In a life where every single action has meaning, it's hard to ignore the simple metaphor of travel and motion as a symbol of moving through a transition. The artist Sting was sure on to something with the line "every breath you take, every move you make I'll be watching you."
Every step I took on the beach at the Lost Coast was work. The sand was so loose no matter what part of the beach you walked on, wet or dry that each step forward was followed by a slight pull backwards into the earth. I had no idea how far our ultimate destination the lighthouse was so I was forced to live in the eternal present, attempting to move forward while being pulled back with every step.
The hike starts a few miles past a small, perhaps micro town, not even worthy of a population sign, called Petrolia. The road to Petrolia is long and painful with unavoidable and quite hilarious potholes and rough edges cut close to mountain sides, so rough that the earth under the road was actually eroding away from under the chipped asphalt. (The road of life is not always easy.) Cows dotted the side of the road on the rugged countryside, and as we turned around one bend in the road, a large black cow meandered across our path, looking up for a split second as we cautiously approached him. (Things may stand in your way.) As he scedaddled up a grassy slope so we could pass, we exhaled a bit and turned our attention to the newly opened up view of the ocean, which was just peaking out at the bottom of the valley. (Remember to keep things in perspective.)
We got so close to the beach that rays of sun reflected off the surf and burned hope into our eyes. But instead the road turned away and we headed back up the other side of the valley for more roughing about. We passed another sign warning of a "rough road" and we immediately laughed, "compared to what?" Our bikes shook loose in the back of the van so we pulled over to tie them down again. (Persistence pays off.) We then continued up and down the hills and valleys with roads and forests so raw and unkempt we felt like we were their only visitors. How big could this town of Petrolia actually be with roads this rough? (Ends don't always justify the means.)
In addition to the one single restaurant, a fire station, and an unmarked "grocery store", we counted maybe 10 patched together residences dotting the main road of Petrolia, and perhaps a few more hidden in the hillside. The school looked to be of decent size, but it looked to be able to accommodate students of all ages. We continued on for a few miles, crossing a small flooded stream, passing a woman foraging for mushrooms, and made it to the start of the hike. This was definitely some sort of Shangri-la
The day we visited the Lost Coast was right after a second huge storm which dumped epic rainfall and downed trees all over the West Coast. Even the large redwood where tourists could drive their cars through had tipped over. At the base of the hike, remnants of that storm were seeping out of the mountain and making their way to the shore. (Everything returns to a state of balance.) We struggled a bit to try to avoid getting our feet wet, then made it to the drier bluff and walked towards the length of beach that would begin the next part of our journey. (Foreshadowing.)
The sun baked the dark surface of tiny pebbles that would eventually make their way into smooth sand and we immediately warmed up. We moved closer to the water hoping that the sand would be stiffer, but we faced the same toiling and drudgery with heavy steps that made us forget for a moment the beauty of the coastline and surf that surrounded us. (Suffering is optional.) We had no idea how far the light house was, so we continued, conscious of each laborious step, in the eternal present of the day. (Live in the moment.)
And then we saw, peeking around a craggy mountain, the tiny blip of a small white lighthouse in the distance. But directly crossing our path was a quite deep and wide outflow of water pouring from the valley that appeared un-crossable. (Obstacles often seem insurmountable at first.) We trekked towards the base of it looking for a better place to cross, perhaps a fallen log, but the water just got deeper and wider. We knew we had no choice but to walk directly through the most shallow section, which was about one foot of rushing water through slippery rocks. Being the only swimmer, I went first, and when I made it to the other side, John followed. (Don't give up on your goals.)
Our shoes turned into buckets of water with our feet sloshing about in them with every, now heavier, step. We walked up to the bluff, plopped down on a log, emptied them, put our wet socks and shoes back on and continued towards the light house. Off in the distance, we heard a group of sea lions barking from the shore and we walked over to see the large blobs of fat and their chubby little pups lounging about blissfully in the sun. Seeing how relaxed and happy they seemed, I wondered how it was for them the previous day without that luxury of warmth. (Again, suffering is optional.) I guess, because we now live in an Airstream with only a thin veil of shelter separating us from the outdoors, I've been thinking a lot about where the birds and animals might go at night, or where they go when it's stormy.
The light house seemed just big enough for a single diminutive person to man the station. We had our lunch in the sun watching the seals off in the distance and hoped our feet would dry out a bit. We then squeezed down the rusty spiral staircase and returned to the beach, through the deep river once again, re-emptying our shoes, and eventually back to the car. As my dad would often say, the way back is always shorter. (Experience counts.)
I had wanted to hike the Lost Coast ever since I met John and he told me me magical stories of when he had done it as a young 18 year old in his skateboarding days. He would often reminisce about endless coastlines, dodging the unpredictable tides, finding hidden cabins, and looking in on topless girls undressing at various stops along the way. I imagined tall trees with small pockets of coastline peaking through and a land filled with mystery and wonder. On this day, John wore the very same hiking boots he had worn more than 20 years previous, boots he also wore when he and his dad had trekked up and down Mount Si and other grueling hikes when his dad was training for Mount Rainer. But it came with no surprise however, that half way through the hike John informed me that this was the last day he would wear those boots. (Let it go.)