November 12, 2015 to May 7, 2016: One week short of six months, over 4000 miles, and hundreds of photos later, we have returned to Wallace, Idaho. It was a memorable six months, not only because we traveled so far, but for all the places we saw, the places we camped, people we met – family, old friends, new friends, and angels in disguise.
I took photos every day, sometimes only a couple, but most days lots of photos; almost every day I posted a journey post on FB with photos, sharing the journey with all who cared to join us in this way. I hardly ever missed a day in spite of power and internet restrictions that accompanied us most of the time. I suppose it would have a more relaxed trip had I not set this as a goal for myself, but seeing the world – what is most beautiful or most meaningful – is what I do. Seeing a beautiful sunset or morning light on a mountainside or hoarfrost on pines is not just a neat experience for me alone; it is an experience that demands to be shared.
Clifford studied, researched, or worked on research papers every day that we were not actually traveling. He acquired sophisticated portable scientific instruments to compliment the portable lab. His dedication to his work did not waver, even given the limited space he had to work in.
Once we returned home, I saw that for many people the last six months were same-o-same-o, little ups and downs, nothing really different, nothing outstanding. For me, the last six months were filled with ups and downs, also, but they were Big ups and downs, events and experiences that gave depth and quality to my life. I am enriched by having done this journey, not knowing from one short time period to the next what we might encounter: beautiful weather – or snow and cold; great photo opps camping and hiking – or only a few shots through the tinted window of a moving vehicle; being well – or not being well and having to deal with it; spending days and days with no one but Clifford – or meeting people: some just passing through and some whose lives will intermingle with mine onward; beautiful camping spots where I’d love to stay forever – or a Walmart parking lot where I have to pick up trash just to be okay with being there. It wasn’t always an easy journey for me, but it was a good one. Living in an 8 x 16 foot space with someone day-in and day-out means some compromises, but it also makes me much more appreciative of what’s comfortable and convenient, and more accepting of what’s not. Things are less about good or bad, like or don’t like, and much more about It Is What It Is, and being grateful to be a part of the process. Of course, for a very long time I’ve had the intellectual understanding of the importance of being appreciative and accepting, but now it is a deeper part of my being; it is not so much something that I have to work at as something that I am: Happy for No Reason – not all the time every day, but on a more on-going basis than I’ve experienced before.
Things that stand out:
Snowy as we leave Idaho with Blazer and Pony (our small pop-up), our departure from Belgrade, Montana is delayed by several hours due to snow, more snow changes our itinerary by time we reach Wyoming.
Mid-Wyoming snow storm and cold temps at Glendo State Park provide photo opportunities that are exciting for me, but also contribute to both of us becoming sick. Clifford recovers in a few days; it is weeks before I fully recover. Daughter Becka and a friend from Santa Fe provide warm dry lodging when I needed it the most. Thanks!!
Heading south: several inches of snow at Three Rivers campground north of Tularosa, New Mexico, but it is great being here until Goliath (the news-worthy blizzard on December 26th) comes raging through, nearly wiping us out.
The search begins for a hard-shell RV, not an easy task given our restrictions. We go all the way to Phoenix, Arizona, to get Terry, an older, but sturdy RV that falls within our budget, weight limit, and floor plan. We narrowly escape a near-disasterous incident before we even get out of Phoenix, but back at Colossal Cave outside of Tucson where we are camped, we set up home in Terry and sell our much-loved Pony.
Desert camping: Colossal Cave, Arizona – having been here before, we knew we liked it.
The Sonoran Desert National Monument southwest of Phoenix looks bare and desolate as we approach, but I fall in love with it: two weeks of solitude with long walks and campfires to warm the chill morning air.
The Carnicom Brothers Reunion in Tucson, Arizona.
Cochise Stronghold, another place I fall in love with, as well as feeling a special connection to this rock mountain. I become friends with the camp host and others with whom we stay in touch.
City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico – what a really cool place to camp for two week. While there, I meet a woman who has become a special friend – I expect we will meet again on the road.
Leaving Arizona, Percha Dam State Park, New Mexico, is the first campground where we have plugged into electricity. We catch up on projects that need power and internet.
