Day 35 and 36: Humboldt Redwood State Park, CA


Leaving the coast, Highway 1 headed east with a sharp kick to the stomach putting the ocean and fog behind us while entering a place in which summer had yet to come.  This road makes this dramatic turn due to the Kings Mountain Range that hug the coast so perfectly no road ever was made to follow alongside it, leaving  this stretch of California beaches known as “The lost coast”.  These mountains not only keep the coast isolated but also keep the beautiful redwood trees to their east sheltered from the intense fog giving them time to soak up the sun to become the tall behemoth’s that they are.  It is in the midst of these beauties that we called home for the last two days in Hidden Springs Campground, with our tent also hidden among trees.  We had to walk a steep path to get to our tent, with no neighbor visible to either side.  This state park followed alongside highway 101 on a smaller road known as The Avenue of The Giants from Phillipsville up past Pepperwood, with various ancient groves to either side.  The history of these trees is legendary, and the fact that they are still standing left us all in awe each time we walked among them.  Along this route, towns seemed left behind also, boasting of a special redwood on their property.  The Eternal Tree House, the Drive Through Tree, just to name a few.  As we explored this area, it seemed to stop time for us as we pondered the 1500 years some of these trees have stood.  It makes one feel a bit small when you wonder what your place in this world should be.  On a lighter side though, we began our 5th week on the road refreshed and giddy.  While being here, I found myself not thinking much about anything.  A calmness settled in while listening to the wind rustle high above us, and as total darkness encompassed us at night while no moon appeared to pull us back to real time.

During these walks Henna would describe in full detail her plans for her future.  She has decided to become a traveling writer, being gone for years at a time, writing about her adventures on paper only to come home to transcribe them.  One such trip entails a boat to China, replete with many pencils and paper, water, and all other necessities she might need.  Her fear was only that she would forget this dream, because being a kid she assumed she would abandon or forget it and never complete it; therefore, every now and again she would remind us very enthusiastically that she remembered her boat trip. Her excitement for all the possibilities in life, the adventures, the stories she wants to tell was infectious.  I want her to remember.  I want her to always look for the possibilities.   During another walk among The Giants, Henna declared that she wanted to walk barefoot.  She has been expressing this desire stating that she loves to feel things beneath her feet as she walks.  Stones, sticks, dirt, you name it.  So I let her.  Shet walked along a soft path laden with dirt and dry red wood pines.  She never relented, and stated how much she loved this connection with the ground.  She continued to ask if she could go barefoot the whole rest of the day.  Our discussion took us into the depths of civilized behavior and how people do things, to which she gloriously declared, “when I get older I’m going to walk barefoot everywhere”.  Again I loved this moment in which I could let her have her way, the possibilities of walking barefoot entrancing her.  I did not want to be the harbinger of bad news on how some day she would actually enjoy shoes and that she may or then again maybe not come to this realization.

Our neighbors on our last night here were a young couple travelling north to visit friends in San Francisco.  Cameron, who took off a year after high school, had travelled extensively through South America.  His sweet companion, Griffin had also traveled to faraway places such as Thailand, Australia and Toronto. It’s in these stories that I find the possibilities too. “There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people in it, and each on deserves a closer look” taken eloquently from Harriet the Spy.  By stopping time for a moment, I get so excited for the possibilities in life.

We are heading east today, and our slow decent home will begin.  As we leave this place, I know that the calmness here will be found again but may take some real stopping to catch it.  While thinking about home, I get excited for the familiar there, the people we love there.  But I know that I am going to make sure that Henna remembers her dream and is aware of the calmness and always of the possibilities.

Day 34: Mancester to Westpoint, CA

The odometer said we only did 64 miles yesterday.  We sure did get our moneys’ worth from those miles.

Mendocino, CA

Mendocino is an artist colony, an expensive weekend destination (rooms with a shared bath start at $165), a hippie commune (the local grocery store is an organic only co-op; when we pulled in to town a group of men varying in ages from late teens to middle age where “making music” with their hands and an odd assortment of musical instruments and they did not look out of place), an artist colony, and a nature lovers paradise as the whole place seems to melt into the surrounding cliffs.  All these different directions seem to pull the town a bit and not all the residents were welcoming to visitors.  Besides the various store signs prohibiting cell phone usage, a shop keeper was visibly annoyed when I asked directions, another shop (a cute wine store) closed for a lunch break (with the shop keeper munching on a sandwich at the counter), and everyone there, visitor and resident alike, seemed to take pride in not being of or at somewhere else.  But it made for a wonderful visit complete with book shopping (for Henna) and cliff strolling.

Russian River Gulch State Park

A mile or so north of Mendocino is the Russian River Gulch State Park.  The park advertises 12 miles of hiking trails with the most popular of those miles leading to a waterfall.  Our last serious hike was up Mt. Hoffman in Yosemite so we were pretty excited to take on the challenge.  The trail meandered on a slight but steady incline past a few redwood stumps, at least one whole redwood, and into a fern lined jungle.  It reminded us a lot of being on Washington’s coast.  Henna loved the banana slugs and especially enjoyed stroking their tops so that their antennas withdrew.  A good time was held by all.

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg

Three years ago we combed the beach for washed up and polished glass (the beach is covered with this beautiful garbage) only for me to accidentally throw it all out the next day (Corey never should of stored all the glass in a used Styrofoam coffee cup).  This was Henna’s chance to replenish.  While Corey and Henna picked through the garbage I wandered the cliffs and saw many sea lions.  I also talked to a young couple from Sacramento who were incredulous that I considered them to be close to home.  I later told them I was maybe 800 miles from home.  Like almost everyone I have met in California, they showed no interest in how it is was I ended up talking to them.  In Nebraska (a mere two states away) people asked my route, my impression of their state, and possibly my political orientation (religious and sexual orientation however were off the table).  Here in the Bear Republic people just assumed we dropped in from the sky. They also maybe felt a little sorry for us that we were from somewhere else.  They never seemed interested in any way in how we got there, what we were doing close to their home, and what we might think of their state.  (note:  a little after writing this a neighbor at Humbolt Redwood State Park on a road trip that started in Central California approached us, along with his dairy dog, to ask us about our trip).

Westpoint KOA

It was a fitting end to our journey up the coast.  It was my favorite and least favorite campground of the trip.  It was dirty, disorganized and a free for all.  Music blared all night and, mixed in among the usual types (older RVers, European travelers, and families seeing the country) where locals looking to party.  But, for $5 extra, you could camp on the beach.  The surf proved louder than the party goers and the sand made for an excellent bed.  We had space, privacy (and it was the darkest night of the trip), a good fire, and one of the few remaining picnic tables.  The tables were rare because a few nights ago men came in the middle of the night and stole them right off the beach (this was probably a prank as the tables were found at a nearby beach- the owners had not bothered to pick them up yet).  Before sun set Henna and I explored the beach and she twirled to her hearts content (and lost most of the glass she had picked up earlier).  It never actually rained, but all night the mist came from the sea and soaked everything.  And Corey and I laughed while sipping expensive wine.

Day 31: San Francisco to Petaluma, CA

Can you go back again?  We pondered that question as our route after visiting Dan and family took us through some rather familiar area.  Our first time through San Fran with Henna we stayed in Berkley and explored the city via the BART.  Unencumbered by a car, we hopped every transit system known to man and in the process had some whirlwind days.  Through these rose colored glasses we were awed and craved more of it as we left.   This probably makes you wonder what this go around proved…I’m not sure it proved anything except that traveling is often more about the place you are in at that particular time of life.  This time we noticed the garbage a little more than last time, we were overwhelmed with the homeless on the street and we found the sparkle a little less than shiny.  We still love this city and its hilly terrain as well as the multi-colored houses and the fog that envelopes the city slowly as you watch.

I find going back captivating because I find myself constantly looking for those moments experienced before; but we are different and therefore are experiences change as well.  We also were in search of new experiences so we made for a foggy and misty Saulsalito.  The town was like most tourist towns, pretty and crowded.  The Marine Mammal Center, which lies a tad west of the city center, is one of a kind.  This center, which is run simply on donations, helps injured marine mammals return back to the sea.  The residents, mostly sea lions, elephant seals, and harbor seals are most often harmed by toxins, plastics, and, as incredibly hard as it is to believe, gun shots and arrows intentionally aimed at them.  The center takes them in, does the necessary things, and then releases them back into the ocean.  A simply amazing place.  We were able to see animals in their hospital rooms (fenced in pools) being fed through tubes into their stomachs, watch vets around a table discussing the details of the 38 patients which called their hospital their home.  They even treated the animals that did not have medical insurance!  Henna’s heart grew bigger with the idea that people give their money to assist these animals; well it could have also been the very adorable harbor seal photo on the wall featuring all face and whiskers.  We contrasted how these creatures here are given cute human relating names, like Meghan to make our hearts break for them, while back in Yosemite the bears they try daily to keep alive by educating campers to the dangers of food are given names like KY Yellow.  In Yosemite you do not want tourists connecting with a cute 400 lb bear named Jenny which would probably lure you to feeding it your scraps. But I digress.   The fog and mist drove us to seek refuge east in a town called Petaluma.  We have been here before too, and our memories were good with only one incident of Noel and the hot tub.  I will spare you details.

Another highlight of the day was the fresh organic farm stand we came across.  Yummy.   Like every other destination this summer, getting there involved a windy road seemingly leading nowhere.  City folks that we are, we joked that we were going to run into rough cows with knives around the bend.  Not at all the truth, but we did find a lovely scene of glorious displayed fruits, vegetables, eggs and packaged grass fed beef.  It was glorious.  We then learned that this fruit stand ran on the honor system, replete with weighing scale and a tool box turned cash register.  Another sign that trusting and glorious deeds do exist.  Again for the second time today I saw the wonder in Henna’s eyes as she soaked up this fact.  By the way, the tool register was full of money.  We talked about this for a while and again I saw Henna’s world expand.   I love that so much.

So today I learned that you can’t go back, and would I want to?  It would mean for me that in the time between leaving not much growth happened.  Travelling is about growth and thinking outside the things we know at home.  I think from now on I will not expect to see the same things as I once did, but instead try seeing places and things the way I witnessed Henna seeing them today and watching myself grow.

Day 29 and 30: Monterey to Santa Cruz to San Francisco

We woke up in Monterey and did a little sight seeing before continuing north on Hwy 1.  I think it is safe to say that Steinbeck could not afford Monterey today.  This of course does not stop the town from trading on his reputation.  They also spend a lot of time celebrating their rich cannery history.  Unfortuantly the fishing industry did not police themselves (no industry ever polices themselves) and there are no fishing fleets leaving Monterey.  All that are left are refurbished buildings, a bunch of Starbucks, and some cool sidewalk markers.



Monterey also has a nifty aquarium but Henna chose to hang out at the beach instead.  Unlike the day before we knew where we were staying which allowed for a more relaxed vibe.  I was, however, very excited to see an old friend, Dan, and meet his family for the first time.  I first met Dan while studying in London my senior year of college and then stayed friends with him up to about the time Corey and I got married.  Dan married shortly after I did and now has three wonderful kids (2 boys and a girl).  He also has a super cool wife named Caroline.  While watching Corey buy sandals at a Payless (the second pair of sandals purchased by her this trip) I texted Dan for beach suggestions and he recommended Sea Cliff.

Sea Cliff State Park is a fun beach to hang out at.  What really makes it memorable is this giant ship tethered to the end of a pier.  Is it a shipwreck?  No.  Built of concrete (it seemed a good idea at the time) it was intentionally beached and a pier was built in order to create a nightclub.  The business lasted two years before going bankrupt and eventually the state purchased it for $1.  Now a million birds nest and poop on it while a lot of people play in the waves below.

After making some feeble attempts at body surfing while Henna picked up sticks, rocks and shells (and Corey worked on her tan) we made it to Dan’s house.  We talked my favorite subjects (politics and religion) and I got a real kick out of his kids.  Caroline was more than gracious as a hostess and really made us feel at home.  It is hard to describe exactly how good it felt to be so welcomed into someone elses home.  Anywhere else I might have felt homesick, there I felt at home.  Thank you.

For the next beach we called home and got Mor Mor’s input.  A few years back her and Corey’s Dad hung out at Pescadero Beach.  Corey’s dad was stationed near San Francisco for about 18 months.  Pescadero Beach was a fun place to be then and it still is.  Henna built small driftwood house and searched for shells.  In addition to some sand dollars, her and Corey found one large star fish.  It felt good hanging at the beach.  I also greatly enjoyed the stretch of Hwy 1 from Santa Cruz to the beach.  Although not as dramatic as by Big Sur, the road offered plenty of fruit stands and many views of the ocean.  All in all it felt more accessible and friendly than the big drop offs of Big Sur.

