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You, me and the sea


Shelter Cove is an idyllic destination for those who just enjoy lazing around


It is just the place. A place which offers "hum tum ek kamre me bandh ho, aur chaabi kho jaaye" kind of romantic privacy that honey-mooners yearn for. We are talking about Shelter Cove, the idyllic little get-away hugging the Pacific.

In California, beaches and privacy are a contradiction in terms, more so on week-ends when we see people filling every inch of space like the Olive Ridley turtles on the Orissa coast. Imagine, against such a grim scenario, the prospect of 'just you, me and the sea', as promised by Shelter Cove. Wow!

As a family seeking escape from the sickening din of every-day life, we hit highway 101 from the City of the Golden Gate. We drive through the famed redwood country and climb up a magnificent hill-range. As the spiralling road takes you to the top of the range, a stunning spectacle unfolds suddenly, leaving you awe-struck. The sight of the mighty ocean, its waves lashing the foot of the hill-range below. The sun is just dipping behind the horizon. The sight remains framed firmly in the mind's eye for a lifetime. A writer has rightly described it as the place where 'the sea and the land meet with a vengeance'.

Excitement mounts as we hear that Shelter Cove has a 'mystery' dimension too to it it's called the Lost Coast. History and geography have conspired to keep this part of the Pacific coast out of bounds for people until mid-19th century. This stretch of coast as well as land remained unknown long after the rest of the United States was mapped. Hence, the name, Lost Coast. The only deep water port over a long rugged coastline, Humboldt Bay here remained obscure from sea-farers because of its narrow and treacherous opening. It was witness to many shipwrecks. Reaching the bay by land was not easy either, because of the rugged coastal mountains that stretch 150 miles inland.

Chill winds blow as we reach Shelter Cove, also known as 'Paradise' and 'Gem of the Lost Coast'. We check in at 'Tides Inn' where every suite offers a spectacular view of the Pacific. 'Look ma, the sea is so close. I can't believe it', Kaivallya, my grand-daughter, screams in delight. Yes. The waves almost lap the base of the hotel building!

It is a long holiday, yet you do not see too many people. Cars do not choke the roads. The rich fly in by small aircraft that land on the daylight airstrip. Barring a handful of beach-combers, tide-pool gazers and tourists taking in the beauty of the setting sun or waiting to glimpse friendly seals or sea-lions, you are virtually to yourself. What a perfect get-away. A few steps over the rocky edges into the water, you see star fish, sea urchins and other marine species trapped in the tide pools. We count 17 star fish! Thanks to Julie, the ever-friendly inn-keeper, who offers us a powerful torch to watch them in dark.

We wake up to a thrilling sight the next morning deer frolicking on the beach! The horned beauties come down from the nearby coastal mountains.

A short drive away, we walk down the hill slope to the ocean below. Quite unlike those in India, the beach here is carpeted by millions of fine black sand granules and pebbles. Sign-posts warn people not to venture into the dangerously unpredictable sea at this point. Trekkers heading for the nearby trails are also warned of bears that appear smelling food in trash cans.

Another compelling sight beckoning the tourist at Shelter Cove is the Cape Mendocino lighthouse. Originally set up at a place 20 miles away, it had served mariners for over 80 years until in 1951 it was deactivated by the Coast Guard. Years took their toll on the neglected tower when a group of heritage-conscious volunteers raised funds for its restoration. It was relocated, piece by piece, at Shelter Cove in 1998 and fully restored. The lighthouse, open to public, is easily accessible.

If you are of the lazy kind and wish to do nothing but lie down, you can still spend hours and hours watching the waves rush or recede or watch hopefully for spouting of a distant whale. It is difficult not to fall in love with Nature.

How to get there: Take Highway 101 from San Fransisco and exit at Garberville or Redway. Shelter Cove has hotels offering accommodation with all amenities. There is an airstrip with day landing facility.


Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


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