We were standing at the edge of America, grateful to have reached the Lost Coast at last.
Waves were pounding the rocky shore with such ferocity, it seemed the black sand below was melting away.
This is what poets mean when they write of “stark beauty.” Even the colors of sunset seemed strained, as the air cooled and the Pacific swelled into monochromatic waves.
We awoke the next morning to brilliant sunshine and a snap in the air that signaled winter.
“Snow is coming,” our young host cautioned. “Don’t be fooled by this sunshine. There’s a big weather front moving in.”
We had been marveling at all the flowers still blooming in edge-of-continent gardens, and admiring the lush forest protected along miles and miles of northern California coastline.
The morning sun was warm enough to ditch our made-in-Canada fleeces, and have coffee on a deck overlooking the ocean. Life does not get better than this.
Our host explained she was from southern California and didn’t appreciate the change in seasons at all. She was leaving soon for Orange County, grateful for the escape.
“I don’t do weather,” she said.
Behind us, a huge blanket of heavy clouds was descending from the King Range mountains, blotting out the sun, and soon, everything in sight.
We prepared for the long drive home, keenly grateful to have had one day in the sun by the ocean, in late October, with the scent of drying grass and evergreens mixing with the Pacific saltiness. We drove over the ridges, under heavy clouds, and descended into sun-filled valleys again.
The redwood forest — with centuries-old trees and a floor thickly carpeted in long, red needles — was so dense in parts, it blocked out the sun along the only road leading back to the cities. We were marveling at this richness when traffic stopped suddenly on the two-lane road.
We waited and waited, and made Hallowe’en-type jokes about being stuck in our car in the wilderness, far from cellphone coverage or even civilization. The redwoods were so tall, we couldn’t see the treetops.
This Lost Coast gives new meaning to the word isolation, especially for urban visitors.
It had rained in the forest overnight, while we were cozy and dry and sleeping with windows open to hear the waves.
Heavy rain uproots ancient trees easily in this loose, dry soil, and a redwood had toppled across the road, far in front of the long line of pickup trucks and SUVS and 4x4s ahead of us. (See a pattern here? There weren’t many small cars like ours on the road.)
Stuck in a small car in the wilderness? Make Hallowe’en jokes
The unmistakable sound of chain saws — more Hallowe’en jokes — and the fragrance of fresh-cut wood relieved our long wait. At least we had no schedule to keep, no reason to be frantic about being stuck in the forest without any survival gear except almonds and Luna bars and somewhere, a picnic blanket. At least we had water …
The road was cleared at last, and the day warmed quickly once the forest thinned and we reached deciduous forest, burning scarlet and gold in the fall sun. After years in California’s no-seasons belt, we’re grateful to see autumn leaves again. It’s a blessing that never gets old.
Soon, we were headed north on Hwy. 101 again, passing cattle farms, then windswept beaches. We saw dozens of Roosevelt elk lazing by the woods, and a newborn lamb nuzzling her mother in a little pasture near Orick.
Such an ever-changing landscape here! The redwood forest became thick again, and rain soon pelted the windshield. After an exceptionally dry summer, we were grateful for it, thinking of all the farmers who have needed this rain for months.
Then we had an east coast flashback as the weather changed. Deep in the redwoods, we encountered the stuff that we usually see only on mountains here.
We’re still using the southern California girl’s “I don’t do weather” remark — with fondness. Indeed, on this coast, the weather “does” us.