Gracie at Kalaloch...
...on the world's longest leash.
Well, first we stared down a global pandemic.
Then, once we decided back in April that a summer camping trip could be Covid-safe, we:
- Cross-checked a matrix of schedules to negotiate one week in the entire summer where we could line up all six members of the family - five to camp, one to cat-sit - for a trip to the coast.
- Fought a week-long battle with the online reservations system to lock down a campsite at one of the most coveted campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest.
- Encouraged the long-distance daughter through the many hoops of traveling safely across the country and joining our quarantine bubble.
- Faced the reality of a rainy forecast for our week at the beach, packing bathing suits and sunscreen as well as fleece and rain gear.
Yeah, that's the worst air quality rating possible.
We ended up opting out of the first day of our reservation, but thankfully, by the next morning, coastal rain was knocking the smoke out of the skies and we decided to head off.
So when we finally arrived at our beloved Kalaloch Campground on the Pacific Coast, we strutted into Site A36 like conquering heroes and settled into a few delicious and well-fought-for days of beach bliss.
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When I see my bird dog staring down a gigantic flock of gulls, I can all but see her synapses firing with primitive genetic messages, programmed into her hunting-bred brain. She is literally filled with trembling and joy.
Day 1: Tide Pools
Lucky us. On the first afternoon of our visit, minus tides pulled the waves far back from shore and left exposed a series of often-underwater rocks.
Around those rocks lie tide pools full of
skittering little hermit crabs,
and occasionally big red dogs.
Those tide pools are deceptively deep, and Gracie has a naughty little habit of falling in.
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Technically, Gracie does not like to swim. No water on the belly, thank you very much, that's more than she cares for. But she is a huge fan of stalking through the shallow waves while stealthily moving in on some sea birds, and that's her preferred water sport.
Day 2: Sea Stacks
Hike the beach north for a half hour and come upon a heap of tumbled down rocks, Once they were sea stacks, proud towers of stone, but erosion takes her toll and now they break and fall into the water.
This oversize stone-age playground presents perfect opportunities for climbing, jumping, wandering and exploring.
And if you happen to be a big red dog, perhaps some swimming too.
Side note: As we were hiking along the beach, Gracie took off after a bird in flight. As she neared the end of the slack in the leash, I was suddenly possessed. There were no other humans or dogs anywhere in sight, so in an instant's decision, I tossed my end of her 100 foot leash into the air and let her run to her heart's content.
She ran. And ran. And ran and ran and ran.
My dog shrunk down to a tiny dark smudge in the distance, at least a quarter mile away.
Having chased my share of bolted Setters across hill and dale for many years of my life, my blood suddenly ran cold. What had I done?!
As I watched, I saw the smudge turn from a dot to a small line and then back into a dot.
She had turned around.
The dot grew larger. And larger.
I squinted my eyes just to be sure, but it was true. My wonderfully obedient dog was hauling down the beach, sprinting at absolute top speed, on a beeline straight back to me.
She didn't waver until she was upon me, circling around my legs, pink tongue askew, absolute delighted with herself for her independent journey.
And I was well pleased with my girl.
"Mom! Come back inside and let's have more snacks!"
Day 3: Beach Time
Now, I'm not about to complain about the weather. Yes, the skies were still smoky from the wildfires, and we definitely did not enjoy the golden summer sunshine that often lingers here well into September.
At least it didn't rain.
Just the same, we gamely set up our sun shelter, then climbed inside to read our novels and nibble on our beach snacks as if our very lives depending on this all-important layer of UV protection.
Our big red dog bravely faced the elements head on. She's rugged like that.
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In the fierce winds, Gracie's coat flows back like a sleek red river, and everyone who sees her can't help but smile. Me too.
Day 4: Heading Home
Saying goodbye to the beach for another year is always a heartbreak, and my family could tell you stories for as long as you'd care to listen about the patience they must muster as I slowly tear myself away at the end of that last-minute, the-car's-all-packed-but-let-me-run-down-just-one-more-time beach walk.
I hate leaving the beach.
But my anguish is assuaged by our beautiful ride home around the top of the Olympic Peninsula, and best of all, by a delicious hop across Puget Sound on the ferry.
I love water.
I love boats.
I love standing out on the car deck as the gale force winds attempt to blow me to kingdom come.
And I love that my big red dog enjoys the crossing just as much as I do.
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In countless ways, 2020 has been a year for the record books, and our annual trip to Kalaloch was just as nutty as every other thing that's happened since Covid descended upon us. Honestly, it's a miracle that we made the trek at all. Despite all the complications and unpredictable complexities, we enjoyed a perfectly lovely trip to the beach, and I'm glad we persevered.
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My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years: