Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bragging Rights

Since I am in California on an extended and much-needed break from Brooklyn, my father and I have been planning a camping trip for weeks. We headed north this morning from Sonoma County for a few peaceful days of hiking and exploring before a great moving adventure begins at the end of the week (his move, not mine). Being nature enthusiasts, hiking in a new park with different terrain is a real thrill.

We stopped en route on Hwy 1 10 miles south of Fort Bragg at Van Damme State Park to see the Pygmy Forest 3 miles from the ocean. Though shrimpy due to ancient soil depleted of nutrients and stunted plant growth, don't be fooled. Some of these trees are hundreds of years old, despite me towering over them. Hence, the dwarfed forest. Kind of amazing to think that just 50 miles away are giant Sequoias. One of the greatest things about California is its geographical diversity- conditions can change dramatically in just a few miles.

We did find some wild huckleberries along the way:

Up the road, the park continued with a bog walk. I hiked with my arms over my head to avoid the stinging nettles that are unrelenting this time of year. My dad is an excellent hiker, but he wasn't so lucky. Too bad the nettles weren't a little younger or we could have prepared nettle soup! (Just kidding, you should never remove anything from any local park or preserve.) I managed to find the last wild blackberry of the season- they usually are in their prime mid-summer, but the farther north you go, the later the season is pushed.

I also made a friend on the trail, but banana slugs have always resisted me:

Across the highway at Van Damme Beach, about half a dozen scuba divers were searching for abalone. This can be very dangerous, so it all depends on the strength of the tide and the skill and equipment of the diver. Having no gear, my dad and I combined our creative talents into sawing off the end of a large piece of kelp and using it as a horn. My dad was pleased that his horn playing skills were better than mine. It turned a few heads, but sometimes you've just got to toot your own horn.

It was after lunch when we rolled into Mendocino. We stopped at the Mendocino Bakery and Pizzeria for a snack before we explored the beaches a bit more. I had a lovely egg, sausage and fennel pouch while reading poetry in the local paper. It was delicious and went much better with poetry than pizza would have.

Up at the Mendocino Headlands, an instructional diving course was taking place for students at Humboldt State. I was elated to see some craggy sandstone, so I attempted to do a few rock scrambles off the trail. The one thing about sandstone is that you have to thoroughly check how solid the rock is, and avoid it altogether if there's a lot of moisture. Luckily the sandy beach makes a soft landing. It's been too long since I've really climbed- hopefully I won't have to wait much longer.

At Jug Handle State Natural Reserve in Fort Bragg, I got my chance. On the winding walk around the twisted krumholtz pine forests, we ended up on a beach with solid rock formations, complete with jug holds! I did a quick scramble, but that was my limit without climbing gear. My dad didn't have the chance to stop me, he was trying to get a photo of an egret trio.

Our last beach on the list was the Glass Beach in the center of Fort Bragg. This is an impressive result of dumped garbage and bottles sanded by rocks and ocean waves into colorful glass stones. Many locals use the glass in handmade jewelry, but people are asked not to pocket the pretty stones. I remembered that Brooklyn girls don't take no for an answer, so I collected a few for good luck. An added treat was seeing a white seal perched on one of the rocks about 100 feet away.

We got back in the car as the sun was sinking and drove until Hwy 1 ended at the edge of the Lost Coast. A very windy, but gorgeous drive through mountainous forest got us back to 101. We settled in a motel in Garberville, too exhausted to even camp. Tomorrow is our big hiking day, and I'm going on 3 hours of sleep. I'm ready to turn in so I can give my all to the trails tomorrow.

Stay tuned for photos, and thanks for bearing with me as I work out limited internet!

No comments:

Post a Comment