On Friday night, for the first time in months, I turn off my alarm for Saturday morning. I plan to sleep in, on purpose.
This plan doesn’t really work as, next morning, I’m already up at half past seven, almost twenty minutes before my potential alarm would go off. At the very least, I stay in my bed for a while, scrolling through maps and checking on the traffic prediction for the day.
Whenever I go to Point Reyes, I get up early to beat the traffic. Today, I’m not leaving until noon. Seeing the traffic getting worse during the morning as I slowly get out of the bed, have some breakfast and make myself some lunch and prepare some snacks for the day, charge batteries for my cameras and put it all in my car, panicking when I cannot find FastTrack for the bridge, makes me a bit nervous. I decide to download a Harry Potter audiobook for the drive because it looks like I’m going to spend twice the time than usual on the road. And it’s been over seven years since I read the books last time.
I leave a bit earlier than planned. By this time, there are two car crashes slowing down the traffic ahead of me. I definitely can’t go wrong with having thirty minutes to spare.
When getting off of the freeway in San Rafael, excitement starts to run through my veins. I made it without crushing my car in the crazy traffic and there’s no more packed freeways ahead of me.
Driving over my beloved knoll behind which lies Olema, I remember the very first time I ever came to Point Reyes, driving exactly this same road. Soon enough, I’m looking for a good spot to park my car.
Before hitting the trail, I walk a bit less than half a mile back to take a look at a house I drove past. Abandoned, in the middle of woods and pastures, with old whitened tree standing a guard,… I fall in love with it, immediately. I want to live there, in the middle of nowhere, in this beautiful old house which has so many stories to tell…
I’m back at the trailhead and already facing complications; I can’t open the gate to get to the pasture which the trail goes through. I should be able to do so but something is stuck and I just can’t figure out how to get in. And so yes, I decide to climb over the gate. Everything goes really smooth and well, I climb over the top and want to jump down.
Now, in Czech, when I was a child, we used to call cow’s poop a ‘pancake’. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. One of my parents just used it as an euphemism, I guess…
And yes, because there is cattle in the pasture, there it lays; a huge ‘pancake’ right in front of the gate. Do you know how sometimes, when you focus so hard on NOT doing something, it just happens? Yes? Well I’m glad you can relate because as I’m about to jump from the top of the gate, I put all my thoughts towards NOT landing in the poop. Yep, you guessed it. As I’m trying to find balance after landing, one of my feet steps on this unpleasant piece of organic substance and I slip.
A bunch of black cows look at me after a loud “bang” echoes throughout the whole valley as I grab onto the gate and save myself from falling face first in the mud that probably isn’t ONLY mud. And viola, the gate opens. Ha… ha… ha…
“Sorry for the disturbance, I’m just passing by, please, don’t mind me,…” I mutter towards the cows that are coming closer and closer with they eyes fixed on my face as if they expected some kind of apology.
I have to admit, I feel a bit uneasy being surrounded by this mass of cattle so I quickly find my way uphill into the woods and only hope they’re not going to follow me there.
After only about ten minutes of swift walking, I notice a hidden path leading off of the main trail. I wouldn’t do so in any protected area or so, no way. The only time when I got off the trail was in Yosemite when the trail somehow disappeared and I got lost – and I was more worried about somehow disturbing that delicate area by my steps rather than being afraid that I wasn’t going to find my way back. Silly? Maybe… But this path is too tempting. And so I decide to follow it. Even though it leads down a quite steep hill, which means I’ll have walk the steep hill back up. Ugh…
Well, after falling over some branches and when I don’t even bother anymore to try to wipe spider webs off of my face, I come to the end of the path. And, immediately, I’m so happy that I decided to follow it!
In front of me, a green valley opens, with a pond giving home to some kind of vividly green plants. Sun dances through the lush grass, trees offering a piece of shade here and there. Separated from the rest of the world in this hidden valley, I feel how amazingly alone I am right now. I almost want to start dancing. I sit and enjoy the quiet, surrounded by steep hills all around.
It’s getting late. I’ve had my lunch and walked back to the car. Now I’m driving to Point Reyes Station – I need to buy some dinner for later today, present for my sister who’s got birthday in March but I need to send the package already because they always take a horrendous amount of time to deliver it – if they deliver it – and then there’s also bathroom in the village, which is a nice bonus.
I get everything I need – a walnut brownie for dinner and the present for my sister – and continue driving north. Soon enough, my way turns to the west and I’m getting through the always-flooded road, glad it’s not any deeper today because my old car probably wouldn’t be really happy.
I stop at Cypress Tree Tunnel but as expected, it’s too full of tourists for it to be enjoyable but the view of the late-afternoon sun from there is exceptional.
I hop back in my car and start driving towards the lighthouse. Sunset from there will be amazing, won’t it?
But as soon as I reach the top of one particular hill from which I can always see the ocean, my plans change. The ocean by the North Beach looks so… wild… I turn y car around and start driving towards the beach, going past sand dunes, the little desert which is hiding here.
I find a place where I can be alone; an elevated part of the beach surrounded by some kind of green-grey grass. I sit down and simply enjoy the moment. The sun is disappearing behind the horizon. The waves, which I realize later, are even taller than me, beating towards the shore and gliding across the fine sand. The endless wild energy of the ocean, the wind.
The whole world turns orange and then… The sun is gone. The cold wind bites deeper and I’m glad to have three more layers of clothes to put on.
I can see the few people who were there leaving but I decide to stay a bit longer. I don’t feel like getting up and going home, it’s not my time yet.
I eat my brownie and four tangerines and some grapes which I brought from home. The warm orange calm sky contrasts the cold blue-grey wild water.
Everything is perfect. I run towards the ocean. As I’m getting closer, I realize that the waves are much taller than they seemed from farther away; they are even taller than me!
With a great amount of respect, I get my feet wet and run through the water before going back to my spot. There, I lay down and wrap myself in a blanket, watching the last pieces of dark orange disappear from the sky as the world is falling into deep dark.
And then… The stars start to pop out in the sky. And I feel like crying.
You see, I can’t really see that many stars where I live because the light pollution from San Francisco and Oakland is still too strong.
But here… The sky is freckled by so many stars that I even almost lose track of Orion. So clear elsewhere, here, this constellation gets lost in the sea of stars. I haven’t seen the sky so clear and overflowing with so many stars for… a long, long time. I feel unbelievably free.
“Thank you,” I whisper to the ocean and the sky as I start getting up and collecting my stuff to go back to my car and drive home.