Monstrous!

It’s time for something scary. What follows is terrifying and true. True-ish. It isn’t quite Hallowe’en, but near enough, so I thought I’d share an irrational fear of mine. That could be quite a long list, but no worries, I’ve chosen just the one. It’s not easy to confront a fear, but I think this post could be therapeutic.

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How is this scary, PlaidCamper?

That’s right! I don’t enjoy going in the water! Or to be more precise, I don’t like what comes out of the sea. Now, I’ve watched Jaws many times, and love the movie – but not the sequels, they are scary for all the wrong reasons – yet I don’t have a fear of sharks. I’m not afraid of sea lions, sea otters are beyond cute, whales are wonderful, and seals are just fine too. So what is the problem? It’s the tangling terror and sliminess of seaweed, the near-invisible wobbliness of jellyfish. Sea slugs? Eek! Don’t even get me started on the large staring eyes of a squid. I could go on, and I probably will…

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The stuff of nightmares

For me, a lot of underwater creatures are too alien, and not in a friendly E.T. way. It’s like they’re from another world, clearly because they’re almost from another world. A waterworld. (Kevin Costner’s gills were scary, weren’t they?) I do understand that many people love the other-worldly appearance of sea creatures, but it is a world too far for me. I like to be on the water but not in it.

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A beautiful water world

Mrs. PC knows I have issues with some forms of under-the-sea life. She encouraged me to visit the Ucluelet Aquarium with her. The aquarium is very well regarded by people who know about these sort of things. She went without me the first time (I was very busy that morning, with something very busy and important that needed my undivided attention) to see if it would be ok for me to go there. She came back very impressed, said I’d like it. Friends visited the aquarium (I was busy that morning, too) and came back very impressed, and couldn’t believe I’d not been there – they said I’d like it. I was beginning to suspect a plot, some sort of intervention or shock therapy treatment, but maybe that’s how fear gnaws at you, makes you paranoid. My mother visited the aquarium (yup, busy) and came back very impressed. Apparently, I’d like it.

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The Froth! My movie treatment is scarier than The Fog, and I don’t understand why Hollywood hasn’t called me back

I caved. I visited the aquarium, and was very impressed. A catch and release aquarium full of exotic looking sea monsters – I mean creatures. The young marine biologists working there are notably enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their marine charges. Some of the specimens are housed in touch tanks (no chance) and all are displayed quite brilliantly. On my visit, small children darted here and there (rather like the small fish in some tanks) going from tank to tank, clearly excited about each exhibit. The adults seemed pretty thrilled too, but I was beginning to struggle. I lasted about twenty minutes, and then had to leave, sweaty of palm, light of head, and needing the cool air. It was the octopus that did it, clambering and tentacling (that’s a word, now) menacingly along the glass towards me. Even now, I shudder. Mrs. PC is talking about a seasonal aquarium membership, and I’m lining up a rewards card for the nearby coffee shop.

I love monster movies, and a particular favourite is John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. The special effects were very special for this nerdy young PlaidCamper back in the day. All those spidery legs and oozing intestinal items. Gross and cool when you’re a teen. The thing is, haha, whenever I see twisted piles of bull kelp washed up on the shore, I can’t help but think of The Thing. No, going back to the aquarium won’t help…

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The Thing? Look, if it scared Kurt Russell, then it’s ok to be afraid…

I don’t know where the problem started. Are the issues rooted in childhood? I do remember not enjoying rock-pooling with my grandfather on Sheringham beach when I was very young. Yes, what an ungrateful young PlaidCamper. And I hated taking the short cut through “smelly alley” in Reading, preferring the long way round rather than having to inhale the aromas coming from several fishmongers. Then there was the time I was really, really thirsty at the beach, probably after several hours of rock-pooling fun. I was so thirsty, I gulped a couple of huge – huge! – mouthfuls of clear water from a lovely looking pool (I didn’t know it was salt water until I threw up mere seconds later – experiential learning…) Oh, and I have a memory of one of my brothers eating a tadpole. That could mess with your mind, couldn’t it?