 After the beach we drove into the city (San Fran).  This is my second (Corey’s third) time in the city on the bay.  Having checked off a lot of the obvious tourist destinations we felt OK with just one night.  Our sole goal in the city was China Town and we had a slightly over priced but delicious meal.  For me the city felt more downtrodden than the last time I visited.  Maybe it was the cold (last time it was mostly sunny).  I write to you now from a fancy hotel room homesick for our tent.  Tomorrow we ride north.



Day 27 and 28: Coarsegold, CA to San Simeon State Park to Monterey, CA

There is nothing romantic about raisins.  That is what I thought as we drove down 41 through Fresno.  Earlier we had stopped at a picture perfect fruit stand in Madera, California.  I tasted some wine (so-so) while Corey and Henna stocked up on strawberries, apricots, and dried vegetables.   Just a little bit past there it was raison country and we spied field after field of raisins (we knew they were growing raisins by the Sun Kissed raison lady sign).  The mostly Hispanic crews working those fields looked hot.  There were no raison ranch tours, raison tastings, or other raison related goods.  Why?  Who deemed the grape cool but its cousin lame?  These were the thoughts I had while moving through the dusty and flat scenery of the greater Fresno area.  Oh and it was hot too, mid 100s for most of the trip.  After a while we reached the endless brown hills that separate the valley from the coast.  More twist and turns and suddenly the temperature plunged and the ocean was ahead of us.  We had made it to Moro Bay.

The night before our dash to the coast found us camping in the low Sierra foot hills.  Our neighbors were some sort of travelling teen camp from Holland.  There were maybe 25 kids and two counselors; the counselors looked to be in their early 20s.  Most of them smoked; counselors and campers together bumming smokes from each other.  And they were not very friendly.  Corey was weirded out by the many holes in the ground by our tent so at night we drank our wine in the middle of the dirt road.  We would smile and say hi each time a camper walked by but they never returned our greeting.  Weird.

Our first neighbors on the coast were not any friendlier.  Although their kids played with Henna, the parents ignored our smiles and good intentions.  Later that night the dad took out a remote control brightly colored flying object that involved a serious green laser being shone into the sky.  Up until around midnight he fiddled with his toy while his kids walked around with glow in the dark hats.  It was like camping next to Blue Man Group.

But we do enjoy the coast.  So far we have combed a beach for smooth and colored rocks, enjoyed the cool temperature, and saw a colony of Elephant Seals.  We also toured the Hearst Castle.  After seeing Monticello last year it was interesting to compare and contrast the two dwellings.  Both were built by prominent Americans but Jefferson actually designed his house (WRH necessitated an architect).  Jefferson also filled his house with his own inventions and created a space uniquely his own.  One gets the sense from Hearst’s mansion that he was more of a collector; of celebrities like Charlie Chaplin as well as French tapestries and sarcophagus.  At the same time both President Jefferson and W.R. Hearst fancied themselves gentleman farmers or ranchers.  The president was content to oversee slaves growing traditional crops, Hearst preferred zebras and kangaroos grazing alongside his cattle.

Going up Hwy 1 we also spent some time at the Henry Miller Library.  After shelling out big bucks to sit on another crowded bus in order to reach a walking tour, I enjoyed the calm and peacefulness of this coastal refuge.  There was no admission, coffee and tea were free, and the curator allowed me to charge my camera.  Most of the “library” was outside and a group of quasi-hippies were weaving something in an outdoor courtyard.  Vintage posters of Miller were everywhere and featured him at all stages of his life.  There were some tents clustered in the corner of the yard and I made a half-hearted attempt at joining the campground (they never really said yes or no).  There also was a poster advertising an all kid production of Robin Hood for later that night.

For the first time this trip, however, our lack of reservations seemed to be working against us.  Unlike in other western areas, national forest campgrounds were few and small.   They, as well as all the state parks, were also completely filled up.  As HWY 1 moved into more spectacular and soaring scenery, we felt a considerably amount of anxiety over where to stay.  Corey called a KOA near Santa Cruz only to find out that a tent site was $90.  Thirty minutes later I called again and there were no sites left at all.  It looked like we were going to have to hotel it.

In Monterey we found a nice, not too overly priced hotel.  We ordered pizza and swam in the indoor pool until almost ten.  It felt good to be clean, fed, and halfway up the Californian coast.  I also reconnected over the phone with an old friend in Santa Cruz and hope to see and stay with him and his family tomorrow.  Life is good on the coast.