Saturday, December 02, 2006

November 23, 2006

First, let me expand on why Lime Kiln State Park is one of my favorites. Camping is divided into 3 sections. A ridge above the creek allows campsites nestled within a Redwood Grove. Or, you can cross a brdge and camp along the cascading creek with the canyon wall as a backdrop. Or, cross another bridge and camp in the cove, oceanside. The drawback with the latter is that the hwy1 bridge looms overhead, and until it gets late into the night, you have the noise of passing motorists. Usually, I focus on the sound of the crashing surf, and the hwy is nothing but background noise. I love popping the top on the toybox, opening the front tent window, allowing the surf and sea air to filter in as I sleep. Although..., sleeping creekside listening to the water boil over the boulders as it heads to the sea is also very alluring :'). I have never camped in the Redwoods. It is a small park, maybe 50 sites. Only the one trailhead out the back, where you then have the 3 destinations. Camp does fill up on weekends and busy periods, but I believe that most people see the park as more of an "en-route" stop then a destination. They have no idea of what they are missing. I have hiked the canyon when the park is full, and seen only a handfull of people on trail. That is quite alright with me.

...There was a cache within 150 feet of my campsite that I was surveying. It was on the far side of the creek, said it did require a crossing and so had a fair amount of difficulty rating. I walked to the beach, rock-hopped across and looked for a trail back under the bridge to the cache. Nope. Now I was going into the other sites to see if the brush might be clear there to allow a crossing. Nope. The water was not my issue, it was the major bushwacking through willows and whatnot that bothered me.
Checking the GPS's, I see there is one other cache in the park, "bridge cache" (gc2558). This is on the canyon trail to the kiln. Standing in-between campsites of my neighbor campers, I am greeting them and exchanging small talk. This is how I hook up with Art and Jess of Sonora. Art is asking some questions about the trails and waterfalls. I end up telling them that as soon as I eat breakfast, I am going up, and if they'd like, I would introduce them to an interesting game called Geocaching. Jess had heard of it and she told Art that he'd really enjoy it. So, it was settled then.
We circumvented the creek crossings to get to the falls. I had related the story of my trip to them with a couple of guys who were locals, and that trip required barefoot wading in a few of the crossings. Not only that, but the guy in the lead reminded me of Paul (Brad Pitt) in "A River runs through it" in his demeanor and fearlessness. Once at the falls, he had, without hesitation, scrambled barefoot up the wet and slippery boulders and through the fallen trees to the base of the falls to stand under them.
The falls were not very full at all. In fact, they were miniscule! All of my previous visits they had been full width of the "nose". These are (usually) some impressive falls for as little fanfare as they get. The park does not even promote them very loudly. They are 90' tall, and fall over an outcropping that forms a nose, and then down an "apron" that widens as it heads ot the base, which is 50' or more across. The rock evenly distributes the water so it is a veil, and I have seen the downstream canyon cloaked in the mist that forms at the bottom. I had always assumed the creek was spring fed, but evidently not.
So, we reach the falls, and Jess immediately does the Paul thing, scrambling up the base. I chuckled to myself about that, thinking "cool, here we go again".
We tracked back to the main trail, and Art led the way to the bridge cache. Once at the bridge, and after describing typical hides, they were all over the place in the search, and Art found the cache under the far side of the bridge. He let Jess do the "low bridge" retrieval, and we were like kids in the candy store as we sorted through the treasures within. This is my absolute favorite thing in geocaching. Watching someone go through the rites of discovery of their first cache is so cool, especially kids, but then, this experience makes us all kids! We played it as cool as we could as the passing hikers had to step around us on the bridge as they passed, and then made the selections and trades. I congratulated them on their first find, noting they definitely had the right makeup (sense of adventure and fearlessness) to be great cachers. This was definitely affirmed over the next couple of days!
In conversation, I found that they were traveling the coast in a similar manner as I was, no itinerary, just let whatever catches your eye lead the way. We thought we would be bumping into each other as we traveled south, and so it was.
