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Archive for May, 2013

On Wednesday, we moved to McKinleyville, a little north of Eureka. It took us about 40 minutes to get up here so we took in a few sights. We found the Azalea State Reserve and hiked the short trails in amazingly warm weather. There were azalea bushes galore but only about 5 of them were actually in bloom. So that wasn’t too exciting. We decided to go to Moonstone Beach to cool off, but were turned away – they were shooting a commercial on the beach and it was closed. But on the coast, another beach is never very far away. We went north about 2 miles to Trinidad Beach. Trinidad is a pretty little coastal village with a short, non-functioning replica lighthouse sitting on a cliff. It seemed to be a memorial to people who had died. In addition to the list of people lost at sea, there was a list of people buried at sea. Many of these listings, etched in marble, had a name with a birth date but no death date. I guess you had to plan ahead to be buried at sea.

The wind was really blasting on the beach, but it was a refreshing walk, with all kinds of interesting rocks and boulders strewn along the water line.

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While eating breakfast at our White Widow Creek RV Campground, Dave noticed a tree gnome outside our window. Investigating further, we found a beautiful carving attached to the tree in our campsite. The campground manager said he had never noticed it before. It was a nice surprise. We got talking to Jolly, a real character, who said he had found out that the people filming the automobile commercial at Moonstone Beach hadn’t looked at the tide charts and they had caught nice late light but lost the car – the tide came in and they couldn’t pull the car out.

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While perusing “101 Humboldt Things to do”, Number 70 was a Redwood Canopy Tour conducted by North Coast Adventure Centers. I’ve been wanting to zipline somewhere beautiful and this fit the bill. The description was a little daunting: “The Redwood Canopy Tour takes 2 to 3 hours and is not for the faint of heart. Adventurers should be in good physical condition and be willing to “hang out” in the canopy of a Redwood forest, 70 ft. up.” Yikes!

Thursday was a spectacular day and we headed into a city-owned redwood park and found Adam, our guide. We signed our waiver sheets, donned our harnesses, helmets and gloves, practiced our maneuvers on the ground and then faced “Eureka”, the redwood tree we would be climbing. I went up first, belayed to Adam who had scrambled up the 70 feet to a small platform. Strong staples were arrayed on an upward path, each one sticking out about 6 inches. Those were my hand- and foot-holds. Some were kind of far apart and I had to stretch to reach them. I quickly learned that I could let go a little because the rope that tied to my harness and managed  by Adam, was pulling me upwards and holding me steady. Boy, I’m glad I’ve done what arm exercises I do. I was really out of breath by the time I reached Adam. Clicking my “lobster claws” to the steel wire, I was free to look around and watch Dave climb up. Up that high, I could see the ferns and redwood sorrel forming circular patterns on the ground. It was neat.

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101DG1033ZiplineClimbingTree

 

Dave reached us and then it was time for me to zipline. Only wait, the first maneuver was to zip about 15 feet out, brake with my hands and then return backwards to the starting platform to make sure I could handle myself. When you zip, you place both hands on what I’ll call the “zipper” that scoots along the metal wire. To slow down or stop, you let go of the “zipper” and grab the metal wire with both hands together. After quite a few deep breaths, I lifted my legs and left the platform. I’m zipping!!! Well, I didn’t stop too gracefully, but I managed to hand-by-hand my way backwards to the platform. Good.

Then it was time to zip for real, going about 30 feet across to “Arcata” or maybe it was “Trinidad”. (They’ve named the three trees we zip to.) After safety checks, Adam called out “Zip on!” Having leapt off once, you’d think the second time would be easier. No, it was not. I finally was in the air and doing okay but the angle of the wire wasn’t steep enough to take all the way to the next platform. So I stopped and spun around a little. As I tried to pull myself along hand-by-hand, I kept getting my gloves caught in the zipper. Finally, I got to the platform. Hurray!!!  Dave had no trouble and soon was right beside me. Adam remained in “Eureka”. We’d be on our own for the next two zips.

They were great. The descent was a little steeper, so I just aimed my feet at the platform and landed with style. I can’t say I was looking at the scenery while I zipped but I could do that from the platform. It was exhilarating. On our third zip, we returned back to Adam, who asked if we wanted to go around a second time. Dave chose to; I was pretty tired and content to talk to Adam. He told me that about one out of ten people aren’t capable of making the 70-foot climb up the tree. That made me feel good. I was one of the 90%!  Dave, in the meantime, clambered back up to the platform above us and took off for another round. He was back in no time.

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It was time to decant from Eureka. We weren’t going to climb down. We were going to rappel. Adam again would belay us. “Lean backward off the platform” he told me. I did not like that one bit. I finally took off and immediately spun around, my back to the tree. Wrong. After managing to get my feet facing the tree, I felt like my butt wasn’t firmly in the harness. I did not want that harness to go where I thought it would go if my right cheek slipped out. I managed to get down to the ground, but did not enjoy the process. Dave had no trouble. He said maybe my right cheek is smaller than my left. If so, it’s something I never noticed before. I hope it doesn’t affect my ziplining career! In the meantime, one of the results of this experience is a colorful set of bruises in yellow-green, blue-green and yellow-brown.

