Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Footprints in the Sand

We traveled two miles on Sunday; it was a clear, breezy day under an unbelievably blue sky. The going was a little rough for two reasons: my pack and the sand.

If you've never walked with a backpack before - and I'm not talking about the cute little pack you wore in high school or the slightly larger one you tore the hell out of in college, imagine giving a child a piggy-back ride for a full day, carrying him from six to eight miles. And he doesn't let go.

A walk up the beach is simple; a walk loaded down with clothes, food, shelter, water filters, sleeping bag and other assorted stuff becomes complicated. You just don't move as fast; it also changes your center of balance a little, so you need to be careful.

The sand was another story altogether. Normally, a nice walk along the beach is pleasant, but for traction, the sand is a real bitch. It's hard to get a solid foothold, so it's hard to move along at any real rate of speed.

There were also patches of small round rocks - billions of them, slowly being ground into sand. They weren't much easier to walk on, but when the waves hit them, you could hear the water hissing through the stones as it returned to the ocean.

So two miles might not seem like much, but it was plenty on the first day. Plus we would have had to climb over a headland to make any distance.

Another note about the Pacific Coast -- you're at the mercy of the tides. You MUST time your hikes so that you can pass headlands while the tide is out, or you're going to be finding a small overhang to spend the night on - because a six-foot tide crashing into the rocks all around you will kill you.

That's how we ended in a secluded spot about 100 feet off the beach. Early in the evening, a gentle breeze kept the bugs away, and thanks to the piled logs and high grass in front of the campsite, passers-by didn't know we were there.

At night, the major sound was the waves hitting the coast.

Perhaps it was exhaustion - we'd only managed about five hours of sleep the night before, and it had been a long day, but this was a perfect campsite and a great way to end the first day on the trail.

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