Photo: by Ralph Fain. Wind-swept waves at Crescent City, California.
Winter storms fresh out of the Pacific, wild waves crashing the rocky shoreline, howling winds driving horizontal rains, then 60 degree calm, sunny, balmy days. Where will you find these wildly varied conditions January thru March? In the State of Jefferson of course! Along the Pacific coast of Northern California and Southern Oregon you can discover some of the most varied and beautiful ocean coastline in the United States.
With miles and miles of coastal trails, ancient redwoods, towering rocky cliffs, sandy beaches and world class steelhead rivers there is an adventure awaiting the exploratory soul. You simply observe the weather conditions, choose your activity, prepare accordingly and launch yourself into the day. Don’t let a little rain slow you down. There is a reason they make rain jackets! Use them and get out and about! The only time you really want to stay inside is at the height of a Pacific winter storm. Then it is best to observe the action from your warm, dry car. Heck even a diehard adventurer seeks shelter during the worst storms!
I like to wander the beaches after these storms. Every storm, every tide, every day changes a beach. One day may be a driftwood day with piles and piles of newly delivered driftwood lining the high tide mark. Sometimes the driftwood consists of thousands and thousands of small pieces of wood. Sometimes you find logs, stumps, limbs and even whole trees. Usually the tide and currents bring the driftwood fresh from flooding rivers. Occasionally, the driftwood arrives after spending months or even years in the ocean.
These pieces are worn with character from salt, sand, wind and waves. Another day may be a sand day where the churning ocean has dug the sand from the shallows and flung it high onto the beach covering everything. Or maybe it is a shell day, with thousands and thousands of small shells washed high and dry. Beware the shells in the water for these almost always contain a critter of some kind and neither you nor they will be very happy a few days after you bring them home and your cool shells become a stinky crustacean grave yard!
I wait patiently for the days when the gravel beds are exposed. I like to look for agates within those gravel beds. My buddies (and son) who find this to be less than a manly activity can poke all the fun at me they wish. I don’t give a rat’s keister how much seal guano they throw my way, searching for agates is one of the most relaxing, soul soothing activities I enjoy! I can walk and search for hours with nothing more on my mind than the sound of the surf, the taste of salt spray and the touch of the onshore breeze. My favorite way to look for agates is to walk into the sun with the light shining from behind the stones. The agates glow with the light and jump out from the gravel beds. With the next tide these beds can be covered in sand and may remain so for days, months or years.
I have been on the beaches when dozens of whole, unbroken, full sized sand dollars were scattered along the beach. I have discovered the same whole, unbroken sand dollars the size of a quarter. What occurs in the ocean to cause hundreds of small jelly fish to wash ashore?
Floats from the fishermen’s crab pots can be found washed ashore after large storms. I gather these and bring them home to be used as a reminder of the sea, someday to use as adornments to my pool area. My greatest gift occurred after a large storm when I was walking a Southern Oregon beach. Within a 100 yard stretch I found 3 hand blown glass fishing floats from Japanese fishing boats. How do I know these were Japanese? Along with the floats were jars, bottles and papers all with Japanese writing on them. It is my understanding we will be deluged in the next few years with the flotsam and jetsam from the devastating tsunami which struck Japan. Along with the garbage, I wonder what treasures we will find from their tragedy?
Hit our coastal backroads. Explore, relax and absorb the best of times along our beaches and have great patience awaiting your “Gift from the Sea.” ♦
“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.” -T. S. Eliot