Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The shock of the new

Old and new
And another thing .... for I'm not done yet! I was looking over the posts I made "live" while in San Francisco, and realised that I didn't actually convey quite how intimidating we found that first experience of sallying forth into the hubbub of the early evening. Here we were - abandoned at the St Francis Hotel by our kind chauffeur and left, as darkness fell, with only the most rudimentary of ideas as to our location and an arrangement to meet up with someone I'd only met online but who seemed sure, over the phone, that we were within walking distance of her hotel. As the bellhop seemed to agree with this judgement, and gave us an idea of where we were heading, we plunged off down Market Street with only 15 minutes to find the Hyatt Regency and make the assignation.

We realised the next day that we'd been on the fringes of the Financial District, where the tallest buildings in the city are, but at the time we felt totally overwhelmed. I suppose it was the effect of finding ourselves there after the low-rise, laid-back feel of Santa Cruz and the contrast between the absurd Hyatt hotel (sort of a pyramid with the balconies on the inside) and the rural idyll of downtown Pescadero, where we'd had lunch - a look at the two photos will give you the idea.
Main street, Pescadero
We were much more at ease after we'd met Anne, found the restaurant she'd had recommended, and gone back to her room to blog and record for her. But we did take the advice of the doorman (an extraordinarily Dickensian figure in a bowler hat, long black coat and white neckerchief) and take a cab home. Worth it, really - if only to have him pull out his whistle and make the cab appear like magic.

I could almost get used to living like that.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tremors and trembling

The St Francis Hotel
I knew I'd want to say more about our US trip - things keep coming back to me. When we were staying in the St Francis Hotel (photo) I couldn't ignore the instructions in the bedroom about what to do if there was an earthquake. I became particularly fixated on it one evening when I was feeling somewhat the worse for wear.* It told us that we were to get under "a solid piece of furniture". I fretted about this, as the only piece of furniture under which a person could crawl was a writing table in an alcove. It had a sheet of glass protecting its top, and was rather on the small side to accommodate two sheltering adults. In my wandered and slightly hysterical state I pictured limbs protruding and being hideously mangled, or shredded, perhaps, by said sheet of glass. I knew that at that precise moment I was not fit to endure an earthquake - you need to be fighting fit for such an event, I'm sure.

I'm glad I never found out about the minor tremor further down the San Andreas Fault - Mr B heroically kept that bit of TV news to himself.

*This was not, repeat not, caused by the demon drink.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

An odorous chaplet?

This photo was taken in my garden a couple of days ago - not the first rose of summer, but rather the last rose from last year's crop. Perhaps I should have pruned the bush in November, but it's usually a job I leave till Spring, and now I have this lone pink rose overlooking some wee early daffodills. The literary among you may already have clocked the quotation in the title of this post, but if you need further clues I'll add that the maz'd world seems not to know whether it's coming or going.

In Alabama we saw whole beds of pansies in gardens, at roundabouts, in park areas - and then, on the morning we left Birmingham (the day the bird-bath was frozen) saw them drooping in the frost of a perishing if sunny morning. And this whole progeny of evils comes from our debate, from our dissension - does it not?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Binning the Bomb in Glasgow

Doves of Peace.jpg
Slight change of tack today - I went on a demo, a protest march, a rally: whatever you call it, a goodly crowd assembled in George Square to march round the city centre on a dreich Saturday to make the point that it is a lousy idea to replace Trident missiles with the beta version - or whatever it is that you replace big bombs with. I last marched in Glasgow in the big "Not in our name" anti-war demo, and a fat lot of use it was too, but old habits die hard and you can always say you tried. (I just mistyped "tired" there; pretty appropriate in that the pace of your average march is about that of a stroll round an art gallery, and we all know how that affects the legs).

There was the usual mix of old people (like me, or older, even), school kids, students, anarchists (you can always tell an anarchist - black flag, black clothes, bit of drumming, wee dance, veggie food) clergy, church groups, a man with a Rottweiler, trades union people - and a host of Nationalists with saltires. I overheard an interesting snippet of conversation behind me about the connection between the peace movement and gay solidarity, and remarked the poverty of the song repertoire - I'm sure we sang better songs in the early 80s.

