Saturday, October 3, 2020

RETURN TO MENDOCINO AND A VISIT TO FERN CANYON

 ...seeking respite from, well, everything...

 

In an effort to escape the end-of-the-world smoke of our inland valley berg, we loaded up the all-electric Chevy Bolt with two night’s worth of duds and headed over to Mendocino.


The quaint New England-esque village is day-trip-able, but by staying a couple of nights, more could be explored and more in depth.



Speaking of depths, long on the bucket list was a hike into the depths of Van Damme State Park’s Fern Canyon.



A lovely trail traces the Little River (we never ran across the Little River Band, however) through a verdant, lush understory of ferns and fall color...



...ducking under fallen redwoods and firs, cleared in some places to maintain the trail, but left to decay and return nature to nature.




Oddities appear throughout these sheltered environs.  Here, an alien spaceship appears to have collided with a Douglas fir.



 Two-and-a-half miles in, the trail forks...



...offering a loop (with quite an elevation gain) into the Pygmy Forest...

 


...a region where a fifty-year-old tree might rise to five or six feet on a three-quarter inch trunk.  Something about the particulars of this biome.  The air up here is much warmer (and much smokier) than down in Fern Canyon.

 

Completing the loop, our trail passes through a century-old burn zone that displays the resiliency of the area sequoia.

 


Along the way, it looks as if we may have discovered the source of a particularly nasty signature circumstance of the year 2020.  Who knew it might be plant based?

 


Details delight as we complete the 8 ½ mile sojourn along the Little River through this lush and often over-looked Eden.

 


 

Upon the recommendation of friends, we holed-up at the lovely Headlands Inn... 

 


...walking distance from Mendocino’s Main Street and the glorious bluffs beyond.

 


A sea stack offers refuge for pelicans, cormorants and gulls.

 


Evening finds us enjoying fine northern Italian fare in the garden at Luna Trattoria – great wine list, thoughtful, efficient service, and a delightful Italian owner with a deep baritone voice – where I snap a picture of their rustic shed (because I like rustic sheds).

 


We followed that with a late stroll down Mendocino’s deserted Main Street.

 


COVID-19 has taken a toll on the tourist industry and, this early October evening, I’m afraid it shows even here.

 

 

Like old sheds and old trucks, we can’t pass up an old lighthouse.  Point Cabrillo’s is only three miles up Highway 1.

 


It’s a half-mile walk from the parking area to the former lightkeeper’s residence.  Derelict roses edge the way...

 


...and a decrepit fence separates this space from that space – I suppose.

 


The Pacific is particularly active this morning, engaged in its eons-old quest to erode North America into the sea...

 


...and the Point Cabrillo Light Station has witnessed over a century of it.  (I’m reminded that I need to check my history book(s) and determine if Juan made it this far north as he explored California for Spain back in the day.)

 


 

Some hikes are a bust.  In our efforts to stave off re-entry into unhealthy air, we used a published guide to direct us to a little-used trail head just south of the Navarro River.  Once the route of the old state highway, the guide read: “Overgrown in spots...”

 


No kidding.  After plunging through about two hundred yards of nettles, tangled vinca, ivy, poison oak and downed power lines, we determined that discretion was the better part of valor and headed home.

 

o0o

 

Notes:

 

Was it mentioned earlier that I dig old trucks?  Here’s one that could stand to be dug out...

 


The Headlands Inn offers great views, warm ambiance and breakfasts that simply can’t be matched. We will return.  Check ‘em out:  https://www.headlandsinn.com

 

And check out Luna Trattoria while you’re at it:  https://www.lunatrattoria.com

 

(c) 2020

Church of the Open Road Press

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

ANOTHER EVENING HOUSE GUEST

...being now certain to check in insides of my shoes...

 

I consider myself a welcoming sort.  What with wildfires and bad air and lock downs, I figure if someone needs shelter and I’ve got room, we’ll work something out.  Usually.

 

This particular Saturday night wasn’t usual.  Saturday was.  I’d spend an hour or so at the community garden and then came home.  I shucked my work boots off on the front patio and immediately carried them into the closet – which was kinda unusual – but that’s what I did.

