42 days after saying goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean and East Coast, I finally hit it: the Pacific Ocean. Apparently for the past eight days I have been about 20 minutes from it, but the map I was constantly looking at for site selection never quite sunk in in that way. I turned haphazardly into the barely marked campground and once again was just awestruck (this has happened so many times on this trip and will continue to occur, I have no doubt). There is just something about the ocean. Its symbol of having crossed the entire continent, of the hope that so many pioneers felt upon just the sight of a seagull, and the memory of all the monuments that lay in between these great ‘ponds’. Then there’s the ocean itself – unlike any river I have waded through or lake I have admired, the ocean at once inspires, calms, and makes one feel so small. I quickly found a tiny spot amongst the caravan of campers and pitched my tent on the fluffy grass. I found a tiny trail down to the waters edge. A bunny the size of my hand darted from beneath a thicket into my path and an incredibly interesting sign on whale watching held my interest for a few moments, but I couldn’t stop staring at the ocean. The almost-white, dead wood piled against the bank, twisting in fantastic knots as it protected the shoreline from erosion. The rocks were smoothly flat and round, with only a hint of variation in size and color – eerily reminiscent of Jack Sparrow’s rescuers in Davy Jones’s locker (I half expected the rocks to pop up and transport me to the coast, but alas I can only mentally live in a fantasy world). The coast stretched until it faded behind cloud-covered mountains while the waves crashed endlessly into the lineless horizon. The scattering of fisherman and campers also enjoying the beach turned into tiny black dots and the rest of the world melted away. I kicked off my fuzzy flip flops and waded into the water. The drop off-point was far off the coast so for a couple dozen feet you can just gently glide through the water, the periodic waves lapping at your feet. I normally abhor the cold and it continues to serve as a source of discomfort for me in the field – but here, I didn’t care. I put on shorts and just kept on walking into the frigid water. Simply marvelous.
As the sun set, I headed back up to camp and promptly fell asleep in my warm sleeping bag. In the field I had suggested that someone should make one of those background outdoor noise things with a ‘rain pelting on tent’ setting – as it is at once both nerve racking and calming. But after sleeping beside the ocean once again, I would understand if this were a preferred background noise. At one point in the middle of the night, I awoke thinking that I was still in the field, interpreting the ocean as raging flood water and the soft, fluffy grass (at least compared to rocks and tree roots) as the water bed I was currently floating on. Instead of immediately waking up and grasping the situation I instinctively reach for my book to make sure it’s ok – not my car keys, phone, camera, flashlight or any other actually useful thing – my Theodore Roosevelt book. Relieved to find it dry, I immediately stuffed it into my sleeping bag for safekeeping and decided that since I was still warm and dry it would be best for me to just go back to sleep and deal with whatever island I hopefully ended up on in the morning. I need to adopt better instincts.