Walking Harmony Headlands

 

 

Once – not so long ago – the tiny hamlet of Harmony, California was for sale. An idyllic bend along The Pacific Coast Highway between a velvet-covered ridge and a golden hillside, I wondered who had purchased this small patch of perfection.

Walk across the highway and over the hill, you find the Pacific Coast. Up the ridge is the pristine Los Padres National Forest. Mist in the morning, sunny breezes in the afternoon and foggy evenings wrap Harmony in what you may believe is fiction, too beautiful to be real.

But real people – 18 of them –  do live here. And many others drop in for browsing the wooden clapboard storefronts, shopping, eating at the cafe and watching the glassblowers shape their art. An appealing wine tasting room and restaurant are at the end of a picturesque winding drive.

Though my interest in the town is real, my true reason for driving the 12 miles north is to walk the Harmony Headlands Trail. One and a half miles over a hill from Highway 1, the Pacific Ocean pushes its salty spray again and again in tides against the bluffs. I could walk over, hillside to coastline and see what I could see. Many people have walked this trail, but until I do it myself, is it real? I want to see for myself before I believe.

Even though I live just a few miles south and the beach breeze cools me frequently throughout the day, I am always surprised to walk along a hillside path during the parched summer, then pass into cool breezes. Close to the hillside, you have sunny warmth; take one step out from the hills’ protection, crisp ocean coolness reaches out to touch you. Up the hill from the trailhead I go, stepping in and out of the freshest air on the planet.

The trail winds around and then up along the ridge of the humpback coastal mound. We call them hills, but these are really geographic waves of rock and earth with covers of wildflowers in the spring and dry grass and ground squirrels in the summer. The wide pathway makes for easy walking and I think that next time, I may test out summer sandals instead of hiking boots. Why not? In this land of near-make-believe, it’s hard to think that anything would come and bite my ankles and the weather surely does not call for anything hardy or wooly. Flips-flops would do just fine.

I crest the ridge. The sun is a hot-rock massage on my shoulders and the mist offers a fresh air salt scrub for my face. I might as well be at a high-price spa. But this is so much nicer, and costs nothing but footsteps. I pause at the top to relish the simple grace of feeling clean. As pleasant as all that is, though, the view is the real attraction.

Today, the purity of the sky, the time of day and the currents of the tide turn the Pacific Ocean nearly turquoise. A double line of white rolls against the shore, but lazily, as the waves find their way to the rocks and sand. The path lets me ramble down, an easy pace, to the bluffs that form the west coast of the North American Continent.

Cool offshore breezes blend with the sun shining its pleasant warmth. Even though I face a bit of a climb on the way back, I don’t worry about the heat or the cold. Mother Nature has taken care of that for me. Am I just a bit too comfortable? Is this just a bit too nice for real life? The walk might make me think so, but this story I tell today is exactly the way it really is. If you tend to doubt me, remember the trail’s name: Harmony Headlands. I am at the apex of agreement between Mother Nature and me.

Harmony, California. The town itself may have been bought and sold and bought again. But the beauty here is a time-worn possession of Mother Nature. And now that I have seen it myself, I know that it is real. I’m a believer.

 

Please join the Monday Walk with RestlessJo and friends:

Jo’s Monday walk

Walking with the Spring Bloom

IMG_0886.JPG
Central California hillside

Native Californians, like myself, grow up with a spring bloom every year. For most of the year, in fact, we can rely on blossoms of some sort. But wildflowers adore springtime, and that is when we go searching. Off into nature I trek, with my hubby in tow.

I had heard of an area east along Highway 58 that we could get to without a lengthy drive. Though I wanted to see the spring bloom, I wanted to spend my time walking among the luster of new flowers, not riding in a car.

Even the drive there was spectacular. We stopped along the way to do a small bit of exploring.

Eagle-eyed hubby spotted a golden eagle and then its nest. We waited close by, but neither our presence nor the noise of the crows in the next-door tree persuaded the eagle to reappear.

IMG_0857
Golden Eagle nest

We continued down the roadway. I’d not really thought out this day with detailed planning. ‘A spot east along Highway 58’ is truly as far as my itinerary got. I figured that somewhere along the way, the place would present itself, and we would find ourselves among the spring bloom.

IMG_0848
a short side-trip stroll

This is the landscape I grew up with. As a young girl in Sacramento, as a young woman near San Jose, and later in Bakersfield and Fresno, these rolling hills and oak trees were always with me. I want to say this landscape is the most beautiful on earth, but I think that’s my familiarity with the natural decor talking. Much of the year, these hills are dry and forlorn. Your skin will crack with exposure and your eyes will strain with glare from the sun. This territory is synonymous with my life, and I consider it wondrous.

As do so many others. East along Highway 58 in central California, we came across this sight:

IMG_0925
Our neighbors

With such a stampede of people, I guessed we had reached our destination. We parked, grabbed our hats and walked to discover the views. Of course, there were wildflowers. Common tidy tips, several varieties of lupine, fields of mustard and yarrow.

