A Bench With a View

I love to hike.  The chronic multi-tasker in me enjoys the simultaneous cardio/calorie burn, panoramic vistas, think time and visceral joy of joining my dog in untethered freedom. Only one unwritten rule of hiking for me: keep moving.

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Much to my husband’s chagrin, I energetically pass by every sun-warmed log, grassy pasture and even occasional bench along most any trail in pursuit of seeing more versus sitting down. I make exceptions for family picnics on special occasions.

Yet, recently I’ve taken a little time to contemplate those benches with amazing views…and the people behind them.

Bench 1: J.B.’s “Sweet Dream” Castle Rock vista

Perhaps I passed her in the aisles of Safeway, or at school functions. Maybe we sat side by side at the movie theater or a soccer game or followed one another at the gas pump. Perhaps when I was having a yearly mammogram, she was in the imaging room next door receiving results from her own scan that would change the course of her journey.

I can’t say that I knew her when she was alive–but a woman, “J. B.,” was memorialized with a bench at one of my favorite spots in the world. Perched above a Jurassic era valley of majestic sandstone peaks called Castle Rock, this spot atop a gumdrop-shaped knoll at the foothills of Mount Diablo, is as awe-inspiring as it is other worldly.

Right at the apex of this viewing spot is her bench, inscribed with her name and a wish for “Sweet Dreams.” Every time I am lucky enough to hike or run to this amazing spot just a few miles of trail from my home, I stop to revel in the timeless view. And lately, I even make the time to sit and share a moment with J.B.


Castle Rock lookout. j.B.'s bench..
Castle Rock lookout. j.B.’s bench..

Bench 2: Matt’s Ocean View

This weekend, my husband, daughter and I took advantage of a glorious sunny November day and headed for an afternoon in Half Moon Bay. We found a bluff trail along the ocean that connected to one of our favorite places for a sunset view and steaming bowl of great chowder:  Moss Beach Distillery.

The view across the horizon was unobstructed but for the sea birds drifting above, a few sea lions bobbing in the surf below and one sailboat lolling on the quiet water in the distance.  On the cliffside trail ahead, a cyclist was taking a break on a sun-bathed bench.

Just then, it hit me. We might know about that bench.  That bench could be Matt’s. Nearly four years ago, a friend of ours died off the coast in a sailing accident. His wife and family came back the next year to dedicate a bench for him.

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Matt’s Bench, Pillar Point Bluffs Trail

As we approached the cyclist, I glimpsed beside him to look for a plaque.  I saw Matt’s name. We explained that we’d known the man the bench was dedicated to.  The cyclist told us that he often stopped here to rest and recharge on his bike rides. He said he’d been enjoying the view from this bench since it has been installed there.  He was glad to learn of the man he shared his view with.

Bench 3: Betty’s bench

My mother-in-law, Betty, was a lively, social, wonderful woman.  When she died, unexpectedly, at the age of 67, it was a fitting tribute to put a tall marble bench at her gravesite.  The bench was to encourage folks to come and sit for a while. The height? As Betty would have asked you: why just sit, when you can also swing your feet and smile?


I am always more grateful, hopeful and mindful each day that I get to be out for a hike.  While I will make no promises about sitting more while I am out–I am surely slowing down to make a mental note and a take a moment for thanking all those who’ve been there before me to mark the spot where they too gained perspective.

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