A river of fog

As I was driving down to San Jose this weekend, when I saw something on the hills west of Palo Alto that made me wish I owned a camera. Though, since my mind has always been the store of my experiences, I will try to capture the image in words instead of data:

That day Pacifica had been fully encased in fog, making it impossible to see the road ahead. It was cold, damp, and feeling more like London than San Francisco. These fogs are usually confined to a small area, with sunshine and warmth just over the next hill. So I drove out, pushing my car through a pea soup, until I reached Belmont and the skies cleared up again.

When I got to Palo Alto, I looked west (to my right) and saw a carpet of dark green on the hills. It was nearing evening, making the green seem denser, as if hinting at the darkness of evening to come. And at one point along those hills, the line of trees stopped: to be replaced by a pure white fog. For all the world it looked like frosting on a giant, loamy cake.

It poured over the crest of the hill and splashed into the valley below. That is, the wave flowed smoothly down, but when it reached the bottom of the valley it churned, up into the sky. If I could have watched it at high speed, it would have played out like a white wave crashing into the richness of the forest.

And the sheer density of it! It was only a layer on the trees: nothing above, nothing to the sides. It was obvious where the side of the wave was, because it covered only part of the hills. It was so thick and white: it might have been milk pouring into a valley-sized cereal bowl. The beauty was arresting. I had to keep looking over, to watch the wispy breakers dissolve into the sky. If I’d only had a camera…