Giants

Sequoias, I’ve heard, are bigger.

Still.

Redwood Stand, July 2013

They almost dare you to photograph them in some unique way, as if knowing that, at least at first, you can’t help but shoot the standard-issue, clichéd image of immense stands of imposing forest.  Walking among them I didn’t feel small so much as unimportant.

That’s something of a cliché as well, but it fits.

We left the Elk River center, drove up 101 a short way, passing another beach, through mist and gray that separated where we were from anywhere else we might go.Sacramento 2013_0075

We stopped at the shore, walked between burms of sand, spent time in the non-place of fog and suggestion.  Donna took this image of me walking toward a horizon invisible and remade constantly.  Isolated as it was, the world shifted and altered.

Time to go inland, then.  Time to find the next stretch of imagination-rich landscape for our memories to feast on.  Time to move further into segments of separated repositories of quiet beauty.

People drove by as we pulled off the road, racing from nowhere to elsewhere, not stopping (how could they not stop? Look at what’s here!), leaving us—and a few others who knew the moment—to bask in the details left lying around by happenstance and million-year evolutionary exuberance.  Sure, there was a road through it, but that was its own delight.

IMG_1749

We didn’t hurry, but neither did we linger too long.  We had a very specific goal on this trip, something left over from the last visit to these parts.  Circumstances had forced us then to choose between the redwoods and Crater Lake.  In 2001, we chose Crater Lake.  Now we have come back to see the Other.

The Others.

We drove into the preserve on an ascending road that wrapped around the base of a rise.  Here, fog did not intrude.  Late morning, the sun speared through the canopy, picking out details in such fractal abundance the whole was all you could really see clearly.  There was parking lot at the side of a footbridge over the road leading to the trail.

In stillness that seemed only recently broken by music, the echoes of ancient rhythms twined around the enormous fingers stretched toward light and air, we walked and stopped and walked again and pointed things out to each other and walked and gaped.

Gnarls in Redwood,  b&w, July 2013

Redwood Trunk, July 2013

Redwood Bark Detail, July 2013

The trail was about a mile.  There were bugs, of course, little stinging pests, but for the most part it was one of the easiest trails I’ve ever walked.  Every turn brought something extraordinary.

We left this preserve and took a scenic byway through more of the magnificence.IMG_1838

As we drove between curtain walls of the ancient forest, we passed a family stretching out around the base of one of the bigger trees, one of their number stepping back into the road to take the picture.  Donna pulled over, suggesting I ask if they wanted someone else to take it so they could all be in it together.  I sprinted back and just as they were breaking up to return to their cars, I called out and offered.  They regrouped happily, hand in hand, against the tree and I shot pictures with two of their cameras.  (I didn’t know them, I thought it would be impertinent to take a picture for myself.)

One of them hurried to her car, telling me to wait.  She handed me a pile of silver-foiled Hershey kisses.  “That’s where we’re from,” she said, grinning.

“Hershey, Pennsylvania?”

“Yep.  Been a long drive, but boy, was it worth it.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Standing amid these epic trees, you start to feel like a giant yourself, for the simple reason that you can see them for the marvelous things they are.  For a short while they seem to lend you a bit of their grandeur.

Updates and Bothers

I received another of those pesky update notices for my blog theme.  When finished, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the one it replaced, so I’ve chosen a new theme.  This has taken more time than I liked, but there it is.

In the meantime, a cryptic image from the trip, to keep you wondering till I get around to the next post.  (Yes, those are boots and shoes atop those posts…I don’t know…)

 

Boots on Fence, July 2013

Eureka and Beyond

Staggering (almost literally) into Eureka that Monday night saved our nerves.  Oddly, we usually have one day like this on a road trip in which anxiety creeps up to a certain level (because we don’t know where we are and the directions we thought we had proved unreliable) and tension rises.  We get through it and afterward it’s as if we’ve purged all the bad joss that might otherwise infect the balance of the trip.  Such was our drive over the mountains from Platina to Eureka.

Picking a hotel because of a chain restaurant might also seem arbitrary, but part of the fun of these is to be arbitrary.  Besides, our memory of that first encounter with Marie Callender back in 2001 has remained vivid.  (Of course, we were also then pretty strained from the road, so…)

IMG_1701(That first dinner we were served a very fine Oregon wine, Bridgeview, which plays into this trip later on.  It was a surprisingly good wine for a chain.)

