west coast trip – fulfillment outdoors (part 2)

North of SanFran is Marin county and north of it is Sonoma county and Bodega Bay. The promontory called Bodega Head has craggy cliffs overlooking the ocean with crowds of cormorants and seagulls soaring and calling.

rocky cliff with cormorants (middle left), guano sketches and a steep drop to the sea
rocky cliff with cormorants (middle left), guano sketches and a steep drop to the sea

On a rocky guano caked outpost flecked with salt foam, squadrons of Pelicans have gathered. And then they pitch forward and off and with powerful wings thrumming they beat above the foaming sea and ascend higher and higher in broad V wave formations until they disappear around the headlands.

On the drive back we notice on the shoreline small piles of balanced rocks. We have seen them before in Vancouver’s Stanley Park and even in Atlanta along the ‘Hooch river, but this is different – clusters and clusters of stone towers up to a foot high.

some of Larry's creations
some of Larry’s creations

I stop for a photo and notice a lean tanned man walking toward me. Suddenly he scrambles down the side of the embankment and begins gathering stones. I greet him and ask if he knows why people build these stone piles. He glares at me – there are no people building these he says, I built all of them and there are now, and he waves across the bay, about 170 of them.

But why I persist. For good luck for the sailors he says.

His name is Larry, 72 years and retired and the idea came from his time in Hawaii. Is skill required? With time you get the feel of balance. As to size he has built small and big piles and the only injury was when he struggled to balance a large boulder and it tipped and sliced his foot and toe. He has a regular routine walking the shoreline caring for his creations and then on to the marine laboratory for a visit. Had we visited the cliffs? Take care he says – it was a foggy day when a 12 year old wandered too close and fell 200 ft to the rocks below and has never fully recovered. Now follow stories of large family reunions and driving a Sherman tank over the dunes. He punctuates his reminiscences with hand greetings to passing locals. And then it is time and he vigorously shakes our hands and moves on.
So, two retired guys, Mike and Larry with outdoor pastimes bringing pleasure to others.

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