The journey northward begins: Camping at Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, waiting for better weather around Santa Fe, and hiking in nearby Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
Villanueva State Park east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, bypassing cold weather at Santa Fe, (or so we thought),…..
followed by camping in the mountains north of Santa Fe at Hyde State Park, …..and more snow.
Two weeks at Santa Fe visiting friends and working with our webmaster, Kaylee, to construct a new website for me.
Leaving Santa Fe, we stay at Villanueva again to wait out another snow storm – 20 inches of new snow right where we are headed in Colorado.
After visiting friends in Colorado, the journey is comprised of one-night stands in Walmart parking lots and rest areas, and brief visits with more friends and family once we reach Montana.
And finally, back to Wallace, Idaho. It is good to be back AND we are already planning our next outing. More adventures await!
Thursday May 28:Here we are at Lee Creek Campground in western Montana after several days and hundreds of miles of travel. What a relief to stay put for a bit in our comfy little home.
I make a campfire first thing this morning and a cup of organic coffee in the French press to go along with journal writing. What a great start to the day! I keep the campfire going throughout the day as the weather alternates between showers, clouds, and sunshine.
We put out the awning in the afternoon to have a place to sit outside even when it is raining. I move frequently from campfire to awning.
In the afternoon there is a real downpour; luckily we have a tarp over the woodpile and another one over the table where Clifford has his books spread out. I write in my journal when I can, but with the moving about, fire-tending, meals and clean-up, I don’t get much done.
In lulls between rain showers, I stroll about the campground taking photos of June berry and chokecherry shrubs in blossom, and droplet- covered trillium.
It is so nice to have a non-driving day, especially in such a sweet place as this with the creek running beside our campsite and being surrounded by trees and shrubs for privacy if anyone else shows up. As it is, we are still the only people here other than the hosts at the other end of the loop.
Friday May 29: Mist this morning, but it doesn’t last long and looks like we will have a sunny day.
No campfire this morning, as we are heading up to the Lolo Pass Visitors’ Center, six miles up the highway. At the visitors’ center, numerous kiosks with maps and information about the journey of the Lewis and Clark expedition are of interest to us. We are intrigued with the great explorers in history, Lewis and Clark among them. Being here, we will be able to see where they camped and find sections of their trail as they made their way into the Bitterroot Mountains. Inside, I browse while Clifford spends a long time looking at books before deciding what to buy.
Then we drive down the Idaho side of the pass to the DeVoto Cedar Grove. The grove is dedicated to Bernard DeVoto, conservationist, author, and historian, who loved to spend time here as he edited the Lewis and Clark journals.
Clifford and I walk together through the grove on the Lochsa River side of the grove. I love seeing the ferns and other little plants that grow at the base of the great tall cedars.
Then Clifford settles in at a picnic table to read while I cross the highway and walk the trail on the hillside portion of the grove. It is entirely different in character being darker, more moist, and kind of spooky.
Although I wish Clifford had joined me for this part of the walk, I enjoy the beauty of the grove, pausing frequently for photos.
Back at camp, we can tell it rained here at the campground, but luckily, the woodpile and the picnic table are still tarp-covered. Left-over chicken along with Annie’s mac & cheese makes an easy dinner. As we eat, I download photos to my laptop and enjoy looking through the photos of the past couple of weeks, a pleasant end of the day. I am grateful and happy for my life!
Tuesday May 26: It is 43 degrees this morning, brisk, but comfortable as I walk about the Chickahominy BLM Campground in southeastern Oregon, taking photos before we pack up.
I make tea for the road, along with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, crackers, and apples to eat as we go – a traveling picnic. On the way out, I stop to chat with the camp host for a moment and to admire the rock collection at the host site. She points out a particularly rich vein of obsidian, like a sparking river running across the ground, and she encourages me help myself to some obsidian. I feel like a kid in a candy-store as I walk along the vein picking out just the right pieces to carry home.
We backtrack a few miles to Riley and continue eastward on state highway 20, traveling through more sagebrush. The landscape changes near Burns with a broad valley and farmland being in contrast to most of what we have seen in this part of the country.This is followed by more rugged mesas and buttes, and farmland again as we near Payette, Idaho.
After Payette, heading north on state highway 95, the landscape features large treeless hills. We have a lively discussion about whether these are mountains or not. I say no: they are hills, mesas, or buttes – but they are not mountains in my book. Clifford disagrees, but maybe just to be poking fun at me.
