Mount Whitney is the highest point in the continental United States with a summit altitude of 14,505 feet. My pseudo cousin and I made the trek in 2014. We started at the Whitney Portal west of the town of Lone Pine on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. From there, the trek is 20 miles round trip. The hike itself takes between 12-16 hours. The plan was to get to the trailhead, set up camp and make the hike the following morning.
We left the Central Valley of California the first morning on our four-hour drive to the Whitney Portal. Only 45 miles out of town, I had a flat tire. My husband left work and came to the rescue, trading cars and sending us on our way while he dealt with the tire. The delay meant that we wouldn’t arrive to one of the campgrounds near the trailhead until dusk. We went as far as we could until it was difficult to see. The campsites were all filled. We ended up in this odd little area right next to the trail. We set up our tent, climbed in, ate a few bites of trail mix, and slept. Well before sun-up we heard many, many footsteps walking right next to our tent on the trail. Most hikers start between 2 am and 4 am. It was impossible to sleep so we got up and prepared to join them. We left the tent and other unnecessary belongings at our site and began the ascent with our headlamps.
Thankfully, the sun was fully up when we reached the switchbacks. There are so many and they’re relatively short so there is this lulling back-and-forth sensation you get similar to the rocking on a boat. The only difference being that you’re exerting energy for the hike instead of just being rocked with no effort by yourself. I don’t really remember much about the switchbacks. My theory is that it’s the hardest part of the hike and you’re just concentrating on moving one foot in front of the other with no room in your brain for anything else.
There are an estimated 101 switchbacks which are difficult in and of themselves. Considering the elevation and lack of air, it was difficult on steroids.
We went in June so that we wouldn’t need climbing equipment to summit. In spring or fall, you might need crampons or axes on the switchbacks to get through the ice. There were some icy areas, but not to the point where we needed equipment to get through it.
As the sun rose so did the temperature. It was hot and getting hotter, we had to hydrate often which we had planned for. We grazed on trail mix, jerky, granola bars and other easy to access food as we went along. Once we completed the switchbacks, there is still hiking to do. You must continue the ascent but in a more linear way. You are now on the Trail Crest which junctions with the John Muir Trail. The trailhead and the switchbacks are south of the summit, near the top. There is a saddle with a somewhat narrow passage to continue north and up. As we passed people coming down, they would encourage us by saying ‘You’re almost there,’ ‘Keep going, it’s worth it,’ and such. We were slower than many of the others and most of these nice folks had passed us on their way up.
By the time we reached the summit we were exhausted. We hadn’t slept or eaten well, and the sun had felt very hot. At the top, the temperature changed dramatically, and the cold air was welcoming. There is a small cabin which is now abandoned but has a guest book inside for summiteers to sign, which we did. Most pictures of Mt. Whitney climbers will include them with the little house in the background. There were hardly any people up there with us since we were lagging from the herd. It began to snow. The light jacket that had been around my waist was now on and fully zipped. A man came up while we were resting. He took off every stitch of his clothing and asked if we would take his picture. We agreed. He posed on a rock laying on his stomach with his legs bent up and crossed, smiling at the camera, similar to poses babies and female centerfolds use. Once the shots were approved, he got dressed and left. Later, my husband asked if we were upset or shocked. I explained that we were half dead, and it had no effect on us one way or the other. He could have been a knife welding mass murderer for all we cared.
When we had sufficiently rested, we began our descent. I took a bite of jerky as we walked and within seconds, and without any warning whatsoever, threw it back up. I had no time to find an appropriate place to hide the content of my indiscretion at all. I’m guessing that it was the altitude although I never did feel nauseous.
Once we were down a bit, the weather turned hot again, and I had to tie my jacket once again around my waist. The descent is hard because of the strain on your joints. Most of the trail is rock and you’re more likely to slip coming down than going up so we needed to be somewhat careful of our speed and balance.
