On a shimmering morning I guided my rental car down the steep curves of Route 1 until I spotted a little jog off the big road. I practically drove right onto the beachfront, an unspoiled, unpeopled coastline that seemed to stretch to infinity. I scrambled down to the sand and marched north, stepping over chunks of seaweed the size of large squid, with the wind and surf roaring. It was a scene of almost unseemly beauty. The sky was a deep, dusty blue, roiled by swiftly moving clouds.