Walk completed August 28, 2011

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pt. Lobos, California

With temperatures in Yosemite Valley approaching the high-90s (35 C), and my heart not wanting to climb to the cooler elevations, I decided that hiking on the California coast would be a reasonable substitute. California is a lot like Britain, with ample coastline and mountainous interior. Except that the California mountains are higher, the sun always shines, and drivers keep to the right (i.e., correct) side of the road. Sometimes.

Pt. Lobos is a State Reserve on California’s central coast south of Monterey, not far from where the Pacific tectonic plate dives under the North American tectonic plate. As far back as I can remember, the colliding plates have been uplifting granite which was formed deep under the earth’s surface 80 million years ago, juxtaposing it with younger and shallower sedimentary formations. All the while, relentless ocean waves erode and shape the rocks into various forms, leaving numerous secluded coves, cliffs, and beaches. These conditions are unique on Earth, except for all the other places with rugged coastlines, such as the British Isles. Britain also has pubs and castles along its coast. California never needed castles, because it has no pubs worth defending.

Just a mile north of Pt. Lobos, the ocean depth reaches 1,000 feet. It is scientifically possible to measure the depth in meters, but you need a long yard stick to do so. The Monterey Canyon, lying just 6 miles offshore, reaches a depth of 7,000 feet. (I think that’s something like a million fathoms, but I’m not exactly sure what a fathom is.) The upwelling of nutrient rich waters from such great depth creates a food chain which supports a diversity of marine life visible from the trails: harbor seals, sea lions, elephant seals, sea otters, gray whales, cormorants, pelicans, gulls, and fish of all colors and sizes. You can also view the marine life by scuba diving, but be sure to bring along a can of great white shark spray so you don’t become part of that food chain. Hint: If you are diving at Pt. Lobos and there isn’t any marine life visible, you aren’t exactly alone.

There are eight miles of trails in the reserve, winding through thin forests of Monterey Pine and Monterey Cypress which thrive in the coastal fog, but which would wither and die in the sunny, hot savanna a mere mile or two inland. Also thriving in the fog are lizards, rabbits and deer, along with the occasional mountain lion and rattlesnake whose main job is to keep the lizards, rabbits and deer alert. I’m told that mountain lions prey only on the old and the weak, a fact which presently causes me some concern. For the first time in my hiking life, I’ve become part of the balance of nature.

Off trail excitement is provided by the most plentiful shrub in all of the reserve: the ubiquitous poison oak. It also thrives in the fog, but like most Californians, it really wants to be in the sunshine. So although the shrub is rooted in the off trail underbrush, it has an uncanny ability to extend its long, sweeping branches into the one sunny spot not overgrown by competing vegetation: the trail. Generally, its branches reach out at waist level, ready to fondle the bare arm of a passing hiker. But to keep things interesting, an exceptionally low branch occasionally strikes out at the hiker wearing shorts, or a strategically placed high branch assists in wiping the sweat from your brow.

The effects of coming into contact with poison oak are not felt immediately. Usually, an itchy red rash develops in a few hours, turning to an oozing, blistery mess that spreads over the skin in a day or two. But that’s not all bad, because focusing on the rash will invariably lead you to discover the ticks you picked up while on the trail. Poison oak is nature’s way of protecting you from Lyme disease.

After a day communing with nature at Pt. Lobos, I’m ready to face anything.  My anything will be meeting with the cardiac surgeon in a few days to schedule the valve job.

© 2010 Ken Klug


  1. Just came across your blog by chance. Sorry to see that you've had to postpone your walk. I did LEJOG in 2009 - see http://litehikersblog.blogspot.com

  2. Hi ken,

    So sorry you had to postpone your trip to UK. Im wanting to do the LEJOG trip next year (maybe).
    Have you had surgery yet?, Get well soon and hope you get to the UK next year.