We got back to our campsite and packed up. There was a debate between us. I wanted to stay the night, relax, have a nice meal, a campfire perhaps. We could go to one of the campsites and visit with others since we were early enough to still snag a site for our tent. She was insistent on heading to the car and sleeping at a hotel in Lone Pine. Our permit did not allow for a second night and she didn’t want to get penalized for camping without a permit. I argued that no one would penalize two older women who were too tired to hike out. She was adamant and the tent was hers, so we hiked all the way back to my car and drove to town. We could only find one motel with an available room, the historic Dow Villa, which was famous for hosting celebrities like John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. We called home to report that we had summitted and were now safely tucked in for the night.
I had read bloggers talk about the altitude sickness. My research showed that you could get Acetazolamide to elevate the ailment. I had been in Breckenridge, CO a few years earlier and had been nauseous for the first days. Reading a Whitney blogger enlightened me to what must have happened in Colorado, and, now I would be able to prevent it on this adventure. The doctor said I was wise to come to him. His son had attempted Whitney and was so sick from the altitude that they had to air lift him out. Thankfully, the medication worked.
Many hikers train for Whitney. We did not. I work out with weights and/or running and as a result I was fit. My body did not complain on the hike whatsoever. I wasn’t sore the next day. The one and only challenge was oxygen. People do train for the altitude, but we had not. I knew of people who had attempted to summit Whitney but had to turn around because of the altitude.
I noticed that a vast majority of hikers were twenty-something males. There were very few women, or older people. Given that my cousin and I were both female and older made me feel like we had bragging rights. I read that only an estimated 1/3 of the people who attempt Whitney actually summit. I attribute our success to the determination that we were going to summit no matter what. I think mental tenacity is the best training. Fatigue and the inability to properly inhale oxygen were not allowed into our psyches and as a result, we beat the odds.
According to Wikipedia, “Half Dome is a granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is a well-known rock formation in the park, named for its distinct shape. One side is a sheer face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 ft above the valley floor.”
I don’t recall why I decided to climb Half Dome. After all, at that time I wasn’t the least bit interested in hiking. Somehow the notion grabbed me, and I was intent on successfully summiting the iconic formation.
My son, who was 13 at the time, and I met with an expert on hiking in the area. He gave us gear to borrow and tips on what to bring in our backpacks. In the summer of 2009, we spent the night in Curry Village which was the closest campground to the trailhead. We got up early the next morning and were prepared to leave when we noticed a mother bear and her cubs outside of our cabin. We waited impatiently at the window until they were far enough away to safely leave.
From the trailhead you cross over a bridge which has a breathtaking view of Vernal Fall. As you ascend from the Yosemite Valley floor you reach a split in the trail. If you choose the John Muir Trail it will be physically easier but longer with several switchbacks. The Mist Trail is shorter and steeper. Depending on the seasonal weather it can also be more slippery in places. I’ve hiked/climbed Half Dome four times. Each time I’ve chosen a different ascent and descent trail. I find the best for me is to ascend Mist Trail and descend John Muir Trail. The reason is because it’s easier to ascend slippery steps and paths than it is descending them. Also, as you’re descending it’s hotter in the day and John Muir has more shade.
The hike can easily be done in one day if you leave before dawn. I’ve found it easier to stay at Curry Village the night before and then enter the trailhead at around 5 am with a head lamp. You can also leave from Fresno if you start out at about 3:30 am, but that makes for a very long day. Another option is to hike to Little Yosemite Valley which is roughly halfway to the Half Dome cables. The upside is that you have an easier hike each day and you reach the cables before the trailhead hikers arrive leaving it less congested. The downside is that you have to pack in and pack out camping gear to spend the night.
My preference is to spend the night in Curry Village pre-hike and drive home the day you descend.
The cables. In 2009, the first year I went, the cables kicked my butt. I was in good physical shape but didn’t realize how much the final ascent depended on upper body strength. It was literally the most difficult physical activity I have ever done. It was shear willpower that got me to the summit. My son, however, scampered up the cables with the greatest of ease. He was annoyed at all of the people slowly pulling themselves up the cables and decided to go outside the safety of holding onto both cables and just used one cable outside of the rudimentary stairs. Later, I learned that people had died losing their balance this way which to this day makes me shudder.