 

I celebrated my volunteerism with a cold Scrimshaw lager and the requisite 20-minute nap such mid-day imbibement demands.  The afternoon would be spent reading or working on whatever writing project was at hand.  Light dinner.  Netflix movie.  All-in-all, a typical Clover Springs Saturday.

 

Until, while readying for bed, I turned on the hall light.

 


Scorpions (g. vejovis), like mosquitos, ticks, rattlesnakes, some politicians and so many other things found in nature, are ugly creatures that we may not fully understand.  Fossil records tell us that scorpions have been around for hundreds of thousands of years (will we?) They have a reputation for being venomous.  On-line sources tell us that there are several varieties roaming the planet and that they can be found on every continent except Antarctica.  (Right away I checked: There are no regularly scheduled, non-stop flights from Charles M Schulz Airport to anywhere in Antarctica by any major carrier.) Scorpions, in general, live in arid climes and like dark, cool places.  Their sting is about like that of a bee and they prey on insects, spiders and the like.  Should a scorpion bite or sting, the result will be painful but generally won’t kill anyone or even send someone to the hospital – although people with certain allergies are at greater risk.

 

That said, this fella’s unexpected appearance on the carpet did give my heart a jolt.  (Maybe that’swhat sends folks to the ER.) I’d not seen one in Cloverdale in our five years here, but folks on Next Door report that they’ve seen ‘um from time to time.  I’m thinking this one latched onto my boot at the garden and rode home with me.  

 

Steven – out of a sense of courtesy, I name all my house guests – crouched frozen as soon as the light clicked on.  I hadn’t yet checked on-line to determine the risks he might provide, but I did snap this picture with my handy-dandy iPhone.  Then, with a hand vac not equipped with a beater bar or impellers, I sucked him up.  It took a little doing because he latched himself onto the carpet pretty firmly.  Checking to see that Steven couldn’t escape, I placed the unit on top of one of the toters in the side yard as the darkness gathered.

 

Returning to the house, I did my research and mulled what to do.  Ultimately, I figured, he was no threat. Not being one who likes to kill bugs and critters, even those that might bite, the following morning I emptied the Dust Buster into our green waste bin.  I watched as Steven landed on a pile of yard detritus.  I know I saw about half of his 250 tiny eyes wink at me as he raised a claw and then burrowed into the verdant crud.  

 

Wednesday, he’ll enjoy a ride out of town courtesy of Recology Marin Sonoma.  That’s the something I worked out for our little house guest named Steven.

 

o0o

 

Note:  From Storer and Usinger in Sierra Nevada Natural History (University of California Press, 1963) page 172, we learn:

 

Scorpion. Vejevis.  L. to 2”; flattened; head region with 1 small pair of “jaws” and one pair of snout pincers on long jointed arms; thorax with 4 pairs of slender jointed legs abdomen narrowed into jointed flexible tail with “poison claw” at end; yellow or brown.  Distr.  Mostly at lower elevations on ground under logs or stones (or, apparently, in my closet).

            Scorpions hide by day and come out at night to feed on insects and small ground-dwelling animals.  Prey is caught on pincers, killed with the sting, and torn apart to eat.  Sting is painful but not dangerous to man.  Young are born alive and ride on the female’s back until their first molt.

 

(c) 2020

Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

COAST SIDE WEST SIDE STORY

...when national circumstance imitates art...

To escape the drumbeat of the both the news media and social media, I hopped on Enrico, the Yamaha and headed out to cruise the Pacific Coast Highway.  The rhythm of the road and the waves, I was sure, would carry me to a happy place.

Often, when I ride, a soundtrack will filter into my mind and accompany me on my journey.  Usually – whether it’s Sinatra or the Boss, Mozart or the Beatles – I don’t know why the playlist is what the playlist is.  I just enjoy the melding of melody and that road rhythm.

Today was different.  Today, the tunes came from “West Side Story.”  (Music by Leonard Bernstein.  Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim.  Ghostwritten by William Shakespeare.) We’d viewed the dazzling 1961 film the night before.  Lyrics were echoing as I descended Sonoma County’s Colman Valley Road from Occidental into the marine-layer refrigerator that always is California’s Highway 1 in July.

The story lingered.


I do a lot of thinking on the motorcycle.  Especially when fog or overcast mutes the scenery.  Sometimes I come up with a new idea like how 2 plus 2 can equal 7; sometimes, I simply try to figure out the hand that the world has been dealt.  

This day would be the latter.

Arthur Laurents’ “Westside Story,” like William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” is a tearful tale about forbidden love and ultimate loss.  (If you haven’t seen the film lately, take time to view it so I don’t have to provide an inadequate synopsis here.)

Ultimately, whether it is the Montagues and the Capulets or the Jets and the Sharks that allow their blindness and hatred to prevent them from sitting across the table and simply discussing, the result is the same.  An irreversible tragedy takes place, and only then do the opposing parties decide to seek some sort of common ground.


Somewhere between Point Arena and the eastward turn-off to CA 128 along the Navarro River – and while voicing Sondheim’s lyrics to “Somewhere” in my helmet – it dawned on me. (Granted, maybe this was simply another example of 2 and 2 equaling 7.)  But here goes: 

The differences and perceptions separating the families in Romeo and Juliet (1594-95) or gangs in Westside (1961) are not all that different from those dividing our nation’s left and our nation’s right (2020).  Sadly, the irreversible tragedy that is about to befall us is far more crucial – far more devastating – than the mere loss of a handsome, ill-fated lover.

No.  The loss will be that of what once was our grand Republic.

I believe that we can each play a hand in diverting the tragedy.

(c) 2020
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

RETURN TO THE CALISTOGA ROASTERY

...a chance conversation with a really good mom...

The woman must have been at least 80.  As I rolled up on the Yamaha, she was sitting on a bench backed up to the Calistoga Roastery clutching a heat-sheathed cup of something.  I suspect coffee.

I backed Enrico’s rear tire to the red-painted curb.  (I’ll explain this later.)

“I don’t think you can park there,” the woman said.  Her voice sounded as if it emanated from vocal cords made of razor wire.

“I know,” I said.  “I’ll just be a couple of minutes and I don’t want to take whole parking space from somebody in a car just for the bike.”

“Oh,” she said.  “That’s a nice idea.  You go inside and I’ll keep an eye out for the cops.”


Parking along Calistoga’s quaint downtown main drag is a combination of parallel spots and diagonal slots.  The transition is mid-block and at each transition zone, about twelve feet of curb is painted red.  The northern-most Napa Valley town is a mecca for motorcyclists of all stripes with all of the roads leading in and out of the berg – CA 29, CA 128, Silverado Trail – motoring delights for folks on two-wheelers.  Giving over about six of each of those twelve feet for motorcycle parking would likely ease stress on parking slots for cars.  I'm gonna write the City of Calistoga about this stroke of genius on my part...


I popped into the roastery, picked up two pounds of whole-bean and was out in two minutes.

“That was quick,” the woman said.  “Where are you going?”

“Home.  Cloverdale.  I come over here every few weeks to buy coffee partly because of the coffee and partly because the ride is so pretty.”

“We looked at Cloverdale when we moved.  Too hot.  Ended up here about 30 years ago.”

“That’s nice,” I said, unhooking my helmet from its lock.

“How far is it from Cloverdale to Boonville?” she asked.

“Twenty-eight miles,” I said.  “I ride that road quite frequently.”

“You think the coffee’s better here?”

I laughed.

“My daughter just moved to Boonville.  Husband got laid off and they couldn’t afford their place in the City.  Bought a place with a cabin and acreage...”

“Boonville’s nice.  Sorta remote.”

“My son lives in Sacramento. Well, El Dorado Hills.  You know where that is?”

I was beginning to feel a bit stuck.  “Yes.  I used to live out that way.” 

“What did you do there?”

“Education.  What’s your son do?”

“Some sort of science.  Something about rocket engines and the sort.” She paused – but not quite long enough.  “Cloverdale’s nice.  A bit too hot for me, but nice.  What kind of people live there?”

“Oh, a nice mix.”

“We had Thanksgiving last year up in... in... Placerville.”

“Hangtown!”

“Oh?  You know it?”