At Midvale, about 30 miles further north, snow- peaked mountains come into view with treeless hills in the foreground, reminding me of southeastern Montana. Another 50 miles or so brings us to our next campground, Evergreen. What a different landscape than yesterday’s home-for-the-night. Now we are surrounded by trees and shrubs of all sorts, with a lively creek flowing alongside the campground. We are the only people here, so have our pick of the sites. We decide on a pretty spot furthest from the highway and do a modified Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) set-up. I look around and find enough firewood to make a delightful campfire to go with our dinner: home-made soup for me, beans and hotdogs for Clifford. It is great to have some daylight left to relax before we go to bed.
Wednesday May 27: I didn’t sleep well and wake up with my head screaming, possibly from propane leaking as the bottles were changed on the lantern last night. Ugh. I make mint tea from sprigs of mint I keep in a vase of water and as I move about packing up, I begin to feel better. We take our time getting packed this morning, preparing tea and another traveling picnic to eat as we drive.
Our next destination is Lee Creek along highway 12, but I don’t know if it is in Montana or Idaho. We stop at the ranger station in New Meadows, a thriving small town just north of Evergreen Campground, and learn that Lee Creek Campground is on the Montana side of Lolo Pass.
As we travel north, the valley narrows and rugged barren mountains dominate the landscape. We see a great number of vehicles parked by the highway as we approach Riggens, where the Little Salmon and the Big Salmon Rivers join forces to become the powerful Salmon River. Stopping for gas, we find out that hundreds of fishermen are here for the salmon run. Vehicles line the sides of the road and RV’s fill every pull-out for miles past the little town.
Beyond Riggens, before Grangeville where we will head east to Montana, is a long long long climb – part of the Hells Canyon Recreation Area. Go Chevy Blazer Go!!!
At Grangeville – whew, we made it! – we buy gas, groceries, and ice since there will not be towns of any size along highway 12. We leave Grangeville on highway 13, a narrow winding mountain road with no shoulders, driving in the rain.
The very lovely Clearwater River comes into view and we are pleased to see that its banks are full.
At Kooskia, we take the junction onto highway 12, which isn’t a whole lot better. The mountainous drive is lovely with the Lochsa River tumbling alongside, but the road is winding and narrow. We check out several campgrounds on the Idaho side of the pass, as we are weary of traveling, but do not find any that really seem right to us.
Finally we cross Lolo Pass and, entering Montana, we leave the Lochsa River behind and soon arrive at the Lee Creek Campground. A wonderful spot right alongside the creek, with lots of trees and shrubs for shade and privacy, is available. When I say “hello” to the creek, I am almost ready to cry with relief that we do not have to go anywhere for at least a week. We’ve seen some interesting country and had good places to camp, but too many miles in the last three days for me. We get the Pony set-up, full mode this time, and have nachos for dinner because it is a tasty and easy dinner. I am so glad to be here!
Monday May 25: We are up early to finish packing, as today we are leaving the Pit River Campground in northeastern California on our journey back to Idaho. We have a quick breakfast of yogurt topped with applesauce, and as we are getting ready to go, we hear the couple, who came in late yesterday, shouting at each other and babies crying. Someone calls the sheriff. How sad that people live in such unhappiness; it is very unsettling to me. Not a good way to end such a lovely peaceful stay as we have had here.
We are soon on our way, heading north on highway 299, with beautiful cumulus clouds billowing above us. Past Fall River Mills the valley opens up; lots of ponderosa and some ranch land, then back into sage brush land.
When we arrive at Goose Lake, which straddles the California-Oregon border and appears on the map to be a body of water stretching for 20 miles, there is virtually no lake left. The drought has made it impossible for this lake to be replenished. Dry steep barren hills and sagebrush dominate the landscape along with the mud flat that was once a lake bottom.
We had planned to spend the night at Goose Lake State Park, but it is still early afternoon and seeing the condition of the area, we decide to push on. It is a bit of a long haul to our next destination, but Clifford is up for it. The road, although narrow, is straight and flat with not much traffic, so we make good time. Leaving Lakeview, the town north of Goose Lake where we stop for gas, the landscape reminds me of the country south of Lamy, New Mexico, where we used to live: rugged with sage, juniper, and small pines.
