On Sunday, after we went into town for a wi-fi connection and a couple of errands (and coffee for Dennis and ice cream for both of us at Cowlicks), we drove north along Highway 1 towards Westport and Rockport, looking for a beach where we could picnic. Because of road construction and other people looking for same, we drove nearly all the way to Rockport before turning around and coming back to our camp at Cleone. But on the way back south, along this drive that is so familiar, we saw something I’ve never seen before.
I’m sure this rock is named on a map somewhere, but I don’t have one, so I’ll just call it Arch Rock. That could even be its name. Probably the reason I’ve never seen it before is that you can only see it from the southbound lane on Highway 1, and if you’re not looking out at the ocean at just the right spot, you will miss it. Considering the fact that over the many years we drove this way from Klamath to Fort Bragg we were nearly always on this coastline stretch in the dark, it’s not that surprising that I missed Arch Rock before. But on this day, there it was, and there’s a convenient spot to pull off the road, just large enough for a couple of cars or trucks, so we did. Here are the pictures I took of this magnificent seascape feature. Wouldn’t it be cool to go through the arch in a boat? Probably very dangerous, but still cool!
On the way back to camp, I took these pictures of wild irises out the truck window while stopped for road construction.
We ended up eating a late lunch in camp and then went down to the Tenmile Beach access, which is just a mile or so from camp. I wandered over to the rocks to sit and contemplate the surf (it was very rough the whole time we were there—more about that later). I took a video which I can’t post on the blog but will post to the Facebook page. My camera doesn’t take great videos, but I can’t resist trying to capture the sound of the surf so that I can revisit it whenever that longing takes me. Having grown up with the sound of the sea as an undertone in my daily life, like a great mother heartbeat inside the womb of the world, I miss it in a bone-deep, fundamental way. Just as a baby is soothed by the sound of her mother’s heartbeat, both in the womb and after birth, so I am soothed and relaxed by the sound of the ocean.
On our way back up the beach to the truck, Dennis remarked, “It sure stinks down here!” I said I hadn’t smelled anything over there alone in the rocks, but I could smell it as we walked up through the tunnel and into the parking lot. “It smells like something dead,” he said. Just as we reached the parking lot, a truck towing a flatbed trailer drove along the bike/walking path and through the access gate. It was loaded with what looked like wet wood, at first, until we got closer. Then we could see (and smell) that the trailer was carrying the dismembered carcass of a sea mammal. I thought it was a whale at first, but it seemed too small. I walked around, taking pictures and video and holding my breath as much as possible, and talked to the man driving the truck. He told me that the carcass was that of a killer whale who had become tangled in some crab pot rigging and had presumably drowned, then washed up on the beach about 300 yards south of where we were. It’s possible that it died from some other cause and became tangled in the rigging after it died, so biologists would take samples and test them to find out the cause of death. This was a 26-foot orca, a young male. I asked what they were going to do with it after sampling and testing, and the man said they were going to clean the flesh off the carcass and rearticulate the bones for display at the interpretive center at the new Noyo Headlands Park on the old mill site at Glass Beach. He said they also have a blue whale skeleton which will be displayed there.
I was wishing I could have seen the killer whale before it was dis-articulated, but oh my, what a stench! Still, it was fascinating to see the joints and vertebrae. I have a video of it that I’ll post on the Facebook page.
After that, we headed back to the beach at MacKerricher State Park, just a mile or so away and on the south side of Cleone. This is my favorite beach in Fort Bragg (besides Glass Beach) because of the way the waves come in on the beach and polish the little beach pebbles to a high gloss, almost as if they’d come from a rock tumbler. The wave action there pounds the rocks into small pieces and then polishes them with the sand the waves have already made.
This beach has the most beautifully-colored and glittering, polished sand of any beach I’ve ever seen. But you have to get down on your hands and knees and really look at it, and this is what I love to do, picking through the sand for pretty pebbles while the waves crash in the background. Dennis walked up around the boardwalk on the point for some pictures while I picked pebbles. I’m thinking jewelry-making again. Dennis took this picture of me from the point. I’m the little dark blob in the middle of the photo!
This is a panorama Dennis took at MacKerricher on Saturday.
Dennis took the rest of these pictures on the point. He took a lot of wave pics. I chose my favorite, along with a picture of some cormorants and sea lions.
And then it was time to head back to camp for dinner and to start packing up. It’s always hard to leave Fort Bragg, but the weather cooperated by turning cooler and very foggy. It’s much more of a wrench to leave when the sun is shining on that ocean!
I have one more story to tell about our trip to Fort Bragg, and I leave the best for last and out of order because I don’t have any pictures for it. As I said earlier, the ocean was really rough while we were there, so rough Dennis couldn’t dive in the open ocean or even in any of the more protected coves for abalone. Indeed, we found out that just before we arrived, four divers had drowned in rough water—a tragedy that could and should have been averted with the application of some common sense. It was just too rough to dive. Dennis has dived in some rough spots in bad conditions in years past, but he’s developed more sense with age and maturity, or maybe just a finer sense of mortality. At any rate, he decided to dive in Noyo Harbor, which is one of the most protected spots where you can find abalone if you know where to look. It’s not a popular place to dive because it requires a rather long walk in an uncomfortably tight wet suit, packing a dive tube, weight belt, and other accoutrements, but when he’s come all that way to dive for ab, he’s willing to make the walk. Our friend, Louie, went with him that first morning on Saturday.
Dennis left his underwater camera on the shore with Louie (WHAT!? HUH!?), entered the water, and snorkeled out a little way. There was a rock a couple of hundred yards out with a sea lion on it. He avoided the rock because the sea lions are pupping now, and it’s important to give them a very wide berth. He surfaced not far from shore, where it was still shallow enough to stand up, to take his bearings. While he was standing and looking around, a baby sea lion swam up to him. It was only about two feet long, so it must have been very young. He said it was bawling, “mama, mama,” as it approached him. (I’ve noticed over the years that many baby mammals make a sound that approximates “mama.” Calves, lambs, and goat kids all make a sound like “mama.” I’ve heard it from baby bears, too.) The baby sea lion came right up to him, evidently thinking that thing in the black wetsuit was mama. (This is another danger in diving—those wetsuits look like sea lions to sharks, too.)
Dennis had to push the baby sea lion away repeatedly. He really wanted to pick it up and hold it, because the man has a tough exterior but heart like a marshmallow when it comes to baby animals, but he didn’t want to do anything that would cause its real mother to reject it if she was still alive. Finally, the little thing swam away, still crying for mama, and he dove. He found an ab, popped it off, and surfaced some distance away from his tube. There was the baby sea lion, nosing his dive tube and bleating for mama. He shooed it away and stowed his ab. Further out toward the mouth of the harbor, he noticed an adult sea lion with a larger young one. They swam off, and the baby followed them, still crying for mama.
And we have no pictures! Aaarrgh! Well, at least we have the story. We told the grandkids about it last night, and I have a feeling it’s a story they’ll tell their kids one day, about the time their grandpa was mistaken for a mama sea lion.