LA Times Photo
“Historic downtown.  Just like this.”  I waved my arm up the street.  “Used to ride up that way all the time.”

“Daughter said something at dinner and son replied with something about President Trump – he loves President Trump – and then he got up and stormed away.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yeah,” she said.  “People... We share so much in common.  My kids even share blood!  It shouldn’t be like this.  I felt so bad.  Keep asking myself, 'Where did I go wrong?'”

Social distancing protocols prevented me from approaching the old gal and offering a hug, but I sure wanted to.  I waited for a moment and then asked, “Did you do the best you could do, Mom?”

She took a first sip of her coffee.  Her eyes crept over the rim of the cup.  “I think so.”

“Well, then.  You did the best you could.”   My smile was concealed by my helmet, but I think we made eye contact.

Straddling Enrico, I fired the Yamaha up.  Lifting her paper cup and tipping it toward me, she nearly hollered: “You be careful on that thing.”


(c) 2020
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, July 18, 2020

CENTRAL OREGON CASCADES – CENTRAL OREGON COAST - ii

Part 2 of 2 – the Coast

In the collection of North America’s great motorcycle routes, it’s a gift  to find so many out here in the west – an even greater treat when one can experience two on the same trip.  Oregon’s State Route 242 over McKenzie Pass is world class: great pavement, challenging curves, wonderful views and a bit of history both recent and Cenozoic.  Tough to beat, unless...


...unless one can make it out to the Oregon section of US 101 which traces our Pacific shoreline.

Departing Camp Sherman, we descend Oregon Route 126 along the McKenzie River.  Back at the pass, we’d learned that the heavy winter snowfall melts into a subterranean basin – the chunks of basaltic aa are too coarse to allow pond to form or streams to flow.  Snow melt rests in that underground lake for “from three to ten years” until it filters out into either the Metolius or the McKenzie River.


OR 126 is a delightful series of rises and falls, curves and twists, campgrounds and tiny bergs.  It is a wonderful experience on most summer non-weekend days.


Crossing the Willamette Valley at Springfield and Eugene is a complex chore involving traffic signals and turns at intersections that sneak up on the unexpecting – but the whole process only takes about twenty minutes.  Soon we’re on the road to coastal Florence rising over the folded Coast Range and following the Siuslaw River to the sea.

Huge sand dunes separate US 101 from the ocean south of Florence, but with moderate traffic and a few glimpses to the west, the ride is entertaining.  A masterful bridge crosses Coos Bay – certainly worth stopping for a photo – which I did not.  Why?  Why?  WHY?


Mid-afternoon finds us arriving in Bandon, a coastal village with all those coastal village charms: a wharf, a lighthouse... 


...a quaint downtown with plenty of eateries and a soundtrack of seagulls and sea waves.

The coastal prairie in these parts... 


...gives way to large expanses of sand and not-so-distant sea stacks.


I call this picture “My Dancer.”


Within walking range of the Inn at Face Rock (a Best Western property) are several Oregon State Park vista points from which one might catch a shot of the setting sun.  


The following morning I realize I didn’t get a photo of the namesake rock, so we seek out that particular view point.


See the tilted face looking skyward?


On the road, south of town, we arrive Port Orford and while 101 swings east, one is encouraged to keep going south because painted on the tarmac like something the road department wouldn’t do are the words: “Ocean View ahead.”  I always succumb.


A great place to pause.

Further south, we enter a twelve mile stretch of protected coastline dedicated to the efforts of Oregon’s first director of state parks (and visionary, I’d opine): Samuel H Boardman.  


Several scenic overlooks dot the roadside, each connected by a coastal trail.  Each beckons.


We had hoped to stop at the Oregon Welcome Station and, with GPS in hand, hiking over to the 42nd parallel and the northwestern corner of California, but the pandemic had rendered the Welcome Center unwelcome...

We motor through California’s Smith Redwoods and on into Crescent City where the great Alaskan earthquake of ’64 and its resultant tidal wave - here some 1500 miles south - wiped out blocks and blocks of downtown.  Now the area is an open space park where ravens and squirrels are happy to prance around and steal your picnic...


Late afternoon finds us in Eureka – a favored destination for an evening at the historic Eureka Inn and al fresco dinner on the wharf.