Arthur Lake, which on the map is much smaller than Goose Lake, is a sizable body of water set in a most barren landscape of flat land to the west and rock-strewn mesas along the highway to the east of us.
Once past Arthur Lake, the mesas open up to miles and miles of sagebrush, nothing but sagebrush.
We are happy to finally arrive at the town of Riley, where we turn at the junction toward the BLM Chickahominy Campground just a few miles to the west.
We drive through the campground, grateful to be here, looking for a site out the wind. We end up picking a site, designated by nothing more than a rugged plank picnic table, alongside the reservoir. It is windy everywhere, so we might as well go for pretty. The landscape here has its own unique beauty with a mix of black lava rock, obsidian, and sagebrush. The reservoir is lower than normal, but it still has water and here we have the best views. Later the wind dies down and it is quite pleasant. Even though we are doing a modified set-up, the tub of pots and pans is accessible and I cook a real meal to nourish our weary bodies.
Before heading to bed, I take photos of the lovely sunset colors reflecting off the water and write in my journal. Clifford, worn out from the day’s driving, is in bed before I am, which doesn’t happen very often. Looking out at the reflections on the water, I am glad for the stillness at the close of this day.
Friday May 22: I begin my day at the Pit River campground by doing a few yoga stretches under the great limbs of the oak tree at our campsite.
After breakfast I make a cup of coffee, grab my journal, and head over to the day use area. It is more private there and the picnic tables offer a view of either the river or the lagoon, depending on which table I choose. I write several post cards to family and friends before I write in my journal. So peaceful sitting here, writing and listening to the sounds of the river and the birds.
Journal and coffee by the lagoon
In the afternoon we make a trip to Fall River Mills to the post office to pick up a package sent to us with stuff we left at our friends’ guest house: Clifford’s hotspot, which we need, and our coats left in a closet. Thanks, Kate! Back at camp, Clifford naps while I write and take photos. Rain comes in the afternoon – very welcome in the drought-stricken northwest.
We walk down to the river in the early evening, talking about this and that until the sun goes down. Back at camp, we watch a big cumulus cloud grow and move slowly away, to be replaced by a handsome sunset.
Saturday May 23: I am up at 7:00 a.m. and greeted by mist hanging in the trees around the campsite. I hustle on over to the lagoon for photos before the mist fades away. Even though I never once got a photo of mist while in the redwoods or visiting the ocean on this trip, here in the dry northeastern corner of California we have another misty morning. Go figure!
Today, after breakfast, we go to Burney, a town about 15 miles to the west. We need gas, propane, and water. We also want to get caught up with email, so find a little city park where we can hang out using Clifford’s hotspot. Although email works, I can’t upload photos to wordpress and waste a lot of time trying. Clifford gets some of his things done while we are here, but it isn’t that much fun or productive for me. I will have good internet eventually, but I don’t like wasting my precious time.
After dinner I head down to the river and the lagoon before the warm light fades. Clifford was going to go with me, but he is dallying, so I go on by myself. Upon returning to camp, he still wants to go, so we return together, too late for photos, but lovely in the dusk light and nice to have a short outing together. At the camp, every site is over- flowing with cars and people for the Memorial weekend. Not far from us a group plays guitars and sings a lot – nice to see families and friends getting together to do that.
Sunday May 24: We are staying at Pit River another day since it may be hard to find a place to camp if we leave today, being Memorial weekend. I spend much of the day organizing and packing, which takes longer than usual since food, utensils, and clothing need to be available for three one-night stops between here and Lee’s Creek in western Montana, where we will be staying longer. For the one night stops, we don’t open the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) all the way or unpack the tubs that are closely packed on the floor space for traveling. It is not very convenient, but takes a lot less time to set up and take down, since mostly we just need a place to sleep and a couple of meals at each stop.
I make my usual trips to visit the lagoon and the Pit River while Clifford studies all day.
In the evening I make a campfire, the only one during our stay here. This has been a good spot for us with the river and the lagoon, trees, shrubs, and flowers, the sky with great clouds, mist, and rain. An oasis of lovely beauty, nourishing for the soul.