Over the next year I routinely did push-ups. In 2010 my son and I went up for the second time and the cables were a breeze. On this hike we took my nephew. He was a collegiate football player who had purposely gained weight for his position. While he was in perfect shape for football, he was in terrible shape for a 16+ mile hike with a 4,800 foot elevation gain. He needed lots of breaks and had difficulty catching his breath. He called the trail a ‘hell hole.’
Each year we went up, there was an increasing number of hikers. The cables became so crowded that you could be stuck on them, semi-vertically holding on, for over an hour before summitting. They finally instituted a permitting process to control the amount of people. I’m opposed to permits as a general rule, however, in this case it makes sense. Summiting with less than half of the hikers on the cables as in years past, made it so much easier and faster. The very best part of the entire hike is repelling down the cables. To me it’s my reward for the journey. With less people to avoid, the repel is even more delightful.
Reaching the top of Half Dome was exciting the first time. We sat up there eating lunch and looking out over Yosemite Valley. We had cell service at the top (no service during the hike) and let our family know we had made it. We snapped pictures and returned home. The subsequent times the summit was less impactful. By then, once we reached the top we would take a picture and then head down, not even stopping for lunch. It was just a notch in the process at that point.
The Merced River is usually close to the trail. On the way out it’s nice to stop at the river, take your shoes and socks off and cool your feet in the ice water. It’s also a nice place to have lunch. Some people will take a swim but when there has been a heavy rainy season the water is swift and I find it too dangerous to chance. The river feeds the Nevada and Vernal Falls. If you’re swept away you will end up in bits and pieces and it will be virtually impossible to have much of your body left to recover from the river.
Packing is a strategy in and of itself. Water is the most important thing. You can get water from the Merced River but you should filter it before drinking. I found it easier to bring 16 oz plastic bottles of water. The bottles are light weight when empty so your load is much lighter as you drink water. You’ll need more water ascending than you will descending. There are no garbage cans on the hike so everything must be packed out. Keep that in mind when bringing hard boiled eggs, oranges, bananas, etc. The more peeling and prepping you can do before hand, the better. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are great because they don’t need refrigeration, they are filling and provide nutrients to fuel your day. The first year I over packed. By the fourth time my load was much lighter and more efficient. There are hundreds of blogs regarding what to take. I suggest picking a few to read and then pick out what makes sense to you.
The Falls are beautiful and the pool at the base of Nevada Fall looks so peaceful and inviting. It’s neither. It’s the feeder to the second waterfall, Vernal and you will die. Pay attention to the signs and warnings. They’re legitimate.
The cables are no joke. Respect them and you’ll have no problems. Bring gloves for a better grip. There is also a pile of used gloves at the base of the cables if you forget yours. I buy the cheap garden gloves. They are trashed by the time I’ve descended from the cables and I just throw them away later.
The permitting lottery starts early in each calendar year and sells out the first day. The process changes frequently, especially because of the pandemic, so keep checking the website. Decide if you’re going to stay at Little Yosemite Valley and/or Curry Village before the lottery opens up. You’ll need a permit to camp at Little Yosemite Valley. You’ll need a reservation to stay at Curry Village. Permit and reservation availability fills up quickly. Depending on weather, the cables, and therefore permits, are available from Memorial Day through September. If at any time there is lightening the cables are closed and you’re simply out of luck. Permit requests can be made at www.yosemite.org/wildtrails/permit
Decide carefully who you want to bring along with you. You’ll be with them for 10-12 hours with no respite. If they’re annoying normally, it will be amplified under these conditions. Trust me.
If you’re on the fence, think about how pleased you’ll be with yourself the next day. Temporary difficulty, rather it be mental or physical, is temporary. The memory of a successful adventure will last a lifetime.
“The first person to live to 150 has already been born" says biomedical gerontologist Aubry de Grey. It’s taken me a few months to wrap my head around that thought. He may or may not be right but let’s just toy with the assumption that it’s a true statement. Let’s assume that the quality of life would be relatively good, for imagination’s sake.
If I lived to be 150 years old, I would be halfway there at the age of 75! What would that mean for the human psyche? As it stands now, my husband and I are setting our sights on retirement in a few years. Our plans for the future consider retirement income and what we’ll do with our time. We have several ideas and most of what we’re doing now is in anticipation of retirement. But how would we behave if we’re not even halfway through our expected life spans?
