The thrill of a new grill isn't limited to ones you buy. Last Sunday when our family made its annual Mother's Day pilgrimage to Leo Carrillo State Park, we found the camp rangers had been hard at work over the winter. The nasty old fire pits -- low, cinder-block squares without grills -- were gone. In their place stood four new pedestal grills that any mother would love. For the first time we could stand up straight to flip burgers and roast marshmallows with ease. That counts at Leo Carrillo -- located 28 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica at the northern tip of Malibu -- because this is one beach BBQ spot where you can watch your kids playing along the park's 1.5 miles of beach dotted with tide pools and reefs and never leave the coals unattended. Our tradition, however, involves the ballet, an evening performance we view from our picnic table.
We arrive around 4 p.m., just as the beach bums are leaving and the chilly ocean breezes kick up. As we spread out tablecloths, unwrap cheese and take our first sip of wine -- a floral Sauvignon Blanc from Potter Valley in Mendocino (2007 Republic of Sauvignon Blanc) -- a kite surfer unfurls his brightly colored rig. By the time the burgers hit the buns, the sky is full of kites, with more than a dozen surfers racing back and forth through the waves.
As long as everyone remembers to wear at least two layers of fleece -- it's COLD out there --there is nothing more tranquil, or more memorable, than watching these magnificent kites against orange evening sky. The kids are wiping the S'more graham cracker crumbs off their jackets when the surfers pack up their kites around 7 p.m. We've inaugurated the beach season for a new year.
-- Corie Brown
Photo by Chris Fager