Wednesday May 20: After breakfast at the guest house north of Sacramento, we say good-bye to our generous and gracious hostess, who urges us to take any food from the fridge or cupboards that we can use. Our coolers are packed to the hilt as well as a grocery bag of goodies! Then we are on our way north, but rather than camping in the Sierras as planned, we decide on a route that will take us more directly back to Idaho, not as the crow flies, but according to the easiest road to travel with the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer).
We travel I-5 north to Redding, the scenery ever-changing around us. At Redding, we take highway 299 with our destination being a BLM campground along the Pit River near the town of Fall River Mills. The road is narrow, winding, and it is raining, so our travel is slower on this stretch of road. The landscape is still very scenic, but the lushness of the coastal area is being left behind.
We arrive at the Pit River campground in the early evening and are surprised to find only two sites still available (this is only Wednesday, after all), one by the gate and one by the toilet. It is a no-brainer that we choose the one by the gate. I was somewhat close-minded toward being here because of the big hydroelectric plant that we passed on the way into the campground, and this is definitely not the Sierras or Mount Lassen, nor is it right on the river. But as we settle in, I see that, although the spot is small and we can’t get far off the road, it is still a nice site with a great spreading oak tree on our front side, a tall ponderosa right behind the Pony, and shrubs all around for privacy. Many trees live here, and the Pit River and a lovely lagoon can be seen from the day use area.
We walk down to the river before we finish setting up, as we want to take a look before it gets too dark. I learn from the information kiosk that the Pit River, named for the pits dug along its bank by the Ajumawi tribe, is the largest river system in northeastern California, with a watershed of over 4,000 square miles.
Soon after we finish setting up, it begins to rain again – glad we didn’t have to set up in the rain; the timing was perfect.
Thursday May 21: There is a little mist in the early morning, but it dissipates before I get to the river. As I take photos of the lagoon and the rapids that span the river, I keep a watchful eye for the otters that I’ve been told live here, but see no sign of them.
After breakfast we drive to the Vista Point to look down on the Winter’s Road and the bridge over the Pit River. This toll road and the bridge were built in 1871 to bring tourists to the area and purchased in 1872 by Captain William Henry Winter, the founder of Fall River Mills. Later the road was purchased by the county and the toll was dropped; the road and bridge were abandoned in the mid-1950’s. The bridge has been washed out and rebuilt several times and the portion of the road that we can see is mostly covered with landslides. However, it was very popular in its day, being very scenic with the great waterfall just above the bridge and the surrounding craggy bluffs.
We decide to go on to Fall River Mills, just a few miles beyond the Vista Point. We need to find access to the internet and get water, since there is neither at the campground. By chance, we discover the Fort Crook Museum. The original fort, established in 1857 to protect travelers on the Shasta-Yreka Road, was named after General George Crook, who was both a fighter of and an advocate for the Plains Indians. This is an exceptionally well-developed museum detailing the history of the area. We spend quite a long time looking through the buildings and all the authentic décor, clothing, tools, and so on.
Back at camp I write a blog about our stay in Ashland and pick photos for the blog that will come after that. As I sit at the table, my cell phone rings, which surprises me, as we didn’t seem to have cell service here. As soon as I answer, the connection is lost. I try texting and it works, and that is how we discover the “Pony Vortex:” one spot on the table where, if the phone is held upright, a good connection can be made. This is awkward, since moving the phone up or sideways results in the connection being lost. I don’t use it much, but Clifford has a data package on his phone (his inexpensive android that pretends to be a smart-phone) and he makes good use of it.
The early evening light looks especially inviting, so I hustle on over to the day use area and am rewarded by very pretty light on the trees, the river, and the lagoon. I hang out there until the light fades; what a great way to end the day a very full and fun day!
Sunday May 17:Noises and light wake me up about 7:00, which is a bit early after going to bed so late last night. But it is okay, as we need to pack and get ready to head out. We have enjoyed our stay with friends in Sebastopol, but it is time to move on.
After a leisurely breakfast, lots of packing and tidying up, we say good-bye to our friends and are on the road by early afternoon. We had planned to go to Yosemite from here, but after considering the time and money involved, not to mention the bear issues there (not so good for a small pop-up), we have decided to head north and make a big loop back to home in Wallace, Idaho.