We could have multiple careers, or, just double down on the careers we have now. We could pivot from engineer and marketer to software programmer and botanist. And even pivot again decades later.
We could earn multiple degrees from a variety of educational institutes. We could learn skills that we never had time to learn before. Perhaps we’d be wiser since we tend to get wiser as we get older.
There would be more time to travel and gain new experiences. Perhaps the world would seem much smaller to a 150-year-old. I wonder if we’d get bored at some point.
We would get to meet our great great great great grandchildren. And they would get to know us. They would have a much better understanding of their generational roots.
Society as a whole would change as well. I played with this in my book series Twenty-Seven where a rare plant was discovered that, when introduced into the bloodstream, reverted the body back to the age of 27. In the books, the outcome is problematic because the older folks are not making room in the workforce for the youngers. Athletes are competing longer, Politian’s staying in office longer. The world stage becomes crowded. That’s how I imagined it for my book series.
When would you slow down? At 135? And when you’re 135 I guess you would need a really big cake to fit all the candles, or, just purchase a 1, 3 & 5 shaped candle.
When competing in a marathon, runners tend to sprint at the end, depleting what’s left of their energy in order to achieve the best time and placement in the race. Perhaps we as a society should start thinking about sprinting at the end of life instead of thinking about coasting into the sunset. It’s all a mind game and we should play to win.
I wouldn’t know what that word meant if it wasn’t for my boys. According to dictionary.com, “Karen is a pejorative slang term for an obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often racist middle-aged white woman who uses her privilege to get her way or police other people's behaviors.”
When I understood the term, I immediately recalled a time when my boys were 8 and 4. The 8 year old had become Student of The Month so I picked them both up from school and took them to John’s Incredible Pizza to celebrate. There is much to do there, pizza being the least fun for kids. There are a myriad of games and each boy was given enough tokens to keep them busy for a while. My oldest apparently had to use the restroom but didn’t want to leave his game. Consequently, he wet his pants. We were 35 minutes from home and really had just gotten started. I loaded both boys into the SUV and headed a block away to Target. I told the boys to stay in the car and I would be right back. I raced in, grabbed the first pair of pants that I could find, purchased and was outside in less than 5 minutes. When the youngest saw the pants his brother got, he also wanted a pair. I raced back, grabbed them in his size, paid and was out the door in 3 minutes. I got an anxiety rush when I noticed three people standing at my car, one woman, wearing scrubs, was peering in my back window. I walked up and the peering woman scolded me for leaving my children in the car, she said they were scared. She pulled out her cell phone and called Child Protective Services (CPS).
I didn’t say a word. It was absolutely none of her business and I didn’t care what she thought. I got in the car and carefully pulled out of the parking lot, not wanting to hit her (the other two had walked off when I got there). I heard her telling the person on the phone my license plate number. Since I never heard from CPS I assumed they thought the accusation was as absurd as I did. Wasting an important organization’s time on something so insignificant should be the crime here.
The boys later told me they were scared because she put her face to the window.
Now THAT was a Karen.
Since I’ve added that word into my vocabulary, I’ve noticed it’s used for anyone, even those who are truly trying to help. I think the word, and what it suggests, reflects how people are more reluctant to do something helpful in our current culture. Somehow helpfulness has become an irritant.
I’ve never had a weight problem until the last few years. When I started gaining weight, I tried Weight Watchers, The Daniel Plan and 21-Day Fix diets. They would help, but ultimately, I kept gaining. Talking to my doctor, she suggested the Keto Diet. I did research and found it to be counter intuitive. How is it possible to eat fat and lose weight? But I had nothing to lose (pun intended).
I’m writing this blog because when I talk to people about it, they are very curious. Even at Costco, with lines to check-out 10 to 20 carts deep, I got pulled out of line and taken to a small side cash register. The reason? The clerk saw that I had keto bread and wanted to know more about it because their keto bread was flying off the shelf.
After ten weeks, I’ve lost 25 pounds. Here’s what I’ve learned:
The Keto Diet drastically reduces your body of carbohydrates and sugar. Carbs are what your body uses to convert energy. When there are no carbs, it uses fat to convert energy. This is called ketosis.
