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Saturday, February 11, 2012

California Coast, the best thing since sliced bread

Our trip in Joshua Tree was supposed to last for a week, then Roxanne, Matt and myself would drive back to Tuscon and Austin, and return to the daily grind of life; work. My budget was about as slim as an anorexic and Matt had school, so it was pretty certain we would stick to our plan, however good times and friendly persuasion can go a long way.

It started simply enough, we had formed some kind of awesome crew with Alisha, Andrew and Dave, three rad Californians who liked doing dirtbag things with us; climbing, highlining, camping, surfing, living the life straight cruising, one might say. Dave was back in LA, and I needed to stop in Redlands anyways, so after meeting up at the Desert Hot Springs Spa and having interesting conversations with old wrinkly spa-goers and crazy not-funny-slightly-racist comedians in the sauna, we headed for In-n-Out to gorge our shrunken stomachs on American cuisine in it's finest. We all felt good and refreshed, having our first showers in over a week plus belly's full of cardiac-arrest-causing burgers, so our spirits were high and prime for being convinced further adventures lay ahead.

Alisha's wallet had mysteriously disappeared, and we all tried to come up with a scapegoat from Joshua Tree, wondering which shady dirtbag would have the nerve to pull such a stunt. So, we agreed to follow them to LA and spend one night before we headed back to Austin. We all crashed at Dave's parents lovely home in Pasadena, and he took us out on the town to little tokyo where we sang our hearts out at a tiny karaoke bar, much to the dismay of the Japanese regulars who  could actually hold a note. The next day ensued with discussion of whether the Texas crew could follow Alisha and Andrew up the coast to find some more monkey adventures. Matt was down, he just wanted to surf. I was down, but my wallet was not; and Roxanne had just graduated so she probably would have driven to Canada if it was an option. We parted ways while I ran errands at 5.10 and Alisha and Andrew headed north. Our monkey instincts prevailed; we called them and got directions, and in the evening began our drive.

The sun set before we started along the coast, so we missed the views up until San Luis Obispo, where we crashed at Nathan Huerta's house, a fellow highliner. The backyard was a lovely comfortable patch of grass, and we utilized it well, sleeping late (accept for Matt who ended up with the sun on his face bright and early). The next day we continued north, with surfing and Big Sur in mind. It was my second time in San Luis Obispo, but the first time I could see it in daylight. It is a quaint sort of college town, with old houses and surrounding landscape beautifully laid out with rolling hills, farmland, big tree's and rocks to climb and highline on. We drove for hours, jamming to good tunes and soaking in the views.

They call that drive the most beautiful for a reason; breath taking is the least I could say. The ocean hangs left the entire way, with colorful foliage and landscape on the right.

We stopped at a beach famous for fat elephant seals; a tourist destination where the squirrels are as friendly as Jehovahs Witnesses on your doorstep. I could tell it worked, if you want to see squirrel obesity that is the place. Speaking of obesity, we walked from the parking lot to the boardwalk and watched as the fat seals lay in the sun, flipping sand on themselves, barely moving like fat piles of lard. Some males were fighting, and nearby a pack of seagulls hounded a seal who screamed at them and charged. I used to think seals were cute, but that scene just looked grotesque, and a little too human. It was cool though.

Finally we arrived in Big Sur. Now the coastline hugging the ocean was a series of huge hills and deep ravines, rolling and topped with forest. It was beautiful, landscape I had never seen.

We followed our friends up a winding road and stopped just in time to see the sun dip behind the horizon of the ocean, which looked endlessly dark and powerful from atop those hills.

Our night was windy but we managed to build a fire in a clearing which stayed mild. We took a long walk up the hill and back. Friends who came with us from San Luis Obispo cooked us delicious food, and we downed a bottle of alcohol-free tequila. You read that right. We slept among the leaves underneath branches and sky, and it was good sleep.

The next morning we packed up and headed out. We stopped later on at another beach called Pfiffer, one which is 'off limits' to tourists but beautiful nonetheless, with super secret ninja highline written all over it.

When we finally arrived in La Selva, we were all psyched for surfing and borrowed gear from Andrew, headed down to the beach and got in. I was thankful to borrow a wetsuit that fit, and for my first experience I can say - holy shit they are warm! Feet, hands and head might go numb, but my booty was cozy in that thing! I took out a longboard with no leash and no experience, paddled out and began my thrilling and abusive relationship with waves.

The Texas coast is like kindergarten compared to the California coast, and I was so psyched I lost track of time and how many smashes to the face I received from waves. Eventually Andrew came out and tried to help me, but after some time we saw a fin in a wave nearby. My experiences in the ocean have been mostly in the Gulf, so I had no clue what to think. Andrew suggested we get out. That was the fastest paddling I had done all day, and when I arrived back on sand he informed me it was only a dolphin. Idiot Faith! I could hardly balance on still ground, so I decided it was probably better to stop since I had been in the water for 2 hours and we had a week ahead of us. Roxanne would take the next morning shift with the board, so we spread out our camp, built a fire, roasted hot dogs and had a proper beach night.

The next days were spent surfing (or trying to) and checking out the bridge on the beach; a rusted out tressle begging for a highline.

Finally we devoted a day to rigging the first highline on La Selva Beach. We sorted out the highline gear we needed, then Andrew and I scaled the rusty old bridge (easy climbing besides the risk of tetnis) and began wrapping the beams with tree wear. I had a GoPro on to document the historical establishment, and things were going well until First Response showed up, a gung-ho blonde who decided shouting at us and telling us the police were coming was the appropriate way to behave. We tried to remain civil, but  I really do not understand why humans lose their humanity as soon as they begin a career of any authoritative position! She could have nicely asked us what we were doing, first of all, and then informed us that we were not allowed to, instead of acting crazy and angry from the get go. Alas, the life of a slackliner is filled with angry people with badges.

We stopped our process and came down, explained to her what we were doing, and that there were no signs stating anything related to trespassing. She flipped her mood 360 degrees and started acting chummy with us. Some lady had apparently called the Police and stated that "kids were climbing the bridge." Naturally the big boys rolled in with their SUV and thrust back shoulders, little did they know my GoPro was on the conversation the entire time. The chief was a polite asshole, asking ridiculous questions then putting me down when I tried to explain slacklining. He was on the swat team, he "plays with bombs for a living." So, at the end he told us that he could not tell us not to do the highline, but that we shouldn't try and do it again that day. Thanks for permission on camera, Mister Officer!

We returned the next time earlier in the day, with Eric Rasmussen to help rig and rage. He took the far side, and we scrambled up the bridge again with a plan. Our friends were the look outs, ready to alert us if they saw shady old women on the phone or the popo.

I was paranoid, but we managed to rig the line and Andrew took the first ascent, it was his home town after all. It was a beautiful spot; not only the post industrial look of the rusty beams but the ocean next to us, waves crashing, surfers ripping, and sky. Juxtaposed, they created a beautiful urban highline.

 Eric got on the line and raged, walking back and forth doing every trick out there, giving me plenty of time to run around the beach trying to snap as many memories as possible.

I knew I would solo the line before we rigged it, and after several walks in an ankle leash I felt ready. It was something around 60-70 feet long, and on type-18 and aeon backup it felt soft and dynamic. I soloed it, felt the power of the ocean, the atmosphere, the friends nearby and my own focus, and it was one of the most enjoyable solo's I've ever done. 

So, no cops, only sending, raging and beautiful weather and good people. What more could a highliner ask for?

A huge thanks to Dave, his parents, Nathan, his roommates, Andrew and his parents for hosting us, and to all the monkeys who made this trip so rad. See you guys next time!

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