Lee of Monterey Friends Meeting and Melissa Lovett-Adair of Central Coast Meeting for their assistance in scouting out the path, which was a difficult task. We have four weeks to go, have walked over 1,100 miles so far, and look forward to our remaining time on the road.
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