My buddy Pete is seeking redemption as he is attempting another bike tour down the coast of California along highway 1 with his dog "Bunky." Last year, I picked Pete up in Eureka after he caught the flu while biking through an unexpected early week of rain last fall. He had to abandon his trip as a result. This year, blue skies prevail, and I met him in Pt. Arena after work on Friday.
We drove to Gualala, a tiny town along the coast, approximately an hour and a half north of San Francisco. We decided to camp along the Gualala River, on the Sonoma county side. Just an amazing spot.
The Gualala is another gorgeous river that runs into the Pacific Ocean. The name given by the Pomo indigenous people means, "Where the river meets the sea." Redwoods tower above both sides of the river, and one could imagine overwhelming salmon runs in the old days.
Gualala was once a logging town, so once again, it seems to be mostly second or third generation redwoods growing, with an old giant left standing here and there amongst countless old stumps.
While I was out exploring, Pete experienced a bit of trail magic. Some camping neighbors nearby offered Pete access to their canoe, since the launching area was in our campsite. While I was sitting on a beach area soaking in the beauty of the area, Pete arrived around the river bend in a canoe with his dog "Bunky".
"Jump in!" Pete exclaimed.
I couldn't believe it, this was too good to be true! For the next several hours, we explored the river in the canoe.
Land north of the river is part of Mendocino County, while land on the south side is part of Sonoma county. We passed a campground located on the Mendocino side. The beach was full of people playing in the water and getting some sun. After we went upriver as far as our curiosity allowed, we turned around and headed toward the ocean.
Before the Gualala river met the ocean, we docked along some dunes and explored the beach. Bunky, Pete's dog, was relieved I think to be on solid ground. Once we had enough sun for the day, we canoed back to camp and rested, ate, and drove into town. We met a man named Oliver, another biker Pete had met a couple days before.
After eating some dinner, and doing some bike repairs, another canoe ride was too much to resist. The sun was just beginning to set, and the water was really peaceful. It wasn't long before it got really dark, the stars came out, and we could only see the black outline of the redwood canopy around us. We decided to pull up next to the campground on the Mendocino side and take a look around. It was like another world from our campground.
This place was wall to wall campsites. Country music was pumping from the stereos of pickup trucks, Christmas lights were draped around numerous sites, people were everywhere, walking around drinking, smoking, eating around campfires, talking, fighting, laughing. It was like a mini shanty town.
We decided it probably wasn't the best idea to leave the canoe down by the shoreline in case some drunk individuals got the idea to take it for a joy ride, so we quickly returned to the canoe and set off for camp. By now it was near pitch black, except for the stars overhead. Finding camp was going to be a serious challenge, especially since our launch site was basically a small mud path hidden underneath a bay laurel tree. Unbelievably, we found our site almost immediately, basically taking a literal "stab in the dark" and arriving right where the path led back to camp.
After a night's rest, we began packing up our stuff. I was heading home, and Pete was to return to the 1 on his bike. It was an incredible weekend. The only hitch was that when I went to start my car, the battery was dead. After finding some neighbors with jumper cables, the car started. Thankfully I made it home OK and Pete and Bunky have resumed their ride to San Diego. Happy Father's Day to all the father's out there!