Our destination for tonight is with a friend of the family on a farm north of Sacramento. We arrive there in the early evening and are shown to our rooms in the guest house, an older-style farm house with comfortable beds, good showers, and a very modern refrigerator. Having lived most of the last six weeks without a fridge or a shower, these are quite special to me.
Monday May 18: Slept in and feel quite rested this morning; Clifford, also. Breakfast is a bit sketchy, as we are about out of food in our cooler and there is not a lot in the fridge. The morning is chilly, but once it warms up a bit, we go sit out at the picnic table in the front yard to do our work – catching up on email, journal writing for me, and studying for Clifford. The yard is pretty with trees, shrubs, and flower beds all around. The sturdy wooden picnic table under a large tree is of a variety that I have never seen before. The large leaves make a dense shade over the picnic table, which I’m sure is much appreciated in the hot days of summer in this part of California. Later in the day, our hostess brings us fresh eggs from her chickens and a couple grocery bags of food. We are set now.
We have a wonderfully peaceful day, not having to go anywhere, plenty of food for meals, and good internet to get caught up with things. In the evening our hostess comes by to talk to Clifford about his research. She is very aware of the issues and has much to share from her own research. As they talk, I take advantage of the down time to work on an afghan I am knitting for my first great-grandbaby on the way. That seems amazing to me – that I have lived long enough to have a great-grandchild and my mom will be a great-great-grandma!
Tuesday May 19:Another leisurely morning and lots to choose from for breakfast today. It is cool and windy, so we find an unused outdoor table that we can place in the sunshine on the sunny side of the house, and here is where we continue with email, blogs, studying, and journal writing. To our surprise, our hostess comes by with several more bags of groceries! Wow, lots and lots of food now. There is a plan to go out for dinner to meet with an activist interested in Clifford’s work, but as it turns out, the dinner is canceled because this woman is not feeling well. We are disappointed not to see her, but I am also grateful for another day of non-travel with no obligations.
In the evening, as the sun nears the horizon, I am happy to see a lovely sunset.
I begin packing tonight, as we want to get an earlier start tomorrow. Our hostess comes by to chat later and we stay up late eating chocolates and sipping hot tea. She has brought essential oils for Clifford’s research, but I snag the lavender for myself. The oils are reputed to have many healing benefits and it will be interesting to look into that at some point – probably more for personal use than anything else. The conversation is lively and I continue with my knitting.
Our hostess has been kind, gracious, and very generous, and we do so appreciate the time we have spent with her. This place has been a very restful interlude for us, but we are also looking forward to seeing new vistas as we travel north through eastern California.
Wednesday May 13: After spending the night at Standish-Hickey State Park on California Highway 101, we arrive in the mid-afternoon at the home of our friends, Kate and Randall.
We are spending time at their lovely home as their guests, as well as for the business of Carnicom Institute, as Kate has been an important member of CI staff for several years. After we get settled into their sweet guest cottage, Kate, Clifford, and I take a walk through the neighborhood; I marvel at the great old trees and the abundance of blooming shrubs and colorful flowers.
Thursday May 14: Kate comes over to visit with us before she leaves for a morning teaching gig. She and I do some yoga stretches; she knows many poses and it feels good to stretch and relax tense muscles. When she returns home, we all pile into their car and head to the ocean. At Bodega Bay we have a delicious lunch of clam sandwiches at a little café with outdoor seating. From where we sit, we can see a myriad of fishing boats in the inlet and sea gulls drifting about. Talk about ambiance!
Then we head on out to Bodega Head and I am delighted to see the great expanse of ocean, stretching away like infinity, and a rugged coastline with ice plants and poppies blooming on the bluffs.
We walk along the edge of the bluff, high above the ocean, and watch the waves crash against rocks out from the shore before they race on toward the rocky shoreline. The men saw a whale, and perhaps I caught a glimpse, but nothing like a tall spout of water or a huge tail.
There is a trail down to a beach, a span of sand between the rocky bluffs and sheer cliff walls, but it is too late in the afternoon to make the trek down, as we have a call scheduled with staff members of the institute.
We pose for photos before heading back to their home.
It was a lovely day to be at the ocean; I wish we could have stayed longer.
