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!
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!
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.
Saturday May 9: I wake up in the night thinking about ticks. Hmm… guess I should have taken a shower after our outing to Fern Canyon yesterday, but waking up in the night is not helpful. It is overcast this morning, which is not something we’ve seen much of on this trip, even though I had heard how foggy and overcast it would be on the coast. Well, the weather is not being “normal” anywhere, it seems, so who knows what to expect.
Today we are going to Eureka and Arcata to the south of Prairie Creek where we are camped. After showers and breakfast, we head out, stopping at a rest stop on the way, as I see one of those beautifully blooming bushes that I had never seen before arriving in California.
I later learn that it is a rhododendron, which I also learn has blossoms similar to azaleas, but the leaves are different. It is a very pretty drive down this curving highway with tall trees frequently obscuring our view of the ocean just to the west of us; lagoons and flowering shrubs add to the beauty of the landscape.
North of Arcata we stop at Clam Beach, as this is one of the hang-outs where Clifford lived part-time in his van for seven years while going to school at the College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University in his late teens and early 20’s. He used to camp in the dunes for free, but now there are a couple fee-campgrounds. We walk out a ways into the vegetation-covered sand dunes so I can see the ocean and take a few photos.
We drive on through Eureka to Fields Landing, a small poor fishing village where Clifford would also park for free during those van/school years. The dirt lot where he used to park is now a day-use paved parking lot for folks coming in to launch their boats. Seeing these places after 40 years brings back a lot of memories for him. After Fields Landing, we find another spot off the highway near the College of the Redwoods. The dirt road down to the “secret” parking place in a clearing in the woods alongside the highway is now obscured with dense growth, as is the clearing, but he recognizes where it used to be. How things change over time!
At the College of the Redwoods, we walk around admiring the lovely campus: lawns, flowering trees, ponds, foot bridges, and flowers of all sorts grace the grounds around the attractive dorms and classroom buildings here.
What a great place to go to school! We go inside the building that houses the cafeteria where Clifford used to work washing dishes, and he recounts the experience of being there one evening when a friend of a friend streaked through, to the delight of the students who were witness to the event.
Then we head back to Eureka and out to Samoa, a jetty where the Samoa Cookhouse, once used to feed loggers, is now a popular spot for locals and tourists to have a good home-cooked meal served family-style. We sit at a long table covered with a red-and-white-checkered tablecloth. Big bowls of soup and salad and a platter of fresh bread are placed before us. This is followed with platters of potatoes and roast beef and a bowl of gravy. We finish off with a spice cake for dessert. To begin with I was a bit cautious because of my food allergies, but for the most part, everything sets well with my finicky digestive system. We both enjoy the plentiful food and the ambiance of the place, which is also a museum of sorts with photos and paraphernalia of the logging operations in the area, as well as photos of the loggers who used to eat at this very establishment. While it was a great time for the logging industry, photos of old-growth redwoods, with stumps big enough to become small dancing floors, lying dead on the ground are a source of sadness for me. I am so grateful that national and state agencies are now protecting most of the remaining old-growth forests so that I and others and those to come after us have the opportunity to stand in awe under these giants, some of whom are more than 2,000 years old.
After our hearty meal, a quick stop at Wells Fargo and a visit to the library in Eureka to check email, we head north to Arcata to buy a few groceries. Clifford wants to visit the plaza for more old memories and in the process we find a used bookstore. It is perfect for Clifford because of the college text books that he finds there on microbiology and organic chemistry. In a sudden rush of memory, I decide to see if I can find the book “Legacy of Luna” by Julia Butterfly Hill and am pleased that there are several like-new copies at the used book price. I don’t know much of the story of Luna and Julia, but recall that it takes place in the redwoods, or more precisely in a redwood called Luna. Right now is the perfect time for me to read this book. I take my purchase to a chair and begin reading while Clifford continues his search for text books that will aid him in his research.
On the way back to camp we stop to take photos of the elk in the meadow adjacent to the campground. It is getting late and they are already bedded down, but I take a photo, anyway.