Some of the speakers were excellent. I was pleased that the Moderator of the Kirk and Cardinal O'Brien spoke, and delighted to hear Bruce Kent again, totally undiminished since I last heard him many years ago. He and Alec Salmond really have the popular touch - I love a good rabble-rousing speech. We clapped and cheered as the rain poured down - the benefit of being in a crowd is that it keeps your legs dry - and left when the pangs of hunger grew too strong to be ignored.

There were many police around - including a couple on bicycles - but everyone was terribly well behaved and all they had to do was hold up the traffic. (I think: I've not heard any news reports yet.) I wonder what will happen if the present government insist on lumbering us with newer and shinier missiles; I wish they wouldn't.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Big Sur coast
So that’s it, then. Another huge experience, one I’m enjoying in retrospect almost as much as I did at the time. Interestingly – for me at least – the things that come out in general chat are frequently absurd; the features of American life which you suddenly realise are features and not just accidents.

Some of these occurred in the bathroom – that lovely generic term which, in the US, does not necessarily imply total immersion. The shower curtains, for a start – everywhere we went, in hotels and in private houses, there were over-bath showers regulated by a single tap (though the degree to which you had to turn them to reach the good temperature varied alarmingly) and shielded from view by a double curtain – one plastic job to keep the wet in, and another, outer, more decorative one to match the d├ęcor. It seemed to be the done thing to keep this curtain closed even if you were not actually showering, thus concealing the bath – and making the bathroom seem small, somehow. For the shower fusspots, among whom I number myself, I have to report that a shower curtain is still a shower curtain and sticks to your wet body no matter how decorous. Give me a freestanding shower any day – nae curtains. Then there’s the toilet paper. It’s single ply and small. ‘Nuff said. And the taps – no turny ones wherever I went. All levers – and as far as I was concerned, the wrong way round.

Other difficulties concerned food – or rather, my inability to cope with the quantities. Ask for a sandwich and you get enough to feed a small family. With fries. And in the South, there is much frying in cornmeal batter and very powerful seasoning – and a dearth of the kind of coffee my soul craves. We learned, eventually, to eat a decent breakfast and then fast till dinnertime.

When we first hit San Francisco, and headed out for that wonderfully serendipitous meeting with felow-edublogger Anne, we were incredibly intimidated by the skyscrapers in the Financial District. We didn't know that's where we were - all we knew was that if we beetled down Market Street for long enough we should find the Hyatt Regency. And we did - a hotel which I found quite intimidating in its own right, like a Borg ship, for the cognoscenti among my readers. I knew it was all because we'd just come from low-rise, laid-back Santa Cruz, but it did make me wonder how I was going to cope with New York. In the event, I loved New York and by the time I'd had the evening with Anne I was no longer intimidated.

We realised that many Americans are distraught at their unpopularity in the world. We spoke to a concierge in one hotel who told us earnestly that Americans were friendly people who wanted to be liked – but we also realised why it is so easy for Americans to forget that the rest of the world exists, let along has opinions. The news progs we saw on the telly made little reference to anything other than domestic issues – apart from Iraq. And the adverts! So many, and so bizarre – do they not have an advertising standards agency over there? My fave was definitely the one extolling a pill to cure belly fat. “Stubborn” belly fat, actually, in the over-30s. Watch enough of that stuff and you’d be a hypochondriac without trying – or maybe dead: there were some dire warnings about adverse effects.

A last thought, however, has to be to wonder once more at the vastness and diversity of the States, and at the kindness and hospitality of our friends – friends who made our trip possible, and gave us the experiences that the ordinary tourist never finds. We are eternally grateful to them.

Doubtless I shall refer to this trip again, but for now - I’m done.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rubbernecking on the Rock

Top of the Rock 2
The last day of our American odyssey is brilliantly sunny, if still Arctic. The snow still gleams in piles, contrasting with the Demerara sugar that the slush has become. I take a picture of it to remind me of the city snow of my youth. Our cases are packed for the last time – by now, I am so heartily sick of the garments I brought with me that I wonder if I shall ever wear them again. Packing for such variations in temperature and social activity has severely restricted the variety of any one genre – though I doubt if you can have genres of clothing. We park our bags in the basement of the Waldorf, check out, and head out for a final spot of rubbernecking.

