Thursday, February 26, 2015

Come, Take a Walk With Me in Dana Point

Picking up where we left off on Tuesday in sunny, beautiful, seventy-five degree Dana Point, CA...let's go for a couple of walks.

Just north of Laguna Beach a valley emerges on Pacific Coast Highway, with sirens calling to weary travelers to stop, park and explore the expansive backcountry, numerous tide pools and underground passage to miles of pristine sandy beach. We saw this park on our exploratory drive up the coast a few days earlier, and it immediately landed on my bucket list.

Crystal Cove State Park did not disappoint. After a foggy start to the morning, the sun broke through and cautioned us to watch for rattlesnakes. Gratefully the snakes stayed off the trail, but we did see a few lizards and a coyote. The struggle was real up the backside of the mountain,
but the walk back down proved breathtaking and worth every single step.
The prize at the end of our five mile hike?
A stunning beach view to mesmerize us into tranquility. And if I had an RV?
No question. This would be a destination on the "park it and stay for a month" list.

Jake's absence really bummed me out that morning. He would have loved the challenge of hiking up an actual mountain instead of the wimpy hills that grace our paths in Wisconsin.

We stopped in Laguna Beach on the way back to the condo for a little romp down memory lane.
I know a few people will recognize this. My brother and sweet sister-in-law tied the knot in the Rose Garden at the historic Hotel Laguna a few years back. In honor of Throwback Thursday...
I miss you guys!

Day four, and pathetic Mr. Sicko stayed in again. We tucked him in on the couch with some netflix and headed out. This time we ventured locally, on a path just several yards from the condo we rented. Why hello, lovely bird.
And funky red flowering bush.
This is why we never spied a single, fat, slovenly local resident.
I mean, can you imagine if this walking path were in your backyard? Leading to this?
Gulp. But OK.
The walk along the Dana Point Headlands trail is worth every single reptilian threat in the world. Eventually, we landed in Lantern Bay Park.
Also known as THE TOWN PARK! I should have snapped a picture of Plainfield's town park today, just to make you laugh. It pales in comparison to the view to the right of the town park. Hello magnificent panorama.
My walking partners stopped dead in their tracks. Clearly, something caught their eye.
Mr. Musky found it. Theeee one. His dream deck....
...for the months of March and April, at least. Can you imagine Happy Hour atop that house, with the views? I'm thinking the sparkling, citrusy Apéritif would taste like dewdrops on your lips and the fresh grilled fish like succulent, buttery goodness. Let's all close our eyes and meet there tomorrow afternoon, the gentle sea breezes caressing our faces.

Welcome back. If you're in the midwest effing tundra, I apologize.

We decided to take a page out of the locals' book and walk a different route back to the condo. The pictures don't do it justice, but see that road in the background?
Imagine a ridiculous slope? Grade? Angle? I need my civil engineer brother to weigh in and give me a lesson. Whatever. Let's just call this a very steep, treacherous mountain road (albeit short and paved).
Oh - and I should probably indicate that my walking partners are two non-risk takers, deathly afraid of heights, passing automobiles, steep angles and things out of their control, like blind curves.
I told them to pipe down and quit the bellyaching. Mama Bear had the lead and would sacrifice her life for theirs as her calf muscles screamed in agonizing protest. It would all be OK, because we safely reached the evacuation area in the event a tsunami came to kill us when the earthquakes come.
And this, my dear friends, is why Californians aren't fat. They don't sit around in sub zero temperatures, dependent on a layer of winter blubber for survival, guzzling brandy old fashioneds and cheese curds in a dank bar, negotiating with the Devil to allow Spring to erupt even though the first fifty degree day taunts them from 86,000 minutes into the future.

Not that there's anything wrong with brandy and curds. I could go for some now.

Conversely, Californians easily reach 12,000 steps on their Fit Bits by noon, to return home to dine on the worlds best sushi. Ever.
Oh the food. We literally ate fish every single meal. The sushi is the best we've ever had, and we ate it twice from the same place - Gen Kai restaurant. We purchased fresh fish at the harbor and grilled it for dinner. We bought smoked fish and ate it with thinly sliced onions, cream cheese, capers and English Muffins while the sun burned off the fog in the morning. The food in this town is exceedingly fresh, delicious, and superbly prepared.

Day Five. My Mommy Guilt reaching all new highs, we ambled out without the ailing child yet again, but remained close to home. It really does stink to have a sick kid on vacation, but it had to be even worse for him.

This time we drove to the harbor and sat on "Baby Beach" - an adorable little wave-free beach area where all the kayakers and Stand Up Paddleboarders launch. Mr. Musky wasn't down with the SUP experience, but Jake would have been so I guess we will just have to go back.

We did get a little SoCal drama up front and personal, however. Some men were fishing off an elevated dock into the bay while another gent on the shoreline drove his remote controlled speed boat all over the harbor like a maniac. The boat tied up one of the fishing lines, pulling the entire pole right into the ocean as the fisherman attended to another line. A shouting match ensued, and the next thing we knew...
...the OC Po Po arrived in style to investigate the crime.

I chuckled. Midwest brawls are brash with plenty of swearing and fists flying. This was an easygoing disagreement with plenty of "Dude" salutations. And the Sheriff came. Over a toy boat and a fishing pole.

Proof that Californians thrive in California.

After a bit we wandered around the backside of the Ocean Institute to check out the rocky shoreline north of the harbor.
We weren't really dressed properly for this walk - flip flops and craggy coast do not equal safety or ease of investigation.
Nonetheless, somebody crouched over in sunshiny, marine life heaven.
I love the cliff homes, but like the one peeking out here, I can't imagine living in fear of plummeting to a death on the Pacific Coast thanks to a rattling earthquake.
We will have to return to this spot in appropriate footwear - the expansive tide pools provided hours of interesting exploration. Not to mention the swarming hive of bees mating on the walk back...
...and the bird of prey devouring a snack above. Check out the flying feathers.
Wildlife certainly abounded on the little stretch of coastline around the corner from the harbor.

We meandered back to the condo, lounged by the pool for a few hours, administered medicine to the invalid, then cleaned ourselves up for dinner. We ate in often, but also planned for a few special meals out. Notice... boy.
The dude got sicker and sicker. Even the promise of surf and turf couldn't lure him out from under his blanket.
Shelving the growing tide of mommy guilt yet again, I determined that leftovers from a fish house/ steakhouse surely warranted our departure. Because nothing kills a cold like lobster and prime, medium rare beef. Chicken soup be damned!
Even though an earthquake left us unsettled on the final evening, we'll be back to this gem in Southern California. It just won't happen soon enough. Meanwhile, we're channeling our inner snow queens and are heading out to enjoy some dazzling winter wonderland this weekend. On flat land, but at least we've got deciduous trees. Not to mention brandy and curds to warm us up.


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