As Far West as I Can Drive

After spending a week in the San Francisco area visiting friends, it still hadn’t quite hit me that I was on the other side of the country. It wasn’t until I pulled off Route 1 and walked along the ocean side that I realized I couldn’t drive any further west. I made it to my destination.

The Pacific Ocean. It is such a sensitive ecosystem that provides us with so much sustenance. When I think of the ocean my first thought is seafood. Yes, food is usually on my mind no matter where I am or who I am with. Having the opportunity to be so close to the origins of shrimp, oysters, muscles, fish, lobster, scallops, and crab, I couldn’t help but indulge…just a little.

Dinner reservations for four on February 5 at Chez Panisse were made one month in advance. A four course meal of local, seasonal, sustainably raised food pared with three wines (two white, one red) was a perfect way to celebrate the trip’s furthest west destination.

It’s always a sweet surprise waking up in a new place after arriving at dark. The steep one lane road leading down from Rt. 1 into a primitive campsite near Mt. Tamalapis State Park and Muir Woods was quite a thrill in the fog. As I wheel-barrowed our gear to campsite #6, I caught two sets of eyes in my headlamp about 15 feet away. They did not sway or blink, which gave me the shivers. What kind of animal is all the way down here and not afraid of me? Two young fawns I concluded from the faint white tail. I gave my Mom the heads up in case she saw the eyes in the night and made a b-line for the car out of fright.

The fierce waves crash into the coast as we crawl into the tent. “This is as close as we can get to camping by the sea,” she whispers as not to disturb the peepers who gladly serenade us to sleep.

I called Susan as we exited from the highway to Monterey to tell her I’m in town, but it was very different than what I could remember. “There’s lots of ocean, no snow, and it’s a mild temperature,” I said. “Quite the opposite of the Monterey we live in back in Massachusetts.” She was the third person who urged us to check out the aquarium, so we did.

Environmental stewardship was a major theme at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When we first entered, a young women was showing a crowd of 75 people how much plastic was pulled out of a dead albatross’ stomach. I engaged in a long conversation with the man behind the seaweed display about feeding goats kelp, which eventually turned into deconstructing the industrial food system. When we left, our pockets were full of small brochures about which kinds of fish are OK to eat and our mood was somber. Such rare beauty under the sea, and to think it’s being so heavily damaged by people. Fragile, fragile ocean full of great diversity.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “As Far West as I Can Drive

  1. Jess Murphy

    Thanks Hannah, that was great.
    Love,
    Jess

  2. Hannah, my love, I cannot tell you how many times I have read your blog and I continue to marvel at your experiences, your fabulous writing skills and photographs. How is my little Gladys? I love her coloring. And I love you most of all.
    Grandma

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