No doubt the complicated causes of my sea terrors are beyond the scope of science and modern medicine to explain. I like to think so! As if I’d exaggerate a slight dislike for the way seaweed can get tangled in your legs. A fear of sea monsters? Me? C’mon! Actually, sea monsters would be cool, because they’re not real, unlike seaweed and squid…I’m not going back to the aquarium.

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Facing my fears

Let’s leave it there, as I’m starting to feel slightly lightheaded. If Hallowe’en is your thing, then do enjoy it. I’ll be cowering indoors – what if one of the local children comes knocking, and they’re dressed as The Little Mermaid?

Thanks for reading, feel free to share an irrational/slightly made up fear for Hallowe’en, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Logging some beach time…

A very brief post this week, looking back at what might have been the last warm days for a while.

As I write this, the rain is heavy and winds are high, reminding me it is well into fall now, and storm season is upon us. Big waves and high tides with large surges, best observed from a distance. Anyway, back to those warmer days…DSCF6139

Yes, those first few early October days were pleasantly bright and sunny, so we made the most of them by visiting Long Beach several times. Easy walking on long stretches of sand, with a fine choice of logs inviting us to sit and watch the surf.DSCF6163

I love being on this beach, with the dunes, then the trees facing the ocean, and the distant mountains to the north. It’s so unlike anywhere else we know and, rain or shine, is always a delight to visit. Each time we stay a little longer than we planned, surprised at how much time has passed when we pick ourselves up to leave. DSCF6155My theory is the wave action is slightly hypnotic, at least on a calmer day, and you end up forgetting to check the time. Soothing sounds, and I’ve been known to drop off, nodding and drooling. That’ll be the old in OldPlaidCamper. Nothing wrong with that, and with beaches this empty, no witnesses!

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“Is that the drooling guy again?”

Changing tack, I wanted to note a sad day we all knew was coming happened earlier this week, with the passing of Gord Downie. Musician, activist, actor, poet, Gord Downie chronicled Canada in words and music.  For the good, the bad, or the bizarre, he loved Canada, and sang from the heart in his quavering, growling, and sometimes slightly fragile voice.DSCF6161

We were lucky enough to catch The Tragically Hip in Calgary on their “We Are the Same” tour. Sometimes, it seemed they were always touring, and there would always be another time if you missed them. You had to see it to believe it watching the band perform – they gave everything. I’ll miss his “requisite strangeness” although he’s left a fine catalogue of work to remember him by, and his mission that Canada should aim high for all Canadians. I’ll leave you this week with one of their songs – and it was so difficult to settle on just one – Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

A big little bird

A little ball of feathers that sure was a fun shore bird to watch. This week, a short post about a tiny bird (one of Mrs. PC’s favourites – we have framed prints and tea towels to prove it!)

We were wandering along Terrace Beach, Ucluelet, enjoying the day, and keeping an eye out for a pair of bald eagles we’d seen earlier that week. Spotting a bald eagle is always a thrill, and if you’re out on the west coast of Vancouver Island, you’ll often see one or more most days if you’re looking. Or even if you’re not.DSCF5855

We sat down on a log – we seem to do a lot of that – to listen to the waves wash up onto the shore, and eat a small snack. We seem to do a lot of that, too. He was well camouflaged on this particular part of the shore, but we eventually spied a little Western Sandpiper – he had probably been there quite a while before we saw him. Well, once he was in our sights, what fun he was to observe.

