Goat Rock State Beach called our name this weekend and we headed out for the rugged Sonoma County coast.
This 74-acre beach between Jenner and Bodega Bay, is one of California’s most dangerous due to powerful riptides and under tows. It’s a dramatic mix of sand, pounding surf, shores a-tumble with rocks and boulders, and dramatic sea stacks rising from the rumbling ocean like powerful sentinels.
We had the added delight of thick fog, making the 20-foot high waves slamming the shore mysterious as well as brawny.
Goat Rock is spectacular enough on a clear day to stun one breathless. But on a day so heavy with gray mist that there is no horizon and the only sound is the muscular punch of giant waves, mystery fills the air as well as the heart.
Before we hit the beach, however, we found a picnic table among the dunes and laid out our lunch.
No sooner had we spread out the salad, sliced chicken, bread and lemon aid, than a large, very handsome sea gull landed on our table and stood quietly looking at us.
He made one small sound, something like, "Hello," and that was all. He stood about two feet from us, maybe less, and simply made eye contact. Clearly, he wanted to picnic too.
I shot a few photos of him, and hoped he wouldn’t dive in and grab our food. I felt excited to have such a large and beautiful wild animal so close, but I was also a little apprehensive. I didn’t want him to snap at us or our food.
But he was calm, and simply stood nearby, keeping his clear, large eyes on us.
"I guess begging’s easier than fishing," Sweetheart Al said.
We ate, watching the gull as he quietly, patiently watched us.
"He doesn’t seem to be begging," I said.
And then, at the same time, we both noticed that our picnic guest had only one foot.
And, suddenly, we understood. A one-footed seagull isn’t much of a swimmer or diver. Fishing is probably a thing of the past for this bird.
Yet he looked well fed and healthy. His stump was healed, and it was clear he’d learned to walk with a limp.
"I’ll call him Chester," Al said, as he placed some bread and chicken near the gull.
Quickly Chester devoured the food and then stood quietly waiting for more.
Throughout our meal, we willingly shared our food with Chester. And he carefully devoured everything we laid out.
When we were finished, he hopped down.
He’d been the perfect table guest, interesting and interested, alert and involved, yet never pushy or demanding. Obviously he had learned how to survive using courtesy and patience.
We’ve talked about the dignity that disabled seagull displayed and how happy we were to share our provisions with him, once we understood the situation.
If you visit Goat Rock State Beach this summer, I encourage you to take a little something for Chester.