Just a few steps, and the views are endless.
Past the guy probing the edge of the parking lot with a metal detector.
Past the two forms huddled green and blue in sleeping bags, deep in a dune swale.
Past the sand flecked with charcoal and old fireworks.
They were 6:45 a.m.
This is 7:07.
The sky crumples in a dozen shades of fog: pewter, pearl, alabaster, bronze. The closest waves splash and trickle, tenor to the bass that pounds beyond them.
In less than 20 minutes, a short walk from a parking lot toward the wandering mouth of the Mad River, and there is no one in sight, no one to be heard, nothing but the sweep of shore and sea and sky.
It's part of what pulls so many of us to Humboldt or keeps us here. A land as lush and empty as we need it to be, whenever we crave it.
The tide is going out, and the beach is wide here. Green lines of old waves wriggle across the sand. Damp underfoot, and then damper, the sand turns half-liquid beneath the toes. A thin sheen of water spills over crab shells, broken sand dollars, coin-shaped stones.
To the north, ocean and hills disappear in a white mist. To the south, waves repeat and repeat until there's nothing but a gray shimmer.
Away from the waves, back where the sand turns powdery, a breeze lifts a wisp of dried seaweed. Tiny insects, dappled brown and tan, go invisible between each move. A raven caws. Walk further, where the surf sound fades, and songbirds are raucous in grasses. Beyond, in every direction, are all of Humboldt's solitary retreats: redwoods, meadows, rivers, mountaintops. Where was your 7:07?