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.
Tuesday April 28: When I step out the door I am struck by the smell of fresh clean air. I take the G12 (Canon point & shoot), since it takes good macro shots and head out to take photos of flowers around the campground. There are a variety of flowering shrubs and several flowers; most notable are the rhododendron or azelea and wild iris in shades of lavender to white. I take lots and lots of photos because I can’t resist these delicate little beauties.
Back at camp I make a campfire, the morning cup of coffee (organic, with organic honey and organic coconut milk), write in my journal, look at our map of California, and read through the material with area information that will be of interest to us. Jeff, our host extraordinaire, gave us the handouts as well as pointing out a route, the Howland Hill Road, we might want to take back from Crescent City through the redwood forest of the Jedediah Smith State Park and the Stout grove. This is a road we will not want to miss, he tells us.
Much of my day, most days, is spent with cooking, eating, and cleaning up, in addition to wood-gathering and fire-tending. As I’m gleaning wood from the forest, which is allowed here, I visit Jeff and his quiet wife, JoAn. Jeff is bursting with a wealth of experience and information, shared always with his quirky sense of humor. JoAn is his opposite, so quiet that I am honored that she and I have a conversation.
As I walk through the forest, I find the very tall madrone trees with their sensuously smooth and curvy branches to be quite interesting. The outer bark peels off to reveal an inner skin, smooth and firm like the taut thigh of a dancer in yummy shades of golden to reddish-orange color.
We are fortunate that my cell phone has service here so I can check email briefly and Clifford can make business calls from the campground. One important call involves the Carnicom Institute: the IRB for the Morgellon’s Research Project is nearly in place.
Later we go down to the river for another walk-about. We have learned that this is the only river in California in its natural state, i.e. no dams or diversions. Perhaps this accounts for its incredible clarity while the aqua color comes from the mineral serpentine in the rock cliffs that rise up from the river bed.
After dinner I put Velcro on the sheets and sleeping bag – my attempt to keep our sheet liner in place, while Clifford falls asleep sitting up. Once the Velcro and the sheets are in place, we head to bed.
Wednesday April 29:I make a campfire when I get up. I love being outside and it is a bit too chilly to just sit without the fire. As usual, coffee and journal completes the picture for me.
Today we go to Crescent City for errands: laundromat, groceries, information at the Forest Service office, and sundries. While we are at the laundromat, Clifford makes another business call and I walk to a nearby natural food store. It is small and pricey, but I am happy to get a few organic veges into the diet.
After the errands, we go for a drive along the ocean on the outskirts of Crescent City, stopping at a vantage point for photos. I am quite enthralled with the waves that come crashing against the rugged rocks of the coast here. It is so windy, however, that I have to sit in the car and shoot through the window.
Noticing a lighthouse, we check it out. It is not open right now, but we will be able to visit it another day, since it is now a museum.
We go to Denny’s for lunch before heading back to camp, stopping a couple of times to take photos of the lively Smith River in the gorge below the highway.
It is too late to take the Howland Hill Road through the redwoods back to camp, so that is something to look forward to for another day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While I do my domestic nesting activity, Clifford continues his research and study.
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.
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.