San Elijo Stole My Heart

“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.”
– Diane Arbus

I picked San Elijo State Beach based entirely on the fact that it was a relatively easy drive from Santa Monica. I saw a couple of photos, but didn't really know what to expect. As I drove toward Encinitas, massive rain clouds gathered on the horizon and I started to feel my optimism taking a nosedive. Camping in the rain is a chore.

Since it was too early to check in, I found the library after a bit of noodling around the tight, windy streets covered with cute little houses. The back wall of the library faces the Pacific, high on a hill. Windows and glass doors that reach nearly floor to ceiling wrap along the wall and provide access to a large patio covered in bougainvillea. There are multiple seating options and plugs everywhere. I spent a couple of hours catching up on classwork, writing emails, and ogling the ocean.

After checking in I found my site and did a little happy dance. Yoda lit up the place like a little, happy, orange beacon. I managed 45 minutes of wandering on the beach before the rain clouds decided to let go for an hour. I curled up in my car with a picnic of strawberries, goat cheese, apple slices, hard-boiled eggs, and some delicious, minty chocolate cookies.

I went back to the beach as soon as the rain departed, drawn like a magnet. The seaweed at San Elijo is beautiful: long crunchy strands of red kelp balanced by a large air bladder on the end, swirly mustard-colored bird nests that closely resemble over-sized ramen noodles wrapped up with bright green grasses, and long whip-like strands that look like centipedes. The air bladders crack and pop underfoot, tiny fireworks every few feet.

After a glorious sunset I tucked myself into Yoda, returning to the sunrise/sunset schedule I always fall into when camping. I sleep soundly, waking before the sun and realizing that I'm super cold. Some wiggling around seems to get my blood moving enough to warm up and I drift off again until sunrise when I get up to make coffee and oatmeal with my trusty little stove.

I spend as much time as possible on the beach and on the bluff above, watching the foamy waves rolling in and dozens of surfers swimming out. Then it's off up the Pacific Coast Highway back to Santa Monica, with stops at various beaches along the way. This break has done me a world of good, centered me, reminded me why I'm on the road in the first place.