The beacon at the beach

Special to The TribuneJuly 20, 2012 

As the self-appointed OPC activities director and chairperson in charge of creating lifelong memories, I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting activities for the folks here at camp.

So naturally, when I read the shout-out in the paper recruiting new docents for the Point San Luis Lighthouse trail, I figured it was our duty to volunteer. I immediately called and signed up all those campers who have been spending way too much time sitting around the campfire kibitzing and making s’mores. I figured a weekly hike would do them all good. How hard could docenting be? Pedagogical pontification is one of my geezer specialties, and I knew from experience that my friends excelled, as well. Walking, talking and pointing out historical sites such as the Harford pier, the golf course and Mr. Rick’s, sounded right up our collective alleys.

When I broke the news to my fellow campers about the new activity on the horizon, one friend churlishly remarked, “But you haven’t even been to the lighthouse!”

“Yes, but you have!” I cheerfully replied, “and you’ve always talked about how you’d like go again.” (If I have my way, she’ll be confined to the craft shack making lanyards for the next two months!)

I appealed to their sense of altruism and made them commit to the meeting. Also, I threatened to cut off their marshmallow supply.

On the appointed evening, we pulled into the parking lot, nestled the car in among the other Priuses and headed into the building. The room overflowed with enthusiastic people with sensible shoes and attitudes that screamed, “I’ve been to the lighthouse three dozen times, neener, neener, neener!” I tried not to appear inexperienced, and I sat very close to my churlish friend/veteran hiker.

Sally, the biologist, welcomed us to the world of DITs — docents in training. I was relieved when she clarified the acronym because I was on the verge of a flashback to the seventh grade; the time Johnny Campbell called me a ditz — and it had nothing to do with lighthouses.

Sally went on for a while, and as she did, I spent some time checking out the people in the room. No one appeared to be concerned that they would spend the next eight weeks being referred to as DITs, so I decided to let it go.

Probably 52 years is a long enough time to hold a grudge anyway. I’m sure Johnny meant no harm, and perhaps it was a sign that he actually “liked me.” Hmmm ... wonder if he’s on Facebook?

After that brief walk down memory lane, I was able to refocus on the speaker — someone new. I needed to take a quick glance at my friend Patti’s notes to catch up on the things I’d missed.

It turned out we were going to have classes on flora, fauna , history and geology. I was rather surprised by some of the omissions; I thought we’d be learning about wildlife and plants. One gentleman asked if we’d be able to take the eight-mile hike to Rattlesnake Canyon — obviously, he was from one of the over-achiever geezer camps. I, on the other hand, asked if we’d be having a graduation party. I was assured that we would have a celebration, so I decided I was in. For the party anyway. I decided to be out of town for the rattlesnake part.

Many weeks have passed since that first get-together. I’ve learned that it is indeed a breathtaking hike to the lighthouse (that first hill is a killer), and the scenery is gorgeous, too. The dedicated docents who make the trip twice a week are a fun group, and they have a wealth of knowledge about Port San Luis, the lighthouse and Avila Beach (oddly enough Mr. Rick’s wasn’t mentioned once). Just CPR and firstaid classes left to go, and we get our docent wings. We haven’t heard about graduation yet, but I’m expecting my cap and gown to arrive any day now.

The good news is there are always at least two docents on every hike. The lead person does most of the talking, and the other walks at the end of the group to make sure no one disappears. I have a feeling I’ll be riding drag with the dogies, saying things like, “Did you need a Kleenex? Oh here, I have lots,” and, “Yes, the name of the town is Avila Beach. Oh look, there’s a seagull! Poison oak? Oh no, I don’t think so ...”

Suzanne Davis is happily retired and living in the South County with her husband and their three dogs.

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