In the early dusk of a spooky, foggy August afternoon above the Pacific, my dog Duncan and I push through a spider web-draped screen of berry bushes that hides the entrance to the old North Head Lighthouse Road. Aside from an old bull elk, a few black bears and a slew of semi-tame deer, this venerable route is ours and ours alone.
By the year 2000, the road became almost impassible with fallen tree trunks and salal thickets, until construction of the sewer and water line out to the park and Coast Guard base opened it up a decade ago. But others have less tolerance for swampy mud, scratchy vines and bear encounters, and human foot traffic has once again fallen off.
The forest along North Head road was justly famous in its time, often pictured on postcards of a century ago — families riding on horse-drawn wagons or walking in their bonnets like tiny pixies in a land of giants. There are enough wild old ones left — especially on the road’s south side — to provide a hint of primordial wonder.
Perhaps six stories up in the twisted crown of one 8-foot-diameter skyscraper is what must be an eagle tenement. It is less active than it was a few years ago before nearby townhouse construction, but still has at least one resident, who screeched as she departed.
The forest also is sometime home to a barred owl — disliked by biologists because they out-compete our native northern spotted owls. But, frankly, I’m inclined at this point to let natural selection play out as it will, and am happy to have an owl of any kind to keep us company on the lighthouse road.
Too soon, the road ends at the state highway, where work will soon resume on the new paved trail extension to be completed to the lighthouse this winter. They better not try to “improve” the old road, though. The curses of ten thousand red-legged frogs and one cranky old editor will rain down upon any paved crew that tries.