The room was nice enough that we considered spending another night there and using it as base from which to do exploring. Unfortunately it was already booked, so we packed up and headed north.

One of the things fascinating about this part of the country is what I call micro-climates.  Eureka is right on the coast and from the time we arrived to when we finally left it was encased in a heavy mist.  Three or four blocks inland and the sun blazed, the sky was cloudless, and the temperature went up noticeably.  We drove through these variations for the rest of the trip up the coast.

IMG_1732We turned off onto a beach, which, though public, possessed an air of isolation.  A few people already there huddled some distance from where we walked, and a single runner came by.

Moving on, we eventually turned into one of the wildlife centers to get some directions for actually getting into  the redwoods, which we seemed to be driving by but weren’t actually passing through.

Donna's #1 (California, 7-13)Obtaining a map and some directions, looking over the exhibits, and stretching our legs, we were ready to go look at the Giants we’d come to see.

Back in 2001, we had a number of goals, one of which was to hit the coast and see the redwoods.  Well, right off that’s kind of a misrepresentation—which The Redwoods?  They’re strung all along the coast in a number of preserves and national and state parks.  The one we chose was the Lady Bird Johnson National Forest, which offers a one mile trail in the midst of some spectacular woodland.  As a sample…

Donna's #3 (California, 7-13)

 

More later.

36

Having turned away from the traffic jam on 20, we drove back the few miles to I5.  We’d intended to skip this highway since we’d driven it before and wanted to take new roads.  Well, we figured, we’d still take a new road.

Just up 5 is the town of Red Bluff.  Heading west from there is highway 36, which goes through the mountains.  Or over, depending on your point of view.  We looked at a map, thought “sure, we can stop atPlatina for the night and cross over in the early morning.”

Heh.

We should probably have stopped in Red Bluff, which seemed to be a charming little place with hotels, restaurants, local color, all on display as we cut through it and boldly set out on 36.

On The Road, July 2013It was just too early to check in, there was plenty of sunlight, and our final destination on this leg was supposed to be Eureka.  So we rolled along the two-lane, which began winding.  And winding.

And winding past some terrific scenery, which at the beginning we gleefully stopped often to photograph.

 

 

From highway 36, July 2013

 

 

Eroded Bluff, b&w, July 2013

 

We rolled into Platina, though, only to find a general store, a gas station, and one visible blacktop lined with houses.  Stopping for cold drinks, we asked about accommodations.  The woman behind the counter looked at us in a combination of amazement and pity.

“Nothing here.  But up the road about eight miles or so is Bridgeville, they got a motel.  But really, you got plenty of daylight, you might make it all the way over before dark.”

Mountaintop out of Bridgeville, July 2013With those encouraging words, we drove on.  Bridgeville was a bit further than eight miles.  We almost missed it.  We drove over a bridge, yes, but aside from the sign for the town all we saw were three people out walking their dogs and pushing a strolled.

“No, the hotel closed down last year some time,” one of them told us.  “Best bet is to head for Fortuna.”

Fortuna lay on the other side of the range.  We stopped to assess.

Fortuna, July 2013The entire winding drive on highway 36 had been an exercise in frustration.  Speed limit signs told us we could go 55, but twenty feet on was a warning to take the next set of curves at 25.  On top of which, instead of the Corolla which we’d requested, we’d gotten a Mazda 3.  (I know, rental agencies cannot guarantee a specific model, and they use car type as a rough guide, assuming all cars of a certain size and engine capacity are the same.  They’re not.)  Donna wasn’t familiar enough with the Mazda to ignore the warnings, so a two hour drive turned into three-plus, and by the time we descended into Fortuna we were both a bit weary and eager for a straight road.

We tanked up and asked for directions to a motel.  Vague handwaving took us down a road that led to a motel in the classic sense—a long row of rooms attached to a glass-fronted check-in.  As we pulled in, though, I note a number of semis and several doors open, the guests socializing, beers in hand, and music playing from either a truck or one of the rooms.  When I was told the price for the night, I spun around and went back to the car.

“We keep going.”

Road-toasted as she was, Donna continued on.  We ended up on highway 101, where we’d originally intended to be at the start of the day.  “Let’s just head for Eureka,” said.

She nodded.  At least the road was straight.

As we pulled into Eureka, we found ourselves on motel row.  A buffet of options.

“That one!” Donna said suddenly.  “The Best Western.”

“Okay. Why?”

“There’s a Marie Callendar restaurant next to it.”

