My first hiking experience ever.. and a deer caught in headlights

Carmel Highlands Travel Blog

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Today we woke up and decided to go to the Point Lobos State park because we didn't expect many places to be open on Christmas Day. The location has been hyped up as "the crown jewel of the California state park system". Okay now.. but then I went, and the things I saw, the experience I had. Let's just say this place has probably ruined "hiking" for me for good, because no place will ever compare to it.

It started with a friendly holiday greeting at the ranger station at the entrance. The parking lot was practically full and the car in front of us handed the ranger a little bag of chocolate. I turned to Charles and said "we don't have anything to bribe the ranger with!!" But we were let in without a problem, sans bribery, and the ranger was so sweet and friendly Charles said "I am going to work as a forest ranger one day!" When asked why, he said "have you ever met a grouchy or angry forest ranger?? They're all the friendliest, happiest people I've ever met - like they're high or something!" Hahaaa!

At Point Lobos State Park, approximately 75% of the trails are right next to the ocean, which means amazing vistas, crashing waves and a lovely cool breeze.
There are multiple patches of beaches and coves to keep the terrain interesting. There are many forest hikes as well that take you through forests of cypress, pines and lichen-covered-things!

One funny thing that happened. My, we hiked for over 3 hours straight, which is tough considering this was my first hike. The terrain wasn't too bad, and there were a few locations to stop and rest. Charles and I snacked on blueberries and trail mix to get our energy (ok, MY energy) back every hour to hour and a half because we were walking nonstop. Charles would walk in front of me when we were going down an incline so that I wouldn't fall, and walk in back of me when going up a hill - he's really thoughtful.

At one point when we were in the pine forest, he tripped on a fallen something-or-other and his ankle got a little messed up.
Instead of sitting, he wanted to walk it out, so I started hurrying down the trail so we could finish sooner. I was hurrying along this trail, looking mostly at the ground because it's obviously uneven and covered with pine needles, when I sense I'm about to run into something, so I look up. It's 2 female deer!!

Less than 5 feet away from me! My reaction to this was apparently to drop by jaw and stare into the doe's face, and then turn around and babble gibberish uncontrollably. For some reason it was hard to register that this was a deer. My instinct was that this was a wild creature and it was kind of big, and that's about it. I was simply not prepared for this encounter.

The deer closest to me that I was looking directly at moved away and off the trail.
The second one actually came forward to find out what all the commotion was about before following his friend. My friend Charles was like "take a picture!" but all I could do was hop around in mild panic while the second deer looked a me strangely.. I simply never imagined I would act like a deer caught in headlights - with an actual pair of deer!!

After this encounter (where I think Charles may have gotten a picture or two of the deer walking slowly away into the forest, we headed back pretty quickly along paved roads to our car. Never has asphalt felt so good under my feet, as the 3+ hour trek left me quite sore in the footsies!

Some of the more interesting sights in Point Lobos State Park are a rock where a bunch of sea lions hang out on, a different rock that pelicans congregate on, Devil's Cauldron where waves crash constantly no more than 10 feet from you, and Hidden Beach, which is interesting because it's this small cove and beach where the waves rise really close to you, but because of these rock outcroppings, the waves smash on them instead of you but you are standing very close to these very tall waves.
Lots of waves @ Point Lobos State Park

Check out the video I have of the Devil's Cauldron. Hopefully it doesn't make you motion-sick as I bring the camera to-and-fro to catch all manners of waves, but you can see the frequency and the height of some of these crazy waves smashing onto the rocks. I can't imagine what it is like during high-tide! I wish I was able to show scale better, but essentially the walkway is about 60 feet above sea level and these waves are making a ginormous splash and spraying us!

This has really been an astonishing experience for me, as my expectations were really low. My one guilty pleasure has been traveling with someone my own age, rather than my family. Charles and I had dinner today at a seafood restaurant, and we were sitting next to a big Chinese family, whose daughter was obviously bored to death and squawking about in a condescending manner to her family, which I hated since I believe time with family should be treasured and not mocked, but which I also recognized was how I acted when I was 15 years old and just really annoyed at having to go out in public with my family.

All in all this was just a really nice day. So scenic that I came home with something like 500 pictures. Some of them are almost identical as I tried in vain to capture some nice shots of the ocean, but couldn't contend with things like glare, shadow and scale. But that's ok. By the end of the hike, Charles and I swore "no more ocean shots!" while we proceeded to of course take more ocean shots..
vances says:
Excellent recap of your hike...but please know that there are so many more. Each trail has its own personality and I'm sure you will discover that it is difficult to compare one to another...don't want you to be ruined from trying further jaunts!
Posted on: Jan 04, 2008
sybil says:
haha! congrats on finishing your first hike! ;)
Posted on: Dec 25, 2007
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Lots of waves @ Point Lobos State…
The forest trial a few min before …
The forest trial a few min before…
Carmel Highlands
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