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Matthew walked bow-legged with quick, northbound jerky strides up the hill above Pescadero State Beach.  His blue nose female kept up alongside, but her grey head hung lowered, shoulders hustling, tongue panting.  Matthew’s back, young and strong, held his yellow backpack upright.  It’s top peeked high above Matthew’s head.  It’s bottom strapped snug around Matthew’s hips.  The dog’s leash dragged on the ground, handless.

“I saw that guy south of Davenport on my way to Santa Cruz on Thursday!” said the passenger in the car driving southbound on the coast road.  “On the way back home, he had reached Swanton.”

The driver regarded Matthew as the car sped past.  The speedometer needle poked 60.  Only a couple state beaches and a eucalyptus grove altered the contours of the coast hills. “If we see him on the return trip, we’ll pick him up.”

After dinner and drinks at Duarte’s the two hopped back in the car and headed north.  On the hill north of Pomponio creek, Matthew and the dog climbed.  No arm outstretched with a thumb up asking for a ride.  Matthew didn’t turn to even look at the oncoming car.

The car slowed over to the shoulder ahead of Matthew and his tired dog.

The passenger looked surprised at the driver, “I can’t believe you’re actually doing this!  Maybe this guy won’t even want a ride?”

“Doubt it,” replied the driver, looking in the rear view mirror.  “He’s running towards us.”

“You’re going to let the dog in here too?” asked the passenger.

“I let our dogs in here.  And one of ours is a Pit.  Why not?”

Slightly winded, Matthew reached the car by traversing the drainage gully along the road’s edge.  The passenger stepped out of the car, onto the paved shoulder, opened the back seat door and introduced himself to Matthew.  The driver waited behind the wheel, brake applied, engine running.  Matthew unclipped the waist strap and slung off his backpack, tossing it to the side of the backseat.  The dog jumped in, tail a little tucked, sniffing the carpet of the car.

Through his bushy black beard and his white evenly-spaced teeth, Matthew broadly smiled and said, “Thank you so much for stopping!”

Route 56 by Anneliese Ågren

DSCN3336Not often one sees a horseman riding on Highway 1.

Not often, as in, Never.

Almost 100 years ago, J. Smeaton Chase, an Englishman who lived out the second half of his life in California, started from San Gabriel Valley, then rode south to San Diego, to then ride north to Mendocino.

Published in 1913, Chase’s California Coastal TrailsCalifornia Coast Trails by Joseph Smeaton Chase gives the modern reader a view into California’s sparsely populated coastal past.

But now we have Matthew and Hampton, our current equivalent of Chase and Chino (later, Anton, when he traded a tired Chino in Jolon). Matthew and Hampton are traveling the California Coast Trail, aka State Route 1, but their mission is not a horseback tour to see the sights. Matthew and Hampton are riding the coast to raise awareness for the Akha people in northern Thailand who are being displaced by Thailand’s Queen and mistreated by the police. Matthew first learned about the Akha in the early 90s when traveling Thailand. He was disgusted by the treatment of the Akha by their fellow countrymen, the policemen, who take ownership of Akha lands in the name of the Queen of Thailand.

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