It didn’t feel right…leaving without saying goodbye. So I turned the car around, pointed south down the 101 for the final time, and I went to say farewell.
She’s been with me for over a week now—the Pacific. When we met in Seattle eight days ago, we became fast friends. I plucked fresh crab from her bays, sailed on her waters and slept to the sound of her waves. So, yes, a final goodbye was in order; and though I didn’t realize it while the wheels spun south, San Luis Obispo offers up the perfect spot for sendoffs.
Up a mountain, down a dirt road and over a sun-bleached cliff, I found the Big Sur that I’d been searching for. Here, at the eleventh hour at its farthest end, were the turquoise waters and shining cliffs that eluded me in the fires along Highway 1 this week. “Pirates Cove,” the sign said.
If it wasn’t before, it is now.
Moments after parking, I grabbed an old, tattered flag from my backpack and scrambled down to the waves.
The flag is special. Before it ever flew with me, it was made and flown for a boat back home. Most of you know it well—a modest sailboat plying the waters of Pickwick Lake, helmed by a friendly, tattoo-covered maniac who might really believe he’s a pirate. But, hey…that manic is my friend. And when I first took up sailing; really, when I first moved into the apartment that started this entire journey, Boyd gave me the old flag from the boat’s mast.
So the flag, he thought, was retired with honor on my wall. But, every expedition needs a flag, and this particular one—hand sewn and full of adventure—seemed to fit the part. It may be the first flag to ever fly from Pickwick to the Pacific, and that seems more honorable than a place on my wall.
Together, the flag and I stood on the cliffs, we soaked in the sun and the salt and the Pacific’s cold, quick wind. And together, we turned and left…maybe to never meet again.
200 miles east, the trees engulf me. I’m camped in Grant’s Grove, under the shade of a massive pine that’s dwarfed by the great sequoia trees that call this place home. Many tower hundreds of feet tall, most have been here for over 2,000 years. At their heart lies the largest tree in the world.
This place feels different than the sea. The land is peaceful, the trees serene. It is calm, and a little less wild. This place is green, like Tennessee back home. It is no place for white gulls and black beaches and tattered pirate flags, but one still hangs from the pole outside my tent—a warning that adventure is found here. “Do not disturb,” it says to other campers all around.
As night falls in the Giant Forest, a Joseph Conrad quote runs through my head:
“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most, it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.”
So it seems.