We’d found Marie Callendar on our first trip to California in 2001.  In the midwest we know nothing of this.  Here, Marie Callendar is no more than a selection of frozen dinners at the supermarket.  Out here, though, there’s a chain of restaurants.  And pretty good ones for a chain.

The Best Western room cost more, but it didn’t matter.  Clean room, comfortable bed, and by quarter of ten we were sitting in a booth in the restaurant for basically our first meal of the day since breakfast.

After that, bed.  Just…bed.

 

In Lieu Of

I was halfway through another piece about our road trip.  Something about winding roads and mountains.  I made a bad keystroke and lost it.  I’ll do it this weekend, after I stop fuming.  Meanwhile, something in its place.

 

Cliff Face & Bush, b&w, July 2013

 

Along 20

We had a plan.  It seemed at first the gods of traffic were arrayed against us.

We flew into Sacramento to attend a reunion, a convention, and start the next part of our vacation, which entailed renting a car and heading for the redwood forests along the northern California coast.  We’d missed these on our previous trip to the area (2001) and vowed to come back one day to fill in the gap.

Everything went smoothly until we began to encounter the Other Season in California.  (There are two seasons, we were told—winter and road construction.)  We intend to take I5 to 101 and head north to Eureka.  Well, right before the airport, traffic had come to a halt on 5.  We were close  enough, so we doglegged up 99.  At Yuba, we turned west onto highway 20, which should have taken us by Clear Lake, around the lower tip of the mountains, and into 101.

Just before Clear Lake, traffic had come to halt.  People had shut off their engines.

It’s possible had we waited another ten minutes, we might have gotten through.  But we didn’t want to sit there, in increasing heat, staring at the back ends of semis and SUVs.  Where we were stuck was one of the least picturesque points along that stretch of highway.

So we turned around, went back to I5 and headed north for Red Bluff.

But the drive along 20—pleasantly winding and meandering—afforded opportunity for some interesting photography.

Rolling Hills, Towers, CA, b&w, July 2013

 

Along 20, July 2013

 

Sunflowers & Mountain, July 2013

Recent Us

A new portrait, done by Nan Kaufman, who, with her husband Peter Fuss, hosted us for a marvelous weekend of rustic peace and quiet—plus driving all over the place between Alta and Placerville.

Donna and Me, July 2013

On The Road…And Back

Few things satisfy me more than going on a trip with Donna.  In the last three decades we’ve taken some fine vacations and she is the best traveling companion I’ve found.

This one, however, contained extra pleasure.

On The Road, July 2013

On the Fourth of July we flew to Sacramento, CA, to attend Westercon 66.  I’d forgotten (if I ever really knew) that Westercon in years past had been a Big Deal.  Major regional SF convention.  It had fallen into decline, though, and this one was the first in an intended recovery.  I hope they manage it because this one was truly fine.  Even if it hadn’t been, though, it would have been great because two of our best friends, Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge, were co guests of honor.  We’ve known each other since Clarion in 1988.

But wait!  There’s more!  As well, Brooks Caruthers, Jay Brazier, Kimberly Rufer-Bach, and Andy Tisbert joined us for a mini-class reunion.  One of our instructors, Kim Stanley Robinson, also showed up for a day, as did the current director of the workshop, Karen Joy Fowler.  Another Clarionite, Cliff Winig, class of ’97, attended as well.

I’ll write more about this later.  For now I just wanted to put a place marker down to note that the feelings felt and expressed were unexpectedly strong.  Donna commented that watching us it seemed our Clarion group had parted company only last month, so fast did the reconnection happen.  I’d forgotten the way in which these people mean so much to me.

After the convention, however, we leased a car and headed into the Northern California hinterlands to finish up some of what we’d missed back in 2001 when we drove from Oakland to Placerville to Eugene to Seattle.  The balance of the trip was as amazing as the beginning, in wholly different ways.  I shot over 500 photographs.  Over the next several weeks I’ll post those I deem worthwhile and tell you all a little bit about the trip.

Basically, we headed for the coast.  The first leg ended at Eureka.  We went up the coast to Crescent City, then up 199 and down the other side of the range to Redding.  We ended in Alta, for a quiet weekend with two friends who have made themselves a pocket of peacefulness atop 4000 feet of foothill.  As with all the best trips, it ended too soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with another image and the promise of more details and other photographs.  We’re back home now, chock full of memories, and glad of each other in new ways.

On The Shore, July 2013