Saturday, February 1, 2014

In Which I Have A Close Encounter Of The Adorable Kind

Our plans for visiting the Lunar New Year festival were derailed today when I got an e-mail about a Saturday morning swim practice for Eden.  Her swim team was planning a trip up to Port Orchard to get a chance to practice in the long course pool there.  So we got up ridiculously early in the morning and made the hour-or-so trip up that way to join her teammates.

Her practice was three hours long, and I didn't feel like sitting on those metal bleachers the whole time watching the kids swim back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth ad nauseam.  I'm all about being a supportive parent, but swimming, I'm sad to say, is not exactly the most exciting sport to watch.  So I put Connor back in the van and drove up the coast until I saw signs for Manchester State Park and decided to check it out.  Access to all of the state parks is free for disabled park visitors and their caretakers, which is pretty awesome, so when the chance for a spontaneous visit to one I haven't seen before comes up, I almost always take advantage of it.

Manchester State Park turned out to not be the most accessible park ever-- many of the trails were sort-of paved in chunks of asphalt and large pebbles-- but Connor was okay with that because it made for a bouncy ride, which he thought was fun.  I took him down the path along the coast for a bit, and we stopped and watched a small group of grebes diving for fish out in the sound.  It was very peaceful, if a little cold, and since it was only nine in the morning it seemed like we pretty much had the park to ourselves.  

On the bouncy way back to the car Connor started rubbing his eyes, and shortly after we reached the paved park of the trail again he was asleep against the side of his wheelchair.  I didn't want to put him back in the car immediately since that would wake him up, so I kept going and took the short paved path down by a little rocky beach.  I parked him on the trail where I could see him easily and walked down the beach towards a large speckled granite boulder to sit for a minute and let him have a rest.

I was about three feet away when the top of the boulder rose up and locked eyes with me.

I froze in shock.  The harbor seal and I stared at one another.  His plump, grey mottled body was almost the exact same color as the lichen-covered stone, and he'd curled himself neatly into a cup-shaped depression on top of the rock so from the trail he was nearly invisible.  He regarded me solemnly for a minute while I did my best not to breathe, blinked his huge black eyes a few times, seemed to come to some sort of conclusion about me, yawned widely and then flopped back down like a cat and went to sleep. 

I stood there for a while and watched his side rise and fall as he napped.  A few of his long white whiskers curled up at the ends, and every once in a while his nose would twitch like he was dreaming.  Finally Connor woke up and began making his happy "train whistle noise" from his chair, so I knew it was time to go.  I carefully backed away from the rock, but halfway back to where Connor waited the seal lifted his head again, and he locked eyes with me one more time before casually turning and sliding down the boulder into the ocean.  His head popped up in the water about thirty feet away, and he seemed curious about me and Connor because he swam along beside us, keeping pace until the trail turned off towards the parking lot.

So that was my accidental seal encounter, and it was pretty amazing.  I never would have approached so closely had I know he was there, but I'm glad he didn't seem to find me much of a threat.  I seem to have a knack for stumbling into really close encounters with wild animals, like when this and this happened.  Also that time I opened the front door after a big storm and a bat crawled into my house, though I may not have blogged about that because I think it happened during that big break I took from blogging.  Did I tell you guys about that?  I can't remember, but if I haven't I totally should, because, you know, there was a bat.  In my house.  

Anyway, so after that incredible morning we went home and all took a nap, which was much-needed by everybody.  Then we got up and headed out to the grocery store where Connor proceeded to have a thirteen-and-a-half minute seizure in the middle of the pasta aisle, because apparently this day was going way, way too well and the universe likes to mess with me.  He's currently sleeping off his emergency seizure medication, and we'll see how he's feeling in the morning.

Oh well.  Seals are still awesome.


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