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On the first full day of my camping trip at Lake Quinault, I head to the coast. It’s just 45 minutes to my usual stops—Kalaloch, Beach 4, and Ruby—but I’m headed farther north this time. The fog hasn’t lifted yet when I get within half a mile of the Pacific. But when I turn east to skirt the Quileute tribal land, the cloudless sky returns.

Highway 101 passes the Hoh Rainforest and Forks, Washington (claim to fame, the location of the story in the Twilight book series) then turns back toward the coast on the other side of the reservation. When I come to the fork in the road, I take the right side toward Rialto Beach. Last time I was up here, I went left to LaPush, separated from Rialto by the Quillayute River. I stop at the deeply wooded Mora campground where I camped with my family of origin. If you didn’t know the ocean was half a mile away, you would never believe it.

Back on the road, I plunge back into fog. It’s eerily beautiful at the beach, the forest seems primordial, the gulls screaming, the bleached white drift logs that look like dinosaurs and whales, the gray standing snags. There’s art, including a mermaid grotto.

It’s been a long time since I was here. I eat my lunch and make a cairn or two, then walk down the beach. I know there are sea stacks out in the water, but they are hidden. I decide not to wait for the fog to lift, then change my mind as the stacks begin to appear. I sit on a log and wait. It’s warm, in spite of the fog and a breeze. The veil slips up slowly and I wait some more, anticipating the glittering waves under blue sky.

Then the fog changes its mind and the veil drops back down. That’s it. There’s an Adirondack chair and a beer in the sun at the lodge calling my name.

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Mermaid grotto.

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