Road Trip – Panther Flat Arrival – April 2015

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“Come back to the forest” the trees beckon us

Sunday April 26: Some of our homes on the road have been hard to leave, but we are eager to say good-bye to civilization, even with its conveniences, and get back to our journey. The brief stays in Sunriver and Ashland were important layovers, both in terms of the connections that were made as well as the increased awareness of environmental issues for those who come to hear Clifford speak. We are grateful for the individuals and groups who invited us to be with them on our route through Oregon. But the trees and the rivers and the oceans beckon us and onward we go.

I make tea for the to-go cups and take cheese, crackers, and apples out of the cooler for us to eat as we travel rather than taking time for breakfast this morning. Doesn’t take us long to get the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) ready for the road since we had just done a modified setup yesterday and we are soon on the road.  We head to Grants Pass, taking the slower scenic highway along the Rogue River.  It is a lovely drive, lots of trees of all sorts, many of them in bloom.

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Many trees and shrubs are in bloom

After we reach Grants Pass, we head southwest on highway 99 toward Crescent City, California. I think about my friend, Cyril, who lives in Grants Pass, but since we didn’t know when we would get here, I didn’t try to make connections. I hope he is well and happy.

We catch glimpses of the Smith River in the ravine below as the road becomes more narrow and winding. Lush vegetation carpets the slopes of the hillsides around us.

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Smith in the ravine

We arrive at our forest service campground, Panther Flat, mid-afternoon and pick a site on the side of the loop nearest the river below and furthest from the highway. The sites here are well-spaced and there is an abundance of shrubs and small trees amidst the towering Douglas fir, tall straight not-giant redwoods – a mere 100 feet tall, and sensuous madrone trees.

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A colorful shrub at Panther Flat

Once we are set up, I explore a trail from our campsite, making my way to the river below and after awhile Clifford joins me. We find a charming gravel beach right on the river’s edge. I am amazed at how crystal-clear the beautiful aqua-hued water is.

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Aqua-hued Smith River

From this little gravel beach I can see cascades both up and downstream as this lively river cuts its way through rock walls, creating the gorge where we now stand.

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Cascades on the Smith River

We are told by our camp host extraordinaire, Jeff, that it is the only river in California that has not been dammed or diverted. He points out a much better trail leading from the end of the loop not far from our site down to the river. This is a trail I will traverse many times over the next several days as I come down from the campsite to visit Mr. Smith.

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Trail through the woods

Back at camp, we are happy to discover that our cell phones work here; I call Mom to let her know where we are. Clifford sprays more bleach to get rid of mildew spots; I should have stayed outside to let it air out much longer than I did, as I end up feeling quite ill from breathing the residue of the bleach as I set up the inside. When I go to bed, I open the zipper to the window next to my head and breathe in fresh air with the hopes that I will feel better in the morning.

Monday April 27: My head is still buzzy this morning, but a whole lot better than last night.  After an exploratory walk about camp, enjoying the light filtering through the trees and photographing the wild flowers – wild iris and others that I don’t recognize, I make campfire and a French press coffee.

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Morning light filtering through the trees

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Campground residents

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Campfire and French press coffee

Sitting at the campfire, I plan to write in my journal, but instead I spend this quiet time looking up at the wonderful tall trees that surround us.

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Looking up

I feel blessed by the trees as I gaze up at them.  Reminds me of what a wise woman recently said to me: it is often when we are down – through illness or other hardship – that we look up to God or Presence or whatever one wants to call that deeper sense of the Life Force, but I realize as I gaze upward that such awareness does not have to come through illness or hardship, but through being in awe of nature or beauty or whatever will bring us to that deeper appreciation of life.

After breakfast, I begin reorganizing everything in the Pony and the Blazer: clothing, food, dishes, and so on, incorporating another set of light-weight stackable drawers.  What a difference this makes.  I know where everything is once again.

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Reorganizing the Pony

While I do my domestic nesting activity, Clifford continues his research and study.

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Clifford studies while reorganization is in process

It gets quite warm this afternoon – near 80 degrees – which is quite a change from the cool weather we’ve had for the most part up to this point.  We go to the nearby small village of Gasquet to get ice, as we are going to need it.  After we return to the camp, we take the trail to the river and explore up and down its banks.  Sitting on a boulder by the bank, I watch the slow graceful dance of the trees as they sway in the wind.

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Exploring along the Smith River

What a delightful place we have found.  I am so grateful to be here, grateful for the trees, the river, the pleasant weather, the pleasing campground, the comfortable bed.   Tonight I sleep well.

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