we are all a work in progress

Before we moved to California, James and I had a lot of conversations about what life might be like once we got here–how much we’d miss our families and friends (a lot), whether we’d find a restaurant that serves queso (no), if we’d have extravagant utility bills (luckily, no), if our house would be big enough to hold all our stuff (no), if anyone would come visit (luckily, yes).

We also wondered how the move would impact who we are. Both being in our mid-40s, was it possible a change of scenery would equal a change of self? Or are you pretty much who you are once you reach middle age?

Since we were moving to a cool coastal climate with an abundance of natural beauty, I had high hopes the outdoorsy part of my nature might awaken. That the person I was on vacation in California–active, open and ready to adventure outside–would somehow become the person I was living in California. That I’d spend less time in front of the dim glow of the computer and more time in direct sunlight. My inner voice wasn’t so sure, but it can be an asshole sometimes.

I’ll be damned if the outdoorsy part of my soul didn’t find its way to the surface, putting my feet on the bare earth with as much regularity as possible while still meeting my work/life obligations. And instead of this being something that immediately burst forth with the newness of a change of latitude/longitude, it simmered for the first year then grew in intensity in the past six months, my hikes becoming longer and harder, my desire to be outside and unconfined stronger. A welcome surprise, to be sure.

I’m telling you this, not because I’m excited about my new relationship with the outdoors (though it’s fucking awesome and I even have a tan), but in case you have some ideas you’re chewing on and could use a boost. If my sedentary, internet-addicted, pale-as-a-vampire self could find its way into the sunlight, you can do yo thang too. Just tell that inner voice to simmer down for a bit while you find your footing. And be sure to give yourself time for a transition to happen. Change will come, but it may not come quickly.




10- year blog anniversary: people and places

horsiesToday is my blog’s 10th birthday. This is the last historical listicle.

It might seem odd to honor the memory of someone you love by making a bacon monstrosity, but Mason would have approved. In fact, he would have been there eating it with us if he could have.

I always knew I’d eventually go to the Museum of Natural Science with kids I share a little DNA with. Ends up, they were Tohner’s offspring.

Before moving, one of my constant refrains was that the Houston of my youth, the memories of which kept me tethered to the city, was quickly disappearing.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have much love for the place of my birth and the people who live(d) there.

I’ve posted a lot about our travels:
road trip to Grand Canyon
traffic in southern California
a family trip to Carmel and Big Sur
a ghost in New York

More recent travel posts were about our trip home to Texas. It’s different traveling home than it is traveling away from home. Maybe, in the long run, that’s what this blog is about.

Mill Creek Redwood Preserve

palo colorado road
There’s a road off Highway 1 halfway between Carmel and Big Sur called Palo Colorado. The lower section is a redwood grove with old cabins and the occasional odd structure nestled among the trees. Like most mountain roads around here, it’s one lane, so when someone’s coming you have to pull off to the side. Drivers fall into two categories: speeding locals who want you to get out of their way and gawking interlopers who need to get out of your way. Eventually the road begins its climb. Instead of trees and cabins next to you, you have trees and a steep drop into the canyon. Mill Creek Redwood Preserve is 6.8 miles up the road–this is the view from the “parking lot,” which is really just a wide spot next to the road that can fit maybe six cars in a line if people don’t park like jerks.
mill creek
You sign up online for a permit (link below) and wait for them to send you the okay, which you print out and put on your dash. The limit is eight permits a day, so there’s never a crowd–something that’s getting harder and harder to find lately. We were the first in–you have to sign a clipboard when you arrive/depart–and only saw four people in the three hours we were there.
The trail in the 1,500-acre park was built by hand over a 10-year period by a dude from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District with help from AmeriCorp volunteers and prison crews. From the park’s website, “The craftsmanship is reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps era of trail building during the Great Depression.”
Glorious trees. Redwoods, oak and madrone.
the birds
And a cacophony of bird sounds.


rocky trail
The trail is 5.5 miles round trip. The elevation gain is less than 250 feet, so this is a fairly easy trek. You cross a creek 8 or 9 times by bridge (and the creek wasn’t even a crick when we did the trail last weekend, so the bridges were mostly unnecessary). Still glad I had my walking stick because there were a few rocky spots and I’m a klutz.
You know you’re getting close to the end of the trail once you emerge from the trees.
Your reward is comfortable seating to take in the view.
And it’s a helluva view at 2,000 feet. Even when the ocean is socked in by fog, as it was on this day.
Yes, under that foggy cloud (cloudy fog?) lies the Pacific.
I accidentally dropped a wet wipe on this lizard. Other wildlife included butterflies and moths and the previously mentioned birds. We also saw a ringtail cat (a type of raccoon),  but it had shuffled off this mortal coil leaving behind its lovely tail and desiccated corpse. We kept an eye out for mountain lions, since we’ve seen one near this park before. No dice, but we did see a bunch of hipsters (a PBR, if you will) just up the road at Bottcher’s Gap Campground. We’d hoped to enjoy the canyon view for a few minutes, and I needed to make a pit stop–there are no facilities at Mill Creek. But the lot was full and there were too many jorts and oversized glasses, so we rolled back down the road. It took 20 minutes to drive the 6.8 narrow and windy miles to Highway 1, where we left blue skies behind us and headed off into the fog.

Mill Creek Redwood Preserve
Bottcher’s Gap Campground