I enter the trailhead in the early evening, just before the light fades. The first mile climbs a thousand feet. It is a slow toil, not unpleasant. I love the light at this time of day, the way it brings a clear beauty to even the simple brown dirt. How the low bushes, rough and gnarled, will take on a moment of loveliness, a single extended breath and then gone.
At the top of the climb, a vista: the sun low and bright in the sky, the ocean a great mirror of shattered light. I pause here, as I imagine some Piltdown ancestor might have. For me, there is water rolling with muscular, indifferent power beneath the skin of the sea. For her, a flat inimical landscape of fuming ice.
My breathing is the only human noise. Sometimes a doe will take an elegant step from the scrub, and watch me with her mild fearless eyes. There are always quail, comical in their crowns and worried running about, like incompetent royalty knowing the mob will soon be at the gate
Sometimes there is the sudden sharp musk of a cougar, its tawny unbelievability leaping quickly across the trail, there and gone.
I finish as the sun throws a final spear of light at the water, then sinks in a gasp of beauty. Around me the quiet deepens into silence. There is nothing but the secret rustle of the trees, the steadiness of the light.
Tonight in bed I will wake to roll over and see the moon riding small and high and bright through my bedroom window, a moon that looks down at the cougar flexing down the trail, drunk on the rich scent of doe in its nose.
© Copyright Sandra Stephens (nee Sandra Miller)