“I Can’t Believe People Actually Get to Live Here…”


Top of the hike, overlooking Pacifica

…was what I was mouthing my entire time in Pacifica, a sea-dewed town south of San Francisco pressed towards the ultramarine sea by yellow-green hills.

Still being on East Coast time, I awoke in my sister’s apartment at 5 AM. I could’ve snuggled back into her couch, but the excitement of the new day vibrated in my chest.

The day’s journey already mapped, I boosted three short blocks through the Mission District to the 16th Street BART station. The hour was early enough for the multitude of colorful & insane street characters to have vacated the area, but the detritus of last night’s homeless fiesta still crunched underfoot.

The BART is only subterranean in the center city, and my train emerged with the sun. The quality of light is different than in East Coast cities—there is still a certain haze, but not of photochemical smog. The coastal breeze constantly rolls in a seasalt-laden air, and the new sun refracts off the microscopic droplets to create a silvery-yellow light. The light leaned in over the DSC00180low houses of the outer city, the steep, lichen-green hills…

There were three transfers on the way to Pacifica, and I fucked the last one up, something that would normally cause an inward-pressing anger. But this break in the plan allowed me to wander up and through the hills and beaches of the town. The beaches and the hills were one, and the steep curves of the latter plunged directly into the sea, which crashed into the rocks and hydrated its spiny wildflowers and tough scrub.

Upstate New York’s nature (my base comparison) is monochromatic. It’s a nice color—a deep, lush green created by endless snow and heavy rain. The Bay area, despite its fog, receives about half the precipitation of the mid-Hudson valley. Trees are sparse even inland, and the briny quality of the onshore winds cause the ocean-adjacent land to be devoid of them. The flora which exists in place of Oak and Maple, IMG_20130620_083818[1]however, varies in chromatic quality, from copper and rust-red barks, to curry-colored brush, to lime-green leafs. The vegetation is as course as it is colorful.

I wandered the thin, meandering footpaths as though I had just faced an ounce of shrooms. There were others strolling about, seniors, mostly, in this early hour. In Upstate New York, people usually say hi when passing on trails, a kind of acknowledgement of a shared experience. Never anywhere else. I’m not even sure this jaunt constituted hiking, but full, friendly greetings passed from everyone’s mouths, a far cry from the grim nod and forced, murmured hellos of Upstate treks. I quipped something about being from out of town to a cashier while buying a corn dog at a 7-11-style establishment, expecting a hurried quip in return, but it turned into an entire, real conversation.

I, too, would be this free and gregarious in such soulful environs.

The trailhead itself was finally met a mere quarter mile from a well-populated neighborhood. A 1800-foot mountain felted with verdure thrust upwards directly behind the town; the town was part of it.

DSC00194After passing a couple of able-bodied 40-somethings near the trail head, I was alone with the mountain. As I briskly boosted up her face, the Pacific Coast opened up behind me through a sheen of silver, and I turned around every third step to stare.

I ran down the mountain, not caring about how the booted stomps jarred my knees, the Pacific racing towards me until I was level with it. Being an excessive sweater and a fan of the feral, sensuous sensation of being in nature bare-chested, I had removed my two shirts (it was a cold San Francisco morning—I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes) at the beginning of the hike and stuffed them in my jacket pocket, which I had tied around the top of my hips. When I realized the shirts had been jogged out of the pockets, things took a turn for the worse.

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