I skated the city of Monterey in it’s entirety: I went from my motel, down to the docks, through cannery row then back up through the neighborhoods and back towards my area on the outskirts of the city. The city was alive and bumping as I whipped through the streets. I stopped only to get a beer or two at bars that looked worthy enough (which ended up being quite a few). Despite my drunken state, I woke up feeling refreshed and reset. While being more expensive than I would have liked; the use of a room, wifi and a shower was a huge luxury for me that morning. I was able to update my map, chart my course for the next few days, re-pack my bags with “essential” items and most importantly, I got to take a shower for the first time in days. I was able to have a leisurely morning because my only plan for that day was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 15 minutes away from my motel…
I stepped out into the bright sunlight of Cannery Row and was surprised to see so many people walking around. Just one night prior, I had skated through these streets with the only audible sound being the voices and music coming out of the bars. Now, the streets were packed with people milling about doing their Sunday shopping and tourists like myself getting their last day of the weekend in. The aquarium was pretty crowded but being a tall man had it’s benefits this day as I simply peered over the crowd (who also happened to have an average age of 10, so that helped). It was disorienting and chaotic walking around the lobby so I grabbed a map and started exploring blindly. Every kind of creature that lives in the ocean, on the ocean or near the ocean was represented here. I saw everything from otters and penguins to sharks, sting rays and turtles. I loved them all but the creature I fell in love with was the Octopus.
My biggest takeaway was of the Octopus. Every time I saw one it shocked me in some way. I was drawn to the Octopus more than any other animal in there and maybe even over all animals in general. Their ability to camouflage and blend into their environment is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. One of them was literally blending into wall behind it to hide from onlookers. Plus, their tentacles hold a unique appeal to me personally (being a long-armed individual myself). Their ability to control all eight of their arms in unison and the different jobs each arm has is nothing short of astonishing. I bought a whole book on them that I can’t wait to dive into later*. I knew a lot of information about Octopuses from pop culture and other sources but seeing them live was unlike anything I was prepared for. They are truly a creature that must be seen to be believed. – Night 5, 9/24, 7:48pm, Henry Cowell State Park, Santa Cruz
*”Octopus: A Natural History”; I read it in two days after I left
But the octopus wasn’t the only cool thing I saw. I saw sharks only a couple feet long and sting rays with huge stingers the size of my forearm swimming in a pool at my waist level. I saw huge tanks filled with hundreds of fish of different colors and sizes. I walked through rooms pitch black with the only light coming from the jellyfish illuminated in their royal blue tanks. I saw penguins lounging around on a rock and otters fighting and playing with each other in the water. In short, the aquarium was one of my favorite activities and also one that held a lot of significance for me. I’ve always been drawn to water and creatures of the deep so to actual see them swimming and to be able to touch some of them, was a powerful experience for me. Seeing a shark swim is one of the most beautiful and terrifying things ever and I still think about how graceful it looked to this day.
Above: Creatures of the deep
After leaving the aquarium I spent some time walking around the city and I began to feel something. Something I hadn’t felt since I was 18 years old. When my cousin Nora and I first moved to San Francisco to go to college, we walked everywhere. We didn’t take a bus or ride a bike, we walked all over that city and we learned it. We learned the shortcuts and the side streets, where it was safe to walk and where the late night food was, etc. I still have vivid memories of those days because Nora and I were having a great time but also because it was new. We were walking paths and places we had never been before and it felt good. I was getting that same feeling walking through Monterey. After skating and walking through those streets, I feel like I know that city. I experienced it at it’s ground level, it’s base. I could feel the hustle and bustle of the tourists but I could also feel the calm quiet of the real city below the noise. The city I experienced in the middle of the night, the peace.
So I left Monterey with one goal in mind: find a place to camp in Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. Henry Cowell is in Santa Cruz, about an hour away from Monterey. As I drove through the city, I could see in the distance these giant trees. I was about to get my first taste of the redwoods I had been waiting to see. Before embarking on this trip, I had a simple goal that constantly slept in the back of my mind: see the redwoods, as many as you can and as often as you can. That made Henry Cowell a high priority for me. The campground was about a mile into the forest and as I drove, it started to get darker and darker as the canopy of trees closed around me. I was able to secure a campsite relatively easy it being Sunday night. The space was large and private and I was surrounded by trees which delighted me to no end. I established camp around 6pm and settled in as the sun went down glittering between the leaves of the trees. That’s when I wrote this:
Overall, I am pretty happy and positive right now. I’m starting to become aware of the money I am spending but I also don’t care in that this trip is about the experience and that experience is priceless. I’m having the time and adventure of my life. Yes, I do get lonely sometimes but I haven’t even begun to tap into my inner self yet and discover who I am at my core. Right now, my mood and mindset is improving and that is a step in the right direction. My anger has subsided considerably and I have become the much more patient individual I see myself as. The seeds are growing, ideas are forming and slowly I am beginning to grasp the edges of who I am as a person. – Night 5, 9/24, 7:48pm, Henry Cowell State Park, Santa Cruz