It has been a while since I last posted. There’s a certain point where typing multi-page long posts with a smartphone equipped with an incredibly irritating auto-correct gets old. For that I apologize. Now I have my computer! It will be much easier for me to upload photos and posts for the next two weeks while I travel between San Francisco and Yosemite. On that note, I’m now in San Francisco and equipped to write an obnoxiously long post (it should be good though)!
A lot has happened between my last post and now. I ended up staying over an entire week in Santa Barbara because the place was totally kick-ass! I was able to post up with my friend Kelsey who I met in Breckenridge earlier this year when she came to visit. She lived in a 5 bedroom house with 11 other people in a college town just west of UCSB called Isla Vista. Needless to say, the house was well-loved. The unit was located on Del Playa Drive, a road that parallels a cliff and hosts a number of waterfront properties that are supposedly at risk of falling into the ocean at some point. Waking up to the sound of waves every morning and the smell of seawater was quite a treat.
I feel like there is a very inaccurate image of college life held by many people that is often depicted by television and movies. In my experience, college is hardly anything like the way it is shown in the media. Yeah, there are big parties and occasional spurts of ridiculousness, but for the most part I feel as though a lot of people are in school… well, for school.
Not in Isla Vista. The place is absolutely nuts, and a hell of a lot of fun. My daily experience began by waking up around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning and heading out of the house for a couple hours of morning tranquility. The sound of waves crashing against the shore and birds singing provided a pleasant atmosphere for me to have some alone time that has been absent ever since leaving the Rockies. The town is insanely bike friendly, you can seriously blow stop signs without worrying about getting hit by cars. In fact, getting hit by other bikers is a bigger concern. I spent a lot of my morning hours running or biking, and at one point made my way up the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north to bomb down a massive hill.
The mornings were often my favorite part of the day. There was always a dense haze rising over the ocean, clouding the distant Channel Islands from view. The waterfront was littered with kelp and various sea-life, and the receding tide made the sand solid and all the more perfect to run on.
Usually I would return to town by noon, just around the time all the students were getting over their hangovers. Music could be heard blaring just about anywhere, and people could be seen hanging out in their yards or among the heavy traffic of cyclists heading to and from class. I generally spent this part of the day lounging around, longboarding, or at the beach… recuperating in preparation for the mayhem to come later in the evening.
At one point I had the opportunity to try surfing. From what I was told by Jeff, my roommate from Breckenridge who was also in Santa Barbara to weekend, surfing in May operated sort of like powder days out in the mountains. Every once in a while a massive spurt of good waves would come in and all the surfers would head out to shred their asses off during the small window of opportunity they were provided. Jeff, Ben (my other roommate from Breck), Kelsey and I grabbed some wetsuits and surfboards and head out to a solid spot Jeff knew about.
Surfing is certainly not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Getting away from shore while you’re being relentlessly pounded by waves is a major challenge in itself. Once I finally made it out past the major breaks, I would have to turn my board parallel to the shore and wait for an oncoming wave. Soon enough a massive swell would approach and I’d turn my board to the shore and begin paddling when the wave was about 10 feet behind me. Once I caught the swell, I would begin to stand up and attempt to ride the wave.
This is when I totally ate shit nearly every time. Honestly try to imagine being in a massive washing machine. From what Jeff told me, these waves weren’t even that big, but they were still way more gnarly than what you might encounter on Lake Michigan. The surf would force me under and spin me around relentlessly. Really there wasn’t much point in trying to surface since I was entirely at the mercy of the ocean as it tossed me like a rag doll, the best thing to do was just hold my breath until I could get up. More often than not, as soon as I surfaced I’d get slammed again.
Regardless, every time I was able to break from the mayhem I would emerge from the water laughing my ass off. Even though I only made it onto my knees every time I caught a wave, and only stood up once, I had a really good time and was reminded of my time spent in the mountains. Nature is a hell of a lot of fun, and its power is to be respected. I wish I had more time to surf, and am compelled to stick around California a bit longer.