Actually “rubbernecking” is a misnomer, for we take the chance of a fine morning to be whisked to the top of the Rockefeller Centre – “Top of the Rock”, it’s called – in a terrifying lift which renders me deaf almost immediately and which has a transparent ceiling through which we can see exactly how high we’re going picked out in blue lighting. We avoid a shoal of squealing school kids and their harassed teacher (he loos far too old still to be doing this) and emerge on the top platform to an amazing perspective on Manhattan. (My pics on flickr don’t really convey the impact, but I tried).

Come lunchtime we’re frozen – like being on a mountain-top, that was, in city clothes – and happy to cram into an Italian eatery near the ice-rink. Then back to the hotel to wait for the shuttle-bus, entertained as we freeze in the hotel loading area by the doorman, who has a tough way with errant yellow cab drivers. “You keep cool, d’you hear? You keep cool and you do what I say in hear, or you’ll not get back. Geddit?” Vague jabberings from the victim of his wrath suggest a recent American, possibly from the Indian subcontinent. Our bus is late. We are not surprised.

Actually we are the first to be picked up by the so-called Express Shuttle; I listen silently to the complaints of later passengers who seem to have been given a time 40 minutes earlier than us. Can this be a fringe benefit of the posh hotel? Our driver, another recent arrival, looks like Denzel Washington and has a neat way with one-way streets, forbidden right turns and the use of petrol stations and exit lanes to get ahead of the crush on the New Jersey Turnpike. We arrive at Newark airport exhilarated by such lawlessness, but are immediately cast down by the terrors of electronic check-in: for some reason I can’t get my passport to scan and have to ask for help. It works first time for a bearded man whom I assume to be an employee – he looks like anyone else but seems to know what he’s doing.

Three hours and a chocolate croissant later we are on the plane and it is over. We decide that the sun is well over the yard-arm and allow ourselves a G&T each. We are fat and bloated from too much food and too little exercise, but there will be time to address the flab when we’re back in the boondocks. We eat cardboard lasagne and wish we had chosen the chicken. The lights go out and we try in vain to sleep. I am assailed by restless legs and annoy all around me by wriggling incessantly. After two hours they bring round breakfast and a dim Ireland appears below us. The clouds thicken and we know we are home.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

There came both ice and snow ....

Snowy morning

A snowy morning in NY lacks the luminosity of the same weather in Scotland. Perhaps being on the 24th floor makes a difference – halfway into the clouds, really. I peer down at St Bartholomew’s dome and the yellow taxis crawling along the white street and realise that there is still stuff falling – the dreaded “frozen rain” of the forecast. It lands in little hard lumps on the window ledge and stays there. Obviously no rise in the temperature, then.

Fearful of venturing too far in streets turned suddenly lethal, we plan a circuit of interesting places within sliding distance. St Patrick’s Cathedral is huge, warm and atmospheric. There are huddled bundles on some of the pews; they may be praying but are almost certainly there for a heat. No-one disturbs them. St Bartholomew’s, the Episcopal church below our window, is dark and strangely unappealing, though we find the restaurant in their “Great Hall” at just the right time. They serve fries in flowerpots, but I manage to avoid temptation. The red tiled path outside by now is suicidally slippy and we clamber instead over the lateral moraines of cleared snow. We visit the Museum of Modern Art – a huge Anglepoise lamp appeals – and hear a wonderful choral Evensong in St Thomas’, Fifth Avenue. This last is a bonus: I have mistaken our direction and we end up outside the church five minutes before the service.
Snowy crossroads
By this time the pavements (sorry – sidewalks) have been cleared perhaps half a dozen times. The precipitation has ceased (in other words the frozen rain, hail and snow are no longer timesharing) and the sky is clearing as darkness falls. Where the clearing has been most efficient, it is impossible to cross the road without braving either a deep pool of brown slush or a mountain of frozen stuff. The less favoured roads are covered in a soupy mixture of slush and salt, through which the traffic slithers and honks. Pedestrians – rather like Glaswegians – jaywalk at every crossroads, cursing in a variety of languages as the soup closes over their shoes. They are shod in every manner of footwear from wellies to stilettos. Businessmen and fur-clad women vie with Rohan-wearing tourists (us) for the shallows. I have never seen so many fur coats – don’t know if this is because I live in the sticks or if it’s an American thing.

