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Finding Trinidad

Lean your chest into the wind that scours the bluff above Trinidad State Beach. The brilliant sunset light plays in the spume off Pewetole Island and Grandmother Rock, as gulls wheel in the wind and a phalanx of brown pelicans circle the Head. Breathe deep.

Before breakfast, get yourself out to the end of Elk Head on a foggy morning. Listen to the sea lions woofing on the ledges as the Pacific breaks on Green Rock and off Flatiron. Listen to the dewy trees and the brilliant things growing, muffled but as loud as life itself in the fog.

Later, in the afternoon, sit on the sun-warmed sealogs at the high-tide line on Home Beach and watch the fishing boats sheltering behind Trinidad Head. Think a quiet, grateful thought of the people who lived their lives on these shores. Spanish explorers who "discovered" this coast in 1775 called it Trinidad, but the Yurok lived here for generations and have their own names for their land.

The tale of how we found Trinidad includes blindingly poor map-reading and a very long day in a rental car on Highway 1 from San Francisco: car-sickness, dodging Winnebagos and log trucks, and stunning panoramas of the Pacific coast.

We were frazzled by the time we reached Trinidad. Brenda was in tears. It was a foggy and chilly night, and the town was shut down tight. Gas station cheese and crackers in a damp motel room couldn't make up for a 12-hour marathon up the coast highway.

The next foggy morning, we couldn't wait to get out of here. We were packed early, heading back to "civilization." But first we needed a run and a few deep breaths to get the kinks out: there had to be a beach somewhere in this fog.

Something led us to the bluff above Trinidad State Beach. The morning was dense and grey from the damp parking lot at the top of the trail. We still hadn't even seen the coast. Suddenly the fog just vanished. It was like a movie - there was Pewetole and Grandmother Rock and the pounding Pacific surf emerging from the fog in brilliant, crisp morning sun. The sun pierced the mist in the trees and turned the ocean impossibly blue. We just looked at each other: Holy cow, what a place!

From that moment, we've been Trinidaddies. Like the pelicans to Camel Rock, we keep coming back - for 10 years now. We bought a house and have made great friends. The folks at the post office and Murphy's market know us by name. Our dogs who have lived and died here are scattered off Baker Beach. In the harbor, the SS Toad takes us after the wily salmon and to watch the whales pass.

Who knows what would have happened if the sun hadn't broken through on that morning in 1997. Clearly, this is our home beach, too. Our souls are at rest in Humboldt's mossy woods. Trinidad is where we're meant to be. There's no place on the planet we love more. In Trinidad, we breathe deep.

by Ted Pease

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