Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Glass Beach

It's funny 'cause even though I've always thought of myself as a very feline type of person (you know the game of 'what animal would you be if you had the choice?), I realize that I have a very large dose of magpie as well. As in 'ooooh, pretty shiny! Must acquire!' My favorite thing to find on my beach walks are pieces of beach glass. Clear, white, brown, emerald green, teal, and the occasional rare cobalt blue...Doesn't matter. I just love the stuff. So when I heard the stories of Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, I knew I had to go there.

I'd first the tales of Glass Beach from Mom, who'd brought back a carefully selected dozen pieces. She didn't want to take any more so there'd be some for other visitors. I had the impression of a beach with more than the usual amount of beach glass, but still a place where you needed to spend time hunting for it. Dave also told me about it after a few walks together at Ocean Beach, during which I'd crow with triumph every time I found a piece of beach glass.

He told me it was the site of an old dump in the '40s, and a lot of glass had since been broken and polished by the waves. He said that there was 'a lot of glass' on the beach. I was determined to go there.

We made plans for a day trip in November. The day of the trip, it poured. It didn't just rain, it poured. Deluge time. The sort of rain that reduces visibility to five feet in front of your car. We made it as far as the Anderson Valley and gave up the idea of Fort Bragg that day. We'd go in December, spend the night there.

The weekend we planned to go in December...it poured. We made plans to go for my birthday in February for a day trip on a Sunday. We'd leave very early in the morning, spend a couple hours there, and head home.

The Sunday we'd chosen, however, was the day after my roommate moved out. We'd spent that Saturday lugging furniture and boxes down the stairs into the truck and realized that there was no way in hell we'd be up to an early morning expedition the next day. Not even for beach glass. So the trip was put off yet one more time.

"Are you sure there'll be glass left?" I asked. Dave just laughed at me.

We decided to go mid-February, make it a Saturday trip so we'd have Sunday to relax at home before another work week started. And we invited Rick and Jen (our bad movie night buddies) to go with us. We'd meet early Saturday morning for breakfast at the Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley, drive up to Fort Bragg, check out Glass Beach, and then hit a few wineries in Anderson Valley on the way home.

The day before our trip, the weather turned cold. An Arctic air current decided to drop in on Northern California. Thunderstorms and possible snow were predicted for Saturday. The same Saturday we were planning on going to Glass Beach. I knew it was a conspiracy. The weather gods did NOT want me to get to Glass Beach. Dave suggested we wait and try for Sunday instead. The weather was supposed to improve on Sunday. I reluctantly agreed, sure that it would pour again on Sunday and the trip would once again be postponed. I just KNEW all of the glass would be gone by the time I made it up there.

Despite my gloomy predictions, Sunday dawned semi-clear and cold, no sign of rain, hail or snow. We met Rick and Jen at the Dipsea Cafe at 7:30, had breakfast, and hit the road for Fort Bragg. It's approximately a three hour drive from San Francisco and, as I mentioned, includes some gorgeous scenery, albeit on windy, hilly roads (if you're prone to nausea, take Dramamine or be in the driver's seat. Right, Jen?) through the Anderson Valley to the Pacific Coast Highway. Lots of wineries, redwoods, and breath-taking coastal views. But be aware that when a sign says 'Fort Bragg, 10 Miles', it's talking 10 miles as the crow flies, not 10 miles of distance easily translatable into 'oh, we'll be there in 10 minutes!' It took a good half hour to drive 10 miles, even with jen's Nascar-esque driving techniques.

We finally reached Fort Bragg, drove to the far end of the town, and parked on Elm Street. I was practically hopping from foot to foot in my anxiousness to get to the beach. I also had to pee, but that's beside the point. I wanted my beach glass, dammit! Grabbing my plastic bag (for the beach glass; we went up the street to Denny's to use the bathroom) and Dave's hand, I practically ran down the dirt path that led to the ocean. We reached the top of a fairly steep slope, I looked over the edge, and...there it was.