We dine out again. It is Valentine’s Day and the hotel is very busy. We brace ourselves for the after-dark cold and make our way along Lexington to find a family-run Italian recommended by the concierge. It is excellent and very atmospheric, with an air of triumph as if we had all braved something just to be there. By the time we leave, it is colder than ever – 17 degrees Fahrenheit, someone says. The slush is freezing again, and there are gangs of men on small tractor-like machines pushing it into piles. Some are shovelling. They don’t seem to be wearing hats – I seem to have had mine glued to my head all day. I haven’t been so cold since I was a child – that hot-eared, dry-skinned, frozen feet feeling.

I no longer want to crack the windows in the hotel.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New York, New York ...

The Apple Store
New York.

Wow. Almost too iconic to take in; almost too familiar to believe. Three days spent feeling I’m in a movie, but aware because of the acute cold that this is for real. I see filming happening – indeed, we are moved on at the Rockefeller Centre because we mustn’t get in the way, and have to slither round to another entrance in the snow which has resisted the clean-up – an impressive operation which seems to continue long into the night, the huge piles of snow in the gutter ever harder to negotiate when we cross a road.

We stay in the Waldorf Astoria. The doorman is wearing a long black overcoat, and a fur hat over a fleece balaclava. The bellhop who brings our cases to the room is large and earnest and breaks a lightbulb while making way for our stuff. I ask if it will be possible to make the room any cooler, and he suggests “cracking a window”. We wonder, wildly, if this is his preferred method of ventilation, but discover he merely means to open it. (We do, later, and then have the devil’s own job closing it as an Arctic wind tosses the net curtains around us. In the morning, we see the wee notice begging us not to attempt this feat without help.)
Waldorf lobby 2
The hotel lobby is opulent, scented by a huge bowl of lilies, and full of business people networking, barking into cellphones or looking hopefully for someone. I throw a waiter into a frenzy by demanding soya milk with my breakfast, but it arrives, and is there for the asking for the rest of our stay. I tell the waiter he’s a star and he smiles sweetly every time we meet. It is so warm that I have to strip the moment we come in the door – and the lifts are so rapid that my ears are in a constant state of trepidation.

I decide I love New York. I take endless (and slightly squint) photos of skyscrapers, and travel the Staten Island ferry before the promised snow arrives. The Statue of Liberty seems strangely small, but arresting nonetheless. Frozen from the ride, we brave the subway once more and emerge unscathed in the wonderful Grand Central Station, where we eat among thousands, sitting up at a bar. I take photos of steam rising from the streets – another iconic phenomenon. We march half the length of Central Park to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art – some well-kent paintings and a display of old musical instruments, among which an Erard grand which features in the book I’m reading (The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason).

On our way home we are seduced by the gleaming cube of the Apple Centre on Fifth Avenue, and after Mr B has attacked the door with his head (they shouldn’t clean them so assiduously) I buy a mini GDrive to back up my life. Much cheapness for travelling Brits these days. We eat out that night in a jolly Italian place under the Met Life building, and emerge to the first flakes of snow. We reflect that upstate New York has already vanished under several feet of the stuff, and wonder if we shall ever be able to leave.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Entertaining entraining - and detraining

Train arriving
It’s time to start blogging again – I’m tired of unpacking and laundering and catching up with mail and trying to remember who I am and who I know …. The curse of being away for a month!

So where to start? I realise I’ve already done quite a bit on the Alabama experience, and I realise that there’s more on my other stops than I had thought, so I’ll start where I left off, about to leave Virginia for New York. By train – Amtrak – just for a change.

We’re on the platform of Williamsburg station. All very small-town and agreeable, as maybe half a dozen people turn up and wait at intervals down the platform. It’s sunny and freezing cold at nine-thirty in the morning, and we avoid standing in the shadows. Marcia asks a young man if he’s a Business Class passenger (we’re travelling Business as it’s a seven hour journey and any bloody fool can be uncomfortable, as my father used to say). Anyway, he is, and we’re standing in the right place and when the train pulls in jolly men throw the Suitcase from Hell (mine) and the new one from Macy’s up into the compartment and off we go.

We travel for ever through frozen swamps and rotting trees – I hadn’t realised so much of coastal Virginia was swampland – and every time we go over a level crossing we hoot in a traditional sort of way and I feel I’m in a black and white movie. The young man from the platform, who turns out to be a Washington lobbyist and speaks just like the guys in The West Wing, comes down the carriage to tell us what to look out for, so that at the appropriate time we see the Capitol, the Washington Memorial and two of the President’s three helicopters, which sit near the line at a Marine base called Quantico. We are duly impressed.

