Sunday, January 15, 2012

From The Mountains To The Sea: Dolphins, Coyotes, and Hawks: Oh My!

Mike Shaner
January 15, 2011

I've always said there are two kinds of people: beach bums and mountain folk. The great thing about Southern California is you don't have to choose. Yesterday, I  made a short commute through winding canyons to the Pacific Coast Highway for a picturesque ocean side drive. For lunch I stopped by Malibu Seafood, a place as famous for it's namesake atmosphere as it is for the best fish and chips west of Mobile and south of the Bay. It was a typical breezy 75 and sunny January afternoon. I sat on the top patio devouring fried oysters when I noticed the first fin emerge from the calm clear ocean. Soon I saw another. A moment later an entire dolphin flipped through the air, and then another, and another! Soon the whole troupe was playing, jumping, and flipping to the delight of the several beachcombers and restaurant patrons who were lucky enough to choose this exact time to be in this exact place. After an hour or so the dolphins bored of showing off and swam away. I drove home impressed with the fact that I live in a place where at any given time an impromptu dolphin show is a possibility. Most people spend a vacation fortune to see such things...if they're lucky!

I rose this morning with the sun and had a wonderful Denver omelet breakfast with added mushrooms and spinach at The Breakfast Cafe. I followed that up with sunrise bloody Mary's and headed out to Los Padre's national forest with no real plan other than to drive a mustang that likes to go fast on mountain roads. The only bad thing about Los Padres is deciding which car to drive. The roads are perfect for something sporty but passing all the off-road trails leaves me a little sad that I sold my 4WD. The sadness quickly fades, however, as I maneuver short straightaways that allow the mustang to rumble up to triple digit speeds and then downshift through tight corners between 30 and 60 mph. By the time I reach the Sespe hiking trail my adrenaline is at a fever pitch and my journey hasn't even really begun! I'm surrounded by mountain freedom. The scenery is filled with storybook magic. Whistling pines and jagged peaks make the country boy heart flutter.

Sespe can be a somewhat crowded trail, but today it's just me and a few old hippies enjoying nature. After my first few steps I see a sign conveniently reminding me to watch for ancient rock paintings. Fantastic observations from our primitive long gone relatives! I smile at the idea of a cave dweller who was so profoundly struck with his majestic surroundings that he left his eternalized graffiti for me to marvel at. Then I laugh remembering that today he would be arrested for such a thing. Onward down the twisting trail, just before I cross the Sespe river, a beautiful nervous coyote gives me an annoyed scowl as he quickly crosses the twisting trail and disappears into his own endeavors.  Yesterday a dolphin and today a coyote! What great deeds have I done to be inundated with such natural blessings?

Further into the wilderness the trail turns back to cross the gradual stream that once was a mighty river where the cavemen would share a drink with my coyote friend. Ahead the trail rose into a moderately strenuous climb toward the mountain peak. Along the way I saw a bounty of quail, blue jays and woodpecker's meticulously carrying on with their particular business. After an hour or so of awestruck walking I finally reached the top. In the distance between two glorious peaks I saw a great body of water that I can only assume to be the pacific ocean. The type of view that keep the most articulate poets up at night suffering to find the words to describe that which words cannot describe. As the sun finally began to sink into the horizon I reluctantly marched back to my car. As I twisted back across the stream a red tailed hawk circled low as if to say: "thanks for visiting."

I drove away slowly passing the waterfalls and trails that I must wait to explore. On my way down the mountain I stopped at the Deer Lodge to watch the 49ers beat the saints over some bourbon. I drove home alongside the pacific ocean and a million stars. At home I collapsed into my bed and thought: "if I'm not too tired I'll dream of tomorrows adventures." Finally I sighed: "just another day in paradise.


  1. Awesome! Thank you for the beautiful sharing of your explorations and adventures. Inspired and heartened.

    1. Thank You Martha! I'm sorry I never called. I for some reason had the days of your show mixed up and it conflicted with my school. I have class the same time/day as the show. So maybe next semester...?