After the call, we have a tasty chicken dinner with Kate; Randall has gone to a class. I download and edit photos while Kate and Clifford watch music videos. When she begins to play the harp and sing, I leave my computer to listen, as she has a most lovely voice; if she is not Irish, she at least has the soul of a Celtic ballad-songster.
Friday May 15:After breakfast we – Kate, Clifford, and I – sit on their back deck, which overlooks a lovely back area of lawn surrounded by flowering trees and flower beds. Roses and rhododendron are especially lush and colorful.
Kate and Clifford work on a CI project while I take care of the CI email. When Kate learns that our Blazer has developed an oil leak, she takes things in hand and finds a mechanic who will, on short notice, take a look at it. While the mechanic looks at the Blazer, we three go to a nearby specialty pizza place for lunch. By the time we are done with lunch, not only did the mechanic diagnose the cause of the leak, but he has repaired the Blazer and it is good-to-go. Boy, are we lucky and relieved, thanks to Kate for finding us the right guy at the right time.
Back at the home of our gracious hosts, we go over to the guest house while Kate and Randall have the evening to themselves. Clifford continues with his studies, while I complete and post blogs of our time in Oregon on Paulina Creek and catch up on email.
About 10:00 p.m., Kate comes over. I thought she and Randall had already gone to bed, but she has some thoughts she wants to share with us, both in regard to changes in her life as well as her work with Carnicom Institute. Before we know it, it is midnight, but instead of going to bed, we make quesadillas and tea, and continue with our discussions until 1:30 a.m.
Saturday May 16: We are going out to Bodega Head again today, which pleases me very much. Along the winding road, we stop at a bakery to buy a couple loaves of delicious fresh bread, tour an organic garden lush with vegetables, and browse through a specialty shop carrying unique clothing and textiles (it would sure be fun to go in there with a couple hundred dollars to spend!), before arriving at Bodega Bay for another yummy clam lunch.
Today the Bodega Head parking lot is full and we park alongside the road a ways from the overlook. Many people are gathered there to watch the grey whales as they migrate from the lagoons of Baja California to the Arctic Ocean.
We cross the upward sloping bluff until we reach the path where we walked yesterday, but this time we go on to the trail that leads down to the beach. It is cold and windy along the ocean’s shore. Clifford and Kate hang out by a big rock in the sun out of the wind at the backside of the sandy beach, while Randall watches the waves, peacefully observant of all that is happening around us.
I am enchanted by the waves coming in, each one unique, some making a big splash as they crash playfully against the rocks of the rugged shoreline on either side of the sandy beach area. These big splashes are what I try to capture with my camera, but I miss more than I catch. Here’s where a DSLR would really outshine my otherwise very capable G1X point-&-shoot. Someone points out that a seal is frolicking in the waves just a ways off-shore. Perhaps I have his head in a photo or two. It is still the big crashing waves that command my attention.
I’d love to stay longer, mesmerized by the motion of the waves, but everyone else is ready to go, and we need time to prepare for the presentation that Clifford will be giving tonight – a synopsis of his 17 years of research into the health and environmental issues that are confronting all of us.
The presentation, beginning with a delicious potluck, is well-attended. Clifford’s talk is informative, detailing the course of his research from noticing aerosol spraying polluting the sky in 1998 to his current research into the health issues that many people are facing. This is followed by another hour of Q & A. People are concerned about what is happening to their health and to our planet. After the guests leave, Kate comes over to further the discussion; it is quite late by time we all head to bed.
It has been a very good visit – the enjoyment of spending time with friends doing fun stuff, as well as the accomplishments in regard to Carnicom Institute. Tomorrow we will be on our way; other views and venues await us.
This morning is our last morning at Elk Meadows Campground, as we are leaving Prairie Creek State Park and heading south to visit friends and take care of Carnicom Institute business. I take a photo of the creek that has been such a joy to me during our stay here. I would love to stay longer, but we must go.
After taking photos of us by the Pony (our pop-up) we pack up and are on our way by 11:00 a.m.
On our way out, I had hoped to talk Clifford into hiking the trail to the humongus redwood family that I saw yesterday, but he is anxious to get on the road. Good thing I took a few selfies yesterday with some of the big trees in the forests here.
