California Dreamin’ Part Deux

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Made it! Not without a few scraped tires, some nail-biting and white knuckles, but still…

Surprise, surprise! We managed to arrive in Monterey for phase two of our west coast sojourn with car, luggage and three bodies intact. Our next five days consisted of slightly nervous car travel, fur-free hiking (with the exception of my sweatpants, which retain trace amounts of Leonberger after several launderings), birding (a-ha!) and picture taking. Lots and LOTs of picture taking.

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My sweatpants may never recover. Thanks, Rodger and Fannie!

In my case, the latter means eschewing iPhone and digital camera for an ancient 35mm Nikon. The challenge of manually focusing, selecting the correct exposure for given lighting and the subsequent amount of time and expense to develop, scan and process three rolls of film was significant. In the end, I got perhaps a dozen or so truly decent images, whereas we easily and quickly uploaded some 1500 digitally captured images, snapped effortlessly, with perfect lighting and razor sharp automatic focus. I suppose shooting film builds character…or something.

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That’s how my film rolls. (image: modern digital camera)

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A cool old building in Napa (taken using my favorite Ilford Pan F Plus film during Phase One of the trip).

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Gorgeous views along “Lovers’ Point” in nearby Pacific Grove (taken with Kodak Portra film)

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and some digital shots:

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Garrapata State Park, on film: 

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and shot digitally:

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We visited our share of tourist attractions, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and antique markets along the waterfront on Cannery Row, the former industry which inspired local literary legend John Steinbeck. But, as we stayed at an AirBnb, we had the added benefit of a gracious host who shared plenty of insider spots away from the majority of tourists. In one such case, we parallel parked (with some difficulty, and encouraging instructions from yours truly) on a dead end street and walked about half a mile to a place called Bliss Beach. The sky was strangely eerie as we passed a monument to a sunken rescue ship. But we were rewarded with the sighting of a family of whales feeding not more than a quarter mile away from shore.

Scenes from the aquarium:

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Shared pedestrian/bike lanes are nothing new to New Yorkers. In northern California, cats at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf apparently get their share as well.

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An insider tip brought us to Bliss Beach, with promises of great things. And what did we find?

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How about a family of gray whales, feeding not more than a quarter mile from shore! It looked like a shark’s fin…

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Till we saw them surfacing and straining baleen!

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Naturally, the digital cameras got all the good photos…I got soaked up to my furry waistband trying to get closer with my ancient 50mm lens (I’d switched to Fuji Superia Xtra film here).

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We also left to suddenly clouding skies as we came across an ominous monument:

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The next day, the sun returned and the temperature finally climbed above 70 degrees. We drove an hour south to Big Sur, where Pfeiffer State Park offered plenty of chances for my old camera to capture out-of-focus, poorly lit but breathtaking views and charming waterfalls, all accessible after a few miles of steep hiking. Luckily we got nice digital photos as well.

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Was it really worth all that climbing? 

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Yes. Yes, it was.

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And we even made another friend on the way down!

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Another cool sighting – though it happened too quickly for any of our cameras to capture – occurred while we walked another narrow trail, this one over a mile long and crossing a two-foot deep stream, to get to yet another beach. Lost in thought and shuffling along in wet, furry sneakers, I looked up as the trail curved ahead and came face to face with a large dog (not Leonberger large, but still).

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“Where’s the Beach?”

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(meanwhile, just up ahead…)

Looking for an owner or leash attached I realized it was no dog, but a wild feline. Luckily for me, despite signs warning of mountain lions in the area, this was probably ‘just’ a bobcat. I base this conclusion on the fact that a mountain lion would have been closer in size to a Leonberger, and the fact that, after we both exchanged rather nervous glances, the animal suddenly turned and quietly exited the path, stage left.  About twenty feet later, we exchanged nervous smiles with a passing young couple.

Made it! Now, to find a high perch for safety…

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The best part of the trip for me was when, on our last day in CA, looking to kill our final evening hours of sunlight, we returned to one of our first hiking spots, a nature preserve called Point Lobos. The first time we went the weather disappointed us, with clouds and fog. The second time, we were blessed with absolutely gorgeous setting sunlight, which illuminated trees and rocks in incredible beauty.  It was literally impossible to turn in any direction and not see stunning vistas. As a bonus, we even got some adorable deer families feeding in the bargain.

This was pretty much our first attempt at Point Lobos: cloudy, chilly and damp…

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Not that this California Thrasher seemed to mind, as he loudly sang a mating call to everyone who cared to hear…

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Not to mention at least five rather contented looking harbor seals.

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But what a difference a day makes!

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Wanna see some REAL waves? Go west, young man…

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There she goes again…

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This happy little family were afraid of us…not one little bit.

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The perfect ending to the day, and the trip!

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In the end, we drove back north to the airport, stopping in sunny Santa Cruz for a quick dinner. Our friend turned in a miraculously undamaged rental car and continued on to more business in Chicago. My wife and I boarded a red-eye flight to JFK, brushing dog fur from our seat belts as we drifted in and out of sleep, dreaming of the next time California calls.

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To paraphrase the former governator – We’ll be back!!

All images ©2016 by Archivist Phil, Mrs. Archivist Phil, and our designated driver, who, by virtue of the fact that I am safely back in NYC blogging this, did just fine. Whew!

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