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Mar 24,   SusanDay on Being a Grandparent

14th Dec North Coast Winter

Where I live the winter rains started in early October this year, a month ahead of normal, and have continued to pound us regularly with little relief ever since. So I guess it is official now, the great drought of the last several years is obviously over, at least in Del Norte County, tucked away on the far north coast of California. In the southern part of the state right now it is no doubt 80*, with people sunbathing on the beaches and sipping Margaritas at the bar in their bikinis. But here on the north coast it couldn’t be farther from our minds to walk on the beach today. Rather, people who just can’t help themselves bundle up and drive to any of several beach overlooks to watch from the safety and comfort of their car, as majestic waves crash against rocks and jetties, and flood across low lying portions of the road.

Yesterday I spied a headline on our local newspaper which warned of “coastal flooding” to arrive today. We rarely have to worry about flooding because we are used to so much rain that there is plenty of drainage available to handle it. But occasionally we get a deluge that outstrips even that, and it has come to pass today exactly as the warning predicted. All last night the rain pounded my roof, so loud at times you could scarcely hear yourself think, much less sleep. Tidal water is no doubt already crossing the roads near the beaches, and small streams are climbing out of their banks and into nearby fields. I don’t worry about any of that though, as I my house is on top of a hill. But when I stand and look out from my kitchen window, at times all I see is Niagara Falls pouring off of my roof. No doubt that is because the downspout is partially clogged with dead leaves causing the gutters to overflow when the downpours are at their worst.

On the other hand, if I look out of the picture windows in the living room, I see the nearby forest silhouetted against a dreary gray sky. I can just make out the sharp-pointed tops of the tall firs, swaying violently in the gale force wind. However, the lower parts of the trees are mostly obscured by the the curtain of rain that is being driven sideways in sheets by that same wind. This is what we locals fondly refer to as a “rip snortin’ Del Nort-er” (The final “e” in Del Norte is silent in this end of the state, we say it “Del Nort” here). It is characterized by the horizontal rain that can and does turn any umbrella inside out suddenly and without mercy. I choose not to venture out under these conditions unless absolutely necessary. Now that I am retired I can stay warm and cozy and merely remember all the times that I have had to brave such storms going to and from work or other obligatory outings. That is truly one advantage of retirement here in the water capital of California.

Of course, it is all this water that gives this area the beauty for which it is known worldwide. Our foggy, rocky coast is not like the beaches of the south, but they have their own special attractions that are not available where the sun shines incessantly. For instance, in the early spring thousands of geese stop by for several weeks to fuel up for their trip to the Aleutian Islands. They bed down each night on a nearby protected island that they share with sea lions and other marine animals as well. Each morning at dawn they take off in waves as they go to feed in the lush, rain fed pastures on the mainland. Standing directly beneath them as they cruise low over Point St George, honking and flying together in perfect formations one after another for miles, is a spectacle that a person does not soon forget.

Sitting on the bench in Stout Grove surrounded by magnificent mammoth redwoods and the ferns at their feet also makes you truly appreciate all the rain and fog, because without it there would be no redwoods. And without that same rain our wild and scenic, crystal clear river would not be able to sustain its world class runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead every winter. So our weather is horrible much of the time, but we feel that it is worth the price to be surrounded year-round by such beauty here in our little corner of California. And we can appreciate each of our occasional beautiful days all that much more.

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