Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
“It’s summer,” Gary said, “time go to the beach!” But he didn’t mean anything simple, like drive to Seaside or Newport or Manzanita. He meant specifically that he wanted to go to the beach at McKinleyville, CA. His daughter and son-in-law met and married while they were studying at Humboldt State 25 years ago. Then they lived in McKinleyville and Gary treasured memories of visiting them on the Fourth of July, when they would drive out onto Clam Beach in Bob’s 4-wheel drive pick-up. There they would build a big bonfire, have a wonderful picnic dinner and watch fireworks after dark. It’s not the Fourth of July and we don’t have a 4-wheel drive pickup. But we could go to Clam Beach.
First we spent the night in Bandon, OR. Gary booked us a room at the Lighthouse B&B–which was lovely. Shirley, our host, told us that she’s now on the second generation of pet seagulls she’s attracted in the 20 years that she’s been running the B&B. She calls one “the Princess”, because she’s always been very particular and her parents spoiled her. We learned that the Princess likes bacon and ham, but does not like sausage. On mornings when Shirley cooks sausage for her guests, the Princess sits on the railing outside the kitchen window and squawks.
The Princess is also very impatient. If Shirley is late in putting breakfast treats out on the railing, the Princess will come down on the deck and scratch furiously at the screen door. We saw where the screen was torn and the paint on the bottom of frame had been scraped off.
The elder generation evidently passed away and The Princess now has a mate of her own, named Stanley. Shirley said that Stanley does most of the work tending to their offspring. He’s so tame that he stayed on the railing when I went out on the deck to take a photo.
As we drove south, slow traffic due to road construction at Nesika Beach was an advantage: we saw a whale blow repeatedly, only about 200 yards from shore.
We picked up a couple of sandwiches at the Subway in Brookings to take out to Chrissey Field State Park.
Enthralled for nearly an hour, we watched pelicans take off from the water, soar, dive, swallow and repeat. Pelicans get airborne somewhat like airplanes do. They seem to run on top of the water, with their wings spread, until “ground effect” lifts them up, then they flap their wings and take off.
They soar in large, lazy circles–until they spot a fish, fold their wings and dive. A couple of seagulls flutter in, hoping to pick up scraps. Almost in the background, several cormorants paddled about and dived, apparently ignoring the pelicans.
Suddenly, a beautiful V-shaped phalanx of pelicans flew up from the south, swirled around the activity off Chrissey Field, then regrouped and proceeded north.
We proceeded south to McKinleyville and checked into the Holiday Inn Express. Gary had brought a mini propane fire starter, some newspaper and two strips of wood. We drove to the Clam Beach parking lot, hoisted bags of bread, cheese, nectarines, wine, water and a beach blanket, then set off. Gary was aware of the differences immediately: we walked over wooden pallets set along the stream-bed like a bridge. When he came there before–in a 4-wheel-drive pickup–they drove through the stream and about a mile down the beach. Our feet still dry, we were on the dunes. Gary joked that it looked like the Sahara. We trudged up and down the dunes until we reached flat beach and saw the ocean. What we didn’t see was wood. It seemed as though the beach had been vacuum-cleaned–except for a few small bits. We collected a few of these, then–finally–spotted the remains of a backlog.