But there were also many, many people, like myself, who wanted to see the spring bloom before it faded. With packed lunches, multiple generations,  friends and families, they came. They carried babies, backpacks, cameras and umbrellas. Out in the middle of a land far from any sidewalk, there walked myself and a swarm of my neighbors.

IMG_0926
Spring Blooming with people

The views I wanted were there.

IMG_0911
You can almost smell the fresh

The views I hadn’t anticipated made me laugh. I’d thought to bring my hat and camera, but I hadn’t thought of picnic blankets, folding chairs and Frisbees for the dogs. I hadn’t thought to bring my dog, either. But others thought of all that and much more.

IMG_0870
More than I expected

What a complete surprise my wildflower walk became. Along a creek bed, me and my fellow county dwellers watched a torrent of polliwogs writhe in a springtime dance. We clamored up hillsides. We dodged cars.

IMG_0889
Love ’em

At the end of a walk in the middle of nowhere, with nearly half the population of my county, a fitting sign pulled my attention as we left.

IMG_0933
Very generous 🙂

There we were, hundreds of central Californians, on someone’s private property. I am going to believe in the generosity of the owners, because I couldn’t have avoided this. On our walk into the area, there had been too many people milling around to notice the sign. Thank you, residents of a place east on Highway 58.

 

https://restlessjo.me/jos-monday-walk/

 

Walking, Weather or Not

img_8438
Rain or no rain?

Have you ever looked out the window and wondered if you should postpone taking a walk because of what you saw? Today, I was presented with two views out my window. One, sunny and brilliant, encouraged my feet. The other told me in complete certainty that I shouldn’t be stepping out the door. Then a rainbow spread over the sky, which against the dark clouds, made my confusion even more perplexing.

img_8559
Looking south
img_8614
Looking north

Of course, I went. And, of course, the weather went with me. Down to the beach, one side of the sky filled with brilliant sunshine and the other, a flip-side of dark threatening clouds. Threatening what, I wanted to ask myself? More rain would be a blessing, even after so much wet this winter. Sometimes threats are really just promises hiding in over-used expressions.

Still, this hope for rain didn’t make me wish for it right here and now. Would the rain wait until I finished my walk? Nature honestly doesn’t care about my dry feet, so I wasn’t sure at all. Even so, that didn’t make me turn around and head for safety.

But thinking that perhaps I should find a dry place to perch made me pause to admire the tenacity of the shore birds along the way. The night herons lined up diagonally along the wave line, facing the wind as the weather began changing from coolly invigorating to perhaps cold and rainy. They might change their behavior with the weather, but they don’t consider leaving as I do. Brave creatures, staying close to the tide and waiting out the drop in air temperature from 60 degrees F to 52. Living along this coast, where creatures (all of us) have discarded the notion of seasonal migration, is a funny reminder that we live in a bubble of weather bliss.

But there is still the threat of rain. Even when it is a temperate climate, getting wet is still getting wet, and something my socks don’t want to do. At one point in the walk, the sky literally split, with one side being blue and the other cloudy gray.img_8603

Had we had enough rain this season? Since we moved here, almost five years ago, my walks at home have been mostly dry drought walks. Tip-toeing through puddles this last month or two hasn’t yet gotten old. Not for me and my damp socks, nor for the glorious life springing up from a wet earth.

img_8495
blooms in late winter

Before the walk ended, that threat had come true. My glasses spotted-over with rain drops. I remembered how important hats were – having forgotten mine for the hundredth time. And I felt the dampness seeping into the sandals I am lucky enough to wear every day. Here I am, loving the rain in central California. More, please.img_8470-1

Join Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

 

Seal Walk

img_5598

We all live alongside so many wonderful creatures. In my little corner of this world, I can sometimes hear the bark of seals from my kitchen window. The sound reminds me that there are more important things to do than finish washing the dishes. The seals are calling me to come walk…

but they’re probably all just laying around, enjoying the soothing waters between each rise of the waves. Whether all together on a communal rock or on a solitary perch that lifts just one seal out of the water, it can seem as if all they do is relax. For hours and hours, you can be mesmerized by their inactivity.

But, I have seen herds of them flying through the water near whale-watching boats. Propelling themselves through the waves the way they do on the open sea makes me appreciate their need to recuperate when they come home to the rocks. Just thinking of their ocean frolic makes me yearn for a rest. So, if the seals are in sleep pose while I walk, it’s just their very own restorative yoga.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The sounds the seals make is somehow compelling to human ears. Who can resist the arf-arf of seals clamoring for a better sleep position? They seem to amiably push aside one another in their effort of settling in for a snooze. Sometimes I wonder how these rugged rocks can be made comfortable, but look how many are settling in below. I leave it to the seals to pick the best spot for an afternoon’s nap.

img_5570 Certainly, I won’t argue that they have chosen well in picking this spot for home. The weather is usually calm, the scenery gorgeous.

img_5089

As long as the seals continue to call, I am happy to walk. Sunny day or overcast, they entertain in a way that is calming.