Saturday May 2:This morning, after my campfire, coffee, and journal, Jeff, our camp host extraordinaire, comes by to show us the secret path to the local Darlingtonias. Jeff is a natural when it comes to being a tour guide and he makes this outing into an adventure. Clifford, Nigel, and I follow him through the woods to find the community of California Pitcher Plants. He even points out angles where we can take the best photos to include ferns for a more dramatic setting.
As I take photos of the irresistible wild iris on the way back to the campground, we learn more from Jeff, who has a wealth of knowledge of the history and geography of this area.
Clifford and I are going to the Battery Point Lighthouse today, so we head to Crescent City after our woods adventure. This lighthouse, built in 1856, served an invaluable purpose for over a hundred years, alerting ships to the rocky coast until it was decommissioned in 1965.
Nowadays digital instruments have taken over the job of most lighthouses, which are now closed down, but Battery Point was reactivated in 1982 as a private aid to navigation and has been converted into a museum. The tour is very interesting as we learn of the early lighthouse keepers and see some of the original furnishings of this building, which was also home to the lighthouse keepers and their families.
Our tour takes us all the way to the top, where we go carefully up a narrow winding staircase to the lighthouse tower with a 360 degree view of the surroundings.
To the east is the town of Crescent City; looking out another direction we can see the harbor where ships can safely come into port, and along the coast the other direction and toward the ocean, we see the great rocks that were (and are) such a danger to ships.
On the drive home we take Howland Hill Road recommended by Jeff, since this dirt/gravel road traverses the jointly shared Redwood National Park and the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. The redwood trees are totally awesome, but it is too late in the day to stop for many photos.
We will be seeing other redwoods before the journey’s end, so I enjoy the drive, window down, exclaiming over the size of these giants as we drive through the forest.
Sunday May 3: Today is a stay-at-camp day. I go for a walk in the woods to take more photos of the Darlingtonias and, of course, the lovely wild iris and the rhododendron (or is it azalea?) before making a campfire and a French press.
Nigel, the young man on his spring break from college, comes by and we chat for a bit. After breakfast, while wood-gleaning I stop at the host site to say “hi” to Jeff and his wife, JoAn. Since we have power (sun on the solar panels) today, I am able to download and look at the photos I have taken over the last several days. And since my cell phone works here at Panther Flat, I call my daughter, Becka, who is moving to Georgia, and check email on the phone. We take showers and are feeling quite spiffy and civilized.
A hike down to visit the river rounds out the day for us.
Monday May 4:It is cloudy this morning, so we sleep in a bit. I skip my flower-photo walkabout and make a campfire right away so as to have some quiet time before starting breakfast.
Today is another stay-at-camp day, which is fine with me, as it gives the vata nature a chance to settle before we start on the next long leg of our journey.
I have been collecting postcards as we travel, so have a stack to write and send to family and friends.
While I write, Clifford continues his research. How many people go camping with three tubs of technical books such microbiology and spectroscopy? Well, Clifford does and as he studies he takes notes, filling several spiral notebooks. This is all in connection to the Carnicom Institute, his health and environmental research non-profit organization.
In the afternoon, as the skies clear, I walk down to the river. It is now too sunny for much photo-taking, but I take time to sit on a boulder by the river, glad to be alive, glad to be here.
Tuesday May 5: It is 40 degrees and clear this morning, a bit chilly, but so lovely. I love being here and am a bit sad that today is our last day camped here at Panther Flat. I make a campfire, enjoy my coffee, take a few photos with the cell phone to share this place with others, and admire the trees. At the Rocky Mountain Summer Intensive Photography School that I attended in 1995, one of the suggestions was to take a photo of what makes you happy: that day I photographed the silhouette of tree branches against a beautiful blue sky, and I do so again today.
We are going to Crescent City today in preparation for leaving tomorrow. It is better to take care of errands today and focus on the traveling tomorrow. After getting propane, gas, groceries, and sundries, we drive out to Pebble Beach on the outskirts of town. Pebble beach is not exactly pebbles and is so windy I can’t stand still enough to take photos except by shooting through the open window of the Blazer. However, it is still mesmerizing – the waves coming in and smashing themselves against the jagged rocks, over and over and over. It seems as though they delight in their powerful playfulness.
Back at camp, even though it is getting kind of late, I call my mom. Today would have been my parents’ 70th anniversary, although my dad has been gone for nearly twenty years. I am so grateful that my mom is still here and part of the lives of her children, grand and great-grandchildren. What a blessing she is to all of us. May I be such a blessing to all those who know me and those who come after me.
Friday May 1: I begin the day with a campfire, a cup of coffee, and journal writing.This is my precious QT – quiet time – a time before talking begins, a time of being before doing takes over for the day.
It is windy this morning and as I sit by the fire (well-contained in deep metal firepits), I gaze up at the tall Douglas fir and youngish redwoods as they do their slow graceful dance to the wind-music. As I walk about the camp, the iris are are also doing their little dances, which makes it challenging to take their portraits.
After breakfast, we drive up the highway to the Darlingtonia Interpretive Trail which we know about from Jeff, the camp host, who gave us the flyer as well as the insider information that these rare plants can also be found not far from the campground. Maybe I will be able to find the local ones, but in the meantime, the botanical area will be a good outing for us. Jeff shows me an unusual plant right at their site. Perhaps related to a mushroom, this plant was about six to seven inches tall and not like anything I’ve ever seen before.
We park at the trail head and walk a short ways to a swampy area where hundreds of these ancient-looking plants, also known as California Pitcher Plants, grow en masse. They remind me of giant Venus fly-traps – the neat little plants that I would buy as a kid, even though they never seemed to catch a fly and didn’t survive for long. The head of a Darlingtonia is designed to trap insects; decayed remains of the insect provides nourishment to the plant.
It is easy to imagine a swamp dinosaur browsing here. The Darlingtonias are not at the height of their blossom period, but we do see a few blossoms here and there.
We continue the walk learning of other flowers and trees in this area, including Port Oxford Cedar, Jeffrey Pine, orchids, azaleas, and several other flowers and shrubs. The Darlingtonians are thriving here, but are quite rare. I have to wonder how long these swamp-loving plants will survive the California drought.
When we get back to the campground, I go off to gather twigs for tomorrow’s fire and when I get back to our campsite, Nigel, the young man who is camped down a couple spots from us, is talking with Cllifford. He is an interesting fellow, having some of the same interests as we do, such as camping and photography, and going to school not far from where one of Clifford’s brothers live. We chat for a bit before Clifford and I head down to the river.
Today we are going swimming at the beach that we found the first day. What this means is that Clifford is going swimming while I take photos and wade in the shallow water at the river’s bank.
Although I find the water too cold to be comfortable, Clifford cajoles me into getting in deeper. It is a a refreshing but short-lived moment. This afternoon the river seems especially rich in color, that delicious shade of aqua, and crystal clear as always.
As we look at the map and review our travel schedule, we decide to not go to Yosemite as planned, but instead go east and north from Sebastopol. The timing as well as the expense of traveling are the deciding factors. We will be staying with friends in Sebastopol in connection with the Institute, so that is an important portion of the journey, but also a good turning point. I am disappointed that we won’t see Yosemite on this journey, but understand the need to make this change in plans. I am still looking forward to the giant redwoods and seeing the ocean, however.
We finish our day with nachos and more crossword puzzles. One of these days I am going to switch to photo editing during dinner instead of the puzzles, but not today.