Day 4: The Enchanted Hill

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Montana De Oro

I woke up in Motana De Oro feeling strangely anxious.  I had woken up a few times in the night for various reasons and my dreams were starting to become more and more vivid.  I think the change in lifestyle and the different sorts of stress I was experiencing, were having an effect on my unconscious mind.  Despite the lack of sleep, I felt pretty good.  I woke up and it was still dark outside but I could see first light peaking through.  My big plan for that day was Hearst Castle and I was pretty excited for that.  So I packed up my camp, took a little walk to the ridge where I watched the sunset then left for San Simeon.

I arrived at Hearst Castle around 10:30am.  I walked to the register and asked for (1) “main rooms” ticket to which she replied they had one seat left on the 10:40am shuttle, my lucky day once again.  Everything about the castle left me in awe. My tour group and I rode a bus all the way up to the top of this hill that sort of reminded me of the Valencia Peak hike I just did (I looked it up later and found out it was 1600′).  I had heard strange animals like zebra roamed the hills and plains around the area but unfortunately, I didn’t see any.  Once on the actual grounds, our tour guide took us around the exterior of the castle.  One thing that caught my eye was the Egyptian statue of Sekhmet.  Sekhmet was an Egyptian goddess with the head of a lion and the body of a woman, the defender of Ra.  The statue is made of this molten lava rock with a mineral called feldspar running through it and it’s awe-inspiring.  The thing looks to be a couple thousand pounds all together and it’s a strange sight to see a statue from Ancient Egypt 1600′ high in the middle of California.

Finally, we entered the castle through a side door and stepped into the biggest, most fantastic room I’d ever seen.  Wall to wall, floor to ceiling; “things” covered every inch of the space.  The furniture around the main seating areas, the silverware, the tapestries, the paintings, the table centerpieces, the rugs, the seats carved into the walls around the entire room, the fireplaces, the chairs; everything was top of the line and ornate.  It was overwhelming and I couldn’t fathom how one man could collect all of these things while simultaneously having the wealth to transport it all up a mountain to a remote location.  The next room we entered was the main dining room where a long table (probably 30′ long) sat in the center of the room.  Same as the other room, the place settings were all ornate as were the chairs and centerpieces.  Over our heads hung these giant flags that reminded me of a medieval tournament with stained glass windows shining their colored light behind them.  We kept walking through the castle seeing what I called the game room and even a movie theater. The last part of the tour was the indoor pool.  You walk in and everything is blue: the tile on the walls, the tile in the pool, the color of the water, etc.  Within all that blue though, hints of gold line the walls and accent against the blue making the whole room look like it’s shining.

Hearst castle ended up being one of my favorite memories as I was truly in awe the entire time.  Everything about it was impressive and I was happy to see that it is preserved the way that it is.  I really enjoyed the fact that the place the castle is built on was William Randolph Hearst’s favorite camping grounds that he used to visit with his family.  The location is perfect with the ocean a couple miles away and wilderness all around.  It’s one of California’s most unique sites while also being one of it’s most beautiful.

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Hearst Castle

My next destination was moonstone beach.  Moonstone ended up being this great wooden boardwalk that went all the way along the coast.  I walked it for awhile listening to music and thinking about Hearst Castle when I found this little cutaway.  I snuck through a couple bushes and underneath a fallen tree branch and found myself in a little cutty clearing where I could sit and relax.  I spent about 15/20 minutes just sitting in there looking at the ocean and feeling the breeze.  I still remember that spot from time to time as it became a mental bookmark for me to try and reach that calm on a daily basis.

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Moonstone Beach

It was during this period of calm when I had to make my first big decision of the trip.  My original plan was to make my way North up the 1 the whole way which would mean going through Big Sur.  I knew the road was closed because of a rock slide that winter but I also knew of a mountain road that one of my friends had told me about.  So I thought about the implications of taking that road such as running out of gas, flat tires, animals, etc. but more importantly I realized I didn’t know where this road started or where it came out on the other end.  I couldn’t find it on a map either.  So I postponed Big Sur and had to swing all the way around in a semi-circle to make my way towards Monterey.  I hit the 101 freeway and was off running.  I made one stop at the San Miguel Mission but otherwise it was a straight shot to Monterey on the freeway but it took about 4 hours (the longest drive of my trip so far).

I pulled into the city well after dark.  Since I was going off my original plan, I needed to find a place to sleep but didn’t have the aid of research done beforehand this time.  I ruled out camping which meant I was going to have to settle for a cheap hotel or motel.  It was a Saturday night in the city and people were walking around everywhere, cars were packed in the streets and the whole city was bumping.  I pulled up to the first hotel deep in the thick of cannery row and approached the front desk.  Before I could even get my words out, the lady cut across my voice and said they were fully booked.  This happened two more times as I slowly got farther and farther away from the city.  (I found out later that there was a boating competition that weekend which explained the crowds).  I settled on a Motel 6 slightly outside the main heart of the city and across the street from a giant park. It was overpriced but the use of a shower and a table to update my map was priceless.  I ate some food, drank some beer then grabbed my board to go exploring the Monterey night…

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