The conductor encourages us with little messages: We’ve had a message, folks. We’re going to be travelling pretty slow, ‘cos there’s work on the line. You gotta go slow, just like when there are road works. We do apologise and thank you for your patience. Or better still: We shall be continuing momentarily. I suppress a vision of stop-start motion. It’s better than a plane taking off momentarily.

The Potomac River is frozen over, and in a station I see that the taps on standpipes have been left running gently, so that huge icebergs form under them. The conductor informs us that we can get off and have a smoke, if we like, but warns that the temperature outside is significantly lower than when you boarded. We’re glad we don’t smoke. Later we pass through rows of Coronation Street-type houses which are a far cry from the places we’ve been. Baltimore slums, I think.

We dive into a long tunnel and emerge in Penn Station, New York. Somehow we drag our burdens onto the platform, which is on a level with the carriage. (In Williamsburg they had to provide a wee yellow step for us.) Eventually we locate a lift – sorry: elevator. It does not, however, go as far as the street, and we end up perched precariously on an escalator in the rush hour. We manage not to fall back down again, and find ourselves on the street. I eyeball the driver of a yellow cab and he cracks his boot – sorry: trunk – for us. I eyeball him again and he gets out to help. We scoosh off through the frantic streets. We think we know roughly which way we should be heading, but the one-way system soon puts paid to that. We surrender to our fate. We’re in New York.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


What can I say? I'm just back from church - church, Jim, but not as we know it. Williamsburg Community Chapel, aiming to meet people where they are on their journey. For a start, we attended the second of three services - and as we sat in for the beginning of the third service, I know that at least two of them were packed. And for seconds, there were about twice as many people in the choir as we ever see in church at the one time, and a praise band, and a pianist, and tapes (full orchestra), and a PA system worthy of a concert hall ......

And as you can see from my snatched phone-pic, there were shoals of young people - the large young man in front of me was a rugby player, from his jersey. And apparently there was another hall upstairs full of crowds of really young, all rocking away to a band in their own service. The band we heard had both our friends playing in it - they're great.

The sermon was long enough to cover the sermon slot in Holy T and go on through the entire celebration of the Eucharist. And then the service ended. Maybe I've been away from the Kirk for too long, but my brain can't cope any more with 30 minute sermons - maybe it never could. And I missed the sacrament of communion - I couldn't be doing with nothing but praise and teaching.

But it'd be good to know the secret of the pulling power of a church like this.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cardinals, Bishops and buzzards

Another wonderfully sunny day in Williamsburg - temperatures hovering just above freezing under blue sky. We've been taking a look at Colonial Williamsburg, though as it was so beautiful we preferred to stay out of doors as opposed to seeing films. (We hope we'll catch an appropriate movie later on Pete's magic telly ...) Anyway, I'm back to photoless blogging, not because I haven't taken any but because it's such a fuss without Flickr uploader and with so many photos to browse among. I've given the link above to show some of what we're up to.

By an extraordinary coincidence I discovered yesterday that Bishop Bruce (former Primus of SEC) is staying in Williamsburg. The greeters in the old (1715) Episcopal Church here seemed amazed that I knew him - but I had to point out that Scotland is a small country and the Piskies are a small minority. Churches here are much bigger affairs - and I learned today that while the Episcopal Church may be benefitting from early investment in U-Tube, other churches like the Community Church we shall attend tomorrow rely on giving. Wow.

Today we saw a red Cardinal (not a cleric) and a gang of turkey buzzards. The sun is slanting low over Governer's Land and dinner smells amazing. Time to leave the solitary pursuit of blogging and socialise again. It's a hard life .....

Friday, February 09, 2007

Onward and Eastward

Union Square skyline
Blogging from Williamsburg, Virginia, I'm feeling a touch of the Evita syndrome again - another suitcase in another hall - as I look out at trees and a frozen lake instead of the bustle of Union Square, San Francisco (pictured). California remained mild and sunny until Tuesday; they desperately need the rain that began on Wednesday afternoon so I won't begrudge them. At the moment I'm so stuffed with memories that they won't download, so I'll just go with the moment and catch up when I'm home.

