A Point Lobos Adventure

My mind is abuzz with all things summer.

My little (and big) homeschoolers have been off school for a month now, and the thrill of the freedom has worn off. A little structure is warranted. So we took our Treasure Island day trip to Point Lobos, miraculously out the door by 8:30 a.m.

Detour to Cement City Beach

We were to meet friends out there sometime that morning, and when I learned they would arrive about 45 minutes after us, I offered my children a detour to the sand and shore. We pulled off at Sand City Beach, better called cement city beach, where paved pathways must have been damaged and washed away in the winter storms. It was more construction zone than the beach, but still, it’s the sort of Northern California rough-and-ready scene I enjoy where people let their dogs run off the leash or carry their fishing poles and buckets after a morning of fishing. The sand was thick and grainy. My three-year-old ran from the sea foam to “the structure” in the rock, a cave of sorts.

a cave at sand city beach

We stayed only twenty minutes, touched the Pacific Ocean, and returned to the car.

A man with a fishing pole yelled to us that a whale was visible. We saw it blow from its spout and surface once, happily checking the experience off my mental list of things that make for a perfect seaside adventure.

at Point Lobos Nature Reserve

On to Point Lobos!

We arrived at Point Lobos at the same time as our travel companions and found parking near the Whaler’s Cabin and restrooms. After taking some refreshment, we followed a crowd up a trail, step by step, up the dirt and wood stairwell and, within moments, saw some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen.

I held Stella’s hand, my little three-year-old, and we climbed the steps. She let go, taking giant size steps, impatient with my photographic interruptions. A group of hikers journeyed down the steps and delighted in her gusto. “I’m a strong girl,” she said. “They said I am strong.”

at Point Lobos Nature Reserve

The Whaler’s Cabin was a low-key, educational gift. Chinese fishermen built the cabin in the 1800s before the Portuguese whalers settled in the land. On the path leading to and from it, it was easy to imagine the characters of Treasure Island walking these same paths or to imagine the ships and row boats approaching or docking in these coves.

at Point Lobos Nature Reserve

We wandered onward, driving to the next parking lot to spot the sea lions. Sea lions we didn’t see, but we happened upon a group that included one science teacher, hunting for hermit crabs at an inlet near Sand Hill Cove, just across from a small parking lot. We took the path up South Shore Trail and stopped at the stop of Sand Hill Trail – if I’m reading my map correctly. We had little idea where we were but found the paths easy to follow and every stretch rewarding. The scene is a sight not to be reckoned with

at Point Lobos Nature Reserve

Hanging back with my Stella, I saw the rest of our group follow the trail up and stare out over the fence along a massive cliff. It was hard not to let my imagination overrun me. We caught up quickly enough, made our way to the top and turned around to find the sandier shores for our children to play in the surf.

at Point Lobos Nature Reserve

A stop for prayer and recreation in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Leaving the Natural Reserve, we stopped at a small beach across from the Carmelite Monastery, and after specific warnings from the lifeguard and digging out feet in the rocky sand, we climbed back into our cars to find the Carmel Beach Walk. I turned left when directions said “right,” and we found parking, steps down to the beach, public restrooms, and the softest, silkiest white sand I have ever seen. The kids played and body-surfed in the water they were finally allowed to wade in and made a fort with the seaweed that buzzed with flies.

We ate the homemade cherry pop tarts my friend made, washed off at the outdoor faucet and said our goodbyes as the temperatures dipped further below 55 degrees.

beach at Carmel City Beach Walk
That’s a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

And an abundance of reflection

It was thrilling to take to the road and the high seas for an adventure while the breadwinner of our family stayed behind, bringing home the bacon. I remember how adventurous I was as a young adult, landing in Rome with two friends, looking around the airport and thinking, “What do we do now?” or moving across the country to Minnesota. I remember how I settled into the easy housewife feeling of being driven around and cared for by a man who loved me and how I felt too nervous about going solo to San Francisco for my thirtieth birthday to visit the design district.

Life changed after that, and we had to learn to find our way, splitting up familial tasks and treading water we never visited before. Throughout the day, I thought of how my husband would love this place. We’ll share it with him soon enough.

But perhaps, adventure is something of a muscle; we’ve got to put ourselves into it, look around and find our way, to keep ourselves ready, receptive, and open to the beauty of this wild world.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

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