SAN FRANCISCO part 1: SLOWING DOWN
There's nothing in life I enjoy more than going head-first into an unknown. San Francisco was just that. I grew up with a long-held fantasy for Southern California's vast landscape but for some reason
San Francisco never really crossed my mind until planning this trip.
So when the plane touched down I leapt off as fast as I could.
After a short negotiation with our car rental company we drove away with a sportier SUV much more ideal for our plans.
Our first order of business was to get acquainted with our Airbnb. As we approached the house, we must've passed five parked VW vans.
Which I took as a sign that we picked the right neighbourhood.
Our excitement levels compensated for our tiredness so we quickly left, hardly unpacked, and head toward the city.
Driving through the city was an experience on its own. Anyone who knows anything about San Francisco could tell you of its hilly landscape.
Well, I'm here to be one more person to tell you that hilly is an understatement! Picture driving upwards at a 45 degree angle, levelling off to go through an intersection, then up again, down, up three more times, back down two.
As we levelled back off at sea level, we found ourselves at Pier 39 and decided to give the touristy thing a try. We walked around a bit - as much as we could through the crowds - picked up a Krispy Kreme donut for lunch and decided to grab a three-day pass to a hop-on hop-off bus. We figured it'd give us some good groundwork for what the city had to offer.
We got on at the closest stop and sat atop waiting anxiously to tour the city.
Now, if I can afford to, the first time I experience something I like to do it without my camera. This allows me to grow an adoration for something before I capture it. Once I've fallen in love with a place, experience, or moment I know what needs to be captured. And then the next day I can go out and look for photos to represent that. I've adapted to working both ways but I find that shooting right off the bat can be exhaustive and I can't help but feel I'm missing a part of the story in the process.
With that being said, I always carry a film camera on me because it keeps my eye looking but doesn't allow me to hide behind it. It's just simply there for those moments you can't live without a memory of.
So today was a day for exploring and falling in love.
Except, love wasn't what we found.
We were relieved when our bus finally made its way.
An hour long ride brought us through some of the more popular areas of San Francisco. We marvelled at the Victorian style homes in endless rows just inches apart from one another. And how each neighbourhood, just a few short blocks away from one another, seemed to garner a completely different vibe from the last.
Everything felt so out of reach on the bus so we decided to get off and do some walking.
We got off at Union Square, and felt like we were dropped off in New York City.
I picked up some batteries for the Super 8mm film camera I brought with me
and we head back to the bus stop with senses overloaded.
When we arrived back, I loaded the camera up with batteries,
excited to shoot, except the film reel wouldn't spin.
After 20 minutes of troubleshooting, I realized this was nothing I could fix.
Things like this aren't uncommon with old cameras and there was
no sense letting it put a damper on the rest of the day.
Our bus arrived back and we excitedly got in line to board
when the driver came out and had a dispute with one of his coworkers.
As it settled, we were told the bus was inoperable and we would
have to wait for the next one to make its cycle around in 45 minutes.
One of my simple pleasures in life is sitting back
and observing people in times of conflict like this.
People have a good way of revealing themselves in these moments.
I wonder if you ever really know a person you only see in good light..
45 minutes of scrutinizing irrationality brought our energy levels to an all-time low.
When the new bus arrived we still took the time to cross over the Golden Gate Bridge
even through we were ill-prepared for the cold weather.
All we could think of was food when we got back to the car. We heard of good food on Mission St. and it happened to only be a few minutes from our neighbourhood
so we head straight there.
We drove up and down Mission St and the surrounding area for two hours
before finally finding a parking spot at 10pm.
By this time the majority of the restaurants were closed and I was so hungry
it took another half hour to make a decision on where to eat
which drove the three of us to our breaking point.
Our full stomachs smoothed over the roughness of this first day, but the thought of doing it all again the next day didn't quite appeal any of us.
The next morning we packed our bags and drove North where we wouldn't have to compete for space.
CYPRESS TREE TUNNEL
An hour of driving North led us through a narrow, single lane road with short, hairpin curves along the Tomales Bay. We passed through a Bohemian inspired village that we couldn't resist stopping to check out.
The road spit us out into a vast, flat plain of farm land before we arrived at the Cypress Tree Tunnel.
We parked the car at the side of the road and got out to walk the foot path lined with historic Monterey cypress trees. We even climbed a few.
In between gusts of rushing wind blowing through the cypress trees' mature leaves, everything fell silent. A silence I had been longing for. It's hard to find quiet in a city. There's always noise competing for headspace. Even in moments of perceived silence, you'll find a hum of traffic, lull of an air conditioner, or drone of a television. But your ears know when you've found a moment that's truly silent. There's a pressure that eases. A pressure you had no idea was there to begin with but one you couldn't imagine living with again.
I've learned to never take these moments for granted.
Storm clouds lowered above and pushed us back to our car.
As we attempted to key in directions for our final destination we realized we had lost all service. Ahhh talk about silence..
We knew the landscape pushed out into a tip and figured if we kept driving North we'd eventually run into it.
The Point Reyes National Seashore was a spot we planned out very early on for this trip. We saw an image of this coastline with the Pacific Ocean on one side of the landmass and Tomales Bay on the other. It was so special because the two bodies of water sat at different water levels making it quite a surreal viewpoint. This was a view we dreamed of experiencing for ourselves and travelled all day to get to. Now it was finally time to experience it.