When you’re initially in ketosis there is often a keto-flu, which lasts a few days. It’s similar to pregnancy nausea. That’s how I knew it was working. You can also purchase a test kit that indicates if you’re in ketosis or not.
I could not have done it without the Custom Keto Diet website. For $37 you get an eight-week meal plan that fits your needs. It asks for your weight, height, age, activity level and desired weight. Then the portions are adjusted to fit you. The meals can be switched and filtered depending on your taste.
I’ve discovered that food items that say ‘keto friendly’ do not necessarily make it so. You have to become proficient at reading labels. I’ve learned that it’s better to purchase regular products versus ‘fat free’ products.
What I like about Custom Keto Diet is that it tells you how many calories, fat, and carbs you’re allowed each day. That helps if you’re new to the diet and want to occasionally deviate from their meal plans.
The hard part is obviously giving up carbs. Luckily for me, I have always steered away from bread, so I don’t miss that much. But potatoes and rice are difficult. The Keto Diet substitutes rice and potatoes with cauliflower. The cauliflower can be processed to the consistency of regular rice or mashed potatoes. It’s not the same, but if you put enough butter and spices on it, it’s fine.
You can still go out for dining or fast food. All you have to do is google your favorite eateries and ask what is keto friendly. I can eat a double quarter pounder with cheese without the bun and stay in ketosis. Many restaurants have keto-friendly items on the menu. Costco now sells keto bread. It tastes similar to regular bread, but without the carbs.
There is the option of intermittent fasting where, within 24 hours, you only eat in an eight-hour period. You fast for the remaining 16 hours. You eat your breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner all within that eight hours. This hastens your weight loss.
The longer you’re in ketosis, the easier it becomes. Now that I’m back to my desired weight, I’ve allowed myself one day per week where I can eat carbs. As long as I keep it to one day in seven, I maintain my desired weight.
If you decide to go keto, it’ll probably be difficult at first. I suggest spending a day prepping as much food for the week as possible so that you’re not thinking too much about what foods you’re missing. Once you see the pounds shedding, it’ll become easier to stick with it because nothing tastes as good as thin feels.
When I heard that there had been a shrine erected on a state highway 14 miles southwest of Coalinga, California I had to go see it. Apparently, several people have seen the Virgin Mary appear at the site. Over time, people began building a shrine where the sightings had been. There are a few points to this story that make it interesting.
First, I’ll say the obvious. Why would the Virgin Mary appear several times at a place that is extremely remote? Not that I would begin to guess what she’s thinking, but it seems as though, if she were to appear, that she would pick a place visible to more people.
Then, how is it that a shrine, complete with steps, a handrail, streamers, a bench, and the shrine itself, possibly get carved into a side of a mountain on a state highway without Caltrans knowing about it. People have to park on the other side of the road and cross two lanes of highway on a curve to get to it.
And, why would anyone take such time and effort to construct such a thing? They would have had to have brought in forms and cement for the stairs, flatten the space for the shrine, etc. In the shrine itself, there are many candles burning and there appears that someone is maintaining the area. It looks like visitors bring flowers, banners, candles, etc. and place around the area. Some have drawn pictures on the rocks and written Bible passages.
Finally, why would anyone drive 1 ½-2 hours one way to see the shrine? I can answer that one. Because it’s so weird on several different levels. It was worth the drive. The bonus was that we enjoyed an amazing lunch at Harris Ranch on the way home.
Epilogue: Due to the public’s sensitivity of the site, it was arranged to have the shrine and its surrounding mélange of mementos moved to a nearby monastery. I wonder. Will The Virgin appear at the new site? Or at the original site? Or not at all? I’ll report back.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of ‘Renaissance Man’ is a person with many talents or areas of knowledge. There was a Renaissance Man right under my nose for 35 years and I didn’t even know it. Frank Wallace Goeddel married my mother and consequently became part of our family. He died on February 10, 2021 at the age of 88 years old.
My mother, husband and I began cleaning out his belongings. As we went along, we became more and more surprised at the depth and breadth of his belongings. You see, when he moved in, my mom let him transform one of the bedrooms into an office. He had that space jam packed with stuff. We never went inside so we weren’t entirely sure what was in there.