I ran into Art at SandDollar Beach parking lot. Jess was down there somewhere's. I learned that Jess taught sixth graders at an outdoor science school (how cool is that!). I told Art about Jade Cove beach being my next stop. I think that discovering Jade on a beach fit right in with Jess's class topics, and they met me at the pullout. As we approached the descent trail at the bluff, it became evident that the high tide and surf was going to drastically limit the Jade searching today : (. Heck with it, not like you come upon a Jade cove every day, so down we went. Very quickly, too quickly in fact, Jess and I crossed over and under boulders to an exposed portion of shoreline where the pebbles and rocks were accessable. Art, being that he is a big guy, or maybe a bit wiser, did not try this manuever. The surf was certainly coming up fairly close and heavy, and I, suffering a brain fart, took my attention off of it as I knelt and sorted through the stone for the allusive Jade treasure. CRASH!!! The sound of a sleeper wave breaking brought me to reality, and I tried to scramble to higher ground in time, unsuccessfully, as the water rose to shin height in an instant! I managed to grab hold of the boulder and just ride it out. Sheesh! Jess was up higher than I was, and escaped most of the wrath. After scrambling up to higher ground, I said a silent prayer of thanks that I had this wakeup call without any real damage done. I really do know better than to take my eye off of the pacific ocean, and I do know the extent of power that the sleepers carry. As I said, Brain Fart! It was easy to laugh about it now, walking around in my soggy shoes and HEAVY, wet, wool socks, but I honestly realized how close I had come to some serious shit. I vowed to remember this moment from here on out, lest I get too comfortable again. Back on safer ground, we continued our search,and realized none of us really knew what the heck jade in this form would look and feel like : ). To the rescue, a couple descended, she being a geologist! How do you like that. We got the $.10 version of identifying jade. Cool! They went into the northern cove, and it was only a matter of time before the seas came up and met them! I watched her duck into a little cove in the rock wall as one monstrous wave came up. Unfortunately for her, the brunt of the wave folowed right after her. Soaked! And she was in jeans to boot. In conversation with them, I learned he was also a cacher, but used one of the alternative websites, as he did not like the terms of groundspeak. I did not follow his logic, but ok. She mentioned Pismo beach, as an unspoiled strip of 26 miles of walking beach, and I filed this away for later.
Back at the road, I showed Art and Jess a brochure on San Simeon state park as a possible destination for the night, and brought up the possibility of sharing a camp, since they were tent camping and I was in the van. They were open to this idea, and we said we'd catch up with each other down the road.
The idea of sharing camp had come to me previously, as an expense cutting thought, but I had never attempted to do it. I was not quite sure how to broach the thought with strangers, and there was certainly a risk associated with it. If it does not work, then what? I had gotten to know Art and Jess well enough to dismiss any such risk, and besides, I really enjoyed their company.
I met up with them at the northern overlook of Piedras Blancas. They were going ahead into San Simeon, and I would find camp when I got there. Cool!
I stopped at Piedras Blancas and confirmed that what I had seen on the approach were indeed Elephant Seals. I had also sen a coyote wandering the bluff, trails interlaced through it and the dunes, and it was too much to pass up. I was amazed by the number of seals here, and by how close the general public was allowed to get. I hiked up to the northern dunes, and watched a couple who were using high end photo equipment get within 25 feet of a lounging female. I could not believe this, and decided I did not want to be part of disturbing the wildlife, so I made my way back to the general overlook. While I did not witness any of the males doing their infamous head to head combat, they were doing the prelude to it, mostly out in the coves. The females were up on the beach, in harems, quarreling amongst themselves and with their young, as the males seemed to be in discussion about real estate management in the coves.
I made a stop in Cambria (?) to download a new cache querie for this area, and then rolled into camp. Even though it was dark, I found camp quickly, with Art waving a light. They vacuum pack pre-cooked food for their camping trips, and tonight was chicken. I contributed some italian sausage, and we had a great meal and then a great campfire. They had a trunk full of black oak from Sonora, which burns hot and long. Yes, this sure worked out very nicely. Good food, good fire and good company. We planned a morning hike on a loop trail to take in a number of caches that were out there. After retiring for the night, Art evidently went through his daily ritual of battling the local racoon population over sovereign rights to their groceries :'). Seems that the racoons usually get the better end of the deal.

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