I continued on, walking through pastures of curious cows. Having learned from my last hike they are indeed not predatory creatures, I walked with confidence. Up and over another hill. In the distance was another group of cows. Or was it? As I drew closer I noticed the animals stiffen and stare at me. The group of eight were not cows, but deer. Graceful, lithe, multi shades of brownness deer. All except for one. One solitary pure white deer. I stopped, not wanting to frighten the animals. I felt as though I had entered a storybook and a magical creature stood before me. The white deer, on the edge of the group, lifted its head and slowly, gracefully turned back towards me. I stared. It stared. I held my breath, not wanting to upset the balance of the fascination of me with it and it with me. After what seemed like an eternity, but could only have been seconds, the white dream bounded up and over the hill, the other seven sprinting after it. I stood still for a moment, thankful for such fortune.
I continued on, finally reaching my destination, Sunset Beach. I walked along the rocky shore, hearing nothing but the roar of waves in the distance coupled with the easy lapping of the tide on the sand. On a flat rock I enjoyed my sandwich, still in disbelief that I had hiked over four miles and not seen another human. After a brief respite, I began my return to the trailhead. A couple of miles in, I reached a split in the trail. Not quite ready for my day to be over, I ventured off towards another destination, Drakes’ Head. More cows greeted me as I passed by their watering hole. They stopped chewing their cuds, stared at me and with a switch of their tail returned to the grass under foot.
Not long thereafter I reached Drakes’ Head, a bluff overlooking the expansive ocean. I sat down, content to listen to the wind blowing while soaking up warm rays of sunshine. Something to the left caught my eye. More wildlife? I started down the hill, hugging the edge of the bluff. Curious as to how high I was, and how steep the bluff was, I sneaked closer to the edge. And closer. I peered over the edge. There, in the water below, massive manta rays glided near the shore, skinny tails following the smooth movements of perfectly symmetrical fins. What were those other shapes? Sharks, too many to count, wove in and out, back and forth. Dark, ominous forms swam in the crystalline water. I watched, fascinated, until the creatures were mere dots.
I began my trek back to the trailhead, benignly content with my day in the wilderness. The day had warmed, the grasshoppers were out in full force. As I walked the trail, hoppers hopped and hit my chest, my face, my backpack. I laughed, to myself, to the skies, to the fields, and continued on. On the trail back I encountered a few groups of hikers. As I greeted them, I wondered what surprises they would encounter on their journey.