His taste was uber eclectic. He had books on astronomy, movies, mathematics, gambling, religion, lottery, bridge, horse racing, games, frisbee, kites, cards, surfboarding, sailing, cooking, wine, classics, California history, fishing, art, exercises, diets, world history, politics, code breaking, poetry, motorcycle repair, and music. I’m probably missing several categories, there were so many and we didn’t think to write them down until later on.
Most of the books were clearly read with notes on papers used as bookmarks. So not only did he learn about things, he also jumped into each topic with fervor.
Our local library accepted his books as a donation. It took seven trips to get them all delivered. The librarians were amazed at his collection and commented that he was a real renaissance man. That’s when it clicked in my head that he was one.
He had all sorts of knick-knack things that each had meaning to him. He created devices for specific purposes, although, some of them we never did figure out what the purpose might be. One interesting device was a board that he affixed a large pipe to in the middle. If you stood on the board you could toggle to your left and right, which improved your balance. Apparently, this was to prepare him for sailboarding.
One day, I dropped my youngest off so that I could work. When I picked him up in the late afternoon, I discovered that my son and Frank had spent the day building a tree fort in the backyard. Frank had planned this surprise well in order to be able to finish it in a day.
While he could hold a conversation with anyone on any subject, we didn’t realize the extent of his knowledge. It’s interesting how you can know someone, but not really know them.
My job is to love, according to the Bible. My job specifically excludes judging others. I’m not very good at my current job, so why would I take on another one, anyway?
I wanted to sort out my thoughts about this and decided to do it here. How can I love someone I don’t know? How can I love someone I do not like? I think love is a choice and that if you control your thoughts you can achieve the love of everyone. It’s not easy and I haven’t achieved it yet, though.
I’ve been practicing. When I look at someone, I try to see inside them. See their soul and the beauty of who they are. It gets easier each time I try. Picking out virtues helps too. We all make assumptions about people based on how they’re dressed, how they talk, etc. We all size up strangers, even though it’s not culturally popular to admit that. But we do. I think it’s only natural to form an opinion, pretty sure we can’t stop that. However, I also think that we can control what we do with that opinion.
Several years ago, I was at an elementary school’s administrative office. The woman in front of me was pregnant, had a baby in a stroller and was talking to the secretary about her children that were enrolled in the school. It was revealed through the conversation that there were multiple dad’s and she needed to get the children on a free meal program. I don’t need to elaborate on my initial thoughts. At some point, I consciously caught myself judging her. I immediately felt guilty and began silently praying for her. That was a breakthrough for me in terms of avoiding judgment.
Fast forward to 2020 and I’m at the grocery store, bagging my items. The person in front of me is also bagging her items (duel conveyor belts). It was a particularly hot day. She was purchasing 2-liter sodas and snacks, she mumbled to herself that it was going to be a long walk home with the heavy bottles. I asked her how far away she lived. She answered that her house was just around the block (it turned out to be about 2 miles away). I asked if she wanted a ride and she said yes. She waited for me to finish and then we walked out to my car together. As I’m walking, I’m asking myself what on earth was I thinking? I don’t know her, if anything happened, no one would know what happened to me. I was starting to panic. Then, I made the decision that I would be ok until I wasn’t, so I wouldn’t worry unless I needed to. Another breakthrough. I drove her home without incident. She was very grateful. I was euphoric that I had helped her. I still think of that incident and feel good about it.
I guess the moral of my blog is that I’m happier and more at peace when I love versus when I judge. It’s my reward for trying to do my job.
Happy Valentine’s month <3
This is the type of vacation a person takes to rejuvenate their soul. Our family has been renting a house in Cayucos, California since 2001. At the time, the boys were five and one. They beg to come here and plan, strategize and dream for the time that they will arrive here. ‘Our’ house is one of only two rentals that are located on the beach in the center of town. We can park our car and leave it in the garage for our entire stay. Everything we need is within walking distance. The house is perched several feet above sea level with private stairs that lead to the beach. We go on off-peak seasons for two reasons; first, the cost is much less and second, there aren’t as many people on the beach, in fact, there are hardly any people in off-season.
