Walking to New Familiar Places

Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural HIstory

If life is a story, the walk around Morro Bay State Park’s Museum of Natural History would be several chapters of mine.

Many years ago, maybe when I was not even a teenager, I traveled to this area with my parents. I remember being surprised at the golf course adjacent to the park, only to turn around and see there was something more to explore up the hill towards the bay. The stone pathways, the eucalyptus grove, the muddy beach seemed to mix into a jumble of memories about a place where so many things that shouldn’t be together existed side-by-side.

Then there were the visiting years, when I would escape the heat of the valley with my own young family. On long walks from the town of Morro Bay, through the nesting heron rookery, and up the stone walks, we would spend time in the Museum itself. Reading the history and looking at the photos gave us some good information and a rest stop. After all, we had a long walk back into town.

Today’s walk, though, is longer and more solitary. As a woman approaching seventy, I climb up past the museum onto the crumble of sandstone paths with only an occasional step-worn stone to steady me. The routine of walking to the back of the museum, around to the side on the path that winds nicely above and along White Point, then down to the estuary marina, is now a part of my life. I sit often on the wooden bench looking over the stone border wall to the tides coming in and then leaving the bay. I see people putting their kayaks into the water at the end of the public launch and watch pelicans hunting above the schools of fish. But I have not ever walked up to the crest of the hill. I think I remember knowing that you can walk it. I just never thought that I would.

Today, I turn left onto the uphill path instead of following the worn path I had always followed before. I will treat myself to a new version of this walk and a new view at the end of the pathway. It’s not as safe a trail as the other, having less traffic and more rubble. I reach several places where the route ahead is unsure. It’s certainly less marked. But eventually, the path reveals itself and I find that there’s a wide marked area to welcome me at the top, and one last treat that out-surprises that first impression I had of this area so long ago. The view.

What can I say about a view that extends farther than I ever would have guessed? How do I write about the freshness of the air? I am really not able to describe the vitality of this perch from the top of a hill I knew about, but had never visited. I think it’s better that you go there yourself.