There was a Y in the downward trail from our campground.
A big hunched over fella with a long beard, knitted cap and long grey hair came up the right hand branch of the trail with his white and yellow ottoman of a hound dog. Moxy Mayhem, our silvery brown standard poodle wagged all over, ready to play.
R and I stopped to pass the time of day with him as we watched our dogs wrestle up and down a damp and sandy ravine. The dogs were entirely uninhibited, spreading plumes of sand, summersaulting, nearly running us over. The grizzled greybeard guy was more cautious, only started giving eye contact after connecting us to a past home near Seattle. Even then, he never did look up at me, only at R, and his dog, whom he growled at frequently for reasons which remain mysterious to me.
He told us it was two and one half miles to the ocean beach, but if we kept right, there would be a nice dune to follow along. We thought we would save the beach walk for morning and took the path to the right, following carefully in the footprints of the old guy and his dog.
The environment was kind of unusual. There were firs, bearing cones, but they grouped around the edges of light soft sand. They formed islands of forest upon stilled sand waves. They often had bare trunks topped by a sweep of branches that looked like a tossing head of green hair, stopped in the wind for a still life, blown toward shore and frozen just that way for good.
The pale blue/green lichen that I have always seen on the trees in abundance in northwest coastal areas had lept or fallen to the ground and risen up to move incrementally among the mosses with such a soft light aspect that I had to reach down and pat them gently. It almost looked like turqoise foam but gave under my fingers more like steel wool than the cotton I had expected.
We continued on for half an hour enjoying the cushioning sand and the welcome sunlight. We had traveled through lumpy rain and hail in the morning hours.
All of a sudden I noticed we were following tracks with five toes, like a barefoot human. The boot and dogprints had given way to the unmistakable impression of a bear. Front and hind feet, claw marks and all.
“I thought I saw some bear scat, awhile back,” R confessed.
“I thought Moxy was snuffling around for grouse,” said I. Had our man turned into a bear or had the bear turned into A man?
We formed a triangle, the three of us, looking down at and taking measure of the prints among the sand and knickknick berries. Our triangle then formed up a line, and without furthur discourse we made our two sets of human prints and one set of poodle prints into a B line back to camp.