One of the ways I like to stay in touch with long-time friends is to schedule camping trips. Most of my friends are not as avid outdoors people as I am, so I can’t expect them to jump at the chance of a multi-day backpacking trip that challenges their will to live. The kind of stuff that I enjoy. So when my friend Reamo and I starting talking about a place to camp, he suggested Montaña De Oro State Park, about halfway between us. I, of course, scanned the TOPO of the area and saw that Valencia Peak, a Lower Peaks Committee Peak of the Sierra Club, was within the park and a reasonable hike for the both of us.
I was pretty excited, since I hadn’t camped with him since our trip to Joshua Tree and Peak 4377 in February 2009.
We met in Los Osos and had some lunch. We stocked up on food at the local grocery store and headed into the park. The camp host wasn’t around, so we picked a campsite at random and started unpacking.
We took a walk down to Spooner’s Cove and enjoyed the nearly empty beach. It was cold so we decided to go for a hike. We followed the coast north and there were plenty of trails and it was all pretty green. As the sun set before us, we turned around to see Valencia Peak, our destination the next day, towering above the coast. It looked to be a great hike.
We made it back and started making dinner, which was hot dogs grilled over a Coleman Stove. I had brought 4 bottles of wine, for a broader selection, not for quantity. However, we did finish two bottles between us over the hours. A raccoon and a coyote trotted through the campsite at various times throughout the night. We heard frogs and owls and saw plenty of deer tracks.
We shared stories from our current lives and stories from our past. Moments from our shared late-teens through early 20′s, although told many times, still caused us to double over in laughter. We tried to keep it quiet for the other campers, but at times it was difficult. Reamo is one of a close group of friends that I’ve held onto throughout the years. He was a groomsman at my wedding. His family let me live with them rent-free at a time when I needed it the most. We have common tastes in music and cinema and a similar outlook on life in general. The time I spend with him is priceless.
We woke up the next morning and started hiking up the Oats Peak Trail to the Valencia Peak Trail. It was pretty foggy, but we hoped that the fog would either burn off, or we would rise above it when we got to the peak.
We weren’t so lucky, the weather got chillier as we climbed higher. We waved hello to many fellow hikers already coming down from the peak. Once we got to the ridgeline, the trail was rolling until the last bit, where it got a little steep just before the top. From time to time, the rocks were exposed, showing us how the earth uplifted the mountains at the edge of the sea.
We climbed to Valencia Peak and enjoyed the view of the surrounding clouds and little else. We shared some sandwiches and little bits of our lives and enjoyed our time up at the top.
We headed back down and decided to take a different trail that led to the coast. As we descended, we started to get peeks at the ocean and once more were surrounded by poison oak. As you may know, I’ve done a fair amount of hiking, and never before have I seen this amount of poison oak along a trail. At times it grew well over our heads. I wondered if other hikers knew how close they were hiking to it.
We continued towards the coast and decided to keep going and explore the beaches once more.
We explored the coastline, finding some jellies along the sand, as well as many tide pools that contained thousands or hermit crabs, anemones, and little fish. We turned back and looked at Valencia Peak, which was now clear of the clouds. There was probably a wonderful view from the top at this point. We continued exploring and were surprised to see even more poison oak close to the beach.
We spent another night by the fire, sharing our food, wine and our lives. It was significantly colder and we huddled a little closer to the campfire. Once more, we were treated with visiting wildlife.
The next morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. We saw a large covey of quail come down the trail and settle in next to our campsite, endlessly pecking at the grass. We wanted to take advantage of the sunny but chilly morning and headed up the Reservoir Flats Trail. It was a beautiful trail the skirted the edge of the canyon and then headed up and over a ridge, giving us an incredible view of the ocean and campground that was not to be had the day before. We sat at an overlook and continued to crack each other up, knowing our time together was short.
After a drive to breakfast place in Los Osos, we parted ways, hopeful to be seeing each other a little more often than once every four years.
Spending time with an old friend is great. Spending that time outdoors is even better. I feel that the outdoors strips away the context that modern society can bring and enables two friends with a shared history to see how they’ve changed. But it also sheds light on how they’ve stayed the same.