Our departure was scheduled for 11:00 am on Saturday. Of course, we didn’t actually leave until 11:30, which is technically early by PAgent family standards. Shortly after we hit the road, we began a fine PAgent family vacation tradition, the Litany of Forgotten Things:

PAgent: “Crap. I didn’t pack the beach chairs.”

Mrs. Agent: “Oh! I didn’t pack my swim suit. Oh well, it’s not like you can actually swim.”

The Boy: “I don’t think I packed my toothbrush.”

Mrs. Agent: “Honey, it was on your list. Did you go down your list when you were packing?”

The Boy: “…Yes…”

Mrs. Agent: “Then it should be in your suitcase.”

The Boy: “I don’t remember packing it.”

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The rental house was very cute, and MUCH nicer than last year’s version. We were again situated high on a cliff, but this time all the lights and appliances worked, and the house actually seemed cozy. And nothing smelled like dead fish, although the daisies in the yard smelled like dog poo.

Access to the beach was via a longish walk down the lane to a stairwell, or a much closer scramble down the prominantly-marked “Psycho Path”. The Psycho Path dropped down into a tree-filled ravine, and on to the beach, and my children loved it. They thought nothing of scrambling up and down it at a moment’s notice. Those of us with aching knees and compromised cardiovacular systems were a little less enthusiastic.

At any rate, the children couldn’t play on the beach unsupervised. Northwest beaches can be dangerous places. A sneaker wave can smack you around, or roll a driftwood log on top of you. If you don’t pay attention to the tides, you can end up stranded on a rock, or on the wrong side of a headland. The riptide pulls unwary swimmers out to sea every year. And if all that weren’t enough, the frigid water can give you hypothermia in minutes. As the USA-TODAY guide to Northwest Beaches succinctly put it: “Stormiest and coldest water in the continental USA. Swimming and wading are not prime activities. Hypothermia is a major concern.”

Nevertheless, I love wild northwest beaches. I have visited the Gulf of Mexico, and found the warm, gently lapping waters there tremendously disappointing. I grew up playing in an ocean with character. An ocean that said “You better keep an eye on me, buddy-boy. I’ll smack you around.” And besides, the water’s only cold until your feet go numb.

At any rate, if the kids wanted to play on the beach (and the kids ALWAYS wanted to play on the beach), that meant at least one parent had to be down there, too. With temperatures in the ’50s-’60s, and a constant wind, it can be less than pleasant to just sit there. Fortunately, Mrs. Agent and I came prepared with the Kelty Cabana.

Purchased with the express purpose of keeping us comfy while watching our children get soaked, sandy, and salty, the Kelty Cabana performed admirably. With little built-in sandbags at the corners, this little shelter was remarkably stable even in high winds. With the front panel laid open, it’s a nice three-sided sunshade and windbreak. With the front panel zipped shut, it’s essentially a light tent. The Mrs. and I could sit and read in relatively cozy comfort while our kids ran amok. The Kelty Cabana gets PAgent’s wholehearted Seal of Approval, and permitted our kids to actually play as long as they wanted to.

We also got to fly kites this year. I got the kids set up with their kites, then started laying out my parafoil stunt kite. As I was hooking up the guidelines, I saw my daughter sprinting down the beach after her runaway kite string. Oh, damn. I jogged after her, and caught up with her as she began scaling the cliff:

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“I need to get my kite.”

“And you were just going to go up the cliff to get it?”

“I can see the kite string. It’s right there.”


“Right there at the top of the cliff.”

“Stay here and watch your brother.”

She would have done it, too.

Since Dad did not reach the ripe old age of 42 by being excessively stupid and/or foolhardy, I went around the backside of the cliff, and scrambled up through the heavy brush to the kite string. At that point it was a simple matter of whacking through more brush, winding up the string, until I found the kite hung up in a Kite-Eating-Tree. By the time I got back to the beach I was filthy, bruised, and bloodied, but I had my daughter’s kite, dammit.

I let the girl fly my stunt kite for a while, which she really enjoyed. Unfortunately, the wind started picking up, and after a while she was having trouble controlling it. I took over the kite and flew for a while longer. Then I noticed that the wind had gotten strong enough that the kite was beginning to pull me down the beach a little. Note: When the kite starts to pull the fat man down the beach, it is definitely time to go in.

Next time: Dusty Trails