We parked the car, packed our bags and ventured onto the Tomales Point trail.
After only a few minutes we were greeted with one of the most spectacular coastal views I've ever seen. Long rippling ocean waves pushed the eyes toward the jagged untouched landscape we were preparing to embark.
We had no idea this trail was an elk reserve and were pleasantly surprised when after a mile or so of hiking, we came across a herd of elk grazing cliffside. But we were on a mission to get to the viewpoint for sunset so we continued on our path.
A few miles of hiking, over what seemed like endless hilltops, didn't seem to bring us any closer to this viewpoint. I accelerated my pace, hoping to reach the vista just in time for sunset.
In a moment when doubt is already starting to creep in, it doesn't help to see groups of people hiking the opposite direction giving you concerned looks.
But all that did was push me harder. My fast pace turned into a jog and the already half-mile long gap between myself, my dad and Sam started to grow.
Mid-run I looked to my side and saw a herd of elk running alongside me. I slowed my pace to a power walk and made sure I took the time to capture these majestic creatures before running again.
I could tell we were getting close. The water on either side of us started to close in narrower and the wind started to pick up. But nothing around me seemed as expected.
After 5 miles of hiking and running, exhaustion was starting to settle in.
But as I laid eyes on the Tomales Point sign, a rush of energy washed over me.
I quickly ran up the last steep hill excited to have made it to the view just in time for sunset...
But as I reached the top of the hill my glistening eyes were met with reality.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
I looked to the left to see the ocean curling toward me. On my right was the still Tomales Bay.
And in front of me, for the first time, I saw these bodies of water meet.
That's when I realized we weren't walking to the viewpoint. We were walking on it.
It took a minute for the gravity of this situation to settle in.
But after it did I immediately ran back the other way to stop them from walking any further.
As I ran back, the trail rushed over me.
It all made sense now. That surreal spot at the beginning of the trail was the view.
All we had to do was find a higher vantage point from there.
all for nothing...
I caught back up with my dad and Sam and explained the situation to them and why I ran off. The walk that followed was silent, to say the least, so I had plenty of time to reflect.
My initial reaction to this situation was anger. How could I be so stupid to not realize we were practically there at the beginning of the hike? I couldn't help but feel like I let them and myself down leading us onto a 5 mile-long trail that led to nothing, to nowhere.
But then I realized the trail only led us 'nowhere' because we were comparing it to our expectations.
I unknowingly expected the trail to lead us to this grandiose view that would blow everything out of the water so that's all I focused on. And in the process, I failed to realize that I was walking across one of the most surreal trails I'd ever be on.
I was so focused on where I was going that I missed everywhere I was. And that's where the true disappointment comes from.
When I look at these pictures, I see missed time and missed opportunities. Yes, every picture is something I bear witness to but did I really experience any of it?
These pictures are a reminder to never put more trust in your future than your present. And to never live life like I walked this trail.
Let's consider my life was this trail. I embarked, high on wonder
and ambition. Started making way toward my envied destination. Worried I wouldn't reach it in time, I started running. Family and friends left behind in my pursuit. Everything around me whirling by.
On my last breath, I climbed one more hurdle, only to realize the path dropped down into the ocean before me.
Nowhere to go but backwards.
But in life, you can't go backwards.
Your only option is to go head first into the abyss.
A life filled with regret
A life I never want to make my own.
I was able to bring purpose to this experience by simplifying and personifying it. Something I used to repeat relentlessly is "everything happens for a reason". But I feel like that can easily get misconstrued. Whether I believe there's a higher purpose for everything or not is a separate debate on its own, and this phrase is not a testament to my stance on the subject matter. But what I do know, is that if you live every moment with the mentality that it has a reason and a purpose, you'll surely find one. And it doesn't need to be objectively true (because really, what even is objectively true..?). It just has to make sense to you. Most of the time whatever 'reason' you find is coming from something you already knew but just needed evidence of. And that's exactly what this trail was for me. In my everyday life, I found myself looking to these future milestones and rushing through life to get there. But once I reached them, nothing settled, because I had five new things I was already pushing toward. I was essentially living on autopilot expecting one of these achievements to finally set me free. But at what point does it stop? When do you finally say, okay NOW I'm going to live in the moment. Now I'm set free.
Perhaps when you have nowhere to go but head-first into the ocean...
But luckily, this was just a trail and I had the chance to right my wrongs and be present in the 5 mile hike back.
The sun was setting and we had at least another two hours of hiking back. We would undoubtedly be hiking back in the pitch dark. So we figured we better take this moment in and enjoy the sunset like it deserved.
We walked a couple hundred metres off the path over to the edge of this beautiful landscape, sat down to give our legs their first rest in the past few hours, and got out the deli sandwiches we picked up on our way out of San Francisco.
As we ate,
gusts of wind blew tall grass against our legs.
Cool ocean air rushed off the rippling white capped waves and filled our lungs.
The endless horizon met a golden sun radiating it's light
onto the jagged cliffs that surrounded us.
This moment could have lasted forever
and I wouldn't have wanted anything more.
The sun disappeared beneath all we could see and we knew
this meant it was time for us to make our way.
As we walked through tall grass back to the path,
I couldn't help but feel I was leaving something behind.
Maybe I dropped something..
Or maybe, I left a part of myself there.