25 January 2008

The ocean above me

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to get to the mouth of the creek. Work. Holidays. Meetings. Bill Clinton. Jury duty. All have conspired to keep me off my favorite stretch of sand of late. But with rain on the horizon yet standing off shore for the time being, and knowing I won’t have the opportunity again ‘til sometime next week, I seized the moment, albeit a quick one, for a short saunter in the sand.

It’s warmer on the beach today than it is in the woods. I spent a little time on the Lady Bird Johnson Trail where the wind whistled above while the trees surrounding me remained near motionless. The cold and damp of the higher forest was not doin’ the soul proper though, so I decamped for what I hoped would be warmer climes.

And it was indeed warmer on the beach, with a gentle breeze blowing along the shoreline.

The slope from dry sand to the surf is steeper than it was a few weeks ago. The stronger storms of recent weeks have carved out a high-angle bench along much of the beach. The waves are a respectable eight to ten feet or so, and the tide is moving in. Two or three glistening pebble fields decorate the beach to the north, providing a tinkling treble melody to the booming rhythmic bass of the crashing surf.

The surf is higher and the sky is grayer than when I drove past the beach on the way in this morning. The sea is a dusty jade green, just a shade or two paler than my jeans. Off to the north, beyond the Gold Bluffs as the coast winds up to the mouth of the Klamath, silvery virga streak a distant blue sky just below the steel gray line of the incoming storm system.

The mouth of Redwood Creek remains wide and turbulent as it has been all winter. High waves roll in through the creek’s mouth, cresting past the hundred gulls standing on the south shore. (I wonder why the gulls are always massed on the south side of the creek, and rarely on the north?)

I almost trip over a dead harbor seal. He (she?) has been dead for a while. The soft fur is unmarked and there’s no sign of injury or assault. The critter’s eyes and insides of its head have been eaten or decayed away. (The incoming tide apparently returned this seal to the sea shortly after my wandering. My coworker couldn’t find it on her walk a couple hours later this day.)

I make my way to the very edge of the mouth of the creek, down the tiny peninsula of sand between the Pacific and the estuary. I feel like I’m standing below sea level, which I probably am. From this vantage point, the waves appear to rise and crash above me, spilling downhill and past me into the estuary. It’s a dizzying, discombobulating sensation if you think about it too much, which I tend to do.

I don’t have the chance to linger there as a series of three or four large and closely spaced waves rush into the channel. A few inches of foam-led water pour over the top of the sand berm from the west, while perpendicular running waves ease up the channel’s bank from the north. And from the east, the estuary swells as the incoming saltwater fills its banks. My broad and dry peninsula becomes very narrow, and very wet very quickly forcing me back and up to safe ground.

Two seals appear to stand up in the channel, the upper third of their bodies out of the water, their dark eyes watching my retreat. I’m momentarily jealous of these two characters, and their ability to float effortlessly up and down the swells.

A few more waves send me higher up the beach while sending me the message that real world responsibilities await. I’ve promised a lunch break and an couple hours wandering time out of “the store” to a coworker ‘fore it rains.

Hasta la proxima.


kmk31060 said...

I love reading people writing about the places they love. Now I want to get out to the ocean and hear "a tinkling treble melody to the booming rhythmic bass of the crashing surf."


Ernie Branscomb said...

I used to like to hike out in the hills during a storm, you just reminded me. You cant do that much anymore here in garberville, it is all private property now. All of the little songbirds would head for the brush, while the Ravens obviously were enjoying the storm winds as much as I did.

Carol said...

Nice description of your walk on the beach. I love hiking Lady Bird Johnson grove, too.