Life was a beach for resident who walked state coastline

The friends of Dinesh Desai know better than to suggest he take a hike. That’s just what this 57-year-old Los Altos resident will do.

Recently Dinesh and his wife Joy, 49, returned from a two-month walk on the beach from just north of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco to the Mexican border.

“We could shake hands with the people on the Mexico side,” he said, when they finished their trek.

Walking turned out to be the easy part of the trip. “Doing it day after day for two months is what gets to you,” Desai said.

Joy and Dinesh were two of seven who made the trip with Coast Walk, a non-profit group based in Sonoma. The organization’s goal is to keep the coast available to all and to maintain coastal access.

Ultimately the group hopes to have a coastal trail the length of California, from Oregon to Mexico, about 1,100 miles.

The Desais and their travel buddies walked on the beach as much as possible or above the beach on the bluffs. But in Big Sur there was no beach and no bluffs. So the group walked along Highway 1, “the most dangerous part of the trip,” Desai said.

Walking 12 miles a day in deep sand “is a lot of miles.” The weather drizzled, the tent was always wet.

But the group also enjoyed the glories of California beaches and coastal terrain. They saw whales, mountain lions, seals and otters. They learned about the wave action. And it was easier than backpacking, Desai said.

A support van carried duffels, tents and food. The driver went out and bought food every day and met the walkers each night and took them to the nearest campsite.

But the trip wasn’t without an occasional glitch, and relationship problems sometimes challenged the group.

Another challenge were the many nude beaches, which are between San Francisco and Mexico “They go on for a long time,” Desai said. “We had several women in our group. One day a guy on the beach had nothing on but white socks and white shoes.”

Walking projects are not new to Desai. In 1995 he walked from the Oregon border to the Golden Gate Bridge with Bob Cowell, a retired fire chief from Alameda.

Desai is proud of the fact that he has walked the California coast.

“No one has actually walked the entire coast,” he said. “They’ve done parts. I was the first to do the entire coast - even though in two segments.”

In 1985 he and his wife set out to walk every street in Los Altos. They figure they put 175 miles on their walking shoes by the time they finished that project.

Desai is retired from a money management business. He moved here in 1960 from India.

Even though Joy and Dinesh enjoyed their 1996 coast walk, Desai said they probably wouldn’t do it again. “There are so many interesting places to go, we never even go back to the same place on vacation.”

Time to walk on.

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