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Serra

Started: 2018-08-04 20:49:48

Submitted: 2018-08-04 23:41:10

Visibility: World-readable

19 June 2018: In which the intrepid narrator visits beaches, climbs ridges, and sees the final resting place of Saint Junipero Serra

After a couple of days in Big Sur, we headed up the coast to Monterey.

Our first stop was Andrew Molera State Park, sitting at the mouth of the Big Sur River where it flowed into the Pacific Ocean. The park was still recovering from floods two years ago, and a number of trails were closed, forcing me to go back and forth between my trail guidebook (Hiking & Backpacking Big Sur, second edition, by Analise Elliot Heid) and the park's website and the map to try to figure out what we should do.

We walked along the one open trail to the beach, the Creamery Meadows Trail, passing through a meadow formerly occupied by settlers' dairy cows. The trail crossed the Big Sur River at a ford, forcing us to remove our shoes and wade carefully across the knee-deep (on me) cold water. (Kiesa carried Julian; otherwise the water would have been waist-deep on him. Calvin waded by himself.)

The trail through the meadow took us between tall grass and low shrubs, scattered with patches of poison ivy, under a hot central California sun. The cool ocean breeze that greeted us when we reached the beach was a nice change from the heat of the meadow, sheltered from the breeze just behind behind the ridge climbing from the ocean.

Julian, Calvin, and Kiesa on the beach at Andrew Molera State Park
Julian, Calvin, and Kiesa on the beach at Andrew Molera State Park

The beach stretched to the south about as far as I could see, a sliver of sand between the hillside and the ocean.

Calvin and Julian on the beach
Calvin and Julian on the beach

I found a small shelter built out of driftwood and sat to gaze out on the ocean and watch my children playing on the beach.

Julian on the beach
Julian on the beach

We left the beach and climbed the ridge behind the beach. From the ridge we had a commanding view of the ocean; I could see boats of various sizes offshore, sailing in and out of the kelp forests. A marine layer hung over the ocean just off shore, but the sky was clear above us, and the ocean breeze struggled to keep us cool under the direct morning sun.

Kiesa and Julian climb above Andrew Molera State Park
Kiesa and Julian climb above Andrew Molera State Park

The ridge continued climbing for miles, further than we wanted to go. We turned back and headed back to the parking lot, crossing Creamery Meadows and fording the Big Sur River again. (Calvin asked to learn the history of the American revolution, which I obliged.) We ate a picnic lunch under the shade in the parking lot, then headed north along California State Highway One towards Monterey.

Chapel at Carmel Mission
Chapel at Carmel Mission

We stopped in Carmel and toured the Carmel Mission. The self-guided tour took us through the main chapel, including the simple grave of Saint Junipero Serra, and into a few museum-like galleries with various artifacts. Julian was getting cranky and encouraged us to hurry through the rest of the mission. Saint Junipero Serra was an important figure in the Spanish colonization of California, and I was moved by seeing his grave, the elaborate tomb-like monument to him in another chapel, the tiny room where he lived, and other artifacts associated with his life.

Julian and Kiesa on Carmel Beach
Julian and Kiesa on Carmel Beach

We left the mission and drove to Carmel Beach, an expanse of fine white sand under gray skies. (The marine layer I'd seen off the coast had moved onshore in the afternoon.) The tide was rising, so I built a teardrop-shaped pile of sand and attempted to defend it against the approaching waves, with the help of Calvin and a random boy on the beach who volunteered to help.

After defending the tower from the waves, I retreated from the tide's inexorable approach, just above the high-water mark where the sand was dry, and dug a well. I reached water two feet below, then dug a ramp down into the hole to turn it into a step well (with large steps that were roughly Julian's size, though were not quite sturdy enough to really support his weight). I thought about building something like the superb step well Ugrasen ki Baoli that Calvin and I saw in Delhi in 2015, but I was pretty sure I couldn't get the arches to work right in sand.

A sneaker wave overtook and flooded my step well, sweeping some of our beach toys into the churning maelstrom. I rescued the beach toys, and retreated further up the beach.

By that time it we were ready to leave the beach. We drove to Pacific Grove and unloaded our luggage into our Airbnb, then drove to adjacent Monterey to eat supper at an Italian restaurant before returning to Pacific Grove to prepare for the next day.

I've always thought someone could make a killing by selling the
"for dummies" books for $200 a piece using infomercials! :-)
- Yanthor, on Content Solutions chatter, 17 December 2001