Sunday, July 24, 2011

The price of consideration

Lights: HDS 100Chc; SureFire M3LT.

At about 3.30am, I went out for a stroll on a night left quite dark beneath a blanket of clouds. I walked to a beach access toward the farther side of the neighborhood, looked down to the sand, and saw an odd sight: a couple bamboo mats and a crumpled up, brightly colored blanket, but no sign of anyone around. I went down the ramp for a closer look, still saw no one. I went over for a closer look and found there was also a fitted sheet, a bunch of cups, a pack of cigs, and a lighter. About 20 feet away, a washcloth lay on the sand. This was especially strange to me because a few nights ago on Moonstone Beach I found a couple of folding chairs sitting not far from an abandoned pair of baby shoes. I looked around again with the Chc, still saw no sign of anyone, and then broke out the M3 for a scan of the entire area, including the shoreline and the kelp bed not far out, because I was a little concerned I might find floating bodies in the surf or something. Still nothing. So I walked over to a rock to get back to what I'd come there for, to relax and listen to the ocean a little.

After a few minutes, I saw lights coming from an approaching car on the street above. As I crept farther down the beach, I saw the lights come closer and, as far as I could tell, stop in the parking lot. I got up close to the concrete cliff protection and quietly edged down and around an obtuse corner to get out of direct line of sight in case they came down and shined a light around. I waited a couple minutes, but saw no light and heard no sounds of anyone getting out of a car or coming back to the little encampment. I crept quietly back in the direction I'd come, and out towards some rocks closer to the water so I could get a better angle on the area but still have some cover. Still I heard and saw nothing, so I figured the car I'd seen must have just parked up there and might still be up there, maybe waiting for me if they were there because they or someone else saw my big light searching around.

I considered my options. I could keep walking down the beach to the other access, but that would mean covering about seven blocks over sand and rocks at, by now, 4am. Since I wasn't sure anyone was even there, I decided I needed to chance getting a better look at the parking area above and try to get out the way I'd come. I waited until a wave came in to give me some masking noise then quickly moved from behind my rock up to a spot close to the wall again but nearer the access ramp. I stood still there, looked and listened. I still couldn't see anything, but now... I could hear something... people laughing. I remained there for five or ten minutes, remaining still so I wouldn't be noticed, listening to sounds of laughter and soft conversation, considering my options. I wanted to just walk the remaining 30 feet to the ramp and head home, which would bring me within about 20 feet of them, but in the end I decided that there was just no way I could get past them without risking screwing up their night: if I went up casually with a light on, they'd be scared that someone had come to confront them; if I walked by quietly in the darkness, they'd be paranoid of the shadowy figure lurking around the beach where they're trying to sleep; and if they were doing something intimate when I passed, they'd be all the more freaked out. Rather than risk disturbing them, I turned and quietly made my way down the beach, hopping between large rocks as much as possible to avoid waking the people sleeping in the houses above, for the next 20 minutes. I was able to walk on clear sections of the beach without a light because my eyes had adapted during my time hiding on the beach and I'd been using mostly low light to begin with, but when I got into the rougher areas I used the Chc on its minimum level in hopes that it would not be observed by the campers. When I felt I was far enough away and had enough rock formations between us, I used my 3lm setting to make things a bit easier. I was grateful for the high CRI light, which made it much easier on the eyes to walk over countless light grey rocks and pebbles. It ended up being a pretty strenuous walk since I was trying to take the quietest path instead of the easiest, and I nearly sprained my ankle once, but I made pretty quick progress once I upped my light level to something more practical. I arrived home a little after 4.30 in the morning, sweaty, thirsty, and tired.

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