Monday, May 2, 2016

Fresh Air

"Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. 
The vey basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. 
The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun." -- Jon Krakauer

I'm back! My last post of the Eugene series combines our last two days of his vacation in California. We started the next day in LA by eating at the #1 Yelp rated brunch place in West Hollywood, and stopping by the filming location for The Golden Girls in Brentwood (Thank you for being a friend!). I could blog about that, but I would rather blog about my favorite parts of those two days - hiking and the beach.

When we were planning his trip, I asked Eugene to pack comfy shoes. This is asking a lot - Eugene likes to fly Spirit Air and usually only travels with a small backpack. Unsurprisingly, Eugene agreed anyway and I planned a couple of hiking adventures. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do, so I was glad Eugene wanted to join me!

The first place on my itinerary was for the two of us to visit Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks to search for Paradise Falls. This had been on my bucket list for a while - I had recently missed an opportunity to hike here with my hiking group, and had been dying to go ever since. The day we headed to the trail was perfect! And despite the temperature heating up, the park was still fairly green and there were a few lingering wildflowers along the trail.

One of my favorite things about Wildwood Park is how well marked all of the trails are. While I'm pretty good at navigating by just reading a map, having a well-marked trail is always helpful. There were several options to hike down to the falls, but we chose the shortest since we had planned another full day.

The hike gently descended for most of the way to the falls, only increasing in grade as we descended the final 250' down to the falls and creek themselves. The trails were very busy, but everyone was accommodating and polite. Eugene and I marveled at the mountain bikers biking up the hill, and the dad's carrying their children. It wasn't horrifically steep, but it was still quite a climb!

The falls themselves were pretty but small. I didn't expect Yosemite, but it was surprising given how much people had raved about them online. Still, we enjoyed the cool comfort of the shade near the falls, and spent a few minutes admiring the area. After a few pictures, we double-backed and went up the way we came. The initial 250' climb was steep, but doable (although my asthma was kicking my rear - thanks allergies!). We stopped briefly at the Teepee before heading back, hopping quickly in the car to hit the pharmacy (again - thanks allergies) and get back on the road.

We took the scenic route north to Kern County, slicing through Ventura County up through Filmore and across to Santa Clarita. We discussed going to Sequoia several times before Eugene made the trip to California - Eugene really wanted to see the "big trees" at the Trail of 100 Giants, and I always enjoy Sequoia National Forest. Sadly, the NPS advised me that the road to the Trail of 100 Giants was still closed for the season (there was still snow on the roads!), so we contemplated skipping it. 

After a quick nap, however, we decided to at least drive up through the canyon (Kern Canyon) as Eugene had never seen that before. Sunset was quickly catching up to us, so we headed out just in time for the golden hour. Eugene marveled at the rocky, curvy canyon roads, and we decided to take a quick break within the forest to hike around and enjoy the views. 

While I think we both would have liked to hike more, Eugene and I stayed pretty close to the main road. The nocturnal critters were starting to stir, and we didn't want to get stuck after dark. The forest was surprisingly and eerily quiet - perfect for us to talk and reflect, but a little odd at the same time. The normally fuller (at this time of year) Kern River was very low, but the sound of it hitting the rocks in the valley was quite soothing.

Eugene and I headed back up to the car, and decided to just stop here and there so he could take some pictures. The pic above was our last selfie of that day. We stopped at this rocky area for quite a while - the water formed multiple pools and falls, so it was really pretty and pleasant. I was dismayed, however, at the vast amount of graffiti and broken beer bottles on the rocks below. I actually really like graffiti and street art, but here? Is nothing sacred? Why must people trash everything we have that is good? Sigh.

Eugene headed back to the east coast the following day. As with all good things, Eugene's trip had come to a close and it was time for me to return him to the airport. We opted to take the ocean route from Ventura to LAX so that Eugene could see parts of the PCH he hadn't seen before. It was a beautiful day... so beautiful that the entire state of California seemed to join us on our tour! LOL. Despite the crowds and traffic, we enjoyed taking the slow and steady route, stopping off to enjoy the views in Ventura and at Malibu Bluffs Park. It took us for-ev-er to get through Malibu, but we finally made it to Venice to finish out our day.

Since we only had a couple of hours left before his flight, Eugene and I grabbed a quick dinner at Fish Enterprise Co in Venice and planned to head to LAX. We finished earlier than planned, however, so I decided to introduce him to part of the famous Venice Boardwalk. It was late in the day, and most of the crazies had already headed home. The sun was going down quickly - a harsh reminder that our time together was up, and I needed to get him to the airport. Neither of us wanted him to leave, but we were grateful for the time we did get to spend together. 

Eugene's visit was as good as it gets. We both got to vent frustrations, share secrets, and build each other up - something I incredibly value in friendships but so rarely get to do. We agreed that three years is too long for us to go without seeing each other, and I hope that we can see each other again soon. (I'm hoping to at least see him in November in Florida - fingers crossed!)

This post has spawned an idea I have to write about, but in the spirit of keeping this about Eugene and my vacation, I'll leave it for now. Eugene is one of those rare individuals who always leaves me happier than I was before I saw him. I will forever be grateful to him and the rest of my Houston "Richton" crew - it was a special little apartment complex, with a unique sense of community. And while I keep in touch with many to this day (10 years later), Eugene is one of the few that I will forever stay close to. Thank you, Eugene, for taking the time to see me!

Until next time... (go forth, and explore!)
--- Becks

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