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It’s been a busy time since we moved up to Prairie Creek State Park. We broke camp and did another short 30-mile hop north. We took a look at the campground at Prairie Creek State Park, found an open, sunny spot and called it home. So did five elk. Later in the afternoon, they chose the large grassy area behind us to chow down on the grass. Nice. The males have “moss” on their antlers and are not in rut and thus are much calmer than in fall.

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111MG4273PrairieCreekElk

We did have a minor tragedy: Dave lost one of his hearing aids. It’s so light that taking his glasses off can pull on the wire and pull out the device without him noticing. After searching our campsite, he drove back to the Fortuna campground the next morning and searched there, fruitlessly. Too bad!

Since we had arrived at Prairie Creek so early and because it was warm out, we decided to head for the coast. That involved driving 8 miles along a twisty, potholed gravel road through gorgeous forest. We checked out the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground. Most of the campsites were taken, but not by motorhomes. The road to get there is just too bumpy. Our destination was the famous Fern Canyon, so dramatic, with ferns cascading down 80-foot cliffs, that scenes from Jurassic Park were shot there. There were a lot of stream crossings and people pondering how to get to the other side. I reached a point where I decided to go back. Dave went on and of course it smoothed out right after.

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We chose to do a 7-mile hike on Saturday. It was a sunny, very warm day. As soon as we got on the James Irvine Trail, it became shady and steamy. Again I marveled at the Redwood Sorrel (you can eat it, we were told, but I’m nervous about picking my dinner). The Coastal Redwoods are much more individual than the Sierra Sequoias. They have enormous burls, their bark sometimes swirls, the bark ranges in color from blue-green to charcoal gray. One tree can have several other trees growing out of it. Their roots, when they fall over, are simply enormous.

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We stopped for lunch and a nearby tree dropped a few bits of stuff right next to us. I had never thought about tree parts falling on me. A pinecone doesn’t seem heavy until one falls on your head from a very high point. A while later, as we hiked on, in a distance, we heard a loud cracking noise and a thunderous crash. Something heavy-duty had fallen. Dave said that proved that if a tree fell in the woods, it made noise. Since we were there to hear it, I don’t think he made his point. We were totally bushed when we got back to camp. Shortly after returning, we heard another enormous crash echo in the distance. Some other tree had lost something major. After a shower, we sat in the shade and drank Cuba Libres and ate potato chips. Later on, Dave built a primo fire and we contemplated it and the stars. Roughing it is great.

We were somewhat stiff and sore on Sunday, so we sat around, ate a nice breakfast of French Toast, bacon and orange juice and watched almost all of our fellow campers go back to where they came from. Since it was cloudy, with even light, Dave decided we should do the Cathedral Trees Trail through the big trees. Once again, we were entranced by the lush growth in dim light.

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After all the trees, we decided to take a drive along the coast where the Klamath River runs into the Pacific. It was neat – gray and non-windy. As we rose above the coastline, we got out of the car, looked out at the ocean and heard drumming. Some type of Indian gathering was happening on the beach below us. Another guy who was looking around up there caught a great picture of an Osprey flying with a fish about 1/3 her size. A peaceful end to the day.

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On Monday we moved 32 miles north to Fortuna. It’s not a real impressive town, but it’s convenient to the Lost Coast road and the Riverwalk RV Park is very pleasant and right next to Highway 101. We took a late-afternoon ride up the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge and found out at 4:30 that it closed at 5 p.m. We took a nearby road up to a slough and went for a chilly, windy walk along the water. We spotted a couple of egrets and Dave spotted what we later guessed was a Godwit, but otherwise we didn’t see much in the way of birds.

Tuesday we got out pretty early to drive out to the Lost Coast, an undeveloped section of the northern Pacific coast that has spectacular views. Reading reviews of the road, we filled up with gas and prepared for a really rough road…. Nah. It was narrow, twisty and full of potholes, but it wasn’t that bad. We drove the cute town of Ferndale (more later) and immediately started to wind our way up the coastal mountains. After about 8 miles, we caught our first view of the coastline. Nice. We continued past several ranches and lots of cattle and rounded a bend to look down on a windswept dark-gray-sand beach. And when I say windswept, I mean it in the most dramatic terms. It was blowing somewhere above 25 miles per hour. And it was COLD. But the water was beautiful shades of blue and there were lots of wildflowers.

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We drove as far as the small town of Petrolia and turned around. We were driving by a pasture with horses when Dave noticed that 2 of them were striped – they were zebras. We pulled out our cameras and as we got near the fence, all four horses and both zebras started heading for us. The horses didn’t seem to particularly get along with the zebras, but it sure was a strange juxtaposition.

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After a stop for lunch in the car, we drove back to Ferndale. Our first stop was the cemetery that was unusual because it rose up a steep hill. Many of the graves were old and overgrown with moss, but many of them were well tended with rhododendronbushes or clumps of Lily of the Valley. One headstone contained the favorite saying of the father: “Get er dun”. Many of the sites had memorabilia laid out.

I wanted to stop at the Kinetic Museum to see some of the foot-pedaled machines that have been used in the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race held locally. Alas, the museum had closed in March. Another oddity, lost to mankind. We headed back to camp for coffee and dreams of owning zebras and horses.

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