Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Solo Outing

Peter's busy season for photography workshops has begun. He has eight scheduled this month, and another four or five already scheduled for next month. My usual course of action when he has a weekend workshop is to go into work on Sunday. I figure I might as well work up the hours and then I'll be able to take time off when Peter also has time off. This flexibility is one of the things I love most about my job.

This past Sunday, I planned to go into work but Peter talked me out of it. I'd had a rough week and had already put in 12 hours of overtime. I was so busy running errands on Saturday that I complained I felt like I didn't have a weekend. Peter convinced me that Sunday could be my weekend.

I was up early on Sunday, since that's just the way I'm wired. By 10 am, I'd already caught up on email, blogging, Facebook, and general web site reading. The weather outside was gorgeous and I decided I needed to see the ocean. I thought about the hour of driving on twisty country roads that would take me to the ocean and that I'd have to go alone. (Well, I was going to bring Toby, but it's not like he can share the driving duties.) I talked myself out of the outing.

By 10.30, I realised that if I didn't go to the ocean, I'd be miserable and have an unproductive day. I borrowed Peter's GPS (whom we call Emily), riled Toby up about the prospect of a car ride, and grabbed my wellies. I thought about bringing along a back up pair of socks and sweatpants, because usually me + ocean = wading adventure that ends with wet jeans. But I decided that I just wouldn't go wading.

The drive down to Barleycove beach was lovely. At one point, I caught a glimpse of the Fastnet Lighthouse, which is one of my obsessions. Some days, I crave solitude so much I fantasise about living in the Fastnet.

It took about an hour to reach the Barleycove and Toby enjoyed the ride. He had his head out the window for most of it. When I pulled into the car park at the beach, he went crazy. He couldn't wait to get out and smell everything. He had to wait, though, since I had to put on my wellies and get organised.

Barleycove is an interesting beach. It's really more like a bunch of sand dunes with a tidal lagoon, which then leads to more sand dunes before you get to the beach, which is a lovely stretch of flat, smooth sand. As the name suggests, the beach is a cove, so you have the feeling of being sheltered. The ocean sometimes freaks me out - all that nothingness stretching for thousands of miles in all directions. Barleycove makes the ocean feel cosy and manageable.

To get across the tidal lagoon, you cross a pontoon bridge. When the tide is coming in, the bridge is like a Universal Studios adventure ride. It sways and shimmys while water comes pouring over the base of it. Wellies or waterproof shoes are definitely a must. It was on or near this bridge that Toby lost a Kong toy during an outing last year. The guidebooks I've read all say that this bridge is to protect the fragile wetlands from the hordes of visitors. Possibly, but I'd say it also serves the more prosaic purpose of providing the easiest, driest access to the beach proper.

I snapped the leash on Toby's collar and released him from the backseat. He came bounding out and off we went. There was a loose, unchaperoned dog in the car park, so I moved Toby along toward the pontoon bridge quickly. Only when we got there, the pontoon bridge was disassembled and neatly stacked on the far side of the lagoon.

Since the whole objective was to see the ocean, and I was only seeing sand dunes, I knew we'd have to get across the lagoon. The bridgeless crossing looked too deep in the middle. So Toby and I walked up the beach in search of a better place to cross. I gave Toby a Kong, but he'd get too excited and drop it and then trot away from it. So I tucked the Kong back in my jacket pocket. After traversing nearly the length of the beach, we found a place where the lagoon was quite shallow. I was able to wade across with the wellies, no trouble. Toby pranced and danced and splashed his way across.

When we first got Toby, he wasn't keen on a water. He wouldn't even run through a puddle. Eventually, he got used to it and even learned to enjoy water. In the summer, I took him into the river a few times and he had a great time chasing the current. Even so, I'd never actually seen him swim and I don't think he'd been in water deeper than a few inches.

On the other side of the lagoon, we hiked across the scrubby grass and sand. Toby had great fun lunging after the wild hares, which were a fair distance away. Soon, we crested the dunes and I settled down to enjoy the ocean. This bit of ocean therapy was exactly what I needed.

When I started to get shaky with the hunger, I decided it was time to go back to the car. Rather than walk all the way back the way we came, we were closer to the bridgeless crossing. The tide seemed like it might have been on the way out and I thought we might have a chance of a decent crossing. It didn't look any better than it had the last time, so I walked a little ways further up the beach and picked a place that looked somewhat crossable.

In hindsight, I probably should have hiked all the way over to the hotel and then taken the road back to the car park. But the shortest route between two points is a straight line and I'd decided we'd give it a go.

Toby plunged in without reservation. I watched the water lap at my ankles, then at my calves, then crest the top of my wellies before we were even half-way across. The minute my jeans go wet, I was committed to speed over common sense. Toby was starting to falter, unsure if he wanted his feet to leave the safety of the ground. I pushed on, encouraging him to do the same. The water was soon up to my waist and I could feel the current nudging me sideways.

The water came up over the waistband of my jeans and I felt the scrabbling of claws at my back. Poor Toby was finding that he wasn't really keen on this swimming thing and was trying to climb up onto my back. I was afraid he was going to push me over and I was going to have to swim. We were more than half-way across at this point and the only thing for it was to try to move a bit faster.

Peter's voice in my head was telling me that I'd made a foolish decision and that I was in a dangerous position. But I told Peter's voice to be quiet. I'd assessed all the risks. We weren't in a position to be swept out to sea. The worst case scenario was that I was going to have a very uncomfortable ride home. The water was quite cold but I barely felt it. Relief was my prime feeling, as the water started to slip back down and Toby and I landed on dry beach on the other side.

Back at the car, I debated driving home pantless, but I had grand dreams of finding an open sporting goods store and buying a pair of sweatpants. (Boy, was I regretting not putting that spare pair into the boot.) I used the towel I keep in the car to sop up the worst of the water in my jeans. I cranked up the heat in the car and was actually not too uncomfortable although the jeans did feel a little clammy.

Lessons learned on my first ever solo outing? Be better prepared. Bring a little lunch so I don't make questionable decisions under the duress of hunger and have extra clothes on hand just in case. Peter has another workshop this weekend and I'm thinking, weather permitting, of another outing.


At 5 March 2008 at 10:14, Blogger Babaloo said...

What a story! I can only recommend Incidoney Beach for your next outing. There's not disassembled bridge and you don't need to cross any water. Unless you absolutely want to. ;-)

At 5 March 2008 at 13:55, Blogger Kaycie said...

That sounds like something I would have done pre-kids. I never learned to plan for things like hunger and wet clothes until I had babies. The positive is I rarely have to drive home from the beach in wet clothes. The negative -- not a lot of spontanaeity in my day to day life.

It sounds like you and Toby had a great time.

At 5 March 2008 at 14:44, Blogger laurie said...


no way no way no way.

glad you made it ok. no way.

At 5 March 2008 at 16:26, Blogger Jan said...

Great story. Fear is a waste of time. I can just see the *driving home pantless* debate, and it's consequences (traffic stop) if you'd done it. Another outing next weekend will be great.

At 5 March 2008 at 19:10, Blogger -Ann said...

Babaloo - I've never been to that beach. I'll definitely have to check it out.

Kaycie - We did. And we'll have an even better time next weekend when I go prepared. :) That's funny that kids train you to be prepared for anything.

Laurie - Yeah, I can see how you wouldn't want to do that. I don't think I would do it again. More because of the unpleasantness than anything.

Jan - I figured I could put the towel over my legs. But I really was hoping to find a store. I thought I could go into the store wrapped in just a towel, but knew that I probably didn't have the ability to pull that off.


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