Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cape Kiwanda

From the tidepools near the dory landing we clambered up the soft eroding stone until we reached the ridge above the steep sandy slope, and proceeded towards the line of dark trees and the cape's jagged meeting with the sea. Signs warned of risk, and cautioned to travel at our own judgment, so I let Mike's judgment go first, followed by Derek's, and finally my own as expedition recorder. We walked under a uniform gray sky, darker gray only down at the coast’s horizon where clouds collided against the land and piled up against the timbered hills. We followed no continuous trail, loping instead across smooth stone, tracing gullies and pitted windswept grooves towards land's end, crossing through copses of wind-shaped pines and past flowers pink and purple and white against the warm orange sandstone. Our path meandered down saddles and over barren crests and past strange wind-sculpted pillars capped with boulders and we wandered as far as we could until we could go no further towards the sea. Derek arrived there first, a solitary figure at the edge of the world, perched miniscule against the slate gray ocean heaving under an arching sky, enchanted and drawn - as were we all - by that immense and powerful force. Cliffs fell precipitously to the sea and the sea rose up in spray and froth to meet the land and reap its rocky bounty. Pelicans and terns wheeled overhead, cormorants skimmed the waves, and the ocean roared against the cliffs, pouring up deep inlets and splashing through caves and channels against barnacles and slime and wet stone painted abstractedly in green seaweed and purple mussel-shell and white sea-salt. We sat in a line, backs to the coast-town snuggled against the sand and spit and hummocked tree-clad slopes, and drank beers brewed locally in vats and casks and copper drums, the product of constant rain and gale, the storm-scented sea-side decay and the warm loamy pine-soil, the slow pace of life when warm light and warm blankets and warm bodies are all the insulation a person has against the coming day. We sat and drank our beers, we watched ten pelicans launch from a rocky island and pass in formation overhead, we cupped our hands around our cigarettes and we sent our thoughts and our smoke sea-ward with the wind, until our beer and our smoke and our thoughts were equally drained and trained on the trail leading back to the land. A dog then bounded over the stone, stopped and sniffed the air eagerly, scouting the way for a party of four crossing the cape distant. We packed our gear, and stood and turned to go, and if I left anything behind there I don’t know what it was, and I don’t miss it.

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