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Sat on this one
He scurried on busy little legs just ahead of and across each set of waves, foraging for food in the sand and seaweed. Unperturbed by our presence, he worked the shoreline mere metres from where we were sitting, back and forth with admirable intent, stocking up for a lengthy flight to come. Tiny in size, but huge in heart! (I know, an overactive imagination and anthropomorphism, but I can’t help it…)

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Irresistible!
On previous days, we had most often seen these sandpipers in small flocks. I like the flash of white as they speed along the beach, making fast turns and flying in short bursts. For the time we saw this one, he appeared to be a solitary bird. Maybe it needed some down time away from the hustle and bustle of flock life? Maybe we simply missed the other birds or they arrived later? No, he was the lone ‘piper, out on a purposeful mission. There I go again…DSCF5855

We arrived searching for big birds, but left happy (a particularly happy Mrs. PC) having seen this big-hearted and beautiful little bird!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Mud and silver – treasure!

A few weeks ago we wandered onto the edge of some Tofino tidal mudflats, wondering what we might see. Taking care not to disturb habitat, and squelching about, we uncovered riches in the mud – we discovered silver. An incredible trove right under our noses. We hit the mother lode! (I’d best come clean here, although you’ve probably already guessed…)

Faces in the mud?

What wealth was found? Silver? Yes and no. Not the fill your pockets and consider yourself materially wealthy kind of silver. The treasure was finer than solid silver – if your mind works that way.

What a world of wonder!

The early morning mist had cleared, and the tide receded. The sun shone down on the flats and they glittered and sparkled. The mud was dazzling! A silvery sheen and shine, and what was a beautiful sight became even more so. It almost hurt to look at it.

It is so quiet on the inlet side, a marked contrast to the constant surf sounds of the Pacific not so far away. You can hear the movement of water, the mud oozing and shifting. The air is rich, earthy and salty, full of life. The water rises, the water falls, and the landscape changes constantly. It is a fragile environment, one that sustains an astonishing diversity of life. It is Planet Food. Creatures wriggle, burrow, scuttle and buzz in, on, over, and under the mud.

Look down, and it is delicate and intricate immediately under your feet. Look up, and it is vast and seemingly unending as you stare into the distance. What a place to be!

The silver disappeared as the sun moved through the sky, changing angle. It became less silver, but no less of a treasure. Two children were exploring the flats, perfectly immersed in their tasks and surroundings, unplugged yet completely connected. Imagine seeing such finery and it isn’t artificial, superficial, gaudy or brash. A huge treasure you can’t (or shouldn’t) keep and covet, or own in an acquisitive way. It isn’t for that.

Still treasure

Natural treasures large and small are all over the planet and never that far away for most of us. They have a value and importance beyond financial numbers. They aren’t possessions, but responsibility for them belongs to all of us. Imagine if we changed our thinking about what value means, what wealth means. Is it possible we could already be rich, living on this giant ball of amazing value? It’s there if you choose to see it.

Treasure hunters at play – can you see them?

Treasure beyond measure! I know, I know – there are harsh economic and political realities for billions on the planet – but allow me some out of touch tree-hugger wishful thinking. It doesn’t have to be this way. Must’ve inhaled something leaking from that mud…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Salish grey

It hasn’t been all sunshine out here on the west coast! A brief post this week, and not a weather report, but a few images taken on less sunny afternoons on the shores of the Salish Sea.

DSCN7488Not always sunny, yet always pleasantly warm, with an occasional bout of very light rainfall. (I thought this wasn’t going to be a weather report?) The rain didn’t stop our hikes down to the shore, and the grey skies weren’t uniformly grey. Far from monotonous, the skies were reflected in calm waters creating watery seascapes that sometimes seemed to glow. Can grey glow? You decide…

DSCF5370 - Version 2Faint mists, shining skies, twisted trees, rocky bluffs overlooking crescents of sand and scattered logs – it was wonderful to walk through.  Across the water, away towards Washington, there were glimpses of distant mountains behind far clouds.

DSCF5356 - Version 2Memorable muted afternoons to enjoy – muted yet colourful, and the joy of the Pacific North West even when the sun is hidden.

DSCN7478Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!DSCF5363 - Version 2

Tsawout Trails

A short piece about trails a short hike away from the Salt Spring cabin. We had to get out hiking before we forgot how, and staying near Tsawout Band lands meant we had some great trails to explore.