At another point in the week Jeff, Ben, and I made our way north into the mountains on two occasions to do some hiking. We made our way up a 4,000 foot ascent to Santa Ynez Peak along a winding and moderately unmaintained trail. When we finally got to the summit ridge, a dense fog blocked anything past 30 feet from view. However, the ascent was scenic nonetheless.
We also made our way to a place called Red Rocks that was pretty kick ass. There was a massive spire rising out of a canyon from deep, teal pools of fresh water that we were able to jump into from some decently high ledges.
One afternoon I was chilling on the beach with a total babe of a girl, Nina, and it was decided that we should swim out to the kelp forest a decent way offshore. It took longer than I thought to get out there, and I won’t lie I got a little sketched out constantly thinking that some creature was bound to come sting, bite, or eat me. Shortly after joking about “dolphin-rape” (it sounds absurd but apparently it actually happens), a small mist of water emerged from the surface no more than 20 feet ahead.. My mind was completely blown as a dolphin popped in and out of the water right in front of us for the next minute as it made its way up the coast. Easily one of the coolest encounters I’ve ever had with a wild animal.
As the evening approached, I would generally make dinner and enjoy a shower beer in anticipation for the evening. I would meet up with some other people and we would make our way to another house to get the evening rolling. On one occasion when we were at a waterfront house enjoying some delicious beverages a herd (they’re called herds, right?) of gray whales emerged from the surface, spraying water out of their blowholes as they migrated North for the warmer season. As the night set in, things would gradually get more and more ridiculous until the sun finally disappeared beneath the horizon.
This is when the true mayhem began. Isla Vista would become everything any movie about college life would try to replicate. Hundreds… well probably thousands of college kids filled the streets in a massive and shameless pilgrimage down Del Playa Drive. Bros could be seen holding each other up and stumbling across the street, and girls were dressed like it was spring break in PCB. Music blared from every other house on the street and masses of people were seen in yards, even on rooftops. Everyone was inebriated. The houses were more venues than parties. There were live DJ’s and bands performing all over the place, and you could literally just walk into any house you wanted.
My last night in town I made my way to a beach house where a live band called the California Honeydrops was performing. This band had clearly done many performances and totally killed it. There easily must have been a hundred people dancing below the deck where they played. They had a saxophonist and their frontman played the trumpet, both of which could totally kill it on their instruments. It is a rule in Isla Vista that all loud music goes off at midnight, but this band just kept playing. They even came down into the crowd to play an encore and went at it until 1am when the crowd finally dispersed, drunken and mind blown.
At no point do I recall people doing homework.
Two days ago we made our way by car north along Highway 1 towards San Francisco. Fog blanketed the ocean as we drove along cliffs that towered hundreds of feet above the ocean. Regrettably, I ended up reading Game of Thrones and sleeping for the majority of the ride. We made a stop in Big Sur and hiked to the coast that evening and up the mountains the next morning. It was quite beautiful.
The night we spent in Big Sur was… interesting. We had all posted up in different tents, and I was in my bivy with my bug net open. On multiple occasions throughout the night I heard rustling in the woods around us. It would come closer… stop… then closer, and closer. I would look up to see the silhouette of an animal standing about a foot in front of me.
AHHHHHHRRGGGHGHHHGHGHH! My first impulse during nighttime animal encounters, for better or worse, is to scream like a maniac and scare the shit out of whatever is intruding. These damn raccoons kept me up all night, probably trying to get something they could smell in my bag. At one point I started singing bicycle race by Queen to keep them away, and pulled out my phone to google the lyrics to the song. That was when I felt something bump into the side of my bivy. I rolled over onto the raccoon and it frantically tried to escape. I woke up yelling yet again, realizing I was dreaming the entire time.
Well, I’m in San Francisco now and will definitely be doing a lot of exploring this week. I’ll update again before I head to Yosemite on the 21st!