The vastness of the country continues to amaze - and the realisation yesterday as we flew from SF to Atlanta and then on to here that we'd covered in a day what it took the first settlers months - or was it years? - to accomplish. And as we approached Newport News Airport we could see the line of the Atlantic coast and the darkness of the river and the inlets of this complicated area and thought of the colonial era, and the Civil War, and Independence ... and were so pleased to see our old friends Peter and Marcia waiting in the airport, and to feel instantly at home. Apparently the Queen and assorted Royals are to be here in May for the 400th anniversary of this settlement - but we're here ahead of them.

I've put a few photos on Flickr, taken on my phone. Most of the camera pix are on a card hidden in the depths of my luggage and will have to wait till I have my own set-up to deal with them. Today we're off to look at Colonial Williamsburg and to buy our train tickets for Monday. The sun is shining, the lake is frozen and there are squirrels in the trees. Mr B is playing on one of two grand pianos and I'm playing on Marcia's new iMac. What more could a body ask for?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A quickie from SF

Hasstily posting at 4 dollars a session, I have to report that San Francisco is utterly amazing, that I have been to the Cheesecake Factory and eaten the biggest bit of choclolate cake of my entire life, and that I'm off on a wine tour tomorrow. The weather is like May - a good May - in Scotland, but they say that rain - which they badly need - is on the way. I can't grudge them it.

Apart from that, we've been warmly welcomed in Grace Cathedral and missed seeing the QE2 - so don't ask! We're taking the advice about waving credit cards and forgetting that they mean anything - it feels good. We're all ready to bore everyone silly on our return.

But now I feel the dollars running out - goodnight!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

San Francisco hookup

Well. I'm at it again - meeting cyber friends in meat-space! And as you'll see from the pic, it's the greatest fun. In this case, we're meeting Anne in San Francisco, in one of these strange flukes of fate that seem to accompany Ewan's activities, as it was he who worked out that we'd coincide here. We've just had a great dinner virtually under the end of the Golden Gate bridge, talked blogging and education at the top of our voices as if we'd known each other for years, and have retreated to Anne's hotel room so's I can use her computer. In the St Francis, where we are just now, you pay if you breathe, I think, so I'll not be experimenting.

Yesterday we visited the Big Sur coast - so the contrast between the wide open spaces and the crashing Pacific and this incredible city is enough to make us feel like hicks. Maybe when it's daylight ....Anyway, we had a look round an old Spanish Mission in Carmel on our way home, and I suffered an intense feeling of geographical dislocation: I forgot what continent I was in and started thinking Europe. Must've been the olive trees. My main preoccupation was the ocean - we walked on the beach at Carmel in the dusk, and the sight of the waves - 8-10 feet high - first distorting and then obliterating the horizon, then surging towards us before breaking and crashing on the beach, had me mesmerised. There were surfers out there in the gloaming, and a lone sandpiper wandering in the shallows in front of me.

Won't be blogging again unless I can find a freebie in our next hotel; after that I may persuade my friends at my next stop to allow me computer time. In the meantime, it's a big thank you to Anne for the use of her laptop and for a great dinner. What an advert for the blogosphere!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Iconic locations

Seascape 3: Point Lobos State Reserve
A quick update before the personal tour manager arrives (Casey's found a new job!). Yesterday was wonderful, if unbelievable; a trawl through several iconic places left me feeling the movie of my life was taking over from reality. Under bright, hard-edged sunshine we visited Monterey, walked along Cannery Row, spotted Steinbeck's name appended to several locations, gawped at sharks and massive tuna in the Aquarium, drove through Carmel (where Clint Eastwood was the mayor) and walked in a coastal reserve among twisted cypress trees with the surf crashing below on the rocks and the racket of sea-lions barking from the offshore islands. A white crane balanced for hours on a mat of kelp and seals basked on the rocks.

I kept being reminded of Golding's description of the ocean around the island in "Lord of the Flies", particularly the moment of Piggy's death. There is an awesome power in these long, deceptively gentle waves; when they funnel into the bays and inlets of the shoreline they foam and swirl with a deep roar.

As we headed for the car at sunset, with a good mile still to walk, a cheerful ranger told us that there was a mountain lion in the vicinity - he'd found the carcass of a deer the other day. Suddenly, the forest seemed a threatening place. We made it, though.