Words cannot adequately express how beautiful this day was! It will be one of my top vacation highlights from this summer.
We started out at our affectionately-dubbed “Rocky Beach” (it some sort of pirate hideout back in the day, which is very easy to imagine when you’re sitting here watching the waves and admiring the cliffs that shelter three sides of this little cove). We lazed away a couple of hours sorting through the fascinating rocks underneath our feet. I’ve always said it’s a great beach to work on your tan because there’s no sand to blow in your eyes, and you can soak up the rays while entertaining yourself with the treasure trove of miniscule shells and seaglass just inches from your face!
After dragging ourselves away from the soothing rocks, we started for home. We didn’t make it very far. Just a few miles up the road we made a detour to a remote parking lot overlooking the ocean. As we pulled in, I saw a burst of water far out in the ocean. I’d never seen it before, but I knew it could only be one thing. I saw another, and another as I drove slowly down the winding road. “WHALES!” I gasped, turning into the parking lot. Grandma quickly scanned the horizon, “Yes! You’re right! I see them too!” Somehow I managed to pull into a parking space while my eyes were still glued to the blue expanse beneath us. “Quick, you guys! Unbuckle and get out!” I rushed the kids out of the van so they could watch for water spouts too.
I’ve always thought it must be an awesome thing to see a whale. Unfortunately, I have a boat-phobia that runs pretty deep, so I haven’t yet gathered the guts to go on a whale-watching boat tour out into the great, deep ocean. Watching whale spouts from our perch on a high sand cliff was more than I’ve ever hoped to see. From that vantage point, as we were looking far down some impressively high dunes, it struck me just how CLOSE the whales were. You don’t expect such a massive sea creature to be that close to shore. But that’s how deep the water is just off the coast, and that’s how comfortable the animals are in their native environment, still mostly-untouched by humans. They don’t seem bothered by the crazy rush of civilization happening only a mile or two away. They keep to their migratory path just like their parents and grandwhales and great-grandwhales…
We gathered a few “supplies” from the van (can’t live without banana chips and almonds, you know!) and began a leisurely descent down the dunes to the beach.
There was a hard-packed path most of the way that devolved into dry sand for the last couple hundred feet. Bug and I stopped to preserve the moment before we basically ran and slid and hopped down the steep dune to the beach below.
I will never tire of walking around a bend and catching that first full view of the ocean. It gives me pseudo-chills every time! EVERY. TIME. There is something inside me that wants to laugh and cry and sing and be speechless all at once.
In all my years of coming here, I had yet to visit this beach. I’d heard stories of my husband “sledding” down these dunes as a kid, and I’ve seen them from our favorite sandy strip several miles away, but I’d never set foot on this strand of beach. It truly took my breath away. I don’t know if it was the pink rays of the early evening sun floating through the soft spray from the waves, or the golden dunes that rose protectively behind the expanse of open beach… It was probably a combination of all of it. Because of the trek to get to it, this ethereal beach is unknown to the tourist crowd and was deserted today save for the occasional local beach bum reading a book or gathering shells. For the most part, it was untouched, preserved in a magically wild state.
I think it felt a bit too wild for my girls who took it upon themselves to leave a small mark of humanity in the sand.
We started walking. Our little detour wasn’t just to watch the waves and absorb the beauty, although I could have been content to sit here all day and do just that! We were actually on a mission. That mission consisted of walking down this open expanse of pure beach. We walked and walked. It’s at least a mile from this point to where the dunes begin to stretch into the sea.
We walked and walked most of that mile. We had heard a story of something washing up on that beach and were determined to find it. Never mind the fact that the sun was getting lower and there was no dinner whatsoever waiting in the crock pot at home! It felt like a day to let all of that slide under the rug while we lived in the moment of this adventure.
Grandma and the three older kids moved quickly down the beach, my oldest leaving creative marks in the sand for Bitty Girl and I to follow. We went from mark to mark (it’s kind of amusing to see what symbols a 9-year-old super-hero-connoisseur thinks to leave behind… Lots of arrows and random letters and odd markings ; ) Bitty’s little legs finally started to move slower, and my camera battery was dwindling, so I scooped her up and concentrated on catching up. Now, remember how I said I can only dream of seeing whales due to that boataphobia? It seems one does not always have to board a board to see a whale in the wild…
Yes! You are really seeing what you think you’re seeing! Dead whale. On the beach. Gorgeous, no? OK, so maybe it wasn’t the prettiest thing we’ve seen on this vacation, and it certainly wasn’t the most aromatic! Be grateful cameras can’t capture smell for all time to come! It really was horrendous if you stood on the wrong side of the massive carcass. My kids learned a new word for the day: reek!
Also of important note: this whale has been on the beach for almost two months but was still mostly undecayed on the outside (no, we didn’t try to see what the insides looked like! If it hadn’t reeked so badly…). It just shows what salt spray and super-thick skin can do for you! I made my poor sweet girl stand as close to it as I could convince her to go so I could get a perspective shot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince her to stand on top of it with a stick as if she’d conquered the beast herself… wouldn’t that have made for a cool picture, though?! There was a perfect stick lying right there too! Maybe someone else had already tried that. If you look closely enough, you can even see barnacles attached to the whale just behind my girl’s right elbow…
And that is our whale of a tale for the day! …Sorry… you can’t NOT be stupidly-cliche when you have a whale’s tail smack dab in front of you! ; )
Glad to leave the stench of the whale, we began the walk back up the beach. By this time the sun was lower, the ocean spray was a little thicker, the waves crashing bigger, and all the birds were scrambling for their last chance at sand crab for dinner. We realized we were hungry too and needed to speed up our trek to the van! Grandma set Bitty on her shoulders and marched steadily while the rest of us took turns sprinting, marching, and even running backwards until we were too tired to do anything but walk. Still, I felt invigorated by the setting sun, the salty air and the pounding waves. There was a magnificent energy here that didn’t exist on the other beaches we frequented, and I felt like a privileged guest intruding upon a sacred wilderness.
Maybe we’ll come back next year to see what is left of the whale… In the meantime, I leave the beach to the care of the surfers who show up every evening at sunset to ride the waves and become part of this ocean wilderness.