Tomorrow we’d be home savoring two great experiences on one grand trip.



Where’s Dad?  When I’m on the road, I enjoy many things, but I miss some things as well.  One of those “things” is Edward, out loyal eleven-year-old lab mix.  He’s such a good boy.  I think of him often, especially when I see someone walking their Edward look-alike.  I always wonder if Ed goes to sleep each night with a bit of a whimper as he pines for me as much as I pine for him.

Out at Face Rock, while setting up for a shot or two of what would be a marvelous sunset with about fifty or sixty other folks, I espied this guy sitting shotgun in a Mercedes camper van while whomever was out taking photographs.  I couldn’t help but feel that this pup didn’t give a rip about the sunset; rather he had to be asking his lonely self, “Where’s Dad?”

And I thought of Edward.


(c) 2020
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, July 17, 2020

CENTRAL OREGON CASCADES – CENTRAL OREGON COAST

Part 1 of 2 – the Cascades

We always vacation someplace new.  Never return to the same place.  The west is so vast, so enchanting.  So many things to see.  So much history to discover.  So many roads to explore.


Yet, this would be our fifth trip to the Metolius.


The two-day run afforded us an overnight in lovely McCloud where stayed at the newly acquired McCloud River Bed and Breakfast.  https://mccloudriverbnb.com
  

Formerly the main office of the McCloud River Lumber Company, the grand old house – just a block or so from “downtown” –  is undergoing restoration.  


We even got a peek in the old company vault where records for every employee were kept.  It was like walking into history...



Up the road, what would have been an annoying traffic delay was mitigated by this view of the queen of Northern California: Mount Shasta.



Arriving Camp Sherman, we returned to the delightful accommodations of the Metolius River Resort.  https://metoliusriverresort.com  Twelve privately held cabins stand just a few manicured yards from the pristine river that slips past.


Trails trace each side of the river – one leading to the fascinating spring about two miles upstream from which the entire river emanates.  (The next day, up at McKenzie Pass, we learn why.)


By mid-July, the spring season is almost a memory, but a few wildflowers dot the meadows, stream sides and even the fallen logs in the river.



The evening lullaby includes the symphony from the river and soughing of the sweet ponderosa pines.


The following day finds us traveling Oregon State Route 242, through several of the west’s more signature scenes – wild land burn scars... 


... to McKenzie Summit, and a stunning display of the area’s volcanic heritage.


A paved trail offers views of the Three Sisters, Mounts Jefferson and Washington...


... leading to an observatory hewn from area basalt.


On a clear day, the views are dramatic...


Perhaps only more dramatic when some cloudscape is added.


The interpretive trail is an easy stroll where the nuances of the landscape are detailed.


We learn that Mt. Jefferson is the newest of the area volcanos by tens of thousands of years and that is why it appears far less jagged and weathered.


The ride back down OR 242 to Sisters is a delight on a bike that handles like Enrico, the Yamaha, but equally pleasant, I’m told by my travelling partner, in the accompanying Subaru.  


When in Sisters, check out the Stitching Post Quilt Shop. https://stitchinpost.com We actually planned this trip to correspond with their world-renowned Sisters Quilt Show, an annual July affair which had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic.


Back at the cabin, we enjoy a few more walks and a few more evenings of peaceful rest and, upon departure, figure we’ll break that always-someplace-new rule and return again soon.




In the late 1950s, there was a little old lady that lived down the street from us when I was growing up.  Her name was Mrs. Carah.  Her first name was Rose.  She was the oldest person I think I ever knew when I was seven or eight. She would invite neighborhood kids – mostly boys –  to take a break from our playing in the creek and come to her house for store-bought cookies, Kool-Aid and Bible stories and talk about the old times.  She once told us about coming to California in a covered wagon.  She said they came through Yellowstone before there were automobiles.  Along the way, she met a man named Bill Carah.

Over time, we got to know Mrs. Carah rather well.  It turns out her maiden name was Wild.  She was one of those people you meet when you are growing up that you never forget.  Every time I’m in the woods and I see these, I think of Rose Wild.


(c) 2020
Church of the Open Road Press