Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Moon gives eyes and the Sea steals shoes - Torrey Pines Night Hike

Decided to make Saturday a double-header, so in the evening after my trip with Inner City Outings I made a miniature caravan expedition with my sons Captain and Skelmo, my brothers Andres and Alonso, and my girlfriend Ellie, to have a quick jaunt through Torrey Pines State Park. It was 2 days before the moon was completely full but the light was still magic enough. A couple days ago Alonso had proposed a theory about “rainbows occurring at night due to zero-gravity”, and now arriving at the beach the first thing we saw there above us was the moon with a round rainbow glowing around it. Alonso felt like some scientist whose theory everyone had thought preposterous, and who was suddenly enjoying being proved right.

The night was comfortable and cool, not a bit too cold, and all openness of the lagoon and the beach was drenched in blue silver, and we even enjoyed perfect timing having arrived right after the evening’s rain so the sky was framed with giant silver clouds and blue magic but it never rained another drop on us the rest of the night
From the start, Skelmo refused to walk but I didn’t mind and I saw it as a chance to pack train and goof with him on my shoulders. Hiking up the road to the cliff trails Captain found a tiny weed growing in a crack and he stopped us all to speak scientific gibberish about it for a couple minutes before stating very matter-of-factly that it was called a "Sloopy" and then moving on to greater discoveries. In the bushes the kids and me could see eyes looking back at us in the moonshine, and really it was only raindrops glistening but sometimes we'd see something looking back at us with distinct red eyes and it would hypnotize us, then Captain would name all the animals he thought could be hiding in there –wolves, coyotes, crocodiles, velociraptors, lions… a bird maybe?

We reached the top real quick and started on the trail down to the beach. My kids and my brothers were perfectly at home in the cinematic light and not at all afraid of the dark. Torrey Pines is beautiful in its openness, its chaparral vegetation leaves the sky open, and as you hike down its cliffs that slope down to the West you have the entire Sea laid out as if it were the Great Plains in electric blue.

So, we headed down the cliffs talking about Greek myths and Chinese myths and stories out of Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ and what lightning is, while flashes of lightning shot silently back and forth in between the clouds. The whole way down Captain does his best to walk around the puddles of water on the trail and he even ‘helps’ us cross them too, but every now and then when he thinks I’m not looking he dips his foot in for a taste of mischief. Ellie runs ahead of us to hide in the bushes and scare us with her goofy roars and one time it works so well that it gets Alonso to rip a fart in terror.

Coming down the last stairs at the bottom of the cliffs we found out that the tide is super high, its licking the cliffs and we won’t be able to head back along the beach, we'll have to hike all the way uphill back out the same way we came.

In the meantime we go down to the water’s edge anyways to watch the whitewater come in and foam back out and to listen to the gentle hum and thunder that are the only noises of the glowing tumble waves and all the Sea is a magic spread. We’re all perfectly quiet. I hear Skelmo’s little breathing in my ear as he sits up on my shoulders, rapt in the mellow light, the otherworldliness of the scene is not lost on him. Then a freak wave bites at us on the stairs and it sucks off Andres' right shoe. I run to look for it on the shore but it’s no use. Andres is a good sport about it though and he hobbles back all the way to the car with hardly a complaint.

On our way up, Captain and Skelmo are falling asleep and I have to carry them both, the ultimate dead arm challenge. Everyone is sleepy and speechless but happy about having come out into the magic. My own little personal dose of irony was that of course after being careful to stay dry-footed the entire trip, I stepped into an ankle-deep puddle of water and soaked my feet less than 20 yards away from reaching the car. It didn’t even come close to ruining the night.