I had a few ideas for my actual birthday. I wasn’t sure I could top the last day of 44, but that’s not the point. It was committed to adventure on any level.
One of the places recommended by a fellow hiker online was the Land of Medicine Buddha. I checked out their website, and from this photo alone, I knew this is was where I should be:
However, their website on operating hours was contradictory. Depending which page you were on, and if you were on mobile or desktop, public was allowed between 9 and 2, 7 and 5, or not at all on Saturdays. I was hoping for the first or second. It was too late to call when I found this, and since I had a couple other ideas of ways to spend my birthday, I had backup preparations should they be closed.
Having chosen to sleep on the foldout couch (by the way, foldout couches have a come long way since the 1990’s) instead of the bed which was in a room with no windows, I was able to awaken to this view:
I picked it up, wondering if it was minted in the year of my birth. It was not. In fact, it was brand new, minted in 2022. I wondered this was a bit of magic heralding a shiny new beginning.
“Have you ever been caught by the monks?” she asked me as if I had broken in before. I told her no, and was fine not doing so.
“I have. And let me tell you, you’d think they’d be much more peaceful. But they are super pissed, yelling and screaming if they find you got in!”
I imagine they would be. Gates are closed for a reason. Nature has no boundaries, but I do respect boundaries when other viable options are available (ie, taking a walk down the street).
Tucker and I got in the truck to head to my Plan B, Nisene Marks State park, and leave the women to their breaking and entering.
Nisene Marks was on the other side of the Land of Medicine’s property. Tucker wasn't allowed in all areas (because it’s a state park), but I thought there may be enough for us to enjoy.
Once more, communication was contradictory. Online, it said dogs were allowed to the bridge. Another listed a dog friendly trail that went north of the bridge. When I arrived, I was told he was allowed farther up the road. Then I got the map that said he wasn’t allowed on ANY trails, which I read while standing at a trailhead with a sign that read “On Leash Dogs Only”.
Just then a man with a dog on leash went running by on the trail. So I said, “F-it” and took a chance. What would they do us? Arrest us? Ask us to leave? Fine us? I respect boundaries and rules, but when the boundaries aren’t clear, you can’t expect people to follow the rules.
The Advocate Tree was a bit down in the valley, but Tucker and I eventually found it.
As we stood in the land of giants, a breeze came through and I watched as gold fell from the canopy: the redwood needles gently drifted down to earth in a shower of magic.
I know Tucker loves the beach, so we headed down the mountain to a place I found on the map: Hidden Beach. It was indeed hidden.
Like Toluca Lake in Burbank, CA, this beach was behind locked gates. Apple maps was unaware that I was not one of the privileged, so it just took me to the locked gate.
I scanned around the map, found a public street that seemed to go to the park that the beach was a part of, so off we went.
We found the park! But all six spaces were taken. I saw a little trail off the parking lot that went under a trestle bridge, consulted the map, and saw that there was another road close by running parallel. Perhaps there was yet another way in.
(See, I respect boundaries… but it doesn’t mean I stop looking for a break to get through them.)
Going up and around, I found the road and an area where a suspicious number of cars were parked. There was nothing around—no stores or houses, just a line of cars. Sure enough, as I drove by, I spied that trestle bridge. I circled back, parked with the others (we surely couldn't all get ticketed, could we?) and headed down the little path to the park that had access to the aptly named Hidden Beach.
The park was just a small children’s park with some kids’ equipment and a little open lawn before the path led down the hill to the beach.
Tucker watched two labs chasing balls in the ocean and cried a little, wanting to be included.
“Tucker, you hate the water. And you don’t play fetch. Let's walk the other way.”
“Tuck, they’re off leash, you don’t know if you’ll like them, and honestly, I’m a little tired. And so are you. We should head out to dinner.”
Tucker stood his ground; I leaned toward the beach’s exit, he leaned toward the dogs.
“Tucker, no,” I said calmly and envisioned us walking toward back up the hill. He acquiesced and followed along.
We took one more look at Hidden Beach before we headed up the incline.
A few second after sitting, literally only minutes after Tucker had begged to stay and play on the beach, he passed out.
Once in the truck, he had an hour to sleep before we reached our next destination: paying our respects to Methuselah, the great Redwood on Skyline Blvd.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I love the redwoods so much. They are individuals rising tall, and yet only do so through the support of others. And when one of them dies, when their time is over and they topple, they let go. They literally let go. They untangle their roots so as to not bring down the entire grove.
But life isn’t over even after they fall. New life begins in and on their trunk. Woodland animals make their homes in it, bacteria and insects eat away at the fibers, and the tree eventually adds nutrients to the soil, still contributing to the community that once helped it stand tall.
The Redwood grove is life. It is connection. It is the place I feel most at home. Perhaps I once was a part of this soil, or perhaps one day I will be. They say time is a construct and all that exists is this moment, and yet in this moment is all time.
I pondered all this as I sat, eating my birthday meal at Alice’s Restaurant while Tucker napped at my feet.
We traveled back to our tiny house along Skyline Blvd. It is a lot of forest, and a lot of open land as well, ocean view property although many miles away from it. We were lucky enough in timing that we were crossing through one of the open meadows when the sun took its final bow for the day.
I pulled over and watched it go, capturing its quick descent, and bidding the day farewell.
Life takes turns we don’t expect, but some of those turns are the most meaningful events and greatest gifts, sending us in directions we never fathomed. Certainly this beautiful furry soul was one of those unexpected turns and greatest gifts, and now I can't imagine life without him. With Tucker, I feel ready--and looking forward to--all the unexpected twists and turns that lay ahead on the trail. Not only because was he, himself, was a twist I never saw coming, but because I know he will always lead us to just where we need to be.