With a population of only 2,692, it’s one of the smallest cities on California’s Central Coast. Locals and visitors alike have always been friendly to us and appear to be truly happy. You can not beat the vibe.
We stayed for one week in December of 2020. Our two college students had been attending virtual classes since March of 2020. With the Fall Semester completed, we all needed a break. When they were younger the boys would often stay in a room they shared and play video games all day. We would have to literally drag them away from the games to play on the beach. Now that they’re 24 and 20 they refused to bring their game console and chastised my husband and I if we got on our laptop or focused too much on our phones. They insisted on long walks and board games. Given that we had all been in close proximity to each other for ten months, this was a pleasant surprise.
The entire back of the house is windows allowing for an unfettered view of the ocean. There are chairs that we place along the sidewalk and we’ll sit there, lined up, as much as possible, just soaking in the beautiful scenery and scents that can only be found near an ocean.
We have our traditions. One of our favorites (well not ALL of our favorite) is what we’ve named ‘Cayucos Hose Surprise.’ When the boys were five and one, the elder hosed the younger from behind. I was lucky enough to capture the event on film. We’ve reenacted this moment in two additional years, just for fun. In 2020, we switched it up so that the younger (and now bigger) brother hosed the elder. And, we started a new tradition this year. It’s called Kintsugi, which is a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with powdered gold. My husband found a kit online and purchased it for us to do at the beach house as a family. This will be a new tradition for us and one that is completely unique and will capture our memories for years to come. The boys each made an ecosystem this year using pickle jars, oceanwater, sand and for photosynthesis, seaweed. They’ve brought them home and keep them in their rooms to remind them of their time on the beach.
There is something odd that happens here. It can rain all night, yet soon after the rain has stopped, the outdoor chairs are dry. The weather can read 46 degrees yet, you don’t feel cold. You wake up in the morning and the sun is setting without you understanding where the day went.
We have our favorite restaurants and each of us got to pick one place to eat out each day. All other meals were prepared in our house or barbecued in the back yard overlooking the ocean. Our favorites are Duckies Chowder House, Schooners, Lunada Garden Bistro, and Ruddell’s Smokehouse. We did venture out a few times to get takeout from Morro Bay, but this blog is about Cayucos.
On the beach, dogs are allowed and many people let them run without leashes. A nightmare if you’re a dog hater, but a delight if you’re a dog lover. Us four are of the later ilk. Unfortunately, our house doesn’t allow dogs so we especially enjoy dog-watching when we’re away from our own.
It’s fun to watch the various types of birds feed near the waves. They usually stay in flocks and run to the waves when they’re receding and away from the waves when they’re coming in. The goal is to get as many sand crabs as possible to fill their stomachs. There is definitely a hierarchy to their methodology. It seems that some of the flocks separate between youth and adults. We watched a flock that had the adults merely watching from a safe place while the youth ran back and forth from and to the waves. We made up stories as to why they did this and what comments each group might be saying.
If you walk 1 ½ miles south from our house, you arrive at the sand dollar beach (our name for it). Here, there are hundreds of sand dollars on the beach, many of which are unbroken. We enjoy collecting them and bringing them back to our beach. If we find red ones, it means they’re still alive and we throw them back into the ocean. It’s not always easy to walk to this beach. If the tide is high, you have to wait until the waves pull back long enough for you to race around the rocks without getting pelted by the larger waves. Our oldest son especially likes the challenge of the high tide. In fact, he talked me into going with him one day. The tide was super high and all I could do was imagine myself being thrashed against one of the rocks. He made fun of my cowardice and asked why I was OK jumping out of airplanes but not OK with a few waves. Good point, but I still made him come back to our house with me.
Another reason we especially like this beach is because you can have fires on it. It’s nice to sit in the sand roasting marshmallows for s’mores with the waves roaring nearby. We’ve spent hours next to our fires over the years. There’s something hypnotic about watching the flames dance while in the midst of nature.
