E&P: Appreciating Del Norte a matter of perspective

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate April 17, 2014 01:01 pm

A disassembled sea serpent lies beyond my front door.

Three big rocks in the Pacific, seemingly strewn at random.


But go up Pebble Beach Drive to where the McNamara cows graze and the same three rocks coalesce into the rump, hump and jutting head of the serpent.

Point of view is everything. 

It took six years for Pebble Beach to teach me this lesson in relativity. Oh, I’d spotted the three-pronged monster early enough, but a coastline of crescents within crescents can play tricks. Each time I’d wind my way home, I’d lose track of which rocks constituted the serpent. Never guessed the dang thing was my neighbor.

From my house, another sea stack resembles the cartoon character Tweety Bird, but go north and it’s George Washington’s head before finally morphing into an evil totem.

All a matter of perspective, which applies to Del Norte as a whole.

This place is deserted. Not a positive for downtown Crescent City, but pretty cool on our nearly private beaches and almost disconcerting when hiking world-class trails through the planet’s tallest trees and encountering no one.

Assuming we want economic vitality — not everyone here does — our aloneness can be cause for optimism or pessimism. Is it evidence that tourism will never drive our growth? Or does it represent a unique marketing potential?

Envision the glossy come-on: “DEL NORTE: NO ONE HERE BUT US REDWOODS.”

Solitude can inspire insanity or enlightenment. Walk our roads, float our rivers, go to the grocery store; you’ll easily find signs of both.

“DEL NORTE: LOSE YOURSELF. FIND YOURSELF.”

What’s that you say? How can I come up with a Zen take on a place whose electorate probably would’ve supported the Confederacy if it had come down to an advisory vote in 1860?

How can I not? Half the population is on the state payroll and the other half is on state assistance and yet many of us hatethe state.

I’m certainly not immune to paradoxes. I’ve been lucky enough to live next to the ocean since I got here in January 2008. The view out the window often stops me. “This is one thing I’ll never take for granted,” I bragged to inland friends. I was flat wrong from the start.

Like discovering the contents of a sea serpent just past my own front yard, I’ve only now realized where I am. And that’s because I’m leaving, which changes everything even though it shouldn’t.

It’s springtime on the continent’s jagged edge. Gulls nest on grassy sea stacks. Geese fly north en masse. Gray whales spout. Early-bird pelicans dive-bomb. Seals bark from the outliers of Castle Rock, a landmark regal enough to be famous if it weren’t in the middle of nowhere.

In our primordial woods, lush giants ooze satisfaction at the respite from last fall and winter’s mini-drought.

It’s human nature to get used to anything, even this. That must be why, to save a few minutes, I eventually started driving home on A Street instead of Pebble Beach. Day-to-day routines are insidious.

Full appreciation of what should’ve been obvious all along comes only now, courtesy of a looming exit:

This is simply one of the best places on Earth.

Point of view is everything.