At the trailhead is a beautiful welcome and interpretive sign, inviting visitors to enjoy the land past the notice. If you follow this link, 13 Moon Calendar Sign, you’ll see a digital copy of the artwork and words – I have to say, the message is simple and clear, and more necessary than ever…

DSCF5328Our first afternoon in the woods was hot and humid, but under the canopy oh so green and lush. The trail was simple enough to pick out, sometimes rocky underfoot, sometimes grassy, and sometimes earthy, with changes in the terrain every few metres. Exposed slopes and clearings were bug free with a slight sea breeze. In these open areas, golden grass was almost like straw in the strong sun.IMG_20170720_174227Into the trees and away from the bluffs overlooking the sea, it was not as hot, the air was still and rather humid, with the whine of an occasional mosquito. I wasn’t bitten, so Mrs. PC was spared the whine of an old PlaidCamper.

IMG_20170722_164241Relative to steepness of slope, soil coverage and the presence of large rock outcrops, the trees were a mix of short and gnarled to tall and gnarled, growing in tight groups with dense undergrowth, or further apart with little brush beneath. Pacific Madrones, Garry Oaks, and Western Red Cedars – a wonderfully varied yet cohesive green, grey, rusty and yellow landscape to wander through (yup, I’ve been reading my tree books!)DSCF5333The Tsawout trails got us up and out in a series of wonderful hiking afternoons. Tramping through the woods, coming across little coves, stopping to admire views, tree shapes, and textures, it was a special place, and we had a very happy time exploring it.DSCF5339Salt Spring Island is a splendid location to be on holiday! One (or two?) more Salt Spring posts in the next week or so, and then we’ll have to leave, sniff.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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Hard to leave…

Two loons and a canoe

Sounds like the start of a Canadian shaggy dog story. Don’t worry, I’m aiming lower and it’s a short post…

Back to our recent Yoho trip. On Sunday, learning from our late start the previous day, we headed to Emerald Lake bright and early to enjoy a fine location in relative quiet.Thoroughly prepared, we brought our very important second cup of coffee with us, parked in a near empty lot, and found a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the almost silence. Emerald Lake was looking lovely as always, and being early paid off. The canoe outfitters had us on the water two minutes after checking in, and away we went. No wind, calm water, and warm sunshine made for a very pleasant paddle.The outfitters mentioned we might spot a pair of loons somewhere out on the lake, so we kept our eyes peeled. Sure enough, they were bobbing and splashing right in the middle. We maintained our distance,  slow floating past, and I tried to take a shot or two. What a fine sight, with their markings, the mountain reflections, and broken blue-green water creating a colourful scene.What a way to pass the time of day, paddling and floating on an emerald lake surrounded by towering mountains. As we (reluctantly) paddled back in, the store was getting busy, and several canoes headed out as we got back, with many more punters lining up almost out of the store door. If we’d just arrived at that time, I wouldn’t have bothered. I’m a picky paddling PlaidCamper that way – just a teensy bit selfish about sharing. Not attractive, I know…I can’t imagine how busy some of the mountain national parks are going to be come summer and the peak of the Canada 150 celebrations. We’ll likely wait until late summer or early fall before heading out for a stay.

Anyway, two loons and a canoe made a for a delightful May morning!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Rare sighting of some old loon…

Blue and green

And many spring shades in between…

Oh, a more than welcome long weekend, and a chance to slip from the city and head for the hills. Or mountains, once past the foothills. Yoho was calling, a cabin was booked, and report cards will get written. Eventually.

The week before, the forecast was predicting a snow-rain mix and single digit temperatures, so we packed accordingly. Mountain weather is immune or exempt from the dark arts of weather forecasting. Snow-rain mix? That’ll be blue skies, fluffy clouds and temperatures into the teens. Haha, and ok, this made my weekend, already a long one, and now with better than expected outdoor weather. I know, a grown man, and still easily pleased or displeased by the weather…I do love the reliably unreliable mountains!

