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.
Sunday May 10, 2015: It is overcast this morning. I take a few photos before building a little campfire to keep me company while I write in the journal. Here it is May and a campfire and a wool poncho are welcome parts of my life. I love this weather.
Back at camp, I download photos and edit until my laptop battery is dead. Then Clifford and I decide to go for a drive up the Newton-Drury Parkway, which is a road right through the heart of the redwood forest in the Prairie Creek State Park.
The Corkscrew Tree is a redwood famous for the unusual entwining growth of its four trunks. It looks quite different depending on the angle at which one approaches, but it is no doubt unique, no matter where one is standing.
I am in such awe of these giants of the earth and reluctant to leave them, but on back to camp we go. I continue reading “Legacy of Luna” by Julia Hill, admiring her great courage and stamina to stand up to adversity of all sorts while living for two years in an old-growth redwood near Eureka, done to bring awareness to environmental issues and logging practices.
As I walk in the forests in the evening, I look up at the old-growth redwoods around camp and consider what it would be like to live in the upper stories of one of these giants, never setting foot on the ground for over two years.
I am so in love with trees, tall trees, short trees, straight trees, leaning trees, crooked trees, furry trees. I’ll dream of trees tonight.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Thursday April 30: We are up before 8:00 this morning. The odd thing is that I seldom know what time it is, what time we get up, what time we eat, or what time we go to bed. This morning, after a short walkabout to visit flower-friends, I make a campfire, not really because it is cold enough to need it, but because I enjoy it.
My friends Ken and Shelley Anne who have been so supportive over the preceding challenging months are on my mind. I give them a call, thinking I will get voice mail and am pleased to talk to Shelley Anne in person for a few minutes.
Once the coastal redwoods covered 2 million acres of land, mostly in California, but due to logging in the late 1800’s to the 1920’s, only about 100,000 acres of ancient redwood forests remain. Today we drive to Stouts Grove near the beginning of Howland Hill Road (or end, depending on which way one is traveling). This is an old-growth grove in what is now Redwood National Park and Jedediah Smith State Park, a co-operative effort on the part of national and state agencies to preserve what remains of the old-growth forests. What a loss it would be to both the natural world and the civilizations of the world to not have the redwoods. These ancient giants deserve our very best efforts to preserve them for their invaluable role in the ecology of the planet, as well as to inspire all those who gaze upward toward their lofty heights. We today are most fortunate that efforts have been made to preserve these remaining great trees.
Redwoods may reach a height of 370 feet tall and may be as much as 20 feet in diameter. They can live to be 2,000 years old, although many are merely 500 to 700 years old. I am in awe of them as I walk the trail. The tops cannot be seen by looking up; it is like trying to look at a mountain peak when standing at the base of the mountain where one can see only the foothills. Photos do not do justice to their majestic size unless a tiny human is included in the photo.
We have learned something of their growth patterns that allows these great trees to survive. Bulbous outgrowths hold the potential to grow new trees out of the old – like a fetus waiting to grow and be born as a baby. Some redwoods grow in a tight cluster from one root system, their strength supporting each other. Thick bark protects them from insect injury and even damage from fire. Many of these old trees, still living, bear the scars of severe forest fires.
Not only are the trees wonderful, but the ferns and shamrocks are lush, adding color and texture to the scene.
Back at the campground, I take the trail down to the Smith River and find a place where I can take photos of some of the rapids along this stretch. I am drawn to the beautiful clear aqua water of this lively river.
We have nachos for dinner and do crossword puzzles, which are both addictive and annoying. One of these days I am going to not do the crosswords with dinner. But tonight I do crosswords until I can’t stand doing another one. I go to bed thinking not of crosswords, however, but of great tall wonderful trees.