Glass Beach.

I knew how explorers looking for ancient Aztec gold or buried pirate treasure felt upon reaching their goal. How Ponce De Leon WOULD have felt if he'd ever found the Fountain of Youth. Yards and yards of shimmering glass lay below me, piles of it spreading up the incline and down into the water and tidepools. I could see bits of emerald green glinting in the sunlight. Madre de dios, the legends WERE true...and I realized that Dave had been perfectly within his rights to laugh at me. But only about Glass Beach.

I scrambled down the incline, as carefully as possible considering the total lust I had to wade in and start collecting. It was total beach glass overload. Everywhere I looked were sparkling gems in various shades of green, amber, brown, and white. Some were like highly polished gemstones, others in varying stages of the sea's smoothing process. I wanted to dive into it, roll around like a cat in catnip. I didn't, though, 'cause it WAS, after all, glass. Besides, I would have looked silly.

Instead I plunked myself down in a likely looking spot (okay, every spot on the beach was a likely looking spot, so let's just say I plunked myself down as soon as I hit the bottom) and started collecting. I could have stayed in the same spot for an hour and still added to my bag of glass, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun as my subsequent exploration of as much ground as I could cover. I burrowed into the layers of glass, rocks and sand under cliff faces, in the stream running down into the ocean, in tide pools. I found little bits of ceramic, pieces of old plates, cigarette holders, unidentified thingees. I found pieces of glass that had fused together into globules; I found a lump of smooth, fused emerald glass the size of a golf ball. Every now and again we'd find cobalt blue glass, but it was in short supply.

I took a break in my glass picking and went with Dave up onto some rocks that looked like they were a film set for a post apocalyptic movie. Metal, rock, pieces of machinery and glass all fused together in jagged boulders made for very careful navigating; a fall onto this stuff would leave a person seriously messed up. The tidepool water in this Mad Maxian landscape was coppery and cloudy. I briefly considered investigating them to see if there were any interesting treasures (I found the best pieces foraging under rocks and in the water), but sensibly thought better of it and went back to the beach for one last look around before we headed back to the Anderson Valley and wine tasting.

Meanwhile, Rick had caught the bug too. "You've infected him," Jen yelled to me across the beach. She and Dave, while picking up carefully selected pieces, didn't have the same glassy version of gold fever that had struck me and Rick. "It's not how much you got, it's what you do with it!"

And my mother would agree. But think of how much MORE I could do with a large quantity of beach glass! Visions of decorating and crafts danced before my eyes, along with the dazzling sparkle of sun reflecting off the beach. Oh yeah, I was hooked. I tried to stop. I really did. But I knew that there was just ONE more perfect piece just a little further down the beach. The siren song of beach glass was even stronger than the call of wine tasting.

"Stop looking down!" said Jen. "Just look away!" And then "Make her stop!" to Dave, who finally dragged me away from the treasure trove and back up the incline...where I discovered that there was a whole other section of beach that I hadn't seen yet on the other side of the path. Majority ruled that it was time to go, however, so I reluctantly walked away from as of yet undiscovered territory. But I'll go back.

I just hope there's some glass left...


  • At 10:33 AM, Blogger DEREK said…

    check out the round robin challenge this month, funny how my challenge was exactly what you wrote about in the first few sentences. Come on post a kitty picture. I'm going to be a big giant kitty.


  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger zhadi said…

    hah! I'll have to see what I've got that suits my personality...there are so many different kinds of kitties, including the big ones...

  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger Abyss of Silence said…

    Where to next? Where to next?!!

  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger zhadi said…

    Lessee...Bodego Bay? Bodega Bay, even? I'm up for anything!

  • At 2:30 PM, Blogger FreeThinker said…

    We had a "glass beach" in Ketchikan, Alaska, where I lived as a child, and I have fond memories of the all shiny colors (which are only visible if the glass is wet).


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