As we were about to set off towards the Kicking Horse and a short hike, we noticed a hummingbird had settled on a small bush outside the cabin. No way it’ll stay there while I reach for my camera in the backpack I thought to myself, reaching into the backpack for my camera. Well, it did, and the photograph posted is about the best I’ll ever get. What a colourful character! Made my morning even better, having been buzzed by several hummingbirds over morning coffee earlier. Caffeine buzz and hummingbird buzz, a pretty good start to the day.

To the Kicking Horse! Lots of cars, RVs, and a tour bus in the parking lot didn’t bode well. We did the usual, and went in the opposite direction, heading down the trail and wondering as we wandered about bear activity, thinking they’d be far from the noisy crowds. The trail grew quiet as we walked away, and the sun was pleasantly warm on our happy little faces. Fresh air, blue skies, dark evergreens, and bright deciduous spring greens all worked their soothing magic as we strolled along. A few steps off the main trail onto a side trail afforded us slightly precarious but lovely views of the Kicking Horse galloping and tumbling down the valley. Sounds, scents, and sights to delight.

Back on the main trail, we continued descending, still wondering about bear activity. I always find, when in bear country, the further you go the more every large boulder or dark shadow in the trees looks like a bear. It’s all in my head. As the trail snaked down and around a corner in front of us, I spotted another bear like shadow. Nope, it wasn’t moving, carry on. A few steps forward, and a little closer, and the shadow was moving, and so were the two smaller shadows my tired old eyes had missed. A mama bear and two cubs! They’d seen and heard us, likely way before I finally saw them, and as we stood still, they scampered across the trail and up the bank out of sight. What a thrill! What a grip Mrs PlaidCamper had on my arm. She didn’t see the bears – they were quick – but she dragged me away, quite rightly, before my curiosity outweighed my common sense, and we headed back the way we came.

We passed through the crowded parking lot at the trailhead and attempted to wander away from the throngs gathered at the natural land bridge. It is a pretty spot, but best enjoyed early or late, and we were neither. I took a few photographs of the rushing river as we stopped to enjoy the views, and it was all very pleasant, but too busy. We should have arrived far sooner. Never mind – there’s always another day!

We returned to the cabin happy enough, and enjoyed the chance to sit in the warm sun and reflect on our brief bear encounter and the blue green mountain spring.

Thanks for reading, I always appreciate you taking the time, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

I like this because it has a bit of everything – blue water, whitewater, sand, rocks, trees and a sense of depth.

Signs of spring (and a little rant)

The rant comes at the end. It’s not much of a rant, but it is a bit incoherent, so there’s that. Enjoy it if you get down to that part.

We’ve been looking for signs of spring this side of the Rockies. So far, not too much success. There are one or two hints of green beginning to appear on trees and shrubs, a teasing glimpse of what’s to happen (soon, please!)

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Tuesday morning walk to work

My morning walk to work on Monday was through sleety rain, and that wasn’t much fun. It was more fun than the Tuesday morning walk through wet snow. Snow that fell on and off throughout the day. It settled for a few hours, but I guess solace could be found in that it mostly melted away by early evening. That thaw, the suggestion of green, and a rising river level is about it for spring to date. Yes, the daytime temperatures are above freezing, but not significantly so.

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“Spring” as seen from the train, Tuesday morning.

What’s with the complaining PlaidCamper? Don’t you like winter? Yes, but not when May is here on Monday, and not after our recent west coast trips – we were (are?) spoiled by those warmer, sometimes wetter, but oh so colourful and verdant days…

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Vancouver, six days earlier…(I spy green)

A few days in Vancouver last week, at a conference and “working” hard on the coast. The theme was nature and outdoor education. I had to smile at us all shut in a windowless, air conditioned hotel events room, earnestly discussing the importance of being outdoors in green spaces, and the benefits of connecting to nature. To be fair, many of the sessions were outside and hands on. Just as well, because they weren’t likely to contain all those tree huggers in a large room with Stanley Park only a short walk away.

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Hugged this one

After a morning of fine speeches, impassioned presentations, and information overload, we went on a guided walk through Stanley Park, looking for trees to hug.

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I was working, honest

Vancouver has a lovely setting, on the water, and surrounded by forests and coastal mountains. Stanley Park is an urban jewel, with pockets that feel wild in between more traditional city park patches. Our guide pointed out many restoration projects centred on the Lost Lagoon, and the balance park officials are trying to achieve between urban dwellers and wild animal inhabitants. Not an easy task, particularly because there’s no overall consensus as to what restoration really means. Restored to pre-nineteenth century habitat? Or even earlier, to before European contact? And how to restore a wilderness that is never in stasis anyway…

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Get me, I live in Stanley Park

It was a wonderful walk, and an example of how a city can aim to be a greener and more pleasant place through thoughtful planning – even if there are no simple solutions. Given that humans are more likely than ever to find themselves living in cities (regardless of whether that is a first choice for many of us) it seems sensible to expect nature to be included as an essential part of urban planning.

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Pleasing

Common sense suggests that we are happier in pleasing and greener environments, and research presented at the conference supported the idea that children (and everyone else?) are more successful in their learning and in themselves when they have ready access to green spaces for play and learning. Simple enough – pleasant environments promote positive physical and mental health. Have we really forgotten that so easily and in a few generations? Are new roads, malls and parking lots more important than play spaces and green places for city dwellers? Dollars before deeper contentment? What’s the real and necessary investment here?DSCF4816

Oh, those recent announcements – regarding the future status of protected wilderness spaces south of the border – have me wondering if (so called) leaders can honestly say they care about or are planning for the longer term health of the planet, or the health of future citizens. I don’t know, is extract, extract, extract, and burn, burn, burn, really the best path forward? Can we talk about a healthy society and a vibrant economy when the air is unbreathable and water is undrinkable? Should we drink the bad water through a straw made from dollar bills and call ourselves wealthy and wise?

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Calming

I think I’d best stop now, take a deep breath (while we still can) and wish you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll be out looking for signs of spring and calming myself down. I know, it wasn’t much of a rant, but I feel better for it…

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Also calming (a very good west coast pale ale – had a second pint, just to be sure…)

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Washed up

Like an old PlaidCamper feeling his age? Maybe not, although the aches and pains I’ve been enduring in recent months…I could go on about that, but I won’t. Not this week, anyway! A few final photographs in what has turned into a short and unplanned series about our recent Vancouver Island trip. This time, it’s centred around a collection of storm tossed logs we rested by, or on, when we were hiking Long Beach. You’ll see these wooden wonders strewn all along the coast, fringing the beach and in front of the forest.

On the fringe

They are quite huge when you get up close. I can barely roll one of the smaller ones (why did I even try, given my aches and pains? Oops, I forgot – not going there!) so it’s something to imagine the power of the ocean when you see large logs seemingly casually flung up on rocks, or piled atop each other.

An invitation to your inner child, it’s hard to resist scrambling and climbing up them, so I didn’t (resist) and the years fell away and I didn’t fall off. Ship’s spars, broad beams, and possibly logging lumber (?), all evidence of natural forces and cycles greater than our human schemes, and all washed up on the shore for us to ponder and beetle over. PlaidCamper playtime…

A strange figure?

It may be the inner child imaginings, but it didn’t take much to think some of the shapes could be sea monsters or beasts from a different time. An overactive imagination, or a lack of caffeine?

Prehistoric?

Smoothed by the seas, the texture is pleasing, and warmed by the sun, the scent is resiny, slightly oily and medicinal – pleasant enough as we sat and surveyed the beach, the forest, and the surf. An enjoyable pause in our hike, a chance to embrace the elemental and feel alive – and a little less washed up!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!