Saturday, July 30, 2011


I felt like a kid again as I rediscovered the joy of rocks at Bowling Ball Beach yesterday. I felt like each rock deserved a portrait of it's own...

Bowling Ball Beach

Some interesting geology at Bowling Ball Beach...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail

I filled out a vacation request form for two weeks in September with the hopes of hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. Planning shall commence in the following weeks...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Avenue of the Giants

Yesterday I sat in my car and started driving, not really sure where to go, but just needed to get out of town. I was thinking about heading towards Jackson State Forest to hike but that didn't really appeal to me.

Then I saw a sign for Eureka, about 130 miles away. I drive that many miles in one day for work all the time. Let's head north! I've been wanting to check out the Avenue of the Giants for some time so that became my destination. Suddenly, the day was full of promise.

Some roads have the feeling of heading towards a better place for some reason, and the 101 is no exception for me. While driving north, the landscape begins to change, the elevation seems to increase, and the Redwoods become more abundant.

The 101 has a feeling of travel and adventure. There were many bicyclists heading south on their bike tours. Hitch hikers heading north and south to unknown destinations, and plenty of RV's travelling the country during the summer.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the Avenue of the Giants, but it turned out to be an exceptional experience. When I approached, there was a sign directing motorists to pick up a pamphlet and read a small sign. I was expecting the pamphlet box to be empty due to budget cuts, but it was surprisingly full, and best of all, free.

I had to chuckle about the idea of doing a car tour, since it kind of goes against everything I believe to be true: That exploring on foot is the best way to experience a new place. Thankfully, the tour gave plenty of opportunities to leave the car behind and enter the Redwood groves on foot.

The Avenue of the Giants is a 32 mile stretch of road that parallels the 101, and meanders through Humbolt Redwoods State Park. It was originally built for wagons and stagecoaches in the 1880's.

It was surprisingly warm, and felt almost humid in the forest. Temperatures were probably in the upper 80's. It's too bad trees don't have eyes or ears. I wonder what they would think if they saw the changes occurring around them over the years? I wonder if they sense anything at all? Do they enjoy blowing in the wind, or drinking water from streams, rain and fog? Do they mind when folks leave used toilet paper at their bases? Do they mind the taste of car exhaust? Do they mind being cut and used for wood products? Do they enjoy stretching towards the sun? Do they enjoy visitors sitting amongst them, touching them, talking to them? Do they care at all?

The avenue travels along the gorgeous Eel River. It is a spectacular River from what I could tell from a short visit. There were many folks enjoying a cool dip in the turquoise water, or adrift on rafts. I was quite envious of the rafters, it looked like so much fun.

The Visitor's Center showed an exceptional movie about the Redwoods, and some of the history and politics and passions they have evoked over the years. I was happy to share the viewing experience with other like minded folks. Everyone seemed to express a comment of disgust or a shake of the head when clear cuts were shown. We know and understand that the destruction of these groves are not OK, no matter what the cost.

Efforts from folks like Laura Perrot Mahan and her husband James have allowed for the preservation and protection of this area. There were signs from many donors throughout the park.

There was a sign that described how the Eel River was once a bountiful salmon spawning ground. King salmon once appeared in tremendous numbers, the fish reaching up to 30 pounds and growing up to 58 inches. Today there are very few that remain sadly.

Mattole Road intersects with the Avenue of the Giants, and is described as one of the most beautiful drives in America as it heads west towards the Lost Coast. I'll have to leave that for another day.

The day ended with a nice 2.5 mile hike through the Drury-Chaney Grove near Pepperwood. There were not many folks on the hiking trails, so it was nice to have some silence and solitude amongst the big trees.

Overall, it was a fantastic day. California is an incredibly beautiful state, that's for sure. Thank goodness for the parks...

Anchor Bay

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Salt Lick?

I had a revelation when I read this article that was posted on the PCT-L the other day.

While hiking the PCT, Indie and I had found a campsite one evening just outside the town of Belden, CA. It was a nice campsite, fire pit, flat spots, metal grill for cooking. However, it had a bit of a creepy feel to it. It's impossible to know why some parts of the trail feel more uncomfortable than others. Perhaps it's personal preference. I always feel at peace camped high on a ridge line above everything else, with clear views. This particular site was forested, dark, and by the looks of it, often used.

While we were getting ready to sleep, we heard a loud "crack." Indie and I both shined our headlamps into the area where we heard the noise, and immediately saw glowing eyes staring back at us. (The moment when one sees the eyes is always an exciting one, as the brain processes what kind of animal is at hand.) In this case, we both realized it was just a deer. This was no ordinary deer however. It was extremely socially awkward or something. It seemed to just hang around the campsite, often bolting a hundred feet or so back into the forest, only to return a minute later. It seemed to be frightened by just the most subtle of movements, often scaring me in the process. "What is he so nervous about?" I wondered.

To make matters worse, where I chose to camp, there was a huge pile of dead sticks and branches just a few feet away. As the deer became a little more comfortable, he would walk right into the middle of the pile of branches. Without fail, the deer would accidentally step on a branch that would "crack," get scared, then make a mad dash out of the sticks causing more branches to "crack," run faster and scare the bejesus out of me at the same time.

Amazingly, this sequence of events happened over and over again. I couldn't believe it. Before I fell asleep, I would hear the deer quietly rustle the leaves as he approached the stick pile. I would hear the branches moving around, and then "crack!" One of the branches would pop, the deer would jump in astonishment, become entangled in the branches, more "cracks and "pops" and then the frightened animal would run full speed back into the forest.

Indie seemed to get a chuckle out of it when I would curse in an exhausted stupor. Anyhow, I eventually fell asleep, but the story does not end. All through the night, I heard the deer approach in my dreams, and time and time again, he would become entangled in the sticks and I would wake up in a state of freight as the branches popped and the deer would run back into the forest. "Why does he keep getting entangled in this stick pile?!!" I wondered over and over. Indie and I concluded he must have been mentally ill or something. As the night progressed, I would hear the deer stealthily approach, and I would kick my feet in my sleeping bag and the deer would dart back into the forest. I'd say this repeated over and over about a dozen times.

The next day, Indie and I awoke and the deer was nowhere to be seen. It was an exhausting day of hiking due to the fact that my sleep was so disrupted. It became a story Indie and I would return to and laugh about from time to time in the following months while hiking the trail.

In conclusion, after reading the above mentioned article yesterday, my best hypothesis for why the deer kept walking into the pile of sticks was because he wanted a salt lick. Perhaps this spot was used by other hikers as a latrine? Makes more sense than a mentally ill deer...

Indie's version of the night and next day can be found here.