Life Goes On After Surgery with Day Trips

Gilda, always ready for a day trip and a picnic.

Life goes on — even after major abdominal surgery to remove my entire womb that had given birth to a nasty malignant tumor. And life continues even after my beloved but ailing cat of 18 years sadly crossed the proverbial rainbow bridge earlier in the week. Combining winter, surgery and ailing cat, we lived with blocked road trips, no campouts or hikes. But today was the day.  Just under two months from surgery and living with a still raw scar that runs from the pubic bone past the navel and an empty space at home where the cat no longer sits,  I announced, “Gas up Gilda, honey! We’re taking a day trip and going for a hike.”

“Are you sure that you’re ready to hike a trail?” Spouse asked.

“Either I take a nature walk, or light my hair on fire.”

That’s right. Two months of rest, fatigue, drugs and hibernating from all things that might send the flu my way, and not to mention that my last hike at San Simeon was about 200 feet, it was time to put my hiking shoes to the dirt, strap my camera around my neck and go for it.

We can’t always take road trips — especially in the winter months. Fortunately, here in California the recent storm along the coast continued its road trip east to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to blanket them with much needed snow. At home, near the coastline, the sun sparkled the rain-drenched trees with shimmer and shine beneath a sky as blue as cobalt glass. Must get out of the house!

A friend who recently hiked the epic Camino trail across Spain posted on his social media page, “Went camping Thurs through Sunday at Santa Margarita Lake. It was cold but good to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors.” That was the push I needed.

Santa Margarita Lake is a San Luis Obispo County reservoir built in 1941. It’s a full-on delight to discover a true treasure right in our own backyards.

Santa Margarita Lake

A $10 entrance fee to this San Luis Obispo County Park, and a minimal amount of folks currently using the camping facilities and hiking trails during the colder months, is how we like to roll.

On the 1.4 mile Grey Pine Loop trail — an easy hike and perfect for my post-surgical test hike — we encountered more deer than people.  At hike’s end I gratefully took a seat at a waterside picnic table and watched water birds, bluebirds, and raptors savor the fresh water lake and environment.  While Gilda is always equipped with picnic supplies, the only thing I missed was a thermos filled with something warm to drink. But my homemade hibiscus pink lemonade, made with fresh lemons from the garden, was delicious.

We encountered more deer than people on an easy hike.

One of Santa Margarita Lake’s primitive campsites will soon host Gilda and us for a quick spring getaway under the dark skies, pines and oaks. The plan is to explore more hiking trails and to get an in-focus photo of a few of the waterbirds that taunted my ability to photograph them with a tripod-free long lens.

Moral of this story—neighborhood road trips are great.


Along the Grey Pine Trail

—All photos by Charmaine Coimbra



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