My feet bled lightly inside damp, ill-fitting boots. Skin was rotting. With two weeks of hikes, the blisters couldn’t heal.
The air was cold, the forest concealing. An owl hooted softly from within. My legs were chafed by denim jeans, rain-soaked and mud-caked, my wet fullsuit and surfboard heavy underarm, straining the socket of my right shoulder. Backpack was a load of lead. The large road-rash scab on my left arm had worn off, its naked wound stuck to the inside of my sweatshirt. The trail was vague and overgrown, and after surfing all day, its length back to the campground—five miles—was painfully long.
Dusk killed the wan April light that at dawn had revealed mossy, centuries-old trunks of Sitka spruce. They were 200 feet tall. Beyond, down the hill and through the trees, the ocean was a dull gray, airbrushed with white spindrift from the swells bending and breaking into the cape at Bearpaw Gulch, a remote, rocky cove that turned onshore wind to off. The wave itself was poor, a sectiony, boily left-hander that broke over a shallow reef of sharp stones and spiny purple urchins. Dangerous snags of driftwood floated through the lineup. Yet in the moaning southwesterlies, Bearpaw lay sheltered.
Far from roads, the wave’s access came from the hidden path over the spine of a bluff that reached into the sea with an impassable headland, one of the coast’s many. The trail was difficult to follow; ferny, leafy, mossy, dimmed with the earthen murk of old-growth forest, a route taken more by elk than by humans, scented with sap, soundtracked with the squawk of gulls and bark of sea lions, the roar of the surf pounding the black-sand beaches below.
In terms of eternity, there was nothing else, no world outside. Few places could rival the forest’s serenity. With its dirt and salt, the coast streamed idyll despite its austerity, a corner of Earth where nature was the champion, humanity the cancer.