Did I Do the Smart Thing or the Dumb Thing?
The weather forecast was dire, but I needed out of the apartment. Did I make the right call?
I’m an active person who needs to be outside as much as possible, preferably every day.
Basically, I’m a dog that needs to be walked.
If I stay inside too many days in a row, I start to climb the walls and chew the furniture. I also start to drive my husband bonkers.
We’re currently living in Australia, and unfortunately, the spring weather has been pretty temperamental. As a result, I haven’t been outside nearly as much as I want.
This was not good for Brent’s sanity — or our Airbnb’s walls or furniture.
One particular Saturday, Brent was going to be busy all day, so I decided I had to get out of the apartment. I especially wanted to do one of Sydney’s famous coastal walks.
Without Brent joining me, I could take as many photos as I wanted. That also meant he wouldn’t get so frustrated with me that he’d end up “accidentally” knocking me off one of Sydney’s dramatic cliffs.
But what about the weather? The forecast really was bad — heavy winds and rain, even thunderstorms. The headlands I wanted to walk were exposed, the storm would be roaring in straight off the Pacific.
It obviously made more sense to do something inside — away from the apartment, sure, but somewhere safe and warm, maybe a museum or a movie.
I decided to ask my Facebook friends for their thoughts.
I explained the set-up and asked, should I do:
The Smart Thing: Go somewhere sensible, away from the elements?
The Dumb Thing: Do the coastal walk despite the risk of bad weather?
Ninety-nine percent of my so-called “friends” said I should do the Dumb Thing.
“You aren’t made of sugar, princess!” one wrote. “It’s only a little rain — you aren’t going to melt.”
But the truth is, I’d already decided to do the Dumb Thing. I’m a dog that needs to be walked, remember?
So did it end up being a Smart Thing or a Dumb Thing?
Let’s find out, shall we?
It started off pretty dumb.
Rather than have my Uber drop me off at, you know, the actual trailhead, I stupidly had him drop me off at the entrance to Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Which meant I had to walk a couple of kilometers along a not very attractive road to reach the trailhead.
I did find a shortcut through some cool looking Aussie trees that smelled great. That knocked almost a kilometer off my trek.
SMART OR DUMB? Dumb! But it was my own damn fault. And those trees did smell very nice.
I finally arrived at the trailhead. The trail itself would take me along the coast to the Cape Baily Lighthouse, along Cape Baily itself, and finally to a parking lot, where I would call an Uber to take me home.
I’m normally a “bright-blue-sky-and-lots-of-sunshiny-days-are-best” kind of guy.
This particular day was none of that, which, of course, I knew ahead of time. Yet looking south along the coast, I couldn’t help but feeling a tad disappointed it was this gray and drab.
Oh, well. Perhaps things would brighten up as the day went along.
SMART OR DUMB? Still feeling kind of dumb.
With dark clouds looming overhead and the smell of salt air filling my lungs, I set out.
And it promptly started to mist. But that was okay. I had a rain jacket, plus I’m originally from Seattle, and we do mist about nine months out of every year.
The wind picked up. I pushed my hat down on my head, but a few minutes later, the wind plucked it off my head anyway, sending it skittering away. I imagined Brent reading the headline, Dumb American vanishes chasing hat off of cliff!
But I managed to catch it before I became clickbait.
This part of the walk was mostly stony headlands without a proper trail. But thanks to clearly placed markers, there wasn’t much chance of getting lost.
The rain started to come down harder — hard enough that I dug out the plastic bag I’d brought to protect my phone. Which meant I wasn’t going to be able to take all those pictures I’d hoped for.
Before long, the track entered an area of dark green shrubs. At least they had the good sense to hunker down, protecting themselves from the wind and rain that blew in off of the ocean.
Frankly, though, it was kind of boring. Was it going to be like this the whole way?
I stepped off the boardwalk hoping for a better view — and right into a water puddle. Now I was literally wet from head to toe.
