Saturday morning we left our hotel room in Pacific Grove around 9 or 9:30 and drove down Highway 1 to Garrapata State Park so that we could go for a hike. We hiked the trail in the opposite way of the description, so where you read descriptions like “brutally steep climb,” “even steeper descent,” or “insanely steep descent,” those were brutally steep descents, even steeper descents, and insanely steep climbs for us. The part about “lots of poison oak” still applied.
Yeah. Luckily we didn’t read that description first or look at the distance (8 miles) or we might not have ever ended up walking at the top of a hill covered in wildflowers above the Pacific, looking to the north at Monterey Bay. It was indescribably beautiful. I tried taking a few photos with my phone, but of course they don’t capture the depth of what we could see.
Those rocks in the ocean below? Are very, very big. They only look tiny because they are so far away.
The part of the trail leading out of the redwood grove (or in to it, if you don’t start by hiking into the canyon like we did) was so steep, we ended up turning back, deciding that instead of hiking to the top of the hill, we’d go back the way we came. And it wasn’t just us; we overheard a man tell his wife, “This isn’t hiking, it’s MOUNTAIN CLIMBING.” So we were back in the redwood grove, resting, enjoying the strawberries and cucumber-infused water that Scuba had packed for us, when we started pumping people for information. Two very young, very fit girls told us we only had another half hour to the top, and someone else said that a quarter of the way down after we reached the top there was this bench with great views. We didn’t want to miss it being so close, so up we went again, out of the redwood grove. There used to be wooden stairs to help on this part, but they’re mostly washed away so that in places there’s just leftover rebar, waiting for someone to impale themselves on it. If you go, you’ll want to be careful is what I’m saying. I thought it couldn’t get much more steep, because honestly, how could it? Then another young, fit jogger ran past us and said, “Hoy! Now for the steep bit!”
We went anyway.
Every so often we’d stop to rest, looking out at the ocean once we were high enough to see it behind us but not high enough for the second ocean view at the top.
There must’ve been twenty or more kinds of wildflowers, all blooming and incredible. We saw deer and lizards, we looked down on red-tailed hawks hunting. There were swallows that were really fun to watch, lots of bees, a couple of bumblebees, and what I think were hornets, but we didn’t realize that’s what that high pitched buzzing whine probably was at the time. We just called them insects.
We were really tired when we got to the top, but happy. It was a perfect day, we were out in it, literally on top of it. It was awesome.
And then we started down.
I have had for a few years this thing where my knee will hurt pretty badly when I’m walking down stairs. It’s uncomfortable. And, it also, turns out, hurts me when I’m trying to walk downhill. Like, say, down an “insanely steep descent.” I could barely walk for trying to find a way to do it that didn’t hurt. We went so so slowly, me alternating between not bending my knees and sort of plie-walking and keeping them both slightly bent. At one point, runners passed me and I was all, What the hell? I’ll try that. So I ran, too, and the first three times I put my foot down I was okay. Then my knees exploded and I had to stop doing that.
Before too long I was crying. Actually crying because it hurt so damn badly. Finally, after a really long time, I ended up walking backwards, Scuba holding my hand and leading me, relieved we’d found a way to get me off the mountain that didn’t involve him carrying me. The minute things leveled out and we quit going downhill my knees felt nearly entirely better. The 8 mile walk that takes some people two hours (according to their Yelp reviews, but I think they’re lying showoffs) took us five. Five hours! But, some of the best five hours I’ve ever spent, so I’m okay that we didn’t finish in two.
We walked up the shoulder of Highway 1 and back to the car. We sat on a fallen log in the shade and had our lunch (which Scuba had also packed) and water. Lots and lots more water. We wanted to go down further south, to Big Sur, where we could sit in the river in an Adirondack chair and have a beer while soaking our throbbing feet in the water, but south was away from home, so we headed to Carmel Valley for a margarita, stopping on the way for Advil gelcaps.
I am so sore I can hardly get around, but I can’t wait to go back and do it again. As soon as I call my doctor about these knees and see how to fix them.