In college, a couple of friends and I rented a shack, literally a box-like dwelling on a road of other shacks in Solana Beach. The place was a hole, but it was two blocks from the beach, two blocks from an outdoor basketball court, two blocks from Pizza Port, two blocks from the Tidewater bar and Mai Tai Mondays and about half a mile from the trail-head to San Elijo Lagoon. Our neighbors were surfers, weed dealers, skateboard enthusiasts (the guy that shared the shack-plex with us invented these). Back in those days I smoked, and I quit, and I smoked and I quit a bunch of more times, then I ran, and when I started running, smoking was some kind of self-flagellation, or maybe that was the running. Some of my first runs were at San Elijo Lagoon. I would drive the less than half mile to the trail head at the end of the street, park my car, and run for about five minutes, stop, cough and hack, then turn around and run back, get into my car, go home and eat some Ben and Jerry's. My girlfriend, now my wife, used to walk at the lagoon, sometimes on Saturday mornings, then we'd go to the farmer's market at the other end of the street and buy some fruit, go home, do homework and make out. Now I am starting to sound old, but I'll sound even older if I mention that most of the old shacks have been torn down and plowed over for the super-rich because you can't keep a location like that secret, I mean Mai Tai Mondays, come on. I was happy to see the old shack still standing, painted a bright yellow with orange accents, and I said a small prayer of thanks to the owner (a Del Mar lawyer) who just totally redeemed himself.
The lagoon is the perfect spot to take out-of-town visitors like my in-laws, the lagoon is my Statue of Liberty, and it is more crowded now, more people were out today enjoying the trails than I remember being there last time out, bird watchers who give me dirty looks even though I try to sneak up on them, kids, dogwalkers, and other runners. You can't keep a place like this secret, even though I thought of not writing the name of the lagoon in this post, just calling it the #$% ##%^&$ Lagoon, but people would replace those with swears and I wouldn't want the reader to get the wrong idea, because it really is a beautiful spot and it should be shared. I wanted to take pictures and post them, but my camera battery was dead (I did find this site that has a lot of great shots of the lagoon).
My daughter at the lagoon, five years ago
I was feeling unmotivated and just down today, and when my wife called and told me that my son had forgotten his lunch box, and asked if I would drop it off at preschool, I rolled my eyes and was about to give her a lackluster excuse about work, but then she added maybe I should get a run in after, at the coast, and it's a beautiful day, so I couldn't resist. She knows my weakness, so I dropped the lunch box off at the Y preschool and I must have looked just awesome swinging the blast-off rocket lunch box passing all the gym-rats, muscle-heads, made-up treadmill walkers and other assorted YMCA species. At least it wasn't my 3-yr-old's princess lunch box, and it had a masculine, phallic rocket shooting off between a couple of moon rocks. After dropping the lunch box off, it was only a few miles to the lagoon so I decided to skip the coast and hit the trails.
The lagoon stretches from the coast in Carlsbad and Solana Beach to Rancho Santa Fe. The trails go around the bird sanctuary, over an old walking bridge that someone put up years ago and it is getting weaker each time I cross it, through some California desert scrub, sand and then to a tropical area covered with shady trees. The trails aren't too hilly and aren't too flat; these are the kinds of trails that welcome everyone. You won't find those rude signs that read "No Trespassing" or "Keep Out." The signs at the lagoon say "Birds Only Beyond this Point," which is a much nicer way of putting it and I am much more compliant with that sign than the "No Trespassing" ones that I come across occasionally.
There are memorial benches along the trails, and one reads "In Memory of Patty Smith, Enjoy the View, Mom," which brought tears to my eyes. Running the lagoon today brought back a lot of good memories. I have run there with friends, family, hiked with my kids, all on those trails and, like all special places, my memories weave in and out of the scenery, the trails, the trees and make it something more than just a lagoon, or just another run, and I'm not sure why, but today, as I read "Enjoy the View," I stopped, sat down on the bench, took a few breaths and stored that moment away.