San Simeon

Fishing for (Paralichthys californicus)
California Halibut
Wind drifting on the inshore shallows
two rods each
baited with dead anchovies below
a scampi teaser on top
Light gear
15 lb. test on small reels
That was the plan

Negative on the surf launch
No victory at sea
Scuttled by winds beyond brisk
tearing off wave tops at dawn
Not conducive for being on the Pacific
in 15’ aluminum boats
tossing about like corks
Let alone dropping a line over the side
without being rogue thrust into the drink

So, wait for the winds to taper
Or head back to the valley
wasting the whole day
And no fishing
We decide to hang out, wait out the gale
Sitting in the truck
boat still on the trailer
drink some coffee, time to kill

Getting wonder lust, then
wandering under Highway 1
through a large culvert
One side of the road is beach and ocean
The other, Hearst ranch land for miles and miles
Castle south southeast
This is foothill cattle country
heading up into the verdant Coast Range

We were born into a long ravine on the other side
Hilly terrain with high dry grasses and wild oats
leading to great groves of eucalyptus
At a higher point climbing up
we stayed quite still observing
the lone ranch hand downhill a good long ways
Working fences oblivious to intruders
horse alongside, with rifle sheathed
Should we go on or go back was the question
Hear the distant report repeating
delayed hammer on fence post banging
Our quiet footsteps continued on uphill
to the cover of the groves
Birds flew up as we approached
No fooling them

It was cool and sheltered inside the protection of the eucalyptus forest
Treetops swishing blowing, calm below
Further in a creek ran small and quiet
seeking a ravine eventually the sea
A partial clearing revealed a treasure known to few
Old beast of burden drawn crew bunk carts and a mess cart
Wooden carts the size of rail cars
abandoned rotting back to nature
fallen trees atop them slowly surely hastening the process
How many decades have passed from when they were useful
Now lying in the repose of demise
A jungle museum visited by none, officially

Imagining the men who rode and ran them
Ghosts of voices around long burned out campfires
Busy nomad herders herded on the range moving camp to camp
working the vast reaches of the Hearst empire farther than the eye can see
or the moon can set upon

George Hearst came to California
From Missouri via the Homestake, Comstock and Anaconda
Bought up huge stretches of land
including Piedra Blanca Rancho
Sea to mountains and back again north and south east to west
Ever wonder why no definitive biography of the man exists?
“Boy the earth talks to”
Gold, silver, copper, land and cattle baron
State assemblyman, United States Senator
Lesser folks have multiple life histories told
Some say it was his son
Being a publisher and all
Quashed his daddy’s saga maybe
to maintain his own self made myth
Kind of mysterious

Anyways, after much hiking over land few ever get the chance to see
headed back the direction of familiar ground
Climbing back down watching out for the ranch hand still mending fences
Opposite way through the culvert portal
Vehicles rumbling above on Highway 1
tourists and locals alike
with no clue what is just off the road to the near east
Groves with nearly buried semi historic treasures
untold stories of great wealth, foreboding lands, compelling intrigue

We burst through to the ocean side, our side of the highway
The wind still whistling in our ears
In the truck pulling the boat back home to fish another day

– ©Chris Nielsen 2018
– image – Coastal Eucalyptus Grove (above)
– images – Back to Nature 1-4 (below)
©Chris Nielsen 1998