My title sounds like an Edward Gorey book. I adore Edward Gorey’s books.
These are the wrong stairs. Don’t go down them.
The stairs are on North Beach. The cliffs are sand and clay. Sections collapse.
People have stopped building stairs down to the beach for the most part. They don’t last.
I longed for a house on the bluff or the beach. But I don’t anymore. I think about collapse. When we have an earthquake, sections of the bluff will collapse. I walk the beach anyhow. I don’t feel protected, I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel lucky. I feel…. mortal.
This clay boulder is about 3 feet by 3 feet by one foot. This slide from the cliff is recent enough that the clay has split and the layers are unmarred. It is all too easy to imagine standing there when the cliff comes down. We stepped carefully between the boulders, trying to stay on gravel, because the clay is way too slippery. Clay is aluminum silicates with small particles and a sheetlike structure. It can contain iron, as the brown streaks in here show. The sheetlike structure is very clear.
My friend J is here for the weekend. He used to live here. High tide was around 9 yesterday and he invited me on a long beach hike. From North Beach to Cape George and back. J says that this is 10-12 miles round trip.
We park at North Beach and start the hike. The tide was still going out. The beach curves along bluffs that get quite high. These bluffs are a mix of clay and sand and sections collapse. I was walking along North Beach once when it was raining after a dry spell. I hear little trickles of sand and there are small collapses that I can see…. I turned back.
This is a photo of the bluff after a fairly recent big collapse. The chunks of clay and rock and trees go all the way out to the water line. J. has seen a big collapse when hiking and said it was terrifying.
The chunks of clay are a dark grey, a lighter gray and an orange color and there they are in the cliff face. We both wish that we had more geology training.
The hike was beautiful. My feet complained at me for the last half mile coming back. J. said that he has invited more than 20 people to go with him over the years, and I am the only one who has. I am glad that I didn’t whine. Today I am limping a bit and sore, but it will get better.
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