Sometimes it feels good to be lost. Not forever but for a moment, surrounded by nature, with adventurous friends. A lovely group of San Carlos hikers helped remind me of the tiny slices of splendor found anywhere and that “anywhere” is always within hiking distance.
The hikes we go on don’t require fast paced scaling of mountains or securing carabiners. There are no campouts under the stars or the need for a search and rescue party. With this group it’s simple. A day, time and location are selected and those wanting to participate just show up for the experience. Hikers arrive masked, slathered in sunscreen, donning hats, carrying hiking poles and backpacks filled with water, snacks, and snorkel sets. Often a canine or two join in for the fun. All are prepared to enjoy a socially distanced outdoor excursion. On this day the decision was to hike Martini Cove.
The hike to Martini Cove is undemanding yet rewarding. After parking cars in Sector Bahia and a short walk through the neighborhood, we arrive at “the gate”. The land between the neighborhood and our destination is privately owned thus a double door chain link gate blocks the only access point by foot to our goal for the day. To the side of the gate a well known little shack is situated. Inside we find the guard who has the sole job of collecting from persons wishing to cross the property. Payment is taken in pesos, 10MXN or about 50 cents will do the trick. However, the guard is a nice gentleman so he also accepts water bottles, sandwiches, chips, fruit or cold bottles of Coke for admission. First timers unaware of the payment process need not worry, he will even let you by with a simple, Buen Dia.
Past the gate we hike around the San Carlos Bay where moored sailboats rock in the waves. Following a rough and dusty path we plod our way across the isthmus that was home to a fishing village long deserted. Proof of this settlement is found among the mountainous piles of now discarded, white bleached, delicate shells of the pink murex sea snails once harvested by the fishermen.
To the west side of this narrow strip of land large herons wade near the shore looking for tasty treats seemingly oblivious to the wet-suited spear fisher diving just meters away. We turn and head up the craggy mountain side sticking to the narrow path covered in small loose gravel. Looking up to take in the beauty of the Organ Pipes or mighty Saguaro Cactus at this point can result in a stumble so it’s best to keep eyes on the trail.
The Jumping Cholla is an interesting foliage to watch out for. This cactus earned its nickname from the bad habit it has of easily detaching small chainlike pieces with piercing spines which quickly and somewhat painfully attach themselves to passing animals or humans. So if you mindlessly gaze at the Sonoran beauty be sure to pack a comb as that is the perfect tool to detach a Cholla.
Desert shrubs and Barrel Cacti line the way as the trek reaches the section of trail known as “the cave”. Up and over small boulders that seem to have created a winding staircase take us to the halfway point. Scrambling to the top the ocean breeze picks up blowing in our faces. Here is where we stop to take it all in.
From this vantage point the Caracol Peninsula is stunning. The water glimmers in the sun. The activity on the water is mesmerizing. It’s like watching a pared down, silent tennis match as boats navigate between the sea and Marina San Carlos. A quick rest and a few more meters of hiking we gaze down upon the crystal clear water of Martini Cove. Down the other side of the mountain we hug to the right of the path then follow the switchbacks left, right, left, right until we eventually plant our feet on the beach.
Pongas float offshore full of fishermen dipping their nets, hoping to pull in a catch for the market. The calm waters of the day easily make you forget that on weekends this little cove can be packed with a flotilla of boats of all sizes, shapes and styles. They are filled with voices singing at the top of their lungs to all varieties of music blasting to the limits of the speakers from which it resonates. People floating in the water ask their buddies aboard to toss them another cerveza while cannonballs create enormous splashes off the sides of the boats. Martini Cove is normally the “party cove” of the San Carlos area.
But today it’s tranquil and hushed. The loudest sounds come from the hikers who have overtaken its silent splendor. Here we change gears from hiking to hunt for seashells, listen to gulls, take a break in the sun, wade into tide pools in search of hermit crabs, watch the cormorants dip and dive under the water, discover green and turquoise bits of sea glass and weather permitting we might dive in for a swim or a quick snorkel. With so much to see and do this place is testimony to early naturalist John Muir’s thought, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
After enjoying the cove for as long as the group allows it’s time to head back. As every hiker knows, getting to the top is an option but getting back down is mandatory. In this case however, we have already reached both the top and the bottom but unless a boat is on the way to rescue us from Martini Cove we will need to hike the trail in reverse. Interestingly enough the trail and views from it are ever changing so the return trip is as enjoyable as the first.
Passing through the gate we return to the real world where I check my phone for messages and the distance traveled. The entire hike was only 3 miles, less than 7000 steps. Taking the last sips from my water bottle I reflect on the benefits of hiking. Sure we can build stamina and strengthen core muscles. Sure we can improve balance and boost bone density. But hiking is not all about physical improvement. Most importantly hiking can clear minds, reduce anxiety, allow people to live in the moment, reconnect with nature and just be happier for the moment. In the fast paced world of today, hiking simply slows us down reminding us to appreciate every minute.
January 22, 2021
**This entry is dedicated to my super hiker sister. – If you are every lost on California hiking trails…let it be by choice. If not, let there be cell service. 🙂
“Do things that make you forget to check your phone.”– Unknown