We stop briefly at the Visitors’ Center in Orick and then continue the journey toward Sebastopol. We take the scenic highway through the “Avenue of the Giants” and, although we don’t stop to take photos, I am happy to see more of the old redwoods that live here. My mom and dad were here 25 years ago and it is interesting to think about them driving this road all those years ago and seeing what we are seeing today.
We catch glimpses of the slow-moving and now very low Eel River, but can’t get a photo of it until I ask Clifford to pull over when there is a safe place for us to do so. Although this river isn’t as lively as the Smith River further north, every river is important and I show my appreciation by taking photos, portraits if you will, of these special entities.
We consider camping at the furthest south campground along the “Avenue of the Giants,” but when we get there, we find that it is not open. Since we cannot take time to backtrack, we keep on going, our next destination being the Standish-Hickey State Park, arriving there in the late afternoon.This is the campground that had poor reviews because the more desirable loops along the river and away from highway are closed. We find a spot on the side of the open loop as far away from the highway as we can; I certainly understand why people complain. The closed loops are ever-so-much prettier and quieter. But we are fine, since it is just for the night.
We find a relatively level spot and do a modified set-up, which means that we don’t pull the extensions fully out. We don’t unpack anything and only have access to what’s in the back of the Blazer. It is not as convenient, but it saves a lot of time both tonight and in the morning, as there is almost no set-up or take-down involved. We use a camp stove and mess kit from the topper on the Blazer to cook soup and heat water for tea. I have enough wood to build a campfire and we enjoy a simple dinner sitting at the picnic table.
We do a little walkabout, noticing that there is a lot of poison oak here; I am fortunate not to have walked right through a patch of it at the backside of our spot before Clifford pointed it out to me. Whew – that could have been a bummer! Definitely not a good place for families to camp, as kids would surely get into it. Although the poison oak is abundant, there are also tall Douglas fir, madrone trees, lovely big oak trees, and a variety of shrubs that create a colorful backdrop to our campsite.
Wednesday May 13, 2015:
Take down is quick and easy, as planned, and we are soon on our way. We stop for lunch in Ukiah for lunch and gas, noticing how much warmer it is here, and arrive at our destination – Sebastopol – by mid-afternoon. I will always hold the redwoods of northern California in my heart, but new adventures and new sights await us.
Monday May 11, 2015: I go for my early morning walk, but instead of going along the path that I know, I go the other direction through the campground to see other sites that might be good when we come again, and I find a trail along Prairie Creek through the jungle there.
The trail comes out along Elk Meadows and I follow a hint of a dirt road along the meadow back to the campground. During this portion of our trip, this is the only time I see mist. Even though the redwoods are usually wet and misty, this has been an unusually dry spring with no rain and no mist in the forest
After breakfast, we drive out of the state park far enough to get cell service to check on emails and take care of any pressing needs for Carnicom Institute. Then back to the Newton-Drury Parkway where we again visit Big Tree. Clifford drops me off so I can walk back to camp, while he heads on back to return to his studies.
I am at first a bit uncomfortable walking alone in this forest because of the reports of mountain lion sightings in this area. However, as I go along, I become more comfortable with being here by myself, enjoying the deep silence, and admiring the trees.
As I walk, I see the most humongous “family” redwood, as I call those trees whose main trunk splits into two or more trunks as it continues its climb to reach the sky. This particular tree is like a family with grandma, the kids, the grandkids and even great-grandkids, as there were so many trunks coming from the one base. I wish Clifford was here to take a photo of me beside this great redwood family. How tiny I would have seemed next to it.
Once I reach the campground, I take the familiar trail through the redwood forest back toward our campsite, stopping to take selfies of myself with my favorite trees. Wish I had thought to do this with the big family back up the trail, but I have not been one to take selfies at all. I’m just doing it now to have photos of them in right perspective. I mean, these are not just big trees, they are BIG trees!
While here with the trees, I have become aware of my habitual tendency to walk slightly hunched forward, with eyes on the ground for sure footing. Being among these tall trees and looking up has encouraged me to stand and walk more upright.
Back at camp, I make one last campfire and after dinner pack up the kitchen stuff, as we will be leaving tomorrow morning. I will be sorry to leave this place with the creek at my front door (which is our only door) and being surrounded by trees and birdsong.