It was a perfect day. Morning fog burned off revealing a golden crescent of fine sand in the protective hook of Drake’s Bay – miles of uniformly, gently curving sand. We walked at least a mile from the parking lot before settling on a spot. Sandstone cliffs at our backs, lines of foamy breakers rolling up slowly on a south swell, we set our towels in the soft sand above the high tide line. There was one other group, with a bounding dog, even farther out the beach. But other than that, we appeared to be alone in the vastness. Otto and Debbie had brought the hash, an espresso-black cube smaller than a beef bullion, wrapped in foil.
They had been a duo for years. I might have been a third wheel, except that we’d been friends for all that time and roommates for the last three terms at school. We shared almost everything. (Otto and Debbie were monogamous.) We’d been tear-gassed at peace marches. We jointly despised Governor Ronald Reagan, both for his insensitivity (“You see one redwood, you’ve seen ‘em all.”) and for his brutality (“Let there be a bloodbath.”). We sang along to Country Joe and the Fish. We raised a foundling kitten in our upstairs apartment on Telegraph Avenue. And we had become skilled enough with the Frisbee that we could keep three of them aloft in a triangle without flubbing for long, ecstatic stretches. When we were in the zone, Debbie and I could keep three discs going between the two of us.
Otto pinched off a raisin-sized piece of the hash, and the three of us passed around the pipe. It was good hash, better than most of the marijuana around back then, but not so strong, I’ll warrant, as the medical-grade stuff available these days. We ran down to the flat hard sand with our Frisbees, laughing, feet slapping the barely flooded ripples. After a time, thanks to errant throws and our bodies adapting to the cold water, we edged into the breakers, to dive over the soup and try, with some success, to bodysurf the miniature combers.
I think it was while we were eating our picnic lunch, having dried off and warmed up in the sun, that we noticed the Jeep on the sand down toward the parking area. By this time, a few more beachgoers had staked their claims between us and the point, and the Jeep seemed to be moving slowly in our direction, stopping at each little human cluster.
I don’t think we were feeling particularly paranoid, but we agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to stash the stash, as it were, someplace where it wouldn’t be obvious. The Jeep was still a half-mile away when I took the wad of tinfoil and the pipe and placed them under a rock at the base of the cliff. There was a great jumble of talus there, and I made careful note of the puzzle crevice into which I wedged the goods.
We watched the Jeep crawl along, getting bigger, leaving its zipper track on the otherwise flawless sand. It stopped opposite our nearest neighbors to the west, and we could see a figure getting out and approaching the umbrella. It was a ranger in dark pants and Smokey the Bear hat, walking in the halting, slipping way of someone wearing boots in the sand.
Point Reyes is not a national park; it allows some ranching, and there is even a commercial oyster farm in one of the bays. But it was then and still is administered by the National Park Service. Now we were really curious, and a little nervous, about this Smokey’s motives. Maybe he was just letting everybody know about some new parking rules or something. Otherwise, he surely would have no reason to stop at our Mondrian towel tableau. There was no way he could have seen me or the speck I’d carried in my palm back to the cliff base. He’d been way too far away.
But eventually here he came. Stopped between us and the sea. Got out of the Jeep. Waddled over to our feigned innocence and said: “Wanna go over and get whatever it was you hid in the rocks?”
To be continued . . .