Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

My wife Laura and I have logged a lot of miles on North Coast hiking trails, and we like to think we go prepared. We wear good hiking shoes, carry roll-up raincoats even on sunny days and put in supplies of seldom-used sunscreen and bug repellent along with a little extra food and water.

We also pick our spots. We were too savvy to be lured into the redwoods last Saturday, even though it dawned unexpectedly clear. Hard rains had fallen in previous days, and we knew the trails would be mushy.

It was the perfect day, we figured, for a long beach walk. I proposed

Point St. George to Tolowa Dunes, but got outvoted 1-1 by Laura's

preference for South Beach. The chart promised low tide at 4:29 p.m., so

we headed out in early afternoon figuring on an out-and-back from

Anchor Way to the point where the beach access ends beneath the Enderts


No special preparations needed, right? Just bring along the backpack

with the aforementioned provisions.

I went into photo documentary mode as we struck out, getting artsy

shots of driftwood and even an abandoned tire (gotta keep those eyes

wide open to the unfortunate reality of beach-dumping).

Then we reached the first rivulet, fast-flowing, wide and with its

own rock bottom. Somehow when we'd thought through the rainy week's

effect on trails, we hadn't contemplated the extra runoff at sea level.

But hey, we were Pebble Beach-plodding veterans, old hands at going

around what we didn't want to walk through. Except that in this case the

detour was complicated, over driftwood, along a grassy trail right next

to Highway 101, then back over driftwood.

We hadn't been back on the sand for more than a quarter-mile before

we encountered an even wider second rivulet, and this time there was no

obvious way around. The inland passage was heavy with wood and brush.

There was no trail in sight, just a glimpse of an old guy who appeared

to have taken up residence in a coastal cranny.

It was sunny but not warm enough to go wading, especially since the

rocky floor necessitated footwear. Water shoes would have saved the day -

Laura actually has a pair, and I could've brought some old sneakers.

We aborted the mission, but did have fun throwing a football around

on our way back.

The moral: Every hike requires proper preparation, and in the case of

a long beach walk that means more than a check of the tide chart.


Depending on who you ask, the government's approach to census-taking

is either a crass example of bureaucratic waste or a highly efficient


Paul Crandall of Klamath was inspired to whip out a calculator after

receiving a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau announcing that the

actual survey would be in the mail soon. He multiplied the 41-cent

prepaid cost of the mailing by the estimated number of housing units

nationwide and came up with a cost of $52.9 million just for the

postage. And that was for a letter saying the official mail was on the


Meanwhile, census officials sent out a press release noting that

conducting the survey by mail is "saving millions of taxpayer dollars."

Here's how the feds figure it:

"It costs the government just 44 cents for a postage paid envelope

when a household mails back the 10-question form, which should take just

10 minutes to complete. It costs the Census Bureau $57 to send a census

taker door-to-door to follow up with each household that fails to


Whatever your view, it's best to fill out that survey and mail it

back. Otherwise, there'll soon be a knock at your door.