When we get back to the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) my intention is to download photos, but I read instead and continue reading long after Clifford goes to bed. I am quite taken with Julia’s courageous adventure, especially being here surrounded by the magnificent redwoods that she was trying to save.
Friday May 8: When I first get up, I go out and stand by the creek, admiring the sunlight on the grove of alders on the other side and the lovely clear creek flowing just inches from my feet. As I gaze, I see something that I don’t recognize for a moment. First I think it is a small log (floating upstream??) and then I think it is a large strange fish with its back out of water. Then my mind makes the connection that I am seeing an otter, not one, but two of them. I have never seen live otters and my mind just didn’t immediately compute the information being taken in by my eyes – like the Indians who had no experience of ships as Columbus was landing on their shore. And here this pair is, just a few feet from me. They swim to a log that is a short ways upstream and frolic about for a bit before swimming across and out of sight. Boy, did that get my day off to a great start!
Today is slated for a trip to Fern Canyon. It takes us awhile for the whole breakfast and cleanup routine, and then we are on our way. We stop briefly at the Visitors’ Center at the far end of the campground on our way out of the park. It is an older building, but nice inside with good displays. We travel south on Highway 101 until we reach Davidson Road, where we turn toward the coast. This gravel road is narrow, winding, and steep in spots until we reach Gold Bluff, which gets its name from the color of the cliffs due to specks of gold dust in the soil. There the road levels out and we catch glimpses of the nearby ocean when the trees don’t obscure the view.
There are wonderful redwoods here, but on the ocean side of the road are at least a couple types of spruce. Some look like blue spruce without the blue – they are full and thick, with a growth pattern that makes them look like large perfect Christmas trees. Others are humungus man-eating trees straight out of Brackin (Princes and Priests – 1st Trilogy of the Novels of Shannon by Angela MacDonald – an exciting read which can be found on WordPress).
At the trail head, we park and hike to the canyon. Before we reach the canyon, the landscape is lush with interesting trees that are new to my experience and a variety of ferns and other vegetation.
The 50-foot walls of the canyon are steep-sided and covered with ferns, hence the name.
We walk the narrow canyon floor where more ferns grow amidst fallen trees, while the creek meanders about in such a way that it is almost impossible to continue deeper into the canyon without wading.
Some people avoid wading by crossing the creek on slippery-looking deadfall, but I don’t trust the deadfall crossings and don’t want to risk falling with my cameras. I am careful to avoid wading the creek as much as possible at first, but finally I just give into the fact that I am soaking my hiking shoes; might as well just enjoy the experience.
Eventually we arrive at a spot in the canyon where the deadfall is so dense with huge old trees tumbled together like super-huge, gigantic pick-up-sticks that we are forced to turn back.
Since it is sunny, bright splotches of sunlight reaching into the canyon make it difficult to take decently exposed photos, but I take lots of photos anyway.
Back at the trailhead, we take our picnic lunch to one of the nearly-ancient picnic tables and spread out our fare. Crows soon join us, coming as close as they dare, perching on nearby trees and rocks. They are quite bold as they wait for us to leave so they can clean up our crumbs. It was quite fun to see them.
On the way back out, we stop at Gold Bluff so I can walk out to the ocean to take photos. People are sitting in their lawn chairs on the expanse of sand, reading or snoozing as the waves come circling around their feet. If I was camped here, I would do the same thing, but this is not a road that can be traversed with the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer).
Back at camp, besides the dinner routine, I finish the blog I’m working on and fuss with the sheets, trying to get them rearranged and tucked in better so they will stay put. Note to self: make sure you pack the right sheets next time. But it is easy to overlook the sheet issues when we are camped at such a great place and able to go on lovely interesting outings. I really do love northern California!
Wednesday May 6: Today we start packing as soon as we are up, as we are headed south from our campground at Panther Flat to Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. We say good bye to our host, Jeff, and his wife, JoAn. They have been especially friendly and helpful. I say good-bye, also, to the trees and shrubs at Panther Flat and to the Smith River, which has beguiled me with its beauty.
We enjoy a beautiful winding-road drive with occasional glimpses of the ocean until we reach Elk Prairie Campground.
Quite a beautiful place: old-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, a few western hemlock, and Sitka spruce stand tall and majestic. Big-leaf maple also tower above the puny humans camped beneath their boughs.
A variety of shorter trees, shrubs, ferns and grasses make this forest more like a jungle where there are no trails. Prairie Creek runs through the campground.
Alongside the campground is a large meadow where the Roosevelt elk graze and bed down, giving the campground its name.
Now to find the right spot. I want to be by the creek and there are very few campsites that have a view of the creek. Clifford wants sun so the solar panels can charge the battery. We compromise on a beautiful spot that is right on the creek, but too small to fit comfortably.
In spite of the “help” from the camp hosts, Clifford gets the Pony (pop-up tent trailer) angled in so that the door faces the creek and we are off the road. It takes a bit more work to get leveled and set-up, but in the end it is worth it, as we have a private spot by the clear water of Prairie Creek, surrounded by amazing trees, and sunlight on the panels.
“Go With the Flow” was the suggestion from the Sacred Geometry cards before this road trip began, and that has become my mantra. Sometimes it has been a challenge to keep it in the forefront of my mind, but certainly helpful today as we found our spot and got set up. So many times on this road trip “Go With the Flow” has kept me from becoming upset and anxious. Of course, I have heard this and versions of it most of my life, but implementing it on a day-by-day basis is the real trick to having it make a difference.
In the early evening we walk the path through the woods to the Visitors’ Center at the other end of the campground. The trees are a constant wonderment.
It is nearly dark and getting chilly by time we get back to our camp. We sit outside to look at the stars and listen to the creek. Feels like it will be cooler tonight. What a wonderful place to spend the next few days!!!
Thursday May 7: It was 37 degrees last night, a good excuse to make a campfire this morning. I have a cup of organic French press coffee as I write in my journal. I admire the morning light on the creek in front of me and the alder grove on across the creek. Sunlight filters through the tall trees of the camp, and the sky is a beautiful blue – so great to see.
After breakfast we head to Orick, the nearest town to our campground, so we can check our email and phone messages. Then we drive out to the Visitors’ Center to see what books they carry, get information about camping further south, buy a couple post cards to send to family and friends, and get quarters for the showers at the campground. We walk out to the ocean shore, but the sandy beach doesn’t offer many photo opps, especially with the wind blowing so hard that I fear for the safety of my camera lens.
Back in Orick we buy gas at the only gas pump in town, a 40-year-old relic that still works. Then we drive out to the Lady Bird Johnson grove and do a walkabout. This old-growth forest of redwoods and Douglas fir was dedicated in 1968 to Lady Bird Johnson for her efforts to preserve the natural beauty of this country. A brochure that we pick up at the beginning of the trail describes the environment , the history of the area, as well as information about the life cycles of the plants and trees that grow here, including the hardiness of the redwoods. It is obvious that the old growth trees have all survived a forest fire, as they are all blackened and wounded, but they still live. In some cases, the lower portions of their great cores are burned out, creating caves so large enough that a person could set up house in them, kind of hobbit-like.
On the way back to camp, we stop to look at a herd of Roosevelt elk, but they are not in a posing mode. However, it is still fun to see them and be glad that they are thriving after nearing extinction.
Clifford takes a nap after a late lunch while I make another campfire, a must if I am to sit outside in the chilly afternoon, and write in the journal. Personally, I prefer this cool weather and am grateful not to have to cope with the heat. Just before we left Idaho, I overheard someone saying that it was over 100 degrees in California, so I took some of my cool-weather clothes out of my duffle bag and replaced them with warm-weather clothes…. Well, so far, I would have been better off to have left things as they were, but next time I will inquire what part of California is hot, as the northern coast certainly is not. Except for the extreme wind right off the ocean, I am liking the weather here. So glad to be here with the cool breeze, and where I am surrounded by and can walk amongst wondrously tall trees. I am loving northern California!