Each year, the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce hosts the Polar Bear Dip on January 1. I booked this year with the intent to participate. Like everything else, it was cancelled, and I was disappointed. But then, on January 1, heading back to the house from the high tide fright I noticed many people north of our house on the beach next to the pier. I realized that folks were doing the Dip even though the Chamber wasn’t organizing it! I ran up the stairs to the house and changed into the outfit I had brought especially for the event. Towels in tow, I headed that way to participate. Unfortunately, I was too late, and the people were all dispersing. On the way back to the house, with husband and elder son with me, we decided to do our own Dip (renamed Polyack Plunge) at the beach in front of our house. It worked out better because after the plunge, we were able to run up to the showers and warm back up. Another tradition I suspect.
Places we would have gone if it weren’t for the timing of our visit would have been Hearst Castle in San Simeon and Field of Lights near Paso Robles. Places we did go to either on this trip or on past trips included the Elephant Seals of San Simeon – a must see for anyone in the area. All three of these activities is a wonder in its own distinctive way. This year we went to Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in San Simeon which was beautiful. The most notable part of this hike was that the boys were able to climb on the rocks, uncovered due to the low tide, and sit just a few feet away from Harbor Seals, starfish, crabs, snails and anemones. The rocks here appear to have no life whatsoever, but when you stop and take the time to look, they are shockingly alive. We stayed until late in the day.
Cayucos was the perfect elixir for an upside-down year. We are all so grateful for the calm and simplicity that recharged us here.
This HSU semester, RJ took a World Religions course. His latest assignment was to ‘Build your own religion.’ He’s always been a creative writer. I thought I would share his paper here, just for fun.
Extreme Anti-Materialism (Frodoanity)
by RJ Polyack
Once a week on Saturday’s disciples of this religion will be required to sacrifice a single item of their choice. Preferably, something that holds value to the person. The reason for this is to teach followers over time how to be comfortable with letting go of a possession. Humans spend far too much time focusing on materialism and often lose the ability to stop and smell the roses. Each item brought in for sacrifice must have a story behind it and why it means something to that person. These items will be piled into a massive fire pit and doused with gasoline and lit on fire. This teaches followers to be okay with loss of possessions so they can focus energy into more important aspects of life such as interpersonal connections and nature.
The sacred “scripture”, if you will, is called Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This novel is incredibly important to the religion because the main character, Frodo Baggins, has one of the most powerful items in existence and chooses to destroy it instead of give in to its willpower (yes, the ring is capable of exerting its will unto others). The entire premise revolves around characters battling against their own obsession with such a powerful object. Frodo is a prime example of what all followers of this religion should strive to be like.
Going back to the mythic narrative paragraph, it is clear that Lord of the Rings plays a relatively big role in this religion. With that being said, the main symbol and/or icon of this religion is a 6-foot-tall plastic sculpture of Frodo throwing the all-powerful ring into the lava of Mount Doom which can be purchased at your local GameStop. Believers will worship this figure with an undying commitment and love. If you are eating, 6-foot-tall plastic sculpture of Frodo from GameStop should eat with you. If you are showering, 6-foot-tall plastic sculpture of Frodo from GameStop should shower with you. And finally, make sure to always tuck in the 6-foot-tall plastic sculpture of Frodo from GameStop beside you before you go to sleep.
The philosophical doctrine of Frodoanity revolves around anti-materialism. Followers believe that materialism is the cause of a large amount of societal issues such as corporate greed, poverty due to materialistic greed, etc. In order to change the world around us, we must change ourselves first. However, most people were not raised this way and have come to rely heavily on material matter such as electronics, jewelry, and money. We acknowledge our own shortcomings and are dedicated to changing and bettering ourselves not only for the personal freedom one experiences but for others around us. Each day is a new opportunity to get rid of a vice that isolates us from the rest of world.
At the top of this Frodoanity’s hierarchical pyramid is our lord and savior Frodo Baggins. Below him but equally as great would be the author of our sacred texts, J.R.R. Tolkien. Below the author would be the Thing Wraiths who preach our practices and enforce our rules. Immediately below the Thing Wraiths would be the Fronks who are monks so heavily involved in Frodoanity that they have taken a vow of silence and a vow to never give in to their materialistic urges ever again. Immediately under the Fronks would be anyone else who practices Frodoanity but has not yet taken the pledge of the Fronk.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.