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Attack of the Abalone Ninjas

June 28, 2013


When you live in a car on the side of the road it kind of lends itself to getting woke up in a variety of manners, almost all of them unwanted.  The common ones are trash trucks, near-parkers, car alarms, trains, and the like.  I have also had the good fortune to be awakened by remote control cars at 2 a.m. (hey, when else can you drive your remote control car on a real road?), overzealous park rangers, and once an 18 wheeler that knocked my mirror off.  Yikes!  But last night was a new one even for me.  It all happened when we accidentally parked on a prime spot for collecting abalone during the best week of the year for hunting them on the edge of a precipitous hill leading to one of the most beautiful spots in the world.  Let me explain.
Our friends John and Hannah had made this trip recently and – being former roadside dwellers themselves – advised us of a place we simply had to camp at on our way down the coast.  It’s where the legendary Highway 1 comes out of the Redwood-covered hills and meets the Pacific Ocean.  We misjudged the time it would take to get there, but determined to awake there on the second day of our trip, drove through and finally discovered the place – exactly as they had described – at about midnight.  Not a soul was in sight, so we slipped in parallel to the cliff and drifted off to sleep, lulled by the sound of crashing waves and thrilled at the thought of awakening to this peaceful scene in the morning.

All alone on Highway 1

All alone on Highway 1

What we didn’t know was that this was a prime spot for collecting the mussel-like delicacy known as an abalone, and that this week in particular was the best time of the year for collecting them.  We had just experienced the super moon, which meant the tide was perfect for the hunt, making them easier than ever to discover.  We also deduced that the Japanese culture was particularly interested in these delicacies.  We deduced that because starting at about 4:30 a.m. we were treated to a seemingly endless unintelligible-to-us chattering in that language – RIGHT outside our window – for the next two hours.  When the sun finally came up and we peeked out our little blinds we were completely blocked in by 20 or 30 vehicles, out of which were streaming what looked like Ninjas (we were to discover later they were all wearing hooded wetsuits and carrying knives for prying the abalone from the rocks) coming at us, jabbering and chattering like a bunch of excited squirrels who got into some coffee and were cracked out on caffeine.  And why were they headed to our vehicle?  Because in our darkened ignorance we had parked precisely at the place where a trail had been hacked down the hill.  There were several rappelling ropes running down and everyone was streaming around our vehicle, hopping the guard rail and kind of half-rappelling down the hill, marching off to the beach towards the excited certainty of the best abalone-haul of their lives!



Eventually the stream of abalone-hunters lessened and we were left with just the sea of vehicles and the polite biologist who was there to ensure the abalone hunters were staying within their required restrictions.  It was clear that we weren’t going anywhere until those hunters returned and vacated, but luckily we had no desire to leave anyway.  This was truly one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen, and the girls who had never seen the ocean before (in their memory) were itching to hit that beach.  So after making friends with the biologist and some of the other folks hanging around we helped ourselves to the rappelling equipment and escaped our vehicular imprisonment, opting instead to accept the ocean’s invitation for personal entertainment.  Carissa and the girls found particular scientific inspiration, discovering starfish, tide pools, crabs, sea anenome, limpets, seaweed, and the like (they know these names because afterwards they spent half an hour looking them up).  While they researched the proper vernacular I wrote this article, and before we knew it, the abalone hunt was over for the day and every single one of those vehicles vacated, leaving us once again the sole inhabitants of our peaceful best-spot-in-the-world.

Looking out our window as one of the abolone hunters descends

Looking out our window as one of the abolone hunters descends

So that’s how it came to be that we woke up this morning surrounded by Ninjas and had to escape by rappelling down a cliff.

Sort of.



One Comment
  1. Bartel, Wes permalink

    This is great!!!!!!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

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