I definitely did not feel like I was living my best life.
SMART OR DUMB? Dumb and getting dumber by the minute.
The wind picked up, and now I had to hold onto my hat. I also had to tuck my chin down to keep the rain from blowing straight into my face.
Plastic bag or not, there was no way I was taking any photos now — which is why I’ll have to rely on this GIF, which isn’t technically accurate, but I was feeling very cranky, so it definitely captures my “emotional truth”:
SMART OR DUMB? Not quite “standing-outside-in-a-hurricane” dumb, but getting close.
I doggedly soldiered on, and the kilometers slowly passed.
But at some point, the rain changed back to mist, which eventually faded away altogether.
I took out my phone, removed it from its plastic bag, and started snapping pictures. Brent always says taking photographs while out exploring takes him out of the moment.
But it actually puts me into the moment. It pushes me to pay more attention to the world around me.
On this day, I was looking at everything, figuring how to frame my shots, picturing what the colors and shadows would look like later. As always, it fixed the memories more solidly in my mind.
The track took me into another lovely green heath. Without the wind and rain, I noticed things I hadn’t before — different shades of colors in the heath, but also the rugged grasses and the coastal wildflowers. I saw lovely heath banksia, white flower flannel, and clustered scent myrtle, to name just a few. (Full disclosure: I didn’t know those names at the time and had to look them up later!)
If I actually were a dog, my tail definitely would’ve been wagging by now.
Before long the ground grew much stonier and unable to support many plants. But it was a fascinating variety of otherworldly formations, all carved out of the sandstone by millennia of wind and rain.
I loved the subtle orange and rust colors, as well as all the different shapes and textures.
The sky might not have been brightening, but my mood certainly was.
SMART OR DUMB? Starting to feel a little…wait for it…smart?
Walking along, I caught a rhythmic boom, boom, boom off in the distance.
There are few things I love more than the sight of waves crashing against rocks, but I hadn’t seen much of that today. The drop-off down to the rocks below was too abrupt.
Now I was definitely hearing the crashing surf.
I hurried on. The metal track veered out of the heath and onto a flat expanse of weathered stone. I moved forward — taking care to not step in another puddle of water — rounded a corner, and came upon this:
Now it was even louder than before.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
I stopped in my tracks, mesmerized by the sight.
I stared at the spot where a continent met the open ocean, two of nature’s most indomitable creations locked into an eternal battle. With so much power in front of me, it wasn’t hard to imagine the Junkgowa Sisters, Aboriginal goddesses of the sea, somewhere just out of sight watching the struggle and cheering on the waves.
Inside, I cheered too, but not for one side or the other. I loved how the color of the water changed after colliding with the cliff. A strange kind of alchemy turned it from gray into a lovely turquoise frothed with white.
The rain started again, drops spattering around me. That was okay because I had my pictures. I tucked my phone away, and simply sat there watching the collision of land and sea over and over.
In doing so, I underwent my own kind of alchemy as well.
Sure, I was cold and wet, but as my eyes traveled down the cliff, past the surging sea, and out toward that endless horizon, the tension I’d felt from being cooped up had completely vanished.
Instead, I felt invigorated and alive and much more connected to the world around me.
SMART OR DUMB? I! Am! A Goddamn! Genius!
Time seemed to stop as I sat there taking in the view, but I finally pushed on, walking past Cape Baily, to the parking lot where I was going to call that Uber to take me home. By now the rain fell even harder, I was cold, and my dogs were plenty tired.
Except, oops! I had no cellphone coverage.
I stared down the mist-shrouded coast. Despite the rain and wind and my sore feet, I had no choice but to walk the remaining seven kilometers back to our apartment. It wasn’t going to be fun, but the only way out was through.
I tucked my phone away, pulled my hat down tight, and headed home.
SMART OR DUMB? I may be something of an idiot, especially when it comes to Ubers, but my outing was still very, very smart.