Ruminations From the Western Slope

Ruminations From the Western Slope
Colorado River near Moab, Utah

Monday, August 5, 2013


       Weird Chris picked the three of us up just north of Zuma Beach.  It was the summer of 1968 and we were hitch hiking back home to Santa Cruz.  He drove a pea green Ford van all gutted and tricked out in feathers and beads and weird psychedelic art.  His buddies Wes and Joel giggled in the back, passing the weed around as we hauled our tired asses into the vehicle.  Phil was just out of the army and traveling with an enormous duffle back and narc-short hair.  Steve had his old Vietnam field jacket and a pipe.  I had my camera and pack. We all had sleeping bags too. We were grateful for any ride.

 We had just spent several days in a big house in Palos Verdes, with a gigantic swimming pool and a hilltop view of the L.A. Basin.  Phil’s aunt had put us up or maybe put up with us as I tried to rekindle romance with Phil’s sister Nina.  She had absconded to this southern California retreat to reassess things and just get away from the bay area for awhile.  So we smoked dope and swam all day in the fetid heat and listened to the Cheap Thrills LP by Big Brother and the Holding Company.  But in a few more days we were back on the road.

        Up the coast we drove, now six strong and smoking up a storm on wheels.  Up past San Luis Obispo, through the hot San Marcos Pass and out to the coast again at Cambria.  Up Highway 1 with no planned destination other than to keep moving north.  Until the late afternoon caught up with us near a place called Willow Creek, one of the few stretches of coastal highway where a road descends to the beach.  The rest is all imposing cliffs of shale and serpentine rising like a dry wave to the crest of the Los Padres with occasional green arterials winding down through gullies and narrow canyons full of redwood and fir forest, ferns and alder trees along shiny, singing water spilling eventually into the sea.
      And Willow Creek was a fine example.  We stumbled from the van and on to the dark sand beach, but it was the creek that drew us in.  Upstream we hiked through blackberry brambles and wild hemlock, around boulders of marble and jade, staying close to the cool water.  Maybe a half mile or so before we came upon a lively cascade over a rock face by a deep pool and a boulder on which someone had painted the words “Life Is” in glowing paint.
  We took that as a good omen so went back for our bags and camping gear, and then returned to the “Life Is” rock to set up a quick camp.  I don’t remember much about that evening but I’m sure we smoked freely and that I slept well.  I slept so much better back in those days.
 And the following morning we bathed in the Life Is pool, hung out in the sun for awhile, and then piled back into the van to continue north.  Laughing on wheels and looking ahead. 

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