I'm nestled in the warm sand at the top of a steep bare dune at the point where a carpet of gorsey-heathery flowering succulents takes over the slope. Mia and Nora leap, run and roll down the hill below me, laughing. Above and behind me the shrubs stretch up to the bluest sky.
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur-Pfeiffer State Park. How did we get here? There's a geographical answer and a narrative one and they both feel like adventures. The road to the beach is a single lane through a ferny redwood valley. Randy hugged the side of the road as we squeaked past cars going out. The turnoff has no sign and we missed it and almost missed it again after three different sets of directions and a warning from a sunburned guy at the gas station, "There's a line of thirty cars waiting for spaces in the lot. You better rethink it."
I will not be denied.
"Worth it!" I called to Randy when we emerged from the shady path onto the beach. The rocky stream we'd been following empties into a brackish pond in the dunes, deep enough for boys to swim. Over the strand, thrilling waves crash. Rock island fortresses lie just off shore and we squeal at the waves breaking through the natural arches at their base. A magical place.
We follow the curvy beach around a promentory to another long stretch facing west.
Globs and tangled blobs of ropey greeny-gold seaweed huddle on the sand. Mermaid hair. Nora picks up the kind with a cylindrical tube attached to a veiny leaf and uses it to draw pictures in the wet sand. "It's a pen!" There are thin white strands like dental floss and long grassy clumps and my favorite, huge hookah pipes with a round bulb bigger than your fist on the end.
At the end of the beach, where the flat sandy floor meets a steep rock face, we find another riparian valley lined with cypress. We step out of the sun, away from the roar of the surf. It's quiet and the sand is cool and soft under my feet. I see a path up through the trees and scramble up rocks in my flipflops. A ray of light from the afternon sun lights the way. The view at the top is lovely but I most loved the journey, climbing in the path of light through the forest toward the clifftop.
What are you going to spend your life remembering? What are you